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Each winter I review last year’s collection of cards, festival wristbands, quirky sayings and ticket stubs. I found in the pile a little slip of notebook paper with me-an-der, verb, written on it: to wander around, to follow a path with twists and turns. I think someone used this definition in a past game of fictionary. Meander happens to be exactly what I do every opportunity I get. And Door County is the perfect place to meander around in.
I’ve every respect for folks who pound the pavement on a regular basis. I’m often out there myself: step after step to the top of Mount Baldy, straining from the bike saddle up the hill at Pot Park, swish, swish, stretching muscles along a piece of fast, tracked Crossroads ski trail: Yabba dabba, I sure do!
I also excel at the sport of meandering, of moving slow. I was at it, out on Lake Forest Park Dr. the day of the last Century Bike Ride, having no personal desire whatsoever to perch on a bicycle for 100 miles. I had already been down to the shore, gathering unusual rocks, and was making a loop back along the road, stopping every now and again to peer closely at tree buds, imagining what it would be like to pitch my tent right there in the woods and lie in it just breathing and listening, listening to branches scraping each other in the wind, to the roar of waves, to turkeys scrabbling past. All around me, bikers were speeding past, intent on getting to the finish line, oblivious to the sun dappling through the leaves, of quiet pools sandwiched between ridges of land, of miniscule hemlock pinecones lining the scruff at the edge of the road. And there I was, “putting my foot in it,” as I’m so apt to do, unintentionally engaged in strong contrast to what everyone around me was doing, a ‘stick in the mud’ against the frenetic pace of the bikers, meandering along, inhaling cedar aroma, filling my eyes with the distant, dark blues and close-by Caribbean greens of lake waters, tracing circles in the cool sand, caressing tree bark, vowing it all to burn deep from my fingertips, my vision, my lungs and my ears, into my soul, to savour for days after.
The definition for savour is: to taste completely. Be good to yourself. Me-ander. Move slowly. Give yourself time to roll it all languidly over your heart. TRAIN at it. Take a few steps, stop and look around. Repeat. It’s harder than you’d expect. Children are exceptionally good at meandering and moving slow. They can take forever, to the exasperation of their parents, to traverse a few feet, stopping to splash in puddles, dragging a stick, tossing a million rocks into the water. Today, however, you do not need to rush. I tell myself: You are already here in this paradise of Door. I acquire spine-tingling chills by passing through make-believe portals in the woods, of low lying branches forming arched trail doorways, entering into a new world, a world of slow.
Practice this one: after the next rain, reach up to water droplets that cling to pine needles and branches, and, without touching the branch or needle, catch a shiny water droplet onto the tip of your finger. I defy you to do anything else today that will feel better than this (ok, well, there might be one thing that feels better).
I became a “sand-pattern connoisseur.” I look at fanciful indentations in the sand from water spray, or at lines of mountain-shaped patterns edged in seaweed debris, or at observing changing brown hues as waves recede out of the sand.
My soul is fed. Now, time to feed my belly. I top off these spiritual outings with physical feasts: succotash or pizza cooked on the hearth, over the coals of a crackling fire, or a lunchbox of malbec, piquant cheeses, olives and bread dipped in oil, spread out on the personal seating of a lichen-encrusted, snow-covered log, Icy drinking water even becomes a spectacular treat when you are moving slow.
I will never get to that finish line because I’ll never be finished meandering.
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