Recently my family and I watched a lovely indie movie entitled Redwood Highway. We love small-scale movies that focus on characters who are going through some kind of rite-of-passage experience. This film was about a woman in her 70’s (Shirley Knight) who decides to embark on an 80-mile walk on Redwood Highway in Oregon to reach the coast for several reasons: to absolve herself of the guilt she feels about making a poor decision regarding her granddaughter; to fulfill a promise she made to herself decades ago; just to prove to herself she can still do it.
Her journey was eventful, but walking was often difficult. The Oregon scenery was breathtaking as she made her way along the highway with several detours through breathtaking forests, including some with majestic redwoods. She was fortunate to meet many compassionate souls along the way, with one exception, who helped her to continue her journey. I felt every step she took, since I have been having difficult walking the past few months due to progressive spinal stenosis.
Walking has always been my go-to activity because it allows me to relax and enjoy noticing the things that surround me in nature in any season. Now that walking has become such a challenge for me, I am fearful of losing my mobility. I recently had an epidural steroid shot which has eased the discomfort and increased my mobility somewhat and am due for another one this week which I hope will help even more.
On Saturday I made myself walk somewhat longer than I usually do, just to see how it would feel. For the first half-mile, I was rigid and achy and almost felt I would have to turn around. But I pushed on and soon my stride became more relaxed and less uncomfortable. The walk is one of my favorites: along a shoreline with a full view of the beautiful harbor near where I live. On one side of the road are gorgeous large homes, some built in the early 1900’s, many with balconies that loom over the harbor. The lucky one-percenters!
When I reached my limit, about a mile and a half, I sat on a broken stone wall to rest my back and gaze at the harbor. I was surprised and delighted to see a lovely shorebird standing all by itself; one that was unfamiliar to me. I took out my binoculars and tried to memorize all its notable features: long, bright yellow legs; a long, needle-like beak for fishing; a beautiful spotted breast and brownish striated feathers down its back with a patch of white. I said to myself, “So that is why I came this far today; just to see you!” Feeling very proud of myself, I thought of the woman in the movie who also completed her journey with difficulty and was rewarded with a very special event, one much more significant than mine.
As soon as I got home I looked up my shorebird and learned it is a “short-billed dowitcher.” I am an amateur bird-watcher, but always happy to add a new one to my personal list. I am sad that my walks can no longer be extensive as I would like them to be, but feel fortunate that I still can undertake several moderate walks nearby that afford me the opportunity to be surprised by nature. I hope this week’s injection will make doing so even more of a pleasure and allow me to continue to indulge in two of my favorite pastimes…walking and bird watching.