— Aisha Elderwyn
Australian author & artist
Anyone capable of translating squirrel chirps — also known as speaking “squirrelese” — would likely hear this greeting from the trees as I jaunt toward the woodsy end of the oval-shaped Huff’N Puff Trail over at Oak Grove Elementary School:
“Slug Alert! Slug Alert! Slug Alert!”
Then the mass laughter akin to that of Alvin and the Chipmunks as the collection of furry pests on the ground and from the limbs above taunt my approach. In squeaky tones they chuckle, “Don’t bother scampering away. This two-legger’s no threat. We’re talking snail in white Nikes. Keep gnawing on your acorns.”
And so is the state of disrespect my daily return to jogging has been shown by one of the forest’s most irritating rodents. A running enthusiast for the past 27 years, this priority had drooped since my return to the newspaper industry in late May 2010. It was an unwise droop.
As documented in this newspaper column in the Jan. 5 edition, my choices were becoming simple. Either return to a life of regular exercise or explode — physically, mentally and emotionally. I opted against physical explosion for fear of its impact on my office walls, and subsequently the required cleanup. Such a mental or emotional outburst can be just as damaging on the furniture if thrown against those same walls.
I reached these decisions at about the same time I stood at the kitchen counter one night at home grazing on some leftover Christmas treats that my wife brought home from her workplace.
From a palate perspective, they were tastefully sinful to the degree that eating them should have bordered on the illegal. From a leather belt mindset, their impact stretched far more than the imagination.
Thus my plight. Keep eating with little or no physical exercise to offset the added calories and fat grams. Or task myself to make a change. In its short term, change means pain and inconvenience. In its long term, change is for the betterment of all humanity, of which I am a longtime member.
Weight wasn’t my only burgeoning concern. Like most Americans in my age group — also called “the old” — I must keep a finger on the pulse of internal clocks like blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose. Daily exercise helps with all three. A little exercise helps some. No exercise is the kiss of death. On this evening at the kitchen counter, I chose to kiss life.
Another factor weighing on my conscience was my absence from Blood Assurance for the past 1 1/2 years. Due to work demands, and the fear that I would be rejected anyway due to bad health screenings, I just stopped giving blood.
It was just another bad decision I lived with until learning a year-ending community blood drive at Life Care Centers of America in December had netted only 88 pints out of a goal of 252. I was among the missing there as well.
The evening I finished grazing over the sugary leftovers, I decided enough was enough. My wife aided the effort the next day by tossing the remainder of the dessert. It was her way of showing support in my hour of need.
Sometime during the week between Christmas and New Year’s — probably Wednesday, Dec. 28 — I made my weekday return to the Oak Grove track. It hurt. But it felt good. Go figure. I equate it to that “no pain, no gain” adage.
Since that day, I’ve missed only one day of running, and that includes a recent road trip for a three-day weekend to Gatlinburg. The Smoky Mountains must have maliciously grown when they saw us coming because running those hills each morning at 5 a.m. was like climbing Mount Rushmore without a rope toting a lead backpack filled with gold bullion and wearing 10-pound combat boots. Like the Oak Grove squirrels, those dead presidents were probably asking, “Who is this nut?”
After a month of regular exercise, more selective eating and trying to flee the office at a decent hour each late-afternoon, the results are mixed.
The Good: I’ve shed a few pounds, the leather belt no longer squeaks when I breathe and the bathroom scale doesn’t turn quite the same deep shade of blue when I mount it, nor gasps for air when I dismount. But many more pounds must go. Another “good” is last week I made my first blood donation to Blood Assurance since early 2010.
The Bad: Although the pulse has returned to the slow and steady thump of what my doctor calls a “runner’s heart” which is good, the blood pressure numbers remain volcanic and that’s a “bad.” But daily jogging is a step in the right direction. And maybe less coffee.
The Ugly: Those Oak Grove squirrels still taunt me with intimidating jeers of a mean, foul and otherwise cruel nature. But as long as I can’t translate their annoying dialect, I can pretend the “Slug Alert” warnings aren’t directed at me.
Even if I’m the only human on the track.