— Sitting Bull
Native American Chief
Teton Dakota (Sioux)
Spring’s much-anticipated arrival 10 days ago met with some pretty mixed reviews between my mind, heart and body.
The mind exclaimed, “Fantastic! Goodbye bitter cold. Hello warm sun, green growth, shorts and the great outdoors!”
The heart roared, “Longer daylight, everyday exercise, backyard cookouts and no more fuzzy gloves and light grey hoodies!”
But the body moaned, “... Er, albino legs. Fifteen pounds of stored winter fat. A continent of untamed weeds, wild onions and grass. Required weedeating along a perimeter the size of Africa. A weedeater that won’t crank. A push mower declared legally dead after an autumn of merciless mulching. Cardio unfitness created by scores of missed cold-weather runs. Summer clothes that don’t fit. And former fits that now tell a tale of spandex on hippo.”
With mind, heart and body doing all the talking, the soul had little to add. Given the choice of taking sides, it might simply have shrieked “... Yikes!” and then plunged off the deep end with a depressing sigh and a query in rhetoric, “What’s a fellow to do now?”
I can’t say that I’d blame it. Poor soul.
It’s like this at the outset of every spring season: three months of winter movies, eating like there’s no tomorrow, sporadic visits to the track with an infrequency rivaling the seven-year approach of the locust, and a 10K of calories whose start comes with Thanksgiving dinner and whose finish is marked by the waving, checkered flag of Girl Scout cookies.
This time of year, every year, finds me engulfing the bathroom mirror, wondering what the heck happened and demanding of the fellow looking back, “What have you done to yourself?”
But it’ll be OK. It always is.
I have the Huff’N Puff Trail at Oak Grove Elementary School. I have the outdoors. I have my push mower ... once I get it cranked. I have more grass than Uncle Ben has rice — the kind intended for mowing and not for smoking, regardless of science nor medical need.
Yes, I and my suddenly misshaped waistline have exercise and arduous physical labor in our corner — compliments of the return of spring and its summertime sequel.
Like most Cleveland and Bradley County residents, I understand that it didn’t have to be this way.
In spite of the winter cold, I could have wrapped up in an extra layer of cotton and hit the track on the hour every day of December, January and February without regard to sleet, snow, freezing rain or frostbite. But I didn’t, at least not often enough.
Like a junkie on sweets, I could have chose to “just say no” to the holiday carbs, the rich desserts of restaurants galore and the decadent allure of chocolate delights and homemade cobblers that tasted their best in a kitchen’s cozy warmth on a cold wintry day. But I didn’t.
Sticking to my grocery list while averting the flirtatious winks of fresh-baked pastries and unclaimed Krispy Kremes, I could have waltzed to the checkout register with half-a-cart of good instead of most-of-a-cart of bad. But I didn’t.
Surrendering to the call of Oscar-winning flicks and the calming seclusion of their darkened auditoriums, I could have ordered popcorn in the human size and not the beasts of bucket bonanzas. But I didn’t.
And showing just a little restraint at the family buffets by “selecting” instead of “grazing,” I could have returned home content and not contorted from an over-indulgence of guilt. But I didn’t.
Winter does strange things to our mindsets. It does even stranger things to our mid-sections.
Cold stimulates our appetites and mutates our crave for cuisine.
Sedentary lifestyles of midwinter implode upon themselves by adding unneeded calories to unused bodies; it’s like a culinary form of compound interest.
Most of us are not alone.
Even good people gain weight during the season of the polar bear.
That’s why spring comes with mixed blessings for most — to mind, to heart, to body and to soul.
But come the warmth of spring, the heart wants what the mind says it can have and the body must fall in line ... willingly or otherwise.
While spending a few days away from the office last week, I began my Vision Quest into renewed fitness, thereby cleansing the soul of a winter’s worth of wrong.
In the cardio world, I reinstated my full-time membership at the Huff’n Puff with plans for an occasional sojourn to the Cleveland/Bradley County Greenway.
In the invigorating world of outdoor living I put to paper, and partially launched, a “Honey Do” list of historic proportion: mowing the yard and the neighbor’s yard, too; weedeating the jungle of weeds and the neighbor’s jungle, as well; cleaning the gutters of house and shed; pressure washing away the accumulated mold of vinyl neglect; landscaping the shrubs and mulching the landscape; assembling a new iron trellis for the purple outreach of clematises gone wild; re-staining the fading timbers of deck and porch, and repainting their Colonial rails to a white far brighter than the shine of my legs; and replacing five dead saplings from a bitter winter’s kill.
And along the way, I came upon an old friend.
Mind you, we are not strangers. Our paths have crossed countless times before ... and most regularly at this time of year.
I call him Ben.
Others might know him as Mr. Gay.