A couple of weeks ago, I started walking (yes, on purpose) after work to participate in my company's "Fall Walking Program." The goal is to walk 100 extra miles in 12 weeks. I figured that there wasn't any way I would make this...I mean just think of the time it would take!
After the first day, I went back the second day. And the third. And so on. And so on. In fact, I've walked every single week day since this started. I realized after I went the second day that I was hooked already. This walk was my crack cocaine! There was no longer a question of how I was going to fit the time in, it was just a matter of dropping everything else and just doing it.
As I mentioned in the earlier post, I started out walking 1.5 miles. This has rapidly gone up to 4.5 miles, when there is time and 3 miles when there isn't. I also started and finished a book, "The Happiness Makeover" by M.J. Ryan. I recommend this book, by the way, and I'll explain why in another post. This post is not about books! Now that doing the 4.5 miles is easy, I nearly walked 6 miles the other day. I had to pick my oldest daughter up from dance class and I had plenty of time to kill. However, the thought occurred to me that perhaps it wasn't really appropriate, or balanced, or perhaps even healthy to spend 2 hours of my day just walking. Well, walking and reading.
I started wondering, had this walking thing become an addiction? Was I going to need more every day? Was this good? Almost immediately in my walking, I felt like I could be doing something to make the time more productive. I needed more. That's when I started reading. However, just watching nature and having some real quiet time apart from bills, video games and the Internet was also really nice. Nearly every day I saw deer and other wildlife. Photo opportunities abounded. Before you knew it, I was now carrying a camera with me on my walk. So now I was walking, reading, and looking for photo opportunities. What was going to be next? Perhaps scuba gear in case I came across a really big puddle?
Now, I had a quest. Certainly not an addiction, right? I became determined to either get a great photo of the deer, or even the banjo-playing man. For those just tuning in, the banjo-playing man is a man that has appeared several times at the top of one of the picturesque, rolling green hills of my work campus. I'm scared of the banjo-playing man. He just pops up out of nowhere, like this paragraph's reference to the banjo-playing man. You didn't see that coming, did you? Nope. That's what the banjo-playing man is like...except with a banjo. If I showed up on your porch, just all of a sudden, and I was playing a banjo, you would not opened the door. I'm scared of the banjo-playing man.
The problem with getting a good picture of either the deer, or the banjo-playing man is this: The deer are scared of me, and I am scared of the banjo-playing man. I don't know what the banjo-playing man is scared of. I'm hoping it is cameras.
My best deer photo opportunity came early in my walking while I was merrily strolling along (I was reading "The Happiness Makeover" remember, I was all about merrily strolling) when I happened to glance up and was basically staring face to face with a young deer. I'm not sure who was more surprised. We maintained this little staring standoff for a few moments when suddenly the deer decided, "I should get out of here." While it was looking for a way out of the area, I was thinking to myself, "self, you should get a picture of this!" I didn't have a camera, so I grudgingly thought of using my phone. If there is one thing worse than trying to get a good picture with a little digital point and shoot camera, it is probably getting a good picture with a cell phone. If I had really been thinking, I would have MacGyvered a small pinhole camera out of pine cones and made the exposure on some photo-sensitive vegetation. This would have been easier, but I wasn't thinking, so I was stuck with the phone.
As far as I can tell in the phone-photos, the resolution of this device is so poor and color depth so non-existent that the deer doesn't even show up...even though it is square in the middle of the picture! Amazing. Ever since, I've carried an actual camera just in case this happened again.
Photo opportunity number two came quickly. Within a couple of days I rounded a bend in the trail and saw a nice little family of deer towards the end of the trail. They also saw me. I immediately started taking pictures as I slowly walked toward them. They were too distant and in too much shade to get a sharp exposure, plus for some reason they were not lulled into a false sense of security by my slow walking. Odd. I was sure that would work.
I started ducking and hiding behind trees in order to "sneak up on them." This actually did work. They were lulled into a false sense of security. However, when I casually took their picture as I got fairly close, the two adults suddenly ran up the hill towards a younger deer. You don't need a degree in animal husbandry (I honestly don't know what that is, but it just sounded funny) to understand that the adults were trying to get the younger one to leave. The younger one wasn't having any of this, as it was clearly dinner time and he/she needed to eat. I began to realize that this was a teen-age deer, or at least the equivalent in deer years.
This caused the adult deer to try a different approach. They decided to distract me from the youngster. To do this they wondered down the hill watching me closely to see what I would do. I snuck to the next tree. This time, they were not lulled into a false sense of security. They were still watching me. The buck eventually decided that it was time for plan C. He started walking toward me and kind of stamping his feet. I wondered if this might be a sign of aggression, but without that increasingly critical knowledge that I'm sure a degree in animal husbandry would have provided how could I be sure?
I decided to weigh my options. I kindly asked the deer to give me a second to think things through. I'm not certain he understood me, but it never hurts to be kind! The first thought that came to me involved the idea that if the deer attacked me, I would have a lot to explain the next day. How stupid would one have to be to get attacked by a deer? I'd have all kinds of people looking at my heavily bandaged body and asking, "what happened to you?" I would have to say some witty thing like, "Do you mean before, or after, I got in the fight with the deer?" I'm like that.
I didn't want to have that kind of conversation so I decided I would just sort of casually leave. I was hoping that casual leaving would lull the buck into a false sense of security. I was really hoping this would work, because those guys have antlers! I had a Canon digital point and shoot camera and a book - a small book - on being happy. The deer would win this fight.
After I left, I tried to assess where things went wrong. I carefully slipped from tree to tree, tiptoeing and all hunched over like the Grinch stealing Christmas ornaments. Obviously, this part was brilliant. I then realized that I was wearing a white shirt. Isn't white the color of danger to a White-Tailed Deer? THIS WAS MY MISTAKE!
The next day I tried wearing a nice beige shirt with my khaki pants. I figured this would help. The deer family was back but they weren't buying it and ran off.
The next day, I saw the banjo-playing man and I decided to sneak up on him instead. After carefully tiptoeing from shrub to tree to shrub again I got about 70 yards away when I completely chickened out. This was the banjo-playing man! What if beige was the color of the favorite food of the banjo-playing man? This required some more research. For safety.
I decided that the best way I was going to get that picture of the deer (or the banjo-playing man) was to get in disguise. That meant camouflage. I started planning out how exactly to go about this when suddenly a picture of what I would look like flashed into my head. I was taking this as a vision from God. God was showing me that I would look like Tim Conway, in a loincloth, smeared with camouflage paint and with tree branches strapped to my head and arms...maybe even my legs... trying to sneak up on the deer or banjo-playing man. God's vision to me was not pretty. I would probably not look like Wes Studi in "Last of the Mohicans." I would probably look really stupid. There is a reason I am doing this walk for fitness, after all!
I decided that perhaps this sneaking thing was not a healthy pursuit, but an obsession...or maybe an addiction. No, it was an obsession. Definitely.
Today I walked my now standard 4.5 miles. I saw the deer family. I also saw the banjo-playing man. I just kept walking. And reading. The banjo-playing man scares me.