Turn And Face The Strange.

changesA few years ago I read a list of tips for keeping our minds active as we age and possibly even staving off dementia, Alzheimer’s, and those darn kids who won’t get off your lawn. One of the tips was this: take a different route to work each day.

It intrigued me and for a few days I did try it—at least as I was walking to work. My wife does most of the driving when we’re going to work together and I couldn’t convince her to go off the beaten interstate. It’s even harder when taking public transportation to get a bus driver to change routes except in those rare instances when there’s a substitute driver who isn’t entirely sure of the route. And if I ever commuted by train I’d have to take some pretty extreme measures to get off the beaten track.

I also pretty quickly slipped into walking the same old route I’d gotten used to every day, mainly because it was the easiest and quickest. Like water I always take the best possible path downhill, which is why whenever I schedule a lunch with water and water doesn’t show up it’ll be very apologetic later, saying, “Oh, yeah, I couldn’t get there because it was uphill” but that’s another story.

And I realized something about my daily commute. It’s never really the same. Even if it’s the same path all it takes is being conscious of the differences. There are subtle changes: the light or weather is different. Sometimes it’s dry, sometimes it’s raining. Sometimes I see the sun in the east and once in a while I see it in the west and that’s when I realize I’m running really, really, really late. There are not so subtle differences too. I pass different people. One morning I passed a couple of squirrels fighting over a pile of peanuts. Why someone dumped a handful of peanuts right in the middle of the sidewalk is still a mystery to me, and it was a carefully arranged pile that made it look like it had been done deliberately. I stopped and separated the peanuts into two equal piles about five feet apart. Then I stepped back. Each squirrel went to the pile that was closest to it and took the peanuts then ran off in opposite directions.

There’s a lesson in that, I thought. Life would be so much easier if we were like the squirrels, only I’m afraid of heights and I think I’d be miserable living in a tree. On the other hand I’m sure living in a constant state of terror would be a good way to keep my mind active.

 

12 Comments

  1. Margot

    Since you often describe yourself as someone whose head is in the clouds it doesn’t seem like a change of route would contribute to keeping your mind sharp. I think you should save that time for letting your thoughts wander since your mind is already so active.

    That was good of you to stop and help the squirrels. I think that they are one of the most skittish creatures ever and they look like they are in a constant state of terror. Maybe they actually fear heights themselves and thus manage to stave off cognitive decline.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Letting my thoughts wander isn’t always the best idea since they have a tendency to sneak off and get into trouble and when they come back all disheveled and covered with mud and, for some bizarre reason, apple butter, and I say, “Where have you been?” they act sheepish and say “Oh, nowhere special” and that’s when I notice they’ve lost their skates and also the cops are looking at me suspiciously.
      Anyway you should meet the squirrels on college campuses. They’re anything but skittish, in fact they come close to being pets, and they’re also fat. That makes them easy targets for hawks. There’s a lesson in that too.

      Reply
  2. Arionis

    I’m pretty sure it was my wife that left that pile of peanuts because she does the same thing in my backyard. That’s why I have squirrels living in my attic now. Sorry, this has really nothing to do with the subject matter of your eloquent and thought provoking post. However, I’m a little bummed that Linda at HalfA1000miles has decided to go offline and I am incapable of deeper thoughts at the moment.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I’ve had problems with squirrels in my attic too and they drive me nuts. I mean crazy. Anyway I’m bummed that Linda has gone offline too. I wanted to leave a comment wishing her well and all that and saying I hope maybe she decides to come back someday, but in the meantime we’ll keep plugging on.

      Reply
  3. Mila

    So many morals in one story.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Of course this is moral season. People are going out into the woods and harvesting morals which is about the only way you can get them because they’re really hard to cultivate, unlike portobellos or oyster mushrooms. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get any morals out of this and still have yet to try one. I understand they’re really tasty fried in butter, but I have no idea where to find them and I’d probably pick a toadstool.
      Also as Mark Twain said, “Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.”

      Reply
  4. Ann Koplow

    Your posts always keep my mind active, Chris.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I’m glad I can help you exercise your mind.

      Reply
  5. Spoken Like A True Nut

    Someone in our neighborhood likes to leave a massive pile of seeds out for the birds every morning on a particular street corner. I usually pass by after the resulting feeding frenzy has concluded, and there are always stray clumps of pigeon feathers rolling away from the scene like tumbleweeds as far as the eye can see.

    If I ever catch the seed distributor in the act I will pass on your wise lesson about the multiple piles, because if things continue this way I fear the local birds will all end up naked for the winter.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I’d be less worried about the birds ending up naked than I would be about the piles of guano collecting in one place. It’s nice that someone wants to feed the birds but they need to spread it around a bit. A few years ago there were swarms of starlings nesting in the trees across from where I work. It was bad enough that they darkened the skies every evening but the sidewalk was crunchy with what they left behind each morning.

      Reply
  6. mydangblog

    I wish I COULD change my route, but I live directly across the street from my office. There was a squirrel yesterday, as opposed to the numerous pigeons I usually see–he was eating a bagel and the pigeons were looking on quite jealously.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Living directly across the street from your office has got to have advantages, like never having to worry about being unable to get home because of snow, but I could see the disadvantages too. And I’m sure those pigeons get enough food, although I’d still feel compelled to step in and try and balance things out. Sometimes I take some bread to the ducks at a nearby park and if squirrels come up and look at me expectantly I’ll toss ’em a crust too. Yeah, I’m a softie.

      Reply

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: