A Girl Can Dream: A One-Week Morning Walk Promise.

posted in: Chicago, Day In The Life 13
Chicago's Wabash Avenue as seen from Washington Street. Photo by John Carbutt (1832-1905.) Image: Wikipedia.
Chicago’s Wabash Avenue as seen from Washington Street. Photo by John Carbutt (1832-1905.) Image: Wikipedia.


Yesterday, I drove almost to the Iowa border to give a lecture for a lovely audience in Morrison, Illinois. The lecture went great, I met 116 wonderful people, and I very much enjoyed my time on the road. Driving 2.5 hours there and 2.5 back, even though it rained almost the whole way, gave me some much needed thinking time. It’s hard to multitask when you’re driving; you just have to cruise. It was nice to cruise.

The car I was driving was a rental. I’ve mentioned before, I don’t own a car, because unless you absolutely have to have one, if you can avoid owning a car in the city, you should probably avoid it. But by the time I got back downtown, the Hertz location  was closed. This wasn’t a surprise: Carmen told me I’d have to return the car the next morning.

I parked my little red Ford Focus in the lot near my house and paid the overnight parking fee. My voucher would expire at 7:27 a.m., so when I went to bed last night, I set my alarm for 6:30 a.m. to give myself plenty of time to have some tea and get down to the lot to purchase either a new voucher or get the car moved to a different parking spot until it was time to take it back to Hertz. This was the plan. (See what I mean about having a car in the city? Bleh!)

But because I am behind on sleep, I hit my snooze button…multiple times. When I finally realized it was way past time to get up, I did not have time to make my tea and have a cup of it before I needed to go down and deal with Little Miss Focus. This made me very, very grumpy. Usually when I wake, before I do anything — before I scratch my ribs or yawn or rub the sleep from the ol’ peepers — I roll out of bed, stand up, and go directly into the kitchen to put the kettle on. I don’t use the bathroom. I don’t check my phone. I don’t even look out the window to see if the world fell down while I was sleeping. My first impulse is make sure tea is on the way. Once the burner’s on, other things are possible. Barely.

Yeah, well, that wasn’t gonna happen this morning. With grunts and protestations that could put your grumpiest, orneriest Grampa to shame, I hollered and shoved my feet into my sneakers, stabbed my arms through my jacket, threw my wallet into my pocket, stuffed my keys into my pocket and went down the elevators and out the back of the building to deal with the (blinkin’) car.

I got down there and got right inside because it was raining, of course. I sat there. I took some deep breaths. I thought about how I was about to pay $12 for more of parking only to turn back around in a couple hours and take it to Hertz. I sighed and thought about how my Tea Moment was already sort of ruined. I thought, “Fons, why not just take the dang thing back right now?” And I decided, after rubbing my forehead a little while, that that is what I would do. I could get some tea at the Peet’s across the street and just be done with it. I didn’t have makeup on. I hadn’t showered. But as long as I didn’t see anyone I knew, it was the way to go.

After dropping the car off, I stepped out of the Hertz parking garage and found the rain had stopped. It was just barely 8:00 a.m. The city was so…calm. I had a nice cup of tea in my hand and — this is important — I didn’t have a purse or anything with me. My wallet was in my pocket. I had my sneakers on. It was a straight shot down State Street to my home. (Later, when I looked it up on Google’s map, I learned it was a 1.4 mile walk. Nothing, really.)

I sort of cocked my head and went, “Hm!” And I just walked home. In the morning, with nothing but my thoughts and the wwwwsssssssshhhhhhhh of the occasional street sweeper on a cross street or the trundle of the El trains crossing the river. I saw the homeless folks on State sleeping in the doorways; it was still quiet enough for them to stay in their strange nests. I saw a couple joggers. I saw some cops. It was beautiful to be there, unfettered, in my city.

When it happens that I am up and out and walking in the morning — it happens when I have, say, a rental car to return — I am reminded how much I love to walk in the morning. I did it on New Year’s Day, actually, and I swore then I’d try to do it more.

My tea ritual is so ingrained. It’s rote. I love my morning tea. It’s been my morning thing for a good ten years. Ten years! But the sweetness of early ambulation, the freedom and perspective of the walk down State Street this morning, it’s stayed with me all day.

And so, to you, I am going to make a promise: Starting tomorrow, for one week, I am going to take my tea outside in the morning. I’m going to walk, you guys. Half-hour or so. The weather is nice enough to try. Let’s see what happens.

What if it’s the key to everything?

13 Responses

  1. Carla Gutman
    | Reply

    this past week my son and i started walking at the local mall; our plan is to do it three days a week. we walk for an hour.

  2. Gina
    | Reply

    Why doesn’t tea have the same appeal to me? I can take it or leave it, but people who like it REALLY like it!! I can do an herbal every once in a while, but it doesn’t call to me. I do like my coffee in the morning, but it can wait……
    The walk idea is a good one!!

    • Pamela Keown
      | Reply

      Gina leave that herbal stuff for bedtime girl. In the morning get yourself a nice cup of Twinings Irish Breakfast Black Tea. I think it is the best substitute for a cup of coffee you will find. 🙂 – And happy tea walks to you Mary. 🙂

  3. Robin Gabriel
    | Reply

    You inspire me, Mary! Perhaps I will do the same, for a week, after work though, since I am usually there be 6am with a 1/2 drive there. Too dark and creepy out there by myself that early in the morning! Today, I shall walk for a 1/2 or so and think about you walking the same, this morning! Happy walking!

  4. Kathy Darnell
    | Reply

    Tea is just so civilized and best shared with someone you love. For almost 8 years my mother-in-law lived with us until she passed away when she was in her 90’s. Each afternoon we would share a cup of tea, part of the fun was deciding which cup and saucer to use. Opening up the cupboard to see all the lovely choices was like finding an unexpected present in pretty paper with a lovely bow. I think a walk in the morning with a cup of tea would give a different twist on a sweet memory. I’ll meet you out on the road!!

  5. Christine Houghton
    | Reply

    Tea is my beverage of choice, hot or cold. But early morning hot tea is the best. My dad always had his hot tea at dinner time in a ceramic pot he kept on the table. I used to sneak some of it in my glass after I finished my milk. I was hooked.

    I love early morning and late evening walks as the sun is setting. You just get a certain feeling like no other, seeing the world around you in a different perspective. Enjoy it when you can as a soul refresher.

  6. Suzanne
    | Reply

    In a summer in the long ago and far away, I would get up at sunrise to meet a boy-friend walking from one end of the road in front of my house on the way to his job as a caddy at the local golf course. The world is beautiful at 5:30 in the morning. And even better when you get to go back to bed.

  7. Shermie
    | Reply

    Love your descriptions of The City! I could SO imagine being there!
    Years ago I used to do early morning neighborhood walks, maybe I will begin again. But omehow retirement makes sleeping in sorely easy

  8. Charlotte
    | Reply

    Walking for me is like driving for you. Cruise and think. I need that reflection time away from the calls of house/children/work and it’s usually when I’m walking that I get my best ideas. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

  9. Patty
    | Reply

    Mary, you are an inspiration. I hope you are not crying anymore. A mother worries about these things. Well, I am not your mother. You must know that. Lol. But any mother would worry. Keep writing. It will be alright.

  10. Mary Ann
    | Reply

    I need to start walking gain…I usually do well for a couple of weeks and then….

  11. Judy Forkner
    | Reply

    I walk everyday, multiple times! I also sleep in everyday (retired) because I don’t go to bed until sometime in the wee hours after I can tear myself away from my sewing machine & computer. Sometime between 10:30 am & noon I go for a walk with our dog & usually my husband (if he isn’t working or skiing). That walk is usually between 2.5 & 3 miles. Then I walk the dog again sometime between 4 & 6 pm for about 1.5 to 2 miles. In the winter, I have to try to take her out by around 4, if possible, so I’m not walking in the dark–it’s really hard to pick up the poop while trying to use the flashlight app on the phone to light things up! Then after dinner we take sweet Rosie out for one last walk & enjoy the moon &/or stars on most nights. We so enjoy that last walk, even though we are sometimes somewhat grumpy about going out again. It is so nice to enjoy the Colorado night sky!
    That is also how I manage to nearly always get my 5 miles & 10 floors in each day!

  12. Barbara
    | Reply

    First thing I do in the morning is get my coffee going, and by the time I let my dog out and in again, the aroma of the coffee brewing is better than great. Sometimes, I actually can’t wait to get up in the morning, to have my coffee.

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