Congress, yesterday, passed the renewal (permanence) of the USA PATRIOT Act. (USA PATRIOT, indeed; it stands for Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism. Ya gotta love those acronyms.) The renewal does put some restrictions on the most egregious bits of the original (the link above is to the original; I don't have a link handy for the renewal), but still, not enough restrictions for my taste, nor for the tastes of the many civil liberties groups that oppose it.
But that's not what I want to talk about today. I've taken, on the way to work, to stopping at the Rockefeller State Park Preserve and having a walk before work. Usually I just do a lap around the lake, or sometimes two (at a little less than 20 minutes per lap), but sometimes I take a longer walk. Today it was one around the lake. The walk gets the kinks out, clears my head of things like the above, and prepares me for the workday.
These are brisk walks, not strolls. Even the mostly flat walk around the lake gets the heart pumping a bit, and the more hilly sections, when I do them, are particularly invigorating. I find that by the time I'm halfway around, my posture is more upright, my step is springier, and my mood is better. It's then, especially, when I can really absorb what's around me and get the connection with the natural surroundings. I hear the birds, I see the squirrels, I look at how the light falls on the trees.
The photo (click it to see it full-sized) was taken about six weeks ago. It was different this morning. It's different every morning. Six weeks ago, when I started at 7:30 the sun was still below the trees and the light was low (the photo is from near the end, around 7:45, as the sun has started to show at the tops of the trees to the left). Today, six weeks later, the 7:30 sun was well above the trees and fully in my eyes as I walked toward the lake. There's ice on part of the lake, but it's thin and sparse. The snow is mostly gone from the trail after last Thursday's snowfall, but there are still a few patches. The light is never quite the same today as yesterday. The sounds are never quite the same. The ripples on the lake, how the ice floats on it, the ducks and geese, the streams, all never quite the same from day to day.
Those 20 minutes, or 40, or more on the longer walks, are a chance to think about what's weighing on me, and to move it out, settle it, put it in its place so I can move on to what I have to deal with today. I know I've done that when I'm no longer thinking, but feeling and experiencing. When the details have calmed, and the world around me is talking to me. That's when the day really begins.