How to Keep those Brain-Eating Critter Babies Away

I’m walking. Well, I will be and soon as I finish this post.

It is 8:20PM and I am 4,000 steps short of 10,000 and I am about to head on out again to lap the few blocks around the parsonage. 1,000 steps a lap. An app on my phone has counted them all. Each day, 10,000 steps rain or shine, no matter what. Unless, of course, I am at a good point in the Michael Connelly audio book I have playing on my phone. Then maybe one or two more laps. Time flies when you are trying to figure out “who done it.”

Walking. It is the first of three non-resolutions I made to myself for 2016. 10,000 steps a day. No fast food. No soda. For a year. And because I hate myself,  I measure my weight using the scale at a local Publix supermarket. The scale that faces the daily indignity of children bouncing on it to see how far they can make the needle go.  This gives me some emotional wiggle room when I step on it after something like 200,000 steps so far in 2016 and it says that I have gained weight.  Next time I am leaving my cell phone at home. And my wallet. And wearing lightweight shorts with no belt. And flip flops.  And maybe I’ll go commando. Whatever it takes.

I like walking at night. The sun does me no good these days as the lupus that is somewhere sleeping inside of me could kick it into gear from some unprotected exposure. And in irony of ironies, the lupus meds make me more susceptible to the sun.  And though I almost always wear my socially-acceptable-for-men-over-50 sunhat, I often forget the sunscreen. Don’t tell my doctor, who looks as young as my children, but still chides me like I was a little boy.

At night, the wooden fences are still cooling from the afternoon sun. The smell of sun-warmed wood brings me back to the days of exploring my grandfather’s garage and attached greenhouse.  I learned to love growing things there and about the hum of fluorescent lights and the effectiveness of sticky fly paper for catching flies and long hair.  Walking from garage to greenhouse, the wood smell gave way to earth.  And the earth of the greenhouse smelled like nothing else. Like damp leaves in the woods. And moss on the bark of trees.  And a brook swift enough to move pebbles. And wind through the pines.

With my non-resolutions has also come a renewed effort to, if not tame, them better curate, the butterfly gardens that reach around most of the parsonage. I have probably blogged about gardening before. Likely more than once. I garden my ass off, then I stop. And get busy. But then almost reflexively, I remove a little more lawn each year and replaced it with more native landscape.  Native plants require less water and care and thrive in the rather challenging environs of south Florida, which is to say that if I let them be they will take over. A part of me thinks, “So where’s the problem in that?” And then another part of me realizes that I have neighbors and neighborhood code enforcement, some of which might not be too keen on my going so fully “native.” So my new philosophy of gardening is a sort of “neatly native” that pretends to have some organization and thought put into it. I have had many gardening philosophies over the years.

For people who suffer from depression and anxiety, walking and gardening are gold-plated healthy responses to lower the levels of all of those bad stress chemicals that would prefer I stay indoors, preferably in bed, while worrying a lot about things that have happened or might happen; about things I have done and should have done. Those stress chemicals trick my mind into believing that the garden is SO BIG and SUCH A MESS that I could never fix it, so why bother trying. But all of that healthy walking and the pills I take each day and those vitamins and hanging out with my therapist’s cat has given me the courage and wherewithal to pull weeds and turn over dirt and pot a dozen tree seedlings that had randomly taken root in weird and inappropriate places and plant more butterfly weed and salvia and red pentas and so on and smell the dirt and remember who I am.

Some scientists say that there are microbes in the soil that stimulate an anti-depressant effect in our brains. I’m sure that I have dropped this little nugget of truth before, but it is awesome enough to  mention again. And I need to remind myself, actually, since as I have confessed, I have an awful habit of gardening like a maniac then stopping for long periods of time. You see, as we garden we breathe in these microbes from the soil, which we cannot see, as compared to say, critters that live there and poop there and have little critter babies there. I have not yet had nightmares about them eating my brain, those critter babies. Maybe those microbes really are doing the brain chemistry mambo in me and keeping my dreams safe, for now, anyway.

Well, it is 9PM and the wooden fences will by now have cooled off and the air, the smell of night. But that’s OK. I still have Michael Connelly teasing me about who did it and why and the steps will just fly by.

Keep walking my friends and don’t forget to play in the dirt. You want to keep your dreams free from those brain-eating critter babies, don’t you?

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