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Strolls on cul-de-sac are real eye-openers
OF KIDS AND NATURE, BY HERTHA BINDER
Strolls on cul-de-sac are real eye-openers
We live on the corner of a minor thoroughfare and a little side street, which is exactly half a mile long, a cul-de-sac and has about 15 homes. All the houses are set back from the road some 250 feet.
Now that I can't move more than a few steps at a time, our son, Jeff, came up with the idea last summer that he could push me in the wheelchair along that road in the evenings. I could even try walking a little while holding onto the wheelchair. Jeff lives now with us; my husband has arranged an apartment for him in the rooms that used to be our office.
These evening outings were quite enjoyable. From the end of the road, I walked to the first driveway, and the next day to the second, every day a little farther till I reached about a quarter of a mile. Success!
But it was also important for Jeff. He sits long hours at his job in downtown Cleveland, and then there is the long drive home. Understandably, he had no desire for any exercise, but, if he had to push Mom, well, he felt obliged and walked that half mile back and forth. Better than nothing.
And even if I was not in the mood for walking, I did it for Jeff. Mutual support. It usually took us about 25 minutes for that mile. Yeah, we are no speed walkers. It's a bit cumbersome to get out of our driveway, which slopes to the big road, and then around the corner onto the side street.
All this was worth the experience of this road. Since on the average only people who live here drive on the road, we usually met only three or four cars. There were people walking their dogs. Many of them know me and gave us a friendly "hello." There were also dogs at their houses, barking at us, happy to see something new. Most dogs probably have never seen a wheelchair. Kids on bicycles, people who jog or just speed walk. Occasionally, some youngsters on go-carts or dirt bikes. What a roar! You wouldn't think there is so much to watch on this quiet little side street.
Better yet were the evenings, when no one else was out. That happened about half the time.
We went for our walk when the sun was about to set, showing as a glowing red ball. On other evenings a few clouds covered it, and they were shining, looking aflame.
Often we saw rabbits in the grass, some right beside the road, once in awhile as many as five in one evening. They seemed to like munching on the mowed grass. As a defense reaction, they sat perfectly still when they noticed us approach, but when we were just a few yards past them, they hopped away, their white tails waving at everyone around. I don't quite understand how that helped them in the struggle for survival of the fittest. Any fox would be alerted. But for us they just looked cute and cheerful.
The yard of one property is enclosed in a split-rail fence, and usually two brown horses were there to pasture. At least one of them came to the fence to look at us, and I always regretted that I had forgotten to bring a piece of bread.
Just about every house has a dog outside, and they lustily barked at us. Two of them came all the way out to the road and seemed hesitant to let us stroke them but appeared to smile happily, wag their tails some more and then walked back to their home.
Several birds flitted about. Once there were even two falcons. Wow! One day we discovered bats. Now, our family loves bats. I admit that, to the human eye, they might look ugly, and I guess some vampires had something to do with this. But I'm sure that, to some bachelor bats, those young bat ladies look enticing.
In the late 1970s, for three years, we spent our summer vacation at Lake Chautauqua and had our boat along for wonderful water-skiing. We stayed in one of several cabins, and the owner of the place organized evening cookouts two or three times a week. We roasted hot dogs and marshmallows, and everyone seemed in a relaxed and happy mood.
How come there were no mosquitoes? At home we couldn't stay out after dark. They would have driven us crazy. But at Chautauqua there were none.
"Oh, we have no insects. We have bats, whole swarms of them," said our landlady. "They eat all the bugs. We can stay out as long as we like, don't need any fly spray either."
We could hear the bats, somehow even feel them when they flew just inches above our heads. None of them ever bumped into us. They made outdoor evenings possible and enjoyable. One year I even wanted to take some of them home. Across the street from our house was an old barn, suitable for a bat nesting place. But I didn't find a way to catch them, so only the memory remained.
Now, when Jeff spotted them, we watched them with delighted interest. Hey, there were no mosquitoes out either! We didn't even need our fly-spray can.
Since it was still light enough to watch them, I finally realized that birds, of course, fly in a straight line from one tree to another. But bats fly a zig-zag course. They don't want to perch somewhere else; they are trying to catch insects. Once you are aware of that, you can spot them easily.
One evening, Jeff said, "I wonder what evolutionary path landed them on their unusual anatomy. How did they develop wings, and how do they send out and receive sonar waves?" Maybe some scientists know the answer, but to us they are just marvelous little creatures.
So these evening walks were not only healthy but also instructive and entertaining. After all, we met people, rabbits, horses, dogs, birds, bats, even dragonflies. What more can you ask for? Jeff and I also had a chance for some private talks. Without my wheelchair, we probably wouldn't have experienced any of that.
And with winter on the way, how can we adapt our strolls to the season? Mount skis on the wheelchair? Would probably be possible, looking like a high sled. But I guess we'll stay with the easy way out, wait till the road has been plowed. Wish us luck.
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