To some extent it's my old man's fault, though he doesn't have a clue that it is. Bein' dead for seventy-three years kinda takes a man out of the loop. And has truly made him a man of the soil. That's a thought for you, my dad's been dead for a lot more years than he was alive.
You see, he died when he was fifty years old. A life of high blood pressure finally blew a hole in his brain. One minute he was there, the next, gone. Poof!
That happened when I was three. Too young to know the man or even remember him. There's a few photos of him in the Navy, with my mom, and with my brother and sister, crinkled black and whites one and all. Without them I wouldn't know what he looked like.
That said, you wouldn't think his life would have a long lasting effect on mine. But it has. His dying young scared the bejeezus out of me. Seemed a portent as to what was up my road. Same for my brother. Rather than sweat over an early demise, the two of us have done our sweatin' over the roads and under the weights. He goes in for ballroom dancing, me, I bend my body in other ways. And we do it every day.
I used to run marathons and ultras 'til one misstep on the job put a deteriorating end to that. But I still bike or walk/run. This morning was typical. Fifteen minutes of stretching followed by a few sets of push-ups and crunches. Then on the bike for seventeen miles. When I was working, my ride was to and from work. As a FedEx courier a lot more calories were burned between the rides. Sweat, sweat, sweat. A few more sets on the floor as the day passes. Squeeze 'em in when no ones looking. It's a sickness that I can live with.
So it's fear that got me going and a kind of addiction that keeps me from stopping. It's what I do. And it still lets me get in and out of a canoe. And might allow that for another decade or so.
Burning calories, particularly in the outdoors, clears my mind. Gives it the strength and freedom to wander the world while the wheels turn beneath me. Sometimes it's there scanning the road and path sides. Other times it's checking out the world of Alabama as it turns from winter to spring. Pines, loblolly and yellow, magnolia, live oak, pecan. Cardinals, sparrows, red-headed woodpeckers, sharp shinned hawks and mocking birds. Sand dunes, forest and burn areas. The whirr of the wheels on my thirty year old Fuji as they dodge pines cones and droppings of coyote or fox. Days get planned, years gone by get relived. Once in a while I even consider what I might write for the day but that doesn't usually happen 'til the fingers hit the keys.
Behind it all is the desire to live as long as I can and feel good enough to live well. Life's a gift after all. Staying in shape is merely gratitude.