Opinion: Close up and far away

  • “When I walk by the high school softball field, I sometimes think of our daughter’s four or five seasons as a softball player.” Jennifer Hauck photo

Published: 7/30/2022 6:03:17 AM
Modified: 7/30/2022 6:00:07 AM

Parker Potter is a former archaeologist and historian, and a retired lawyer. He is currently a semi-professional dog walker who lives and works in Contoocook.

The last time it was ‘My Turn,’ I wrote about my daily walk around Contoocook and how it allows me to appreciate a human-sized corner of the world at a human pace.

I value the time I spend walking because the scale and pace of my walk keep me deeply rooted in the moment for a couple of hours each day. On the other hand, my intense focus on the here and now sometimes has the paradoxical and deeply rewarding effect of taking me far away in both time and space.

For example, when I walk by the high school softball field, I sometimes think of our daughter’s four or five seasons as a softball player. The last seasons she played was sort of a dud until tournament time when she teamed up with a bunch of girls she hadn’t played with before, and they did so well that they got their picture in the sports section of this fine newspaper.

Passing by the softball field can even transport me to the first base side of a diamond in Lancaster where, in the last inning of her last softball game, our daughter accounted for all three of the other team’s outs, two of them on an unassisted double play.

Similarly, a walk past the high school gym will sometimes take me back to a quarterfinal game in the NHIAA state tournament in which our daughter came off the bench to score her team’s only third-quarter field goal in a one-point victory that put her team into the final four.

As often as not, thinking about watching our daughter play sports when I am walking reminds me of my late father, who was legendary in central Ohio for attending hundreds if not thousands of his Ohio grandchildren’s athletic events.

Youth sports are not the only thing that makes me think of my father when I am walking. One day, a friend who is the athletic director at Hopkinton High School saw me walking and pulled over. When his car rolled to a stop, he reached out and handed me a brand new Hopkinton baseball cap. Apparently, he was concerned about the worn-out faded one I had been wearing. When Dan generously replaced my ratty old hat, I immediately thought of the ratty old hat that my father proudly wore on the golf course, even when it amounted to little more than patches and sweat stains.

One day when I was walking one of the neighborhood dogs, I was moved to recall my father’s love of dogs. I spent the rest of that day’s walk awash in memories of the dogs my family has owned, and when I got home, I wrote a Facebook post about Mr. White, Blitzen, Bugle, and Baron.

My experiences while walking don’t just transport me into my family history. There is a big cornfield behind the grocery store that I pass by every day, and when the farmer is spreading manure, that gets me to think about a very specific circle of life: manure feeds the corn that feeds the cows who make the manure. Manure from the barn to the field, corn from the field to the barn. A big circle. And there’s a very real possibility that a drop or two of the milk that is produced by the cows who eat corn from the field ends up in a block or two of cheese in the dairy case in the grocery store that abuts the cornfield.

Rainy days are particularly effective at inspiring me to shift my mind from close up to far away. Close up, and in the moment, I am often fascinated. I watch raindrops hit the ground and then continue obeying the law of gravity, ever searching for lower ground. When I am walking in the rain with one of my canine friends watching rainwater find its way to a storm drain, I will often tell the wet dog about the journey the raindrops are about to take, through the storm drain, into the Contoocook River, into the Merrimack, and into the Atlantic Ocean. I also tell them about the water cycle and how today’s raindrops could well end up in the sky, in a cloud that shades us tomorrow.

The talking to dogs part may be a bit nutty (and I sometimes even sing to them) but I really like the way that teaching the dogs I walk about the water cycle on rainy days does two really important things at once. It keeps me deeply rooted in the moment while, at the same time, reminding me of all the connections between my little village and every other place and person in the world.

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