“Cotton,” the puffy windborne seed from Cottonwood trees, blankets only a few secluded stretches of the irrigation ditch network fed by the Rio Grande in Albuquerque’s north valley. Winds spread most of the cotton; virtually none will take root.
An uninterrupted descent toward death after adulthood involves a declining ability to move freely through space. Whether the starting point is robustly ambulatory or a wheelchair, the peak of vigor is sooner or later followed by a creeping inability to do physically what you did with relative ease a decade or two earlier. You walk less, run less, hike less, you play less.
My sanity requires some regular measure of playful movement in the outdoors. Fall under my minimum threshold and I am at high risk for getting goofy in a bad way. In Kabul, my freedom of movement was so effectively strangled that I felt like I was withering away. I knew it then.
And I understand it more deeply now when I plod along ditchbanks, especially in the mornings when the flood of light is more horizontal, stretching shadows and painting depth. The sounds are often me chugging and lizards skitting over dry leaves, ducks in ditches, dogs and the lightly sweet smell of Russian olive trees. I think animals and people are friendlier in the morning, in part because the bad asses of late night have finally crashed out of public circulation. I also like mornings because in a simple, unpretentious way they represent the promise I heard so often as a kid that the new day was my opportunity to try again and maybe even do better.