Take a morning circle trek with Albert Lea nature

Published 9:12 am Thursday, July 28, 2016

Creative Connections by Sara Aeikens

Sara Aeikens lives in Albert Lea.

Each morning I awaken to a thought of gratitude. This focus helps free me from fears of health limitations. A few years ago, I established a practice of feeling instantly grateful that I am able to move freely when my feet first touch the floor, thanks to my Albert Lea book club friend who shared her daily morning ritual with me.

Sara Aeikens

Sara Aeikens

At about 5:30 a.m. most mornings, my husband arises and creates a  beautiful daily prayer he shares with me. Then, while he reads the early morning Minneapolis paper in the cooling breeze on the screened-in porch, I snuggle back into bed to squeeze in another hour-plus of snoozing.

When I arise with a positive outlook, I’m often able to leave our home with my husband before 7 a.m., because we usually avoid the summer heat. Because of my recent health issues, my pace may be a bit slower than his, so I sometimes  suggest he go ahead.

From our home on Vine Avenue and John Farry Place we can choose to go either direction, which gives us at least three pathways. We can walk on Lakeview Boulevard to the Fairway bridge and turn around to return over the same sidewalk journey. We also can turn to the left on Blackmer Avenue, where several fishermen usually hangout near the bridge by the intersection of three main roads.

About a long block farther we turn off the paved road to the left and cross a wooden pedestrian bridge. I have heard some call the flowing stream Ruble Creek. Considering this a destination, I sometimes sit on a wooden bench near the water’s edge of the surrounding pond that my husband says is Dane Bay.

I’m grateful to gaze upon dozens of ducks and geese families, often paddling in semi-circle formations.

Beyond the flocks and gaggles, open space allures me because I spot a graceful bird poised only on one leg. I call it the “hermit blue heron.” It habitually hangs out in the same spot, but only seasonally and only occasionally. This means it’s always a pleasant surprise whenever the bird chooses to appear for a spectacular moment’s viewing in my daily life’s shortest circle journey.

I  stretch and stand up, appreciating our local nature treasure and that I can walk with ease. I follow Abbot Street to  another must-stop attraction, the farmer’s corner market garden that draws me to Winter Street because of the familiar — if not fragrant — smell of dill weed that I am drawn to from growing up and wandering in my parents’ corner garden in Minot, North Dakota.

I next climb the hill up Autumn Street and notice I am breathing easily, except when the humidity is really elevated, like recently. Just a few blocks to our one-block-long John Farry Place neighborhood and I’m once again grateful I completed the trek.

On another cooler day, instead of crossing the wooden bridge, we veer to the right and walk along Elmira Street, passing St. John’s facilities, to the tree with a fat trunk, just before a telephone pole. Then we follow a worn but almost invisible pathway among the tall grass of the removed and abandoned railroad tracks.

The rails are gone, but the narrow path is completely covered with rocks on both sides, and sometimes I spot a shiny crystal-white stone among the mostly drab colors and sharp, jagged shapes. Through  the dew-laden grass, we soon step onto the wide and winding light-colored sidewalk, not yet soiled by age, on the edge of Minnesota Highway 13, leading us to Higby Gardens.

Since I’m a member of the Shades of Jade Garden Club, I sometimes help weed when some of the gardeners come on Thursday mornings. Each time I pass through the plants, I stop and pull a few weeds and, if I remember to carry my garden gloves, I’ll pull as many thistles as I can spot.

This spring, the spring in my steps — caused mainly by just being able to walk without laboring — increased after my glimpse with great surprise of a round, giant turtle the size of a large serving platter, laying her eggs on the flower garden edge tucked under a rose bush. This sighting gives me even more motivation to walk my morning circle trek.