Sunbeam, oh sunbeam, you magical ray.
You lighten the sky and bring warmth to my day.
In winter your light is pale and cool,
In summer bold, proclaiming your rule.
Sunbeam, oh sunbeam, my wonderful friend.
Longer days mean winter is nearing an end.
Spring dawns lighten,
Anticipation begins to heighten.
Sunbeam, oh sunbeam, my shining knight
Dust motes and rainbows dance in your light.
Summer is here and my heart leaps
Now that you’re here, I want you for keeps.
Ok, so maybe I should leave the verse to Shakespeare and Browning. Inspiration needs an outlet, no matter how elementary. If the writer’s heart is made glad by what is written, that is the important thing. If the reader is gladened, all the better. In all honesty, I cannot wait for spring to arrive. I love spring. New green on the trees, warm afternoons, with evening still cool enough for a crackling fire and a warm blanket, maybe a bowl of warm milk just before bed. As wonderful as this rainy, wintery winter has been I am ready for longer, warmer days.
When I was still living with my parents and brothers and sisters, we loved to run around outside our cave, chasing bugs and one another. My sister was an avid tree climber. She never tired of running up the trunk of one tree in the forest, leaping from the branches into another tree and then tearing, pell-mell down and across to another stand of trees. My brother and I chased after her, but we were no match for her agility and speed. My brother was the cunnng one of the bunch; he recognized the pattern in which she ran and climbed and soon figured out where she would reach the ground. He would lie in wait for her and pounce upon her as she scrambled down the tree, and they would tumble and roll in the fresh grass. Being the dignified creature that I am, I watched and waited for just the right moment. When they were both distracted, I would swoop in and jump in the middle, successfully rolling them both end over applecart, the three of us landing in a heap at the base of a giant tree. There we would lie on our backs, staring at the clouds scudding by overhead, and talk about what we wanted to do now that the days were longer and mom and dad were more willing to allow us to wander further from home and hunt our own lunch.
When we were young, and active, we could do anything, anytime, and never really worry about consequences of the physical sort. As I have gotten older, more mature, and a bit more…shall we say, refined, I find that I am also less able to jump as high as I once could, or run quite as fast as I did in my younger days. It pains me to admit it, but I really have taken to this comfortable life I am living, and this winter has been a dream existence, what with my warm soft beds and yummy food. (I still say Sarah is trying to starve me. The scale doesn’t lie, however.) Safe from the elements and free from the worry of damp in my beautiful fur coat. Sarah is a dear to comb and groom me almost daily. My fur nearly shimmers in the light.
An incident early last week brought me up short however. I heard a noise in the darkroom, where the girls develop the x-rays they take when pets come in with injuries or other complaints that require a more in depth look. I jumped down from my perch in the window, and ran toward the darkroom door. I had been quite relaxed, drowsing in the spring sunshine cascading through the window. By the time I had reached the darkroom door, I realized I had moved a tad too quickly. I felt a “hitch in my get-along”. My left hip was not at all happy with being thrown into action with little warning. I limped off and on the rest of that day and into the next. Dr Deb examined me, and told me it was a soft tissue strain. She warned me to take it easy and not take off running like that when I had been so sedentary. She told me that with the cold winter months, lots of people and animals forget when it is spring they have not been as active as they were last summer and fall. That is certainly the case for me. As I sat on her lap, enjoying the warmth and attention, she and the others in the office talked about easing back into spring and summer activities. They came up with a list, and I thought I could share it with you, perhaps save you from a soft tissue strain, or worse.
1. Start slowly. If you were running a 10 minute mile last fall, but have not been running since before Thanksgiving, start out at a slow jog, or even a fast walk. Allow your strength and endurance to build up over several weeks or longer, if necessary. You will get back to your game a lot quicker by working into it slowly, rather than jumping in feet first and suffering an injury.
2. Set the right pace. Again, this goes along with starting slowly. Start off at a brisk pace, that you can maintain for about 10 minutes or so. Allow yourself to slow down to a more casual pace for another 20 minutes. Do this for the first five days. Then increase your brisk pace time, and decrease your slower pace, by about five minutes for the next five days or so. Continue to increase your brisk pace length, but always remember to slow down for at least five to ten minutes at the end of your walk or run.
3. Warm up and cool down. Whatever exercise you are about to participate in, stretch for a few minutes to get your muscles ready for action. If you are going for a run, walk the first few blocks or so. Allow your muscles to warm up. Especially if you are out in the morning when it is still somewhat cool. At the end of your workout, slow it down, stretch it out, allow your muscles to slowly contract.
4. Have the proper equipment. For the human, good, sturdy walking or running shoes, stretchable clothing, a light jacket or sweatshirt that can be peeled off if necessary. For the animal (likely canine) companion, a sturdy, padded harness and a six-foot leash. As the days warm up, and the temperatures start to climb into the eighties, carry water, especially if you will be out more than 30 to 40 minutes.
5. Know your route. Are there obstacles? Aggressive animals, like other dogs who may be prone to charging, jumping a fence, etc? Is there a cat that loves to taunt and run? It is also a good idea to let someone know your route and how long you expect to be gone.
6. Have fun! Enjoy being out in the fresh air, walking or running with your companion and exercise buddy.
Of course, this list is more applicable to humans and animals that will be out running or walking or hiking. What about those of us who like to stay a bit closer to home? The same principles apply. If you decide to set up an exercise area in your home for your favorite furry feline, start out with steps and platforms that are closer to the ground, and don’t require a huge initial leap. If using toys like laser pointers, keep it low to the ground, and draw wider circles. As time goes on and your feline starts to limber up and grows more coordinated, you can raise the platforms to increase the jumping height or throw the laser pointer higher on the wall, close the circles down tighter.
Regardless of what you do, find a way to enjoy the spring and summer months, and enjoy spending some of that time with your pets. We live for the attention you lavish on us. Even if we are loathe to admit it.