I sat at the dining room table, carefully addressing envelopes to various relatives who'd been kind enough to send me checks for my birthday. And even though these notes are almost always some variation of ”Dear Aunt Josie, Thank you so much for the birthday card and gift! I really appreciate your generosity! Hope all is well, Love MCF”, I still require an unusual level of concentration. I think it's because my handwriting is so bad and I rarely use a pen these days. So, I found myself trying to focus and instead becoming acutely aware of every sound my dad was making in the kitchen. First he was ripping up some box, then crinkling some plastic bags. I put the pen down, took a deep breath, and closed my eyes. I'm really looking for opportunities to differentiate 34-year-old MCF from 33-year-old MCF, and not snapping at little annoyances is high on that list.

I'm happy to say, that there was no outburst, although when he was done making noise with garbage, I found myself listening to his breathing, a high pitched whistle through his nose. At one point, I think he was trying to whistle a melody. Eventually, my mom entered, and the two of them headed out to catch some discount senior citizen movie. In the silence of an empty house, I was able to finish my thank you cards.

Enjoying a clear day, and not wanting to spend a vacation day from work sitting around the house, I headed East after stopping at the post office and the bank. I pulled over by a spot I'd passed many times in my life, and soon discovered an entire network of trails I never knew existed. I'll have photos up tomorrow. Occasionally I'd pass other people in the woods, and share a polite hello. My biggest obstacle, as always, was some of the steep inclines I encountered. I have surprising endurance for someone my height and weight, provided I'm on level ground. I really need to start setting the treadmill at the gym on a higher incline.

On one such hill, I jumped at the rustling of leaves. Down in a valley I'd just left, walked a solitary man in a green sweatshirt and a winter hat. Despite the fact that I myself was a solitary man in a green button-up shirt and a winter hat, something about this individual made me nervous. The other people I'd run into were in groups, either couples or mothers and daughters or other configurations of two to three. Worse, despite the graying hair of a middle aged man, he was closing the gap between us.

At the top of the hill, I had to stop, both to rest and to take in a breathtaking view. If I was about to die, I'd at least enjoy nature one last time. I heard the footsteps behind me, and then they were gone. The guy walked right past, either oblivious or as concerned with me as I was with him. I continued on my way for a few more miles, and eventually ran into him heading back the other way about an hour later. No shots were exchanged, only brief mutters of “How's it going?”

By the time I was almost back to my car I was exhausted. I paused to take a picture of some boats on the water, when the roar of an air conditioning unit coming online behind a nearby building sent me a foot into the air. After getting home and relaxing a bit, I headed downstairs to do some laundry. I yelped when I turned over one of my t-shirts and saw a camel cricket just hanging out on the other side. I dropped the shirt, and he leapt into the shadows under our basement steps. I know they're harmless, but those things still freak me out whenever I run into them. And, twenty minutes later when my dad went downstairs for some sauce and noticed I had the washing machine on an incorrect setting, I'd finally snap and yell when he pointed it out to me. As we get older, there are things we both gain and lose. I hope to lose my oversensitivity, and gain some more patience. I'm not getting there as quickly as I'd like, but I am getting there...


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