The Joys of Early Morning Walks

“The sum of the whole is this: walk and be happy; walk and be healthy. The best way to lengthen out our days is to walk steadily and with a purpose.”

– Charles Dickens –

It is when I walk that I clear my mind of clutter. The rhythmic crunch of my shoes allow for new ideas to be set in motion, my body loosens up, and the fresh air that fills my lungs acts as a reminder that there is more to life than being stuck in front of my computer.

With summer receding our early morning walks here in Al Ain are blanketed in darkness. The halo of street lights, a sprinkle of stars and the remnants of a full moon light our path. We hug the edge of the neighbourhood where the gravel plains sprout the silhouetted shapes of acacia trees and small farms crouch. The night erases the outline of Jebel Hafeet, and the only indication of it being there is a ribbon of lights curling upwards into an empty sky. The ghostly shapes of dogs that roam freely through the neighbourhood chase their own barking, while fragments of prayer float around us as a new day slowly wakes up. The chill in the air is a welcome reprieve after the long, suffocating summer months.

Eid-al-Adha gifted my husband and I with a different kind of morning walk. We spent the week with my in-laws who have retired to a beautiful village on the KwaZulu Natal coast of South Africa. Springtime, although quite windy at the coast, is a time of mild, green weather.

Our morning walks took us, mostly, around the retirement village where the morning calls of some of the hundred and fifty different bird species that have been recorded there, provided us with a joyous soundtrack. Monkeys and duikers put in special appearances and the air that filled my lungs was fresh and cool.

Enchanting tales of a bygone era, when sugar cane barons built colonial houses and leopards roamed freely amongst the trees of the indigenous coastal forest of Umdoni Park, accompanied us on one of our early morning walks that we took with a delightful group of walkers from the retirement village. The musty smell of decay made for a welcome change from the dry, dusty air of the desert, and I did my best to file this memory of smell to a place where I can easily retrieve it again in the future.

The rugged beauty of the coastline is best observed at sunrise when only a lone walker or fisherman can be spotted and we made sure that one of our walks took us to the beach. High tide washed away the footprints of the previous day during the night, and ours were the first to announce the new day.