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Monday, May 08, 2017

Hermann Park is very near MD Anderson Cancer Treatment Center where my son is undergoing his cancer treatment regimen. Sometimes his appointments are back-to-back with short breaks in between. Other times, we have a few hours to kill between appointments. To avoid the parking garage fees, we occasionally spend the time between appointments at the park and use the break to eat our packed lunches in the fresh air outdoors.

(A distant view of the statue of Sam Houston as seen from the Pioneer Memorial obelisk that overlooks the Reflection Pool in Hermann Park)

(Pioneer Memorial)

Last week, I decided to walk through the park's serene Japanese Garden. The garden features waterfalls, bridges, and paths nestled among crepe myrtles, azaleas, Japanese maples, dogwoods, and cherry trees. The tranquility of the garden was an excellent mental health break...not to mention the steps I walked were a welcome addition to my daily step total.

(Stone marker for entrance into the Japanese Garden)

Several waterfalls, brooks, and ponds added the relaxing sound and view of water to my walk. A gardener preparing the Japanese Garden for the weekend's Japanese Festival told the story behind two of the garden's waterfalls. The larger waterfall, according to the tale, was the male who was in love with the smaller female waterfall. The dry riverbed of smooth, gray rocks joining the two was said to be the bond that joined them in matrimony.

(Larger, male waterfall)

With each turn of the path beneath my feet, my eyes fell upon another lovely sight: a white pebble beach, a dry riverbed of smooth stones, a Japanese Tea House, numerous stone lanterns, flowerbeds, Japanese black pines, oak trees, maple trees, flowering sweet olive trees, shade tunnels made from bamboo, wooden foot bridges, Koi fish ponds...all sights to soothe the sight and soul.

(Pebble beach)

(Japanese Tea House)

(Stone Japanese lantern)

It was evident Spring was working her magic in the garden. There were beautiful purple irises, the large purple or white bursts of Agapanthos blooms, beds of bright yellow Day Lilies, the sweet aroma of large, white Magnolia blossoms, and the tender new leaves of the deep red Japanese Maple trees.

(Wooden foot bridge surrounded by purple Agapanthos)

(Purple Irises along the water's edge)

(Bed of yellow Day Lilies adjacent to the crushed stone walking path)

(Sweetly scented, white Magnolia blossom)

(Japanese Maple filling out with young, tender, red leaves)

Although I walked alone through the garden (DS wanted to rest), I had plenty of company. The music of hidden songbirds filled the air. Numerous ruddy-brown Eastern Fox Squirrels and ash-colored Eastern Gray Squirrels scurried around unburying their winter stores of acorns.

(Startled Eastern Fox Squirrel when I rudely interrupted his lunch)

(Eastern Gray Squirrel nibbling his unburied treasure)

As if my leisurely stroll in the Japanese Garden had not been pleasurable enough, along my exit path I thought I heard the distant strains of a piano. I stood still next to one of the children's splash fountains to listen more keenly. Was that opera music wafting its way to me on the breeze? What was that? Wait a minute...I know that one...wait...wait. Yes! Rossini's "The Barber of Seville"! In the park? In the middle of the week?

(Splash fountain near The Pioneer Memorial and Reflection Pool)

I followed the high-pitched notes sung by the operatic vocalists, and they led me to the Miller Outdoor Theater. The performers were in the midst of Act I of a young people's adaptation of "The Barber of Seville."

(Performers from Houston's Grand Opera's "Opera to Go!" initiative)

Let's remember...

Long-term stress => more cortisol => cravings for high-sugar, high-fat junk food => weight gain

The focus of the walks we take shouldn't always be about "calories burned" or "FitPoints earned" or "speed" or "miles." Sometimes a walk should be more of a stroll...a chance to enjoy nature, relax, and de-stress. The bonus is that a leisurely "stroll" can contribute to our weight-loss.

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