Taking a Walk to Clear My Head

Today is one of those achingly beautiful days. The sky is painfully blue, a blue you could gladly drown in, and the sun bathes the multi-colored trees golden. Each breath is crisp with decaying leaves and the promise of frost.

Cars fly through the intersection. A golden-doodle pants at my side, distracted from the sight of the park across the street by a new person to smell. I bury my gloved hands deep in my coat pockets and tilt my face skyward. A light but insistent wind tugs at my earlobes and rubs the tip of my nose, but the sun’s warmth soothes away the sting.

It’s a day that reminds you you’re alive and demands you be happy about it.

The light changes, a shiny pickup and rusted old Honda blurring past anyway. Everyone waits a collective breath, then the dog leads the charge into the crosswalk. Two joggers pass, spurring the dog and its owner faster. I take my time. Forest Park waits patiently.

Inside the park, the sun dapples through slowly-dying leaves. I cross the bridges, first over the metrolink, then over the parkway, and descend to the Victorian footbridge. Wood planks echo underfoot. I take a moment to lean against the black metal railing. A chill seeps through the down of my jacket sleeves. The sun reflects off the water below, and on the far bank, a weeping willow flutters in the wind.

Two teenagers speed past on electric scooters, rumbling across the footbridge. Wisps of breathless conversation drift by as speed-walking moms push their strollers toward the ice rink. I turn right instead, gravel crunching beneath my boots. Here, without the burnt-hued trees shading the path, the sun sinks into my skin. Frigid air burns my nose with each inhalation. Every breath tastes of life.

By the time I reach the statue and pause for a vehicle headed down the road toward the Muny, my fingers are numb despite the gloves. Breath clouds in front of my face and my cheeks tingle. I turn and follow the path back along the creek, past a man calling for his black lab as his little boy cheers on the dog sloshing through the shallow current. Past a couple arguing on a bench near the pond with the fountain spraying rainbows between its jets. Back under tree-cover, a smile for the homeless man curling up on the bench surrounded by brambles and caught-leaves. Across the footbridge, pausing for a cyclist to cross my path. A grandmother helps a toddling child in a princess skirt climb the stairs to the pedestrian overpass. She trades a smile with me over her shoulder then cautions the little girl to “let the lady pass.”

A train blurs below as I cross the second bridge, its rails whistling protests against the cold metal. Somewhere, a fire crackles in a wood-burning fireplace, filling the air with the smoky-sweet scent of home.

It is a good day to be alive.

GiftAMeal

Here’s something fun about me: I have a pathological need to know people are well-fed. I order way too much food for company functions and still stress it won’t be enough. While my husband was away this summer on his internship, I annoyed the crap out of him, bugging him about eating quality dinners. I am neither Jewish or Italian, but I channel the stereotypical Jewish and/or Italian grandmother when it comes to (almost literally) shoving food down people’s throats.

Now let me take a quick moment to tell you about the most amazing app I discovered this summer. GiftAMeal is a *free* app you download to your smartphone. With it, you take a picture of your food at participating restaurants (currently in St. Louis, Chicago and Detroit) — come on, most of us already whip out our phones to Instagram that gorgeous plating anyway — and upload it to the app.

Boom. Done.

Someone in need receives a meal.

Just. Like. That.

Literally no sweat off my back. I snap a pic of a meal I then enjoy, and a hungry person in my city gets a meal in their belly, too.

(Just to clarify that last sentence — it isn’t like osmosis or super sci-fi shizz…yet. But a meal is donated because of my picture and that in itself is cool enough for me.)

IF you find yourself in the St. Louis or Chicago area, download this app. There are so many restaurants participating, I’m more surprised when one doesn’t pop up on the app. And, honestly, I’ve started choosing new places to check out based on whether or not they’ve partnered with GiftAMeal.

PS: This works for anything the restaurant offers. Happy hour? A pic of that snazzy cocktail donates a meal. Late night fries? A close up of those golden potatoes donates a meal. Meeting up with twenty of your closest friends? You can each use the app to donate a meal! Go ahead, feel like Oprah handing out prizes.

Are there similar apps or programs in your area? I’d love to hear about them!