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While walking in the neighborhood

Blame it on the Brit in me, but I love to ramble over hill and dale, to escape the four walls and take in the natural world.

I began a regular walking routine about 18 months back. At first, I felt awkward and conspicuous. Now, it's become a regular part of my week that I miss if I don't venture out. I hate to admit that I'd become a fair-weather walker. Subfreezing temperatures notwithstanding, I knew it was time to bust out of the house or my jeans.

Confessional interlude: I'm sampling from my Christmas chocolate stockpile as I write. I could boast of still having chocolate these many days after Santa's delivery, except for the quantity involved.

But I veered off the path. Preparing to walk is easy. I don't have time to talk myself out of going because I slip on sneakers, a coat and go. On these bone-chilling days, maybe with a wool hat and gloves, too. There's no makeup nonsense, although the women I meet along the path generally look better than I do and obviously don't plan to sweat. If they have small dogs, they're likely right about that.

Today, I stepped lively when the sun came out. Out, not up. Yep, 2 p.m. saw me hitting the trail. Before then, I mistook the sun for a full moon behind that relentless veil of "¦ that was last week's column. Too bad, it's still relevant, but soon "¦

One reason I prefer walking to working out at the gym (don't get me started) is that my walks show me something new every day. I'm rarely bored. Today I met the cutest white Scottie that wanted to tear me limb from limb — a fence being the only barrier preventing it, I'm sure. Wink, wink. It ushered me the length of its confines, yipping and racing ahead to the next in a succession of vantage points from which to utter threats on my person if it could only get at me, boy.

As the mighty beast hurled abuse, I reached a turnaround point where I often stop to marvel at three gorgeous longhorn steers in a pasture below. They're gargantuan, even from a distance. I'm tempted here to refer to them as appearing as large as bulldozers in their field. I call them Larry, Moe and Curly. I don't know their real names, but I'm sure they're more dignified. One of them, Curly maybe, and I had a stare-down as I tried to estimate how many wet socks I could hang on its rack. Curly won. Meanwhile, Scottie's barks echoed down the hill, hit the barn and bounced back, making him sound doubly ferocious, and the longhorns watched me as if I was making the racket.

I get to meet all breeds of dogs and people on my walks, as most "walked" dogs appear to be purebreds, I just realized. It makes me feel sad for the rest. Walk your mutts, people!

Further on, I met a handsome Bouvier des Flandres. With a name like that, I felt like I should curtsy instead of pat its head. I couldn't pronounce it properly but it licked my hand in deference. Noblesse oblige.

The other day I saw a goldendoodle, a cross between a golden retriever and a poodle, a favorite of mine. Then there's this one man, a fast walker I call the Great Dane, tall and blond, but I actually have no idea about his pedigree, and that's just fine.

My adventures take me past rolling greens and sand traps, with ospreys and great blue herons circling over water hazards.

I stay alert for hurtling golf balls, watch cavorting deer, hear first then see a flock of turkeys. The walk is public yet wild enough to offer natural intrigue and an occasional road less traveled. Getting out and into the neighborhood is a great way to clear the muddle, and if you see me, give a wave.

Peggy Dover is a freelance writer who works from a 1900 farmhouse in Eagle Point. Reach her at pcdover@hotmail.com.