By Richard E. Peck

Richard E. Peck

Richard E. Peck

I walk mornings. At first, for reasons of health, more recently out of habit. But reasons aside, the fact is, it’s been educational in ways the joggers I share the dawn with can’t know. While they thunder-and-puff along, wearing out their knees, ankles, and $150 shoes, those of us strolling can enjoy the early silence they dash past.

The difference between jogging and walking is subtle. An athletic friend caught up to me one dark November morning on the bike path north of Kapa‘a and asked, “Have you started jogging?” I guess he couldn’t tell the difference.

Running down the street as most do, joggers don’t learn how many sidewalks end in mid-block, for no apparent reason. Lurching off the concrete into ankle-deep sand and thistles is the landlubber’s equivalent of walking the plank. Joggers miss that stumble and other discoveries in the speed of their passage blurs.

Thoreau called himself Concord’s self-appointed inspector of snowstorms and rainstorms, surveyor of paths and all cross-lot routes. I refuse a burden that heavy but can help my adoptive home in other ways. I could, for example, testify.

Suppose Kapa‘a decides to fine homeowners for obstructed or broken walks. I can point out where they are. I’ve walked into low-hanging banyans and face-scraping plumeria or palms shedding over the sidewalk.

But then, besides informing on minor law-breakers, I might identify homeowners who deserve awards. I’ve watched the three-year development of a garden rich with Naked Lady amaryllis (“Hawaiian daylilies”). I know The Best New Stucco Job, the Most Improved Xeriscape, and so on. Joggers don’t have time to consider such awards (or to compose columns like this one) when they’re running.

Neither do they count all the empty bottles assembled neatly at the curb, awaiting pickup. Some neighbors conceal their empties in black plastic bags so that passersby can’t define the degree of their daily thirst. Others save their empties indoors all week long in order to put out a single grand display on trash-pickup day: a pyramid of dented beer cans, or illegal plastic bags overflowing with aromatic glass empties.

At one home I pass regularly, bottles aren’t saved indoors. Instead, every morning the sunrise shows two more empty half-gallon wine jugs … accumulating two-a-day until someone carts off the embarrassing pile.

You might think the wine sipped from those empties was a French vintage, or at least Robert Mondavi. Afraid not. It’s Mogen David Concord Grape … chugged at a gallon a day.

This morning at that curb stood four empty Mogen Davids, one Asti Spumante, and two Quaker State oil cans, 10W30 weight. I never get invited to parties like that!

Strolling along at dawn, you have the chance to ponder such mysteries. You learn whose lusty cat has been slinking into what other yards. You understand your neighbors better after hearing through an open window a shout like, “Tell your mother to drag herself out of that bed and get down here! Now!”

You see a range of costumes during each neighbor’s furtive dash from front door to curb and back to put out the trash, or take in a newspaper. Shorty nightgowns and bare feet in a rain squall. You learn more about those neighbors than they know.

Thoreau said early morning walking helps to clear away the cobwebs. I thought he meant that metaphorically, till I started down Papaloa Road at 6 a.m. and performed that very real task. Like the brush of unseen fingers, cobwebs spun overnight from shrubs to curbside trees tickle your face as you break through them, a victory tape stretched there to welcome the earliest morning walker.

Try it. You’ll be healthier for the exercise. And you’ll accumulate great stories to tell over morning coffee.

  • Richard E. Peck is a part-time Kaua‘i resident and a retired president of three universities. He has written numerous books, plays, columns and TV shows, and his work can be seen at