By Mike Steffanos
When my knees were much younger than they are now, I used to run about 30 miles a week to stay in shape. A lifetime of sports and a knee operation put an end to that about a decade ago. I've replaced that pursuit with hiking the hills around where I live. It's still a very good workout, and my knees don't bark as much afterwards. My reward for the effort, besides keeping my waistline down, is a few quiet minutes on a mountain lookout -- featuring peace for the soul and some New England beauty for the eyes.
Another reward of being out there with nature is the opportunity to be a witness to the surprising diversity of wildlife this suburban area supports. I've witnessed firsthand the return of peregrine falcons and coyotes to the vicinity, and an increase in the number of fox and bobcats. One species that I really see a lot more of these days is the turkey vulture. They tend to favor the high areas that I like to hike in, and a constant source of amusement for me is the sight of 3 or 4 of them circling me while I am enjoying a few moments at a lookout before heading back down.
Now, intellectually I understand that these birds are simply looking for smaller entrees than myself in an area where I just happen to be. Still, as I sit there panting I can't help but imagine that at some level they are waiting for that sweaty middle-aged human below to drop and provide a first-rate feast. When times aren't so great, the buzzards seem to provide a fitting metaphor for my life. Joking aside, although it might look like they're up there for me, they're really not -- and that could be a good thing to keep in mind during tough times.
The national baseball press has seized upon the Mets recent slide with predictable relish. Guys who were predicting doom for this club heading into the season now smell blood. It suddenly feels a lot like last year, when everyone was writing the Mets off. Not that I blame them -- well, maybe just a little -- but maybe this is what we need. The Mets did better last season when everyone was picking against them, maybe that will be the tonic for this year's bunch. Anyway, things are starting to feel familiar as the bandwagon becomes a lot less crowded. Good riddance.
The only thing that matters now is what happens on the field. The Mets need to find a lot more of what they had last night. If they do, they too might find those birds circling unpleasantly overhead aren't there for them after all.
Note: I am still tragically behind on email and answering comments. Work is very crazy. Please bear with me. I'll catch up someday.