You Want to Step Outside?

You can tell a lot about a person by the way they drive.

You can tell even more about a person by the way they drive AT YOU going 40 mph on a thin and curvy country road while you are out for a leisurely Sunday stroll.

Not everyone is paying attention, as is clear by the amount of drivers that will suddenly swerve when they finally identify that you are a person on the side of the road and not a woodland deer on two feet, or a slow moving tree attempting to make a break from the forest.

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And not everyone is particularly concerned about speed, or laws, or the fact that studies have shown it is easier to drive a vehicle if you are in charge of the direction you’d like for it to move. Pesky windshields and steering wheels. They so get in the way of reading emails.

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As a person who spends the majority of my conscious, upright hours in a chair, I have made a pact with myself (or Beelzebub) that states that if I fail to take a head-clearing, leg-stretching, lung-cleansing walk by the end of the day, I must refrain from breathing for a full thirty minutes as punishment before going to bed. Or for as long as the dog’s last nap divided by pi and rounded up to the nearest tenth. Whichever is longer.

I rarely fail to take a walk.

When at home, my routine is measured and predictable. There is no choice in direction living on the peak of a great chunk of rock. You are allowed to go … down. But then you have to come back up if you’re hoping to get dinner. As I never tackle this adventure without my trusty rusty hound by my side, and because it’s clear to anyone who has heard me wax lyrical about the animal (and declare I’d give him a kidney if he needed it), I am usually swayed to flip a 180 once we arrive back to base camp and trek down half the mountain again as a bonus for a little added caloric burn.

I have been warned that I am way too indulgent with this mound of fur on four feet, but as he assures me he would pull me out of a burning house fire, I feel I need to continually shore up our relationship—and his muscle strength—as a just in case insurance plan.

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If I’m visiting my parents, my walk is more residential, peppered by driveways, cars, and the containers holding last night’s dinner—a gift tossed out truck windows from a good chunk of folks who have yet to meet an area of the world that does not confuse them as being an extension of the county landfill.

Should I find myself in town and in between appointments, I make use of the tennis shoes I keep in my car for such an occasion and stroll in whichever direction the wind is blowing. Coincidentally, the wind seems to push me right to the nearest bakery, which I take as a sign from the universe that I need a lot more gluten in my diet.

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And I’m all about tuning into cosmic conversations. I’m like a fully carbed out Jodi Foster, only instead of sitting on the hood of my car surrounded by giant, rotating satellite receivers, I am standing in the city center, inhaling in all directions seeking the tiny refrains of active yeast strains.

I can smell otherworldly puff pastry creations from sectors of space that have yet to be mapped by astrological spectrographs.

There are countless things to learn on one’s habitual daily walk, like how much the winter snow contributed to the health of the burbling brooks, or how fast maple trees leaf out in spring, or how much porcupines do not appreciate being taken by surprise.

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Where folks are closer together I’ve discovered that neighbors like to communicate their personalities through mailbox and yard art. Perhaps as a way of scaring off any real forest critters from feasting on hedges, flowers and veggies, fake ones are strewn about the lawn. Most complete with bullet holes. Some driveways are so crisply outlined in nighttime headlight reflectors, one could safely guide a Boeing 757 into the garage at the end of it. And if one house has decided to grandly name their abode, you can bet your bottom dollar that ‘Ben & Jen’s Lake House’ will soon find it’s sharing the same street as ‘The Earl of Norfolk Hall,’ ‘Chateau Belvoir,’ and ‘Killkerny Castle.’

In closing, it doesn’t matter if I’m in the forest, with my folks or following the fragrance of fine French bread, I really love to walk.

My hope is that I will remain healthy enough to do it for years and years to come.

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Another hope is that I will continue to recover from all the ditch diving I have had to practice in order to avoid speeding vehicles driven by amateur multi-taskers.

And my last hope is that I will finish this post before the clock strikes midnight so that I can squeeze in my daily walk and not be forced to calculate how long the dog’s last nap was.

I love to walk.

But I love to breathe more.

~Shelley

*BONUS ROBIN GOTT CARTOON!* (click)

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.

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83 thoughts on “You Want to Step Outside?

  1. Re car drivers? It seems so sad that so many drivers do not appear to have ordered the turn signal option with their car. You’d think that they would think ……………….. but that’s where I am going astray ………… I am assuming that they are thinking. Silly me!

    • Maybe they’re part of a broader organization of green drivers who are deciding to draw less energy from their car batteries so they’ve unscrewed all the vehicle’s light bulbs?
      Trying to think on the bright side.
      Sorry for the pun.
      😛

      • Au contraire! Unscrewing the light bulbs is hardly thinking on the bright side. I would suggest that they are a bit on the dim side or, to be precise “they may be home but there’s no lights on at all!” “One brick short of a load” comes to mind but then “A whole load short of bricks” seems more precise. 🙂

        • dave barry opined (of course, a few years back) that in his town, Miami, all cars should have a gadget/control in them which would MAKE the CAR turn (R or L) if the turn signal had been continuously on for, say, 1/2 mile or 2 or 3 minutes or so. That way, he concluded, about 70% of all vehicles in Miami would be forced OFF the highway pretty soon.

  2. You are a fine example of a woman given to walking up and down the side of a mountain! I live on the flat and my daily wander with my little pup barely raises a pink glow! Hence our obvious difference in sizes 🙂 I however am not drawn to bakeries like you, I have no sweet tooth -as artichoke dip on chocolate biscuit attests – and in comparing sizes, I find this a tad unfair! So. it occurs to me, it is all down to the fact that you have to do all the required ditch diving that must be done in order to make it back to the foot of the mountain in one almost pristine piece. I have never ditch dived / doved [?] and am therefore at a complete disadvantage. This is my new excuse and I’m liking it! Thank you Shelley, you have saved the day again!

    • Oh, Pauline, I am a firm believer that we need to be measured by the size of our smiles and the capacity of our hearts–in which case, you win first prize.
      Usually, the first thing noticed about my smile is how oddly my mouth is ringed with chocolate. Ah, bakeries …
      Back to the newest fad in exercise: ditch diving.
      😀

  3. You’re so right about people driving like maniacs and not paying attention. I rarely walk along roads anymore because I don’t like ditch diving, either. I stick to sidewalks or off-road as much as possible. The cartoons really cracked me up. Good luck getting that walk in. 🙂

  4. I thought for sure we were going to lose Kelly to a maniacal driver in D.C. Crossing DuPont circle required ditch-diving but without the ditch. Lots of heart-stopping traffic and inconsiderate beasts at the wheel. Perhaps it comes from rubbing elbows with the most disagreeable congress ever. I think we should march them down to the Lincoln Memorial so they can re-read his wonderful prose. Surely something will sink in. Anyway, I digress. I’m glad you get yourself out for a walk each day, and pleased as punch to think of you with your adorable hound at your side while kitty holds down the fort. I’m equally horrified at the risk involved in a daily walk.

    • Oh! I think you’ve come up with a brilliant idea, Alys. I’d bet my left lung that a good number of those folks holding official seats couldn’t summarize half of our founding fathers’ most rudimentary documents and objectives. They should all be quizzed and then those who fail must do summer school and not get to go to their Martha’s Vineyard off-season homes.
      And although I adore the smell of spring mountain flowers and freshly mown grass, I’ll happily risk the daily constitutional for the mere whiff of pain au chocolat. Yes, please. 😀

  5. I love to walk too. And I am known to pick up the rubbish left behind from those who think everywhere is ok for landfill. Fortunately most of my walk is not along the road because I must have missed the warning signs that designate it as a racecourse training strip! Very funny, as usual Shelley! xxx

    • I think of you often as I do my daily walks, Ardys. I ask myself, “What would Ardys be seeing right now?” And the answer to that is often, Well, get down on your hands and knees, put your nose to the ground and find out! 😛

  6. What a great, funny little essay. Walking anywhere there’s traffic is cause to be on the alert. People think that since there is less traffic in the country, then walking its roads must be idyllic. But the attitude of the (fewer) drivers is that, frankly, you should be in your car. What kind of ijit goes out walking? AND they don’t expect you. You want them to slow down? Notice you? Be on high alert out there. Wear your spring loaded ditch diving shoes and keep your eyes peeled…

    • You make a really good point with the country roads, Lisa. It’s so easy to imagine those roads as paths so infrequently traveled that you can meander smack dab in the middle of them–and you can, but when a truck comes round the bend they’re usually pedal to the medal and reaction time is dulled by last night’s six pack. I suppose I have to be fair in adding that many of those speed demons are poor farmers on their way from one end of a field to another, chasing after animals who have crashed a gate and are making a break for it.
      Love the idea of spring loaded ditch diving shoes!

      • Years ago it was popular to cycle certain routes on country roads and friends would ask me to come along on these trips. My reaction (having grown up cycling country roads) was always “no thanks.” Then I’d have to explain the drivers, and worse, the mean dogs that would run out from yards and snap at you. Sometimes, thankfully, none of this happened. Others, people said, “Gee, I know what you mean now. This big dog–” or car or truck…Perhaps you have fields to amble over? Otherwise strap on the shoes!

  7. you make me want to talk a walk shelley, and that’s saying something. i’m trying to enjoy walking again but i’m just tired of going in circles.

    sir helps shake things up a bit, i just don’t understand how a creature on four legs has a worse center of balance than one on two. maybe he needs some earbuds too so the rhythm can get us both.

    p.s. jodi foster’s a captivating actress – contact was a good example, as is panic room.

    • That’s a wonderful visual, Mac–picturing Sir with earbuds. I like running musical tests on my animals. When my daughter plays her violin the hound actually sings along, if I put on Rachmaninoff, both animals exit the room, but if I pop on a R. Carlos Nakai album everyone curls up in a ball and zens out. I love seeing that. Kinda want to join them too.
      How bout finding a walking path in your county? Have you checked out parks and rec to see what’s on offer (and I don’t mean the show)?
      Cheers!

      • that’s wonderful, i wish sir would belt out a tune every now and then. maybe i need to bust out my trumpet and see if jazz is his jam (something tells me strawberry jam would get him moving more).

        once sir is old enough and we’re both focused on running more i will treat us to some changing scenery.

  8. I’m afraid that due to changes in legislation, any attempt to stop breathing must be requested in advance, in triplicate on forms only available from this office on alternate Friday 13 th’s in a leap year.
    I regret to inform you that due to staffing cutbacks and restrictive pay practices this off ice will be closed on Thursdays and Fridays for the forseeable future.
    Remember! If you have not received written permission to stop breathing, you must continue to do so until said permission is received.
    xxx Huge Hugs xxx

  9. I will walk anywhere if there is food at the end, like you Mrs P, I can smell a pastry at a 100 paces. That is a total crack up of a cartoon depicting such an event. Have I told you lately (yes, now I have the song in my head) that I just adore your way with words and that reading your post has become part of my cherished Sunday routine? Keep on walkin so you can keep on livin and keep on postin. 😁

    • I would imagine that if the wind is blowing in just the right direction, Cheergerm, I’d swear I could smell your kitchen. Just reading your posts can nearly trick my brain into believing I’m about to enjoy what you’re serving up. It’s kind of a cruel joke when I look down and realize IT’S NOT THERE! Still, I need my weekly fix too. That’s the beauty of symbiotic relationships, right? I feed you and you feed me. But in my case, boy do I wish that were literal and not figurative.
      Thanks for making my day. Cheers!

  10. I need to take more walks… unfortunately the drivers in Japan are even nuttier than the ones in the U.S. They like to creep along, swerve into walking lanes, disregard cyclists and small motorists, and the taxis… oh man, the term “a bat out of hell” perfectly describes them!

    Hope you got your walk in. 🙂

    • Still breathing, Alex. And also not surprised to hear that fear of deranged drivers is off the charts in Japan. I’ve only seen the reality of what is normal for you depicted in film or in documentaries. With film, I’m smart enough to know that they might be taking liberties by ramping up the danger quotient, but with the documentaries, I’m guessing they had to edit out most of the fatalities. Scary stuff, indeed. Be careful. North America wants you to make it back home. 😉

  11. As you know Shelley we share this daily routine of a good descending/ ascending leg-stretch, although my hillside does not, I’m guessing, quite compare to the ruggedness of your mountain! I too have had a few heartstopping surprises to contend with of late – a delightful pair of partridge(s?) have taken to ambushing me just as I round the corner near the bee tree stump, in true kamikase, commando style and complete with their version of pretend gunfire noises – doesn’t half increase the heart-rate! Hope your midnight walk was refreshing! 🙂

    • Jane, you make me laugh. And in my opinion, the angle of slope is fairly irrelevant. Up is up. Up is hard no matter the pitch. A couple of days ago, I took the hound for a walk in one of the county parks. I’d never come across such flat land. The entire time I was aware of the fact that my lungs were never on fire, my muscles were not complaining of their inability to fulfill my request to move forward and my brain was not reprimanding me for having one too many kouign aman.
      (Who can blame me? Those devils are addictive.)
      And I agree. Partridges are the scariest, cardiac inducing birds known to mankind and English hedges.

  12. I love my walks with the dog too, and it is so annoying when you are waiting to cross the road and the ‘leader’ turns off before he reaches you with no indication!
    Can identify with so much of your post, especially the call of the sirens………. I mean hot pastries at the bakery!

    • And you have such a dog loving community in which to ramble about in. I can’t count how many times I’ve been in an English pub on a weekend morning and have seen a dog or two snoozing quietly next to the table where his human family lunches. I love that scene. It’s so welcoming.

      • There are at least 4 pubs here that allow dogs in, not to mention a smattering of coffee shops and of course The Abbey and their tea rooms. It is one of the most, if not THE most, dog friendly places we have come across in the UK. 🙂

  13. Oh, it’s good to laugh – you’re my regular Sunday dose and I thank you for it. I used to walk a lot but increasing ill health means my best and pain-free exercise is swimming. But I’m with you in spirit, especially as you head towards the scent of rising yeast.

    • Thank you, Sarah. I feel so privileged to be part of your week. That means a lot to me.
      Now, if we could only get our city planners to think a bit more broadly. We could really use a few more walking paths, bike routes and swimming lanes alongside our main thoroughfares. With some of the city’s best patisseries sprinkled about from end to end. 😛

  14. The Long Suffering Husband has to use a crow bar to pry me like a limpet from my chair. But when he gets me to do walk, I’m always glad 🙂 Sadly there is no pastry shop in walking distance, or I would be more inclined to get moving. I might even fly straight to the éclairs like the smiling lady in Rob’s cartoon!

    • Yep, there is nothing like a little help and motivation to get one out of one’s comfortable cocoon. I’m glad you’ve got the LSH to watch out for the four chambers of your heart health. I’m fairly sure my hound has learned how to read the kitchen clock–or perhaps the shadows on the walls, as he is nearly spot on every day at 6 pm when he shows up at my elbow and attempts to flip my hand off the keyboard. Or maybe there’s some equivalent woodland smell that appears at precisely the same time each evening? What would be his comparable scent to my whiff of puff pastry?

  15. The counterpoints between driving and walking are quite remarkable, aren´t they?… I much enjoyed the way you opposed them in your post.
    Very witty and funny as always… Sometimes when I read your post you reminded me of Woody Allen´s monologues… I am talking of his first stages as both a film director and an actor.. All my best wishes to you! Aquileana ⭐
    PS: selfie drivers should be banned! o_O

    • You like Woody Allen?? Aquileana, you never cease to amaze me. I’m a huge fan of his writing–and even more so hearing him read his writing. That is a powerful combination. Regardless, what a compliment. Thank you.
      I’m glad you liked the post today and I look forward to seeing what the gods have in store for us this week on your side of the screen.
      Cheers! 😀

  16. Walking is far and way my favourite exercise, supported by my trusty Fitbit for the days when I am not motivated (although your not breathing plan sounds like a better incentive!). Unfortunately my walks end up being surrounded by a lot of cars, and I’m not fond of exhaust fumes. 😦

    On lawn reflectors and personality, I laughed and then thought of this…my parents bought a cottage where the previous owner had a thousand signs up with variations on “Beware of dog” that were quite poetic at times, if scary. He also had strung up a bunch of lights outside run by a noisy generator, and he would run them later at night, presumably to capture any stray tresspassers on his lawn. This for a cottage on a lovely lake off the beaten trails, where no one would ever be randomly coming by and breaking into the place. My parents stripped all that stuff away, and it’s beautiful now. 🙂

    • I think my folks must live on a similar lake, Sue. The night-time noises are oftentimes a mystery to me, although I’ve finally gotten used to all the target practice that takes place starting at around midnight.
      Bummer about the lack of good walking trails by you. There is a big difference in the way I feel after I’ve done an hour on a treadmill versus an hour outside. No comparison. Flora and fauna are a necessary part of my mental and physical health–despite the minor inconvenience of maniacal motorists. 😛

  17. Walking is my exercise of choice too. Like you I aim to get out for a walk every day. And like you I love being out in nature and I enjoy the magnificent landscape around where I live. However, unlike you, most of the time, where walker and driver must share the roadway, the drivers I encounter are courteous and careful.

    But don’t get me started on driver to driver behaviour. Driving along a single track road (no room for two vehicles to pass side by side) in this part of the world can be incredibly frustrating. Tourists and dopey locals idling along at 15mph – who either don’t know or don’t care that there’s someone behind them who needs to get to a place at a particular time and who will not pull over in a passing place to allow overtaking – well they bring out the murderous psychopath in this normally gentle grandma.

    Your problem and mine could easily be solved by driver vigilance and good manners. So there! Gosh, that feels better 🙂

    Stay safe.

    • Don’t forget the sheep. You have to share the roads with your sheep. And those are some bold fellows! Sleeping on the edges of the road, walking in groups without a thought as to why that annoying, blaring horn is right at their backsides. Oblivious. Or rude. I’m not sure. It’s tough to figure out sheep intelligence.
      I’m glad you had a chance to vent, Anne. Now I think we should print out your comment and put it up in a few pubs around Skye. Problem solved.
      Except for the sheep–unless they can read. (We all know they’re often at the pubs.) 😛

  18. Waking, the simplest form of transport that there is. Not only is it healthy it is economical and the whole perspective of your surroundings is altered. When you are in an auto you are concentrating, or at least you should be, on not running into stuff. While on a bike you are concerned on not being stuff the cars run into. When you are on foot you see everything differently. Oh sure you maintain a sense of caution but you are able to see things you wouldn’t see while operating a vehicle. You are closer to the road and you notice things. Little critters, plant’s and flowers. You are now a part of the scenery. Even in the city, on foot you see things that you might otherwise have missed. A small shop, or a bit of Gingerbread on the facade of a building you have passed a dozen times. So yep, I too am a big fan of walking. As long as I am able to walk I figure I can burn up more calories and eat more bacon.

    • Oh, yes. Bacon. The meaning of life.
      I would walk ten thousand miles for a few perfect strips.
      And I agree, Benson, there’s the slow food movement, which I’m terribly fond of, and then there’s the slow life movement, which I don’t think is a well developed enough campaign yet. We need to slow down the pace a few notches like you pointed out. There’s so much to see and much we’ve already missed.
      Thanks for the much needed philosophical moment today, Benson.

  19. This was stitch-busting funny, but also really scary. I’ve experienced these multitasking drivers myself, and I know how dangerous they are. Please be safe. xoxo

    • Speaking of safe … YOU MUST BE TOO! Am I right? Did things go well? Oh, Nancy, I’ve been thinking of you so much this past week and sending as many healing, healthy vibes your way. I hope you’re on the mend and will shortly be back out on your trails too. ❤

  20. What a wonderful picture you paint of the benefits of a good walk! And Rob’s cartoons hit the spot, especially the down v up, that seems very familiar 🙂

    We avoid walking along the roads around here for all the reasons you state and I often wish I have a camera at the ready to capture the worst excesses, I’m sure half the time people don’t believe me when I describe what I have seen. We’re lucky to have a variety of beautiful places to walk though, and it’s amazing how much better you feel after a good stomp around the forest with hound in tow after a bad day. Although when I say in tow what I mean is that he’s scooting around sniffing at all the interesting smells and if he’s on the lead then I’m the one being towed. 😮

    • I think, Laura, that one of the things I love most about where I live is that we walk “lead-less.” That is unless I’m on county park land or in town with the dog. There is something so joyful about watching a dog who is off his leash and filled with boundless enthusiasm, exploring the world at his leisure and pace. And, strangely enough, Haggis has ample opportunity to do that whenever the urge strikes, but he doesn’t take advantage of it. He can zip out the dog door any time day or night and wander off if that’s what he wishes to do. But he waits for me. I look at him and remind him of his many missed opportunities to commune with nature, but maybe he’s the kind who likes to share the experience? *shrug*

      • Quite possibly. Shadow runs around off the lead if we’re not walking along the road, and has a big garden to run around in too, but if he goes outside and I stay in he ‘knocks’ at the door then when I open it he stands there looking at me as if wondering why I’m not coming out to play. So yes, I guess there’s a strong element of wanting to share that dogs have. As opposed to cats. 🙂

  21. Hi Shelley! Just back from my daily walk with my dog, Bear, the German Shepherd. I am happy if I can go on a hike in the wild canyons surrounding my home in AZ., but I walk at home visiting my mom, around parking lots and buildings–just like you, I spend too much time at the computer and have to stretch. Fun article, as usual! Cheers 🙂

    • And oh, what breathtaking views you have, Cindy. I’ve marveled at your pictures many, many times. Your canyon walks must be tremendously enthralling.
      Yep, those walks are such a good spiritual and physical balance to the mental exercise we face each day. At the moment, things feel pretty balanced in that regard.

  22. I’m just glad you aren’t Dumpster Diving!
    Oh that Selfie Driver cartoon … perfec (ly scary).
    I’ve got some pictures to send by link or email that I think you’ll like. One in particular of your lovely Haggis!

    • You know that’s funny, Laurie, I just read an article all about folks who are making a dinner club out of the art of dumpster diving, and I think there’s a food truck in NY that’s making only food out of that which would normally go into the compost or garbage pail.
      I can’t imagine bakeries have much waste tho, so I’ll stay out of their garbage cans. 😛
      And yes! I can’t wait to see your photos. Whatever works easiest for you. So exciting!

  23. I love to walk also and cars, well cars on mountain roads are the devil. We in California are in a drought situation so the creeks are dry. Very sad but still the wildflowers are flourishing in the heavy fog which is like liquid air. Hope, I suppose you’d call it.

    • It is an amazing thing, isn’t Jan, to see what nature self-selects to survive? The sturdiness of native flora is eye-opening and I think, in the end, less heart-breaking to plant in one’s home garden as a rule of thumb. I can only imagine what peoples’ cameras must be capturing during this drought. I’m looking forward to finding out.

  24. I love walking too; I especially love my morning walks, for that is the time when the roads are free & the drivers are less crazy. 😉
    that pic of you being flown to the bakery had me in splits 😛 I don’t have a sweet tooth but fragrance of food i love has the same effect on me 😀

  25. well, i would like to live on a hilltop! (well, we do, but it’s a small hill with much bigger hills nearby). and that’s way in most my rides/hike/runs i usually find an UPHILL first, and of course you know why …

    • Uphill first makes so much sense. I hate doing the easy half first. Occasionally, I’ve thought of driving my car to the bottom, parking there and starting my journey that way. I think that would freak out the dog.

  26. Funny and inspiring. My butt says don’t listen to that woman, but hark! She writes of pastries! Wait. Isn’t walking for pastries self-sabotage? Never mind. Hope you made it before the clock struck twelve, and may all texting-while-drivers be condemned to a special place in limbo.

  27. I find driving in the bush in Africa which I am doing now, amidst the ellies and cape buffalo, and other large wild things, to be so much more safe and civilized than driving in San Diego. The African wild things are much less aggressive on the road!
    You are hilarious~

    • Wow, Cindy. What an incredible adventure. And although I lived in San Diego for about 3 1/2 years long ago, I will take your word on just how mannerly the cast members from Where the Wild Things Are handle road rage in Africa.
      I hope the trip goes beautifully. And I look forward to seeing all the fantastic pictures as you post them.
      Cheers!

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