I was on edge this past Saturday afternoon, and I couldn’t figure out why. It was a beautiful day in the middle of a three-day weekend, and my kitchen smelled like baking bread, so why on earth was I tense? Why did I feel the need to flee my (relatively) clean house and my (relatively) well-behaved children?

I even considered retail therapy — going to buy something, a book, even a used book — just to escape my immediate environs, even though burning fossil fuel for the sake of sheer consumption really isn’t my thing. It was an unusually powerful urge, but I managed to resist it.

Finally, while my wife napped, one child played Super Mario, and another watched Franklin, I slipped the lead around one of my dogs and slipped out of the house for a walk. Halfway down the block, the dog began walking sort of funny, so we went back to the house for a plastic bag.

At this time, the other dog, loudly freaking out with jealousy as is his way, teleported through the fence. That’s what it looked like, anyway — like stop-motion video in which there’s a fence with no dog in front of it, and then there’s a fence with a dog in front of it. I didn’t have time to figure out just then what the heck had happened*, because the clock was ticking down to when I had to be back from my walk in time to wake my wife and take the bread out of the machine.

I still really needed to be gone, so I corralled the left-behind dog and stuck him in the garage. With just 35 minutes remaining, the chosen dog and our plastic bag and I went on our way.

And it was wonderful. Just what I needed. And revelatory. As is so often the case when I walk (more so than when I run), my brain figured out the thing I most needed it to figure out: Why I felt so compelled to be away from my house.

Because that’s where my research is. A dozen and a half books pertaining to Alan Lomax, and overflowing file folders dedicated to each chapter, and beaucoup electronic documents, and recordings out the wazoo. It was all there, and it was demanding my attention as persistently (though, thankfully, not as audibly) as the dog that didn’t get taken for a walk. My research didn’t care that I’d written 1,500 words the day before, or that I would be back at it the next night, or that I wanted a day off to bake and play and space out.

Realizing that — and knowing exactly what it was that I was getting away from — made all the difference. Well, most of the difference. The remaining difference was made by superpremium ice cream. My point is that I felt a whole lot better. Not twitchy, and not trapped.

But just to be safe, I think I’ll plan on spending more of my Saturdays somewhere else for a while.

* Loose board. Three-year-old F and I fixed it Sunday morning.