One of my goals when I left my full-time job to become my own boss was to walk the dog more. Sounds like a ridiculous or irresponsible career or life move.
“Hey, y’all. I’m quitting my job with health insurance benefits, paid vacation, and an office so I can walk the dog more.”
Marnie has finally flipped, right?
But there it was on my list. I worked with a career coach, Debbie Peterson, over a couple of months. So it wasn’t impulsive. The list also included becoming my own boss, setting my own hours, having time for family, travel and yoga. And the dog.
My life had gotten to the point where walking the dog was rushed, a chore. Gotta walk the dog before work. Gotta walk the dog before bed. And we’d rush to get our mile in morning and night around the neighborhood, which is nice, but not inspirational. And I’d be cross with my daughter for not walking the dog after school because she forgot. Rushed and angry were not good parenting.
For me, walking the dog – really walking the dog – provided meditation and inspiration time. We’d head into the woods, and I would leave behind deadlines, silly demands, and ridiculous behavior from co-workers. I had two techniques, one taught by Debbie, to release the issues of the day. This would free my mind to engage in more creative pursuits, like thinking up story ideas or solving some domestic problem. I’d feel the wind, humidity, or sun on my body. I’d watch the change of seasons as a story told by the plant world. Forty-five to 90 minutes later, I would emerge calmer, happier. And, of course, the dog thrilled at every sniff of every other dog that walked the same route, and solicit some love from fellow walkers.
I gave myself 6 months to figure out what I wanted to do in this next phase. That deadline is approaching this month. But the commitment to walking the dog will still be part of that phase.
I pick our walks based on the weather. Sun beating down on us means we need to find shade. Typically, I like Asbury Woods in Millcreek Township, Pennsylvania, or Pleasant Ridge Park, in Fairview Township. Asbury has hundreds of acres and Pleasant Ridge has about 80. But both have lots of mosquitoes at this time of year – and even the best repellent results in about a dozen bites.
With a nice breeze today, we headed to Erie Bluffs State Park, nearly 600 acres along Lake Erie and bordered by Elk Creek. I unload Bobo and we walk the path from the parking lot through what used to be corn. This open stretch will take us part of the walk, where the grasshoppers will flip and skitter around as we disturb them. We are the only ones at the park this morning. We can listen as the tall weeds rustle and the crickets keep up a hum throughout this open part. The pods of milkweed, beloved of the Monarch butterfly, are still green and haven’t opened yet to release the white fluffy interior. Eventually we get to the edge of the woods, where the trees are more oak than maple and we head into the shade. If we chose one path, it will lead us down toward Elk Creek, a popular fishing creek later in the fall. The wind replaces the sounds of the crickets. This breeze is keeping us both cooler and the mosquitoes away.
Down to the creek we head, where the dog gets a drink of water in time to see a kayaker come down stream. The heat of the day is starting to intensify, so up we go back into the cool of the trees. Alas coming down means heading up a vertical incline, using tree roots as our stairs. We move to the other side of the wood, toward Lake Erie, and the waves hitting the shoreline is drowning out the wind. I wish I could bottle this sound and play it at 1:45 a.m., 3:45 a.m. and 5 a.m. when I wake each night. It is that soothing to me.
We head back toward the car, into the light, and the grasshoppers, and bees, and then the dog disappears into the tall weeds. All I can see is a tail wagging. I head back toward him and suddenly he is rolling and wagging.
Nature’s back scratch.
Back into the car, with lots of water, he goes. Home again, home again.
Have a peaceful Wednesday.