It is early afternoon on a sunny day and I am walking my dogs through the tranquil, tree-crowded neighborhood of Carmel-by-the-Sea.
After several days of guests in my little cottage, the visitors have just this morning departed. I have done the laundry, cleaned the house and swept their presence away, but there is still a new article to write this afternoon, and I am feeling quietly exhausted.
If I could beg off from my requisite ramble with ‘the boys’ I would, but there is no getting out of it. Along with squirrels in the tree, it’s the peak experience of their day, and I know it does me good to get out for a walk, even when I’m feeling resistant. (Especially then.) But honestly, I’d rather just lay on the couch and stare out the window, recovering from days of sociability.
A couple of years ago, very early in the days of the Soul Artist Journal, I wrote a post about walking the dogs:
At this point of my journey and career, I’m the ‘stay at home daddy’ for these boys. Here on the windward mountain, our daily walk depends on the weather. Usually in the early afternoon, somewhere around tea time, they come and remind that it’s time to go. As if I could forget.
A ‘w-a-l-k’ (you have to spell; don’t say it aloud, they know the word) is the highlight of their day and they wait around patiently for it, staring at me with big, brown puppy dog eyes that enquire, “Isn’t it time yet?”
So I put on my walking hat and Keen outdoor sandals (and then they know for sure that it’s time), sometimes grabbing a light jacket in case of misty rain, and we head out…. both dogs on their respective lead. It’s very pleasant to be walking ‘upcountry’, enjoying the fresh mountain air, and they’re mostly well-behaved. Mostly.
For the past several years, before these dear little doglets joined our family, my walks were solo time: a quiet, moving meditation and time of reflection and inspiration. Often I’d be gone for a couple of hours.
Walks are different with dogs… especially youthful ones. Now my excursions on foot are more about ‘exercise’ with a couple of energetic four-leggeds as opposed to a meandering communion with the landscape and ‘more-than-human’ world—stopping to get lost in a flower, listen to the voices of wind, or observe the shapeshifting of clouds for long periods. It’s a very different cup of tea, so to speak.
Their clinking metal dog tags tend to alert the small, spotted Axis deer and wildlife that I would otherwise encounter; then again, they keep the wild boar away, too.”
A couple of times, when I’ve needed a proper solo walk, ‘River style’, I’ve left them at home… but their sense of betrayal and abandonment is almost palpable.
How could you not take us with you?!?
So, exercise with ‘the boys’ it is… and it still feeds my soul in its own way. Soul cannot be separated from body (not in a human lifetime), and when we’re engaged in embodied, authentic movement such as walking in nature, the soul thrives. The bodysoul loves to move.
These Whippet walks are not as mindful or meditative as my outings once were, but I’m getting exercise and keeping healthy and that, too, benefits my soul. It improves my mood and mental outlook (unless the boys have been especially rambunctious or naughty), and helps me move through any blocks in my writing.”
For whatever reason, the boys are intent on being particularly naughty today, straining at their leads, tugging me towards favorite trees and landmarks, and acting extremely hyper when we encounter another dog (we meet three on today’s excursion).
I’m a bit ‘over it’, talking to them in a weary tone as if they are children who understand my every word and my frustration with their antics. (They absolutely do, I know.)
Still, there’s a great deal of beauty that surrounds me and I’m trying to focus on that. As if the graceful evergreens against the summer blue sky weren’t lovely enough, nearly every cottage and garden that we pass offers something alluring to the eye: a rowdy jumble of orange nasturtiums, a cheerily painted birdhouse, an attractive gate and inviting courtyard beyond, a trickling fountain, lanky silver-green clumps of fragrant lavender.
Throughout the neighborhood, purple seems to be nature’s flower color of choice this month.
As the boys pull in their harnesses towards a customary spot alongside the road, determined to leave yet another pee-mail for canine passersby, I am feeling ever less tolerant. If it was up to them, our walk would be an hour long and we would stop at least seven hundred times along the way. Actually, if it was entirely their choice, they would simply run.
Suddenly my attention is caught not only by the bright purple flowers of the bush before which we have halted, but also by an amber-winged bee alighting on the blossoms.
The little honeybee making love to the violet flowers, her rear legs plump with orange pollen she has gathered, brings me instantly out of my head and down into my body again. Instead of grumbling about the dogs’ less-than-model behavior on this walk, I feel my heart open wide to the moment and this buzzing bit of life.
“Hello, lovely,” I smile aloud.
I adore bees, they are simply the most amazing creatures. How I deeply miss the presence of a hive nearby, mine or otherwise. As a beekeeper on Maui, in one of my posts I shared:
Considering that the average bee will produce only about 1 1/2 teaspoons of honey in its lifetime, it takes about 5,300 bees to gather enough nectar to make a pound of honey. One jar of honey is also the result of about 80,000 trips between flower and hive, the result of about 55,000 miles of flight, and the nectar from about 2 million flowers.” (excerpted from Honey and Dust, by Piers Moore Ede)
As usually happens, nature has brought me back to my soul.
True, I had to first push through my resistance to the walk, and then keep my senses open, but suddenly, like a bee, I am focused upon an unexpected flower of gratitude and appreciation—one that I wouldn’t have encountered had I remained at home. (Though I daresay I would have found something else to appreciate, like the light filtering through the dark green limbs of the Grandmother cypress.)
Friend, here’s hoping that wherever you are that something invites you to pause and savor a moment of beauty. Or gratitude. May you value the collective breath and cosmic intelligence that animates your being. We dwell in a fully participatory and reciprocating universe, and little could be more important than appreciating the goodness we encounter—it is a mirror of yourself, after all.