(This is the fifth from my collection of essays. To read the first four go here and here and here and here.)
Jilly and I stepped into the wood and sniffed. She smelled scents of other animals on the ferns and rocks. And I caught the scent of summer, bright and fresh with a hint of warm cedar and lake water. It’s uplifting and comforting.
I didn’t realize how much I’d missed my ramblings in the woods with my yellow lab, Jilly. But life is like that, sometimes. It just gets so busy and changes so fast; it’s easy to let time slip by. My son moved back home temporarily with his little dog, Apple. She’s a sweet and smart little 5-pound two year old Chihuahua- Terrier mix. But she came with some behavior and training issues. She had a lot to learn. Walking on a leash without pulling. Passing people, children, bikes and other dogs without barking or growling. Doing her business outside all the time. Learning to settle on her bed. Come when called. And adjusting to having two new people plus another dog and cat in her daily life.
Life hands us all challenges for a reason. I think the biggest reason we all get challenged is to overcome fear. Little Apple had a lot of fears. She’d grown up around tension and stress with very little exercise. I always find exercise is the solution to most of my stress, so that’s where I started with Apple.
For the last 3 months, our morning walk included Me, Michael, Jilly and Apple. Michael walked Jilly and I walked Apple. It only took a few weeks for Apple to become a good park citizen. She learned to heel, walk by people, dogs, cats and geese without no problems. She had a regular routine with naps and playtimes. She learned to come and settle on her bed. And, best of all, she stopped pooping in the house! Jilly and I have worked like a good team to get Apple re-oriented to a new way of living. I can see she’s happier and calmer.
But all this change and work comes at a price. That price has been no ramblings in the woods for Jilly and I. Today, with Michael going to an early morning appointment and Apple doing so well with her training, I decided that Jilly and I needed a little one on one time.
Entering the woods, I caught myself watching Jilly. She stopped. She smelled. She stuck her head in the ferns and brambles. I realized that I was caught up in what I’ve been doing for the last 3 months, watching the dog I’m walking. But, with Jilly, I didn’t need to watch her every move.
Instead, I could move. Free.
I went to my old yoga spot by the birch that went from huge to almost gone one stormy winter. But here it is, taller than I am now and holding its own on the slanted mound of earth. I smiled. Glad to see her growth. As I stretched into mountain pose, something caught my eye.
What I saw was a path. What I expected to see was the old pile of fallen branches that had been there for a few years blocking the space. But formed around the fallen branches, there was now a new path leading through the woods to Father Birch. I didn’t have to go around anymore. I could go through.
That’s when I caught the not just the scent of summer but the spirit. Felt the breeze cooling my warm skin. Looked up to the twinkling sunshine through bright green leaves and remembered.
This is where life lives. Whether I’m here or not, life grows and flowers here. And blockages break free creating a new path.