Tuesday, June 17, 2008


The secret of a good walk is to allow the walk to guide you, lead you where it will and not direct its course or decide what kind of walk it's going to be. On countless occasions I have been in a terrible mood, reluctant to spend more than the most cursory amount of time outside being dragged around by Duncan, only to discover that the walk would be the best, most forgiving and therapeutic part of my day. Likewise, there have been afternoons when I felt as though I lived in some grand Hollywood musical, as though the walk would take place in Technicolor, with little cartoon birds alighting on my shoulder while fauns and bunnies traipsed along beside us, sniffing flowers and singing in harmony to the song of the sun and the swaying clouds. On more than one such occasion I've been disappointed to learn that Duncan did not feel the same way, that he was grumpy or reluctant and that Walt Disney was not in charge of animating my day. You may think the path leads one way and if you're not willing to take a chance or have some silly preconceived notion of what a walk should be, you'll likely discover it will take you in a completely different direction altogether.

I had a terrible day. My sinuses and ears have been acting up, my cough, although not racking, is annoying and unproductive, my doctor offered the wrong treatment for it and the two night-time cold capsules I took last night kept me drowsy and foggy until well past noon. It wasn't until Duncan pulled me out of the apartment and across the park to Lilley Gulch that I felt as though I was actually a participant in my day. The air was hot and the sun in my eyes would've been uncomfortable if didn't feel so damn good on my face and arms, warming my throat and the tip of my nose. The reeds along the creek have sprung up almost overnight, growing over last year's dead, yellow stalks, offering lush new homes to the birds that nest there. If you skew your field of vision just right you can erase the homes and streets that line the gulch and imagine you're alone in the foothills, which always roll west ahead of you, turning a welcome shade of green as they near the mountains. The birds were mostly quiet, except for the lowing of the Mourning Doves and the faraway high-pitched cry of the killdeer which nest at the dry, rocky base of Rebel Hill.

Their voices beckoned and so Duncan turned and followed the path to the creek, where I jumped across while he waded a bit, then up between the tall rows of lilac bushes, now white and browning throughout and completely void of the perfume which lasts only as long as those delicate days before the heat sets in. We came out into the wide field on the southeast edge of the lake where the ground rises up and turns yellow with the tiny petals of a million wildflowers. We teased the prairie dogs, who barked at us and stood protectively over their pups and eventually Duncan spotted a killdeer and set off in her direction. I knew her game and kept my eyes open for the chicks, which scurried around for shelter in the tall grass. Duncan eventually caught onto her broken wing antics as she led us further away from her nest, but I brought him back around and we followed one chick, a scurrying, scrawny, fuzzy thing, for several minutes, Duncan's nose quite close to its tiny, bald little tail, practically pushing it forward while its mother screeched at us from nearby, huddling in the grass and playing as though her wing were broken. Our chase was short-lived and we headed up the hill, around the memorial and back down into the lower side of the park where the baseball diamonds sit and the crowds had gathered for an evening of America's national past-time.

Our walk was like killdeer; it started in one direction, seeming to be something solitary and quiet, but turned another way and became something playful and more social. It was wonderful watching Duncan discover the chick and follow close behind, his tail wagging, his sniffing low and gentle, his gate easy and careful.

And that is the secret to walking in the world. Let it lead you, open your eyes to discoveries unexpected and unplanned, look for beauty in the rugged places as well as those settings where you expect to find it. This is the way to experience the world, and to let the world experience you.


Greg said...

Another beautiful post, for yet another lovely walk. These dogs always know what we need, eh? Glad things turned around for you...hope you're feeling in the pink soon!!

caboval said...

****Sigh***** Loved your post!

Murphy's Mom said...

I have missed reading your posts! You are a magical wordsmith! Thank you for sharing your vision of the world with us. Give D a kiss for me!