The walk is the one time of the day I really have to be present with myself, and with Duncan and the world, of course, but in a sense it's about being grounded, losing my thoughts and being entirely awake in the moment. I don't have to worry about pleasing anyone, being nice to anyone for the sake of business, I don't have to fret over what to make for dinner or how the carpet certainly is vacuuming itself. No one is evaluating me. The efficiency of the walk does not determine how well I'm liked, how much I make or even what I think of myself. There is no failure. Every walk Duncan and I go on is successful as long as I'm able to let the rest of it go, as long as I can find solace in the quiet and beautiful grace of the path, witness the things the universe has set before me.
This is what matters: that on the lake trail Duncan dragged me into a small shore-side grove of trees, where the deep grass still held the nearly pristine seedlings that snowed from the Cottonwoods a month ago. We stood on the shore and watched a bumblebee––not the heavy, zeppelin-types I remember from my childhood, but a small one––float from pink blossom to pink blossom and then, quite suddenly get caught in a warm and swirling current of air, which pulled a small clump of cotton from the grass and danced it around his hairy body. The two arced and twirled before my face for only a few seconds, just long enough to catch my breath and marvel at their silent ballet before the breeze released them. The cotton caught on the edge of the flower and the bee followed after it, alighting on a pink tuft to resume its work.
It matters that on the park side of the lake, the grass has grown up tall and fresh, smelling clean and soft enough to sleep on, the silky fans at its tips bending to caress and whisper sweet lullabies into ready ears.
It matters that the Otherway world was vibrant and clear, a looking glass waiting to be stepped into even as the walkers strolled past without noticing while the people sitting on the patio at the bar and grill hardly looked up at all. Even Duncan stopped to watch the flight of a dragonfly as it darted around his head and into the reeds before skimming the surface of the lake. I knelt next to him and rubbed his back while he stared transfixed.
And it mattered that another walker finally stopped, a woman I've seen many times, who does not wear ear buds or talk on her phone, who does not dress up for power walking or gossip with her friends. She walks a gentle pace, always alone, her face into the sun or the wind or the snow, smiling at the joy of walking.
"I see you here all the time," she said, letting Duncan sniff her hand before kneeling down next to him. "Isn't it beautiful?" she asked, looking at Otherway. "Do you ever feel like you're the only one who sees it?"
I smiled and nodded. "I feel that way all the time," I told her.
"I love it all," she stood up and wiped off her knees, which Duncan had slobbered on. "And I love how much you love your dog." She rested her hand on my shoulder a moment before turning and walking back down the trail, a moment of intimacy between strangers, like the moments I share with my dog and the world.