Friday, March 7, 2014

Finding My Way Back to Walking Again

I've walked Pedro the last two mornings even though the sun hasn't been over the trees behind the house and the air has been crisp and cold.

The first time, it was more or less by accident.

I couldn't find my clogs when my daily daycare dog arrived, and my hiking shoes were in the closet by the door, so I slipped them on instead. When I let him out alone to do his business in the kennel yard, he didn't want to come in because despite everything he had been through before his rescue, he's full of life and loving every minute of it. Back before winter turned the world so gloomy and my world tilted on its side Dec. 15, he could count on a brisk walk most mornings.

Looking at his hopeful face, I decided what the hay, grabbed a leash and gloves and earned a quick bounce and sudden sit from Pedro, who has learned to wait patiently to have a prong collar dropped over his head. Then we were out and down the road and I was freezing my ears off (I'd forgot my hat) and feeling the needle cold March wind through my jeans. We fast walked it to the end of the road and back, about 20 minutes for the 1.25 miles, and both started our day with a little fresh air in our lungs while the sun was still struggling to get over the poplars.

The second time, it was more premeditated. I knew where my clogs were, but I had on the hiking shoes anyway. I also found my hat and we didn't waste time with going out in the yard first. Instead I opened his crate holding the leash. He walked out and sat and soon we were heading down the road with my yard dogs, Rebel and Macy, in tow.

Coming back I thanked him for helping me to begin to recollect another one of my missing parts.

For years, even before I opened my kennel and with more focus since then, I've walked my road on a near daily basis with dogs. Once upon a time it was my yard dogs, Otis, Sunny and Snickers now long gone beyond the Rainbow Bridge, and then later with Rebel, kennel dogs, house dogs and Macy. It was an important part of my mental health.

Walking a smooth, familiar route with generally no sounds but the jingle of a leash and the pad of athletic shoes and doggy paws on the road was my morning meditation. I spent it in silent prayer, often for Ethan, or in quiet contemplation of the world around me and the way my body felt moving through the universe. It centered me for the day ahead, gave me time to organize my thoughts, got my heart pumping and reminded me that I was part of the world around me.

The routine varied with the weather and the season. Summer means early walks to intentionally beat the sun's fierce heat once it tops those same trees. Winter brings a later start to enjoy the midmorning warmth. Many days with kennel dogs I've walked the route two and sometimes three times to make sure that everyone willing and able gets a chance to be out.

This winter, however, my walks, as important as they've been to my sanity, have been one of the pieces that I've dropped and had the most trouble picking up again. Although I've managed an occasional stroll, I think my walks Wednesday and Thursday were the first back-to-back walks I've taken since Dec. 15 when I learned that my son was dead. Just as I struggled with being alone for a while (something that has gradually changed), the last thing I wanted was time with no real distractions. I found physical outlets with Zumba, PiYo and my exercise bike, but those were accompanied by mental distractions as well -- the choreography of the dance steps, the sequence of the poses, the Kindle or a book on the bike.

Walking without even a phone call for distraction is a different process (I walked Monday a bit later and spent the whole time on the phone). It's dropping the distractions and focusing on the feel of my feet on the ground, the movements of the dogs, the feel of the wind numbing my face and chilling my legs, the cold air filling my lungs, the chilly blue sky overhead, the voice in my head which may in time return to more intimate conversations with God, but this morning was content to repeat the chorus to "It's Good (Love's Not Safe)."

Writing this I realize that my walks are not only meditation, but often a form of worship, which I've also struggled with. Not surprising that I've found it easier and safer to stay in the house and avoid that risk when I've occasionally fled the sanctuary of church for much the same reason.

There are other missing parts, things I once did casually with hardly a second thought, that I'm struggling with: bills are paid late even though there is money in the bank, I cannot remember my daily vitamins, my next needlework project is waiting to be started, seeds for the garden haven't been ordered, and some mornings the dog on the bed is almost enough to keep me from making it. I deal with what must be done each day and fall exhausted into bed with those pieces still scattered on the floor.

But I think I've picked up one more piece and put it back in its proper place. It may take some adjusting to get all the edges lined up, but it feels right and I think it will stay. Eventually, I'll collect the other bits and finish my reassembly.

The thing is that I know that while I may look the same, I won't really be the same. I'll always be different from how I was before and there will always be a piece that's missing. The piece that was the physical presence of my son will always be an empty hole in the center of the puzzle of my life.

1 comment:

  1. I hope you continue walking. I've found it makes me feel so much more alive. I love the time to think if I'm out just with my dog or to talk if I'm walking with a friend. I also had to "come back" to this. Reclaiming parts of my former life was never an intention, but it feels great to rediscover myself. Cheers to you.