By Dana Gornall
The dog’s nails are hitting the broken asphalt road with a clickety-clack as he walks and breathes hard—panting.
The air is cool, and his breath forms a steady white cloud with each exhale, but the sun is at my back and it warms my jacket. Glancing down at my running shoes—bright blue with lime-green grass colored stains—I think how I bought these last summer with the intention of running and how they have seen slow walks along this path and felt the tickle of newly mowed grass more than they have withstood the steady pounding of my feet on any jog.
So many intentions, so many ideas not quite fulfilled.
We pass a younger woman and her dog—she dressed in a bright, orange fitted workout jacket and slim fitting pants; her dog neatly groomed and well behaved. My eyes graze down at my own yoga pants, hanging loosely around my hip bones and bearing a tiny hole (from what, I don’t know) at the knee. My own dog needs a good cutting and the fur sticks up in bed-head fashion around his ears.
So many tasks needing attended to, so many chores left undone at the end of the day.
I bring my focus back to the feel of my feet with each step and the steady in and out of my breath and the panting of my dog.
I need to make space in my mind—space from the mental noise that has flitted this way and that through my thoughts so often, lately. Crossing the road we enter the park and I feel my muscles loosen, maybe just a little. This is what I need, I think, a quiet Sunday morning walk in the woods.
Only my dog has other intentions, and he pulls on the leash firmly and wants to pick up the pace. I tug back slightly, trying to re-focus his attention. In frustration I wish that he would just behave. Why can’t we just walk and breathe? Why does he have to smell every leaf and rock and paper he comes across?
So many well-laid plans seem to go awry—not the visions set ahead of time, but instead slightly warbled and warped, like sound waves under water.
Within a few minutes we find our pace again and my body unbends from its grip, just a bit. Cracks in the paved path branch out forming veined patterns, and my eyes follow them as they bleed out from the main walk and tumble down off the ridge to dirt and grass. I think about this place before the asphalt was poured—wild and forested, filled with creepy crawly things and weeds that sprouted with minds of their own. This space before joggers, and bikers and strollers, and dogs that pant tiny white clouds with each exhale and nails that go clickety-clack.
I wonder what sounds surrounded the trees back then, before the high pitched skimming of spokes on wheels whizzing past the chatter of women talking and children babbling and feet pattering.
Slowing to a more even pace, I come to the wooden bridge covering a stream that once flowed as a river, yet now lies still and shallow with light from the sun crowning each ripple, each eddy. I feel the earth shifting and changing all around me just as the air from the wind glides past this seemingly solid body and supposedly strong-willed mind.
It’s funny how an idea will trickle in, at times when we are distracted from the things that fill our lives from sun up to sun down (and even on into the night). How when we stop looking for the next connection, the next interaction, the next step in what to do after this, cracks will branch out forming veined patterns that drive space into all of the chaos.
How quickly it all shifts.
How so ever fast is time speeding ahead while we busy ourselves with things and thoughts and intentions and plans. How really none of this matters—the grass colored stains on my well-intended bought running shoes, or the tugs from my dog on this perfectly, imperfect planned walk. None of it matters and yet—all of it does.
Because everything newly-made becomes old. Weeds become smothered with asphalt, pathways grow cracks that branch out and bleed toward the edge, rivers ebb and flow and sink into the ground, shoes become stained and pants loosen and wear after use.
Thoughts come and go, and come back again. Plans go awry and tasks get attend to.
Turning back on the path we head home, my dog and I. We pass joggers and cyclists and people with nicely-groomed pets. My eyes trail the lines that stretch this way and that along the path, and I feel my muscles tighten and loosen here and there, just a bit.
And I think maybe a little space has been made in this too-busy mind of mine on a quiet Sunday morning walk in the woods.