I'll admit it, I wasn't exactly pumped to be walking the boys in the real feel of 22 degrees. All the same, I knew they needed it so I bundled up, and we set out. I decided to take them to the state Arboretum as this is a favorite place close by. There are plenty of trails to romp and we've been there dozens of times. Anakin and Bodhi always have a good time. Lately, for me, there have been more walks than I care to mention which have felt more like a chore on my "to do" list rather than something I look forward to... this in itself should have been enough to make me pump the brakes and mull over what was wrong with this picture... I love being in nature and spending time with my boys, but somehow, someway, something lately had been missing.
I never took much time to think about it until last week. So there I was getting the boys out of the truck, grumbling about the wind as I tugged my hat down tighter on my head. Then I gather the leashes, find I'm out of poop bags and start shuffling through the truck to find more-- at this point, Bodhi is whining at me intently because I'm taking FAR too long and Anakin is already flopping around in the dirt getting covered in all the natural earth scents he can find. My glove box falls off onto the floor of the truck to which I respond with a few colorful words, followed by a "screw it" as I hastily throw the door closed. I immediately fussed at the boys angrily to get front and center ASAP as I felt my stress levels rising. Anakin and Bodhi quickly mustered in front of me. Their sweet faces appeared both concerned and confused with a look that seemed to ask- What's wrong? Why are you upset? What did we do?
Their eyes searched mine. As I took in their faces, I stopped. This wasn't right. I questioned my actions. Why was I so annoyed, and why was I taking it out on them? I took a deep breath and rubbed their heads. Then I consciously made a choice. This was not fair to my two best friends and they certainly didn't deserve my shitty attitude. I decided at that moment, instead of taking a normal route along the gravel path, we would head off in a different direction where we had not been before as I desperately needed a change of perspective.
We started off walking along the back boundary of the arboretum. We followed along the fence lines and said hello to the cows. Bodhi happily bounced ahead as he sensed our grand trailblazing mission. I walked along slowly and aimlessly for awhile. I didn't know where we were going as there was no trail. We were just wandering. There was no objective of getting from point A to point B. After about 15 minutes or so of walking, I began to sense an inward energetic shift. My head was no longer spinning with endless thoughts. I was simply walking in the woods with two very happy dogs and zero direction. Sometime later we found ourselves back on the gravel path. At that point, I knew which direction would take us back to the truck. The boys paused and checked in with me to ask 'What Now?'. Across the gravel path, there was a thicket of vines, shrub bushes, and trees. I noticed a small deer path that led into the habitat like a secret passageway. It seemed to draw me in as the rabbit hole had done to Alice. Anakin saw me staring, considering the direction and looked at me eagerly as if to encourage me on. "This way," I said to them as I bent down to duck through the vines. Without a moment's hesitation, both boys shot ahead of me and charged into the unknown.
The deer path transported us into another little world as if we had just crossed through an otherworldly portal. Red cardinals danced around the branches, chickadees chirped merrily and fluttered just over our heads, Osage oranges were plentiful and made for a wonderfully bright yellow ground cover. We also came across a small herd of deer who took notice of our presence and quietly weaved further into the dense grove. I was no longer cold. I was no longer stressed or grumpy. I no longer cared to keep track of the time. All of that had fallen away. All of those things were in the past, and this was now. This was the magic I had been missing. I felt the joy returning. The peace and harmony of being with the boys in nature were all around. I realized at that moment, the decision of choosing to venture off the known road onto the deer path was an opportunity full of rediscovery.
Life loses it's magic when we stop showing up fully in the present. We forget how it feels to be surprised with unexpected gifts and a sense of wonderment when we stop taking chances and stop being curious about the unknown. This is a result of the autopilot syndrome- when we robotically go through the motions of our daily 'to do' lists. It also happens when we get stuck thinking and/or worrying about the future or past. In reality, now is all we have. Today is a new unknown dance. The universe and everything that is right here in this present moment are inviting us to show up as a partner to create the next part of this dance together. The present is the only time that will benefit from our wholehearted attention. Not the past- it's over. Not the future- it is not guaranteed. The only real power exists in this present moment. It's easy to slip away and get lost from the now. Lucky for us, red flags will be abundant and serve to alert us out of our robotic stupor. If you find yourself losing your joy or not appreciating the full value of what you know you love, ask yourself this: Am I here right now or have I allowed myself to be sidelined by the NOT now?
My hope is if this prompts you to status check your current situation and you realize red flags are waving at you, that you too will find your way back to now. It's possible a bit of adventure with a destination unknown, in the company of some good dance partners (4 legged or 2) could be just the ticket. Of course, it's your journey and dancing through life isn't mandatory but it sure beats the alternative. I believe life's more beautiful when we co-create our playlist and rock out. So my advice- travel in good company (pick the companions that will add to the music and lay down some kick-ass beats) then continue to do your thing. It's your jam session after all, make it road-trip worthy.
p.s. this photo of Bodhi was the shot I captured as we emerged from our thicket wonderland adventure. I will treasure it always. His exuberance and spirit in this image is the physical embodiment of all that was awakened in me as I wandered my way back to the now. It reminds me of the beginning of an insightful JRR Tolkien quote "not all those who wander are lost." Wander on. 💖