I have been taking Korra for hikes at the same park for the last few weeks. Initially I was scared to be out and about too much. As we know, the virus fear is real. In reality, I see so few people when I go to this park (Four Dances), and it is truly keeping me sane to get outside.
I’ve been going there for months, but recently I’ve started going on a predictable 2 mile circuit through the park. There is so little in my life that is routine or regular right now, and I didn’t realize how much I needed it until I realized I’d made a routine.
So Korra and I walk around Four Dances. She trots off, all dog giddy with a dog smile on her face, panting and smelling every sagebrush an interesting dog has visited before. I notice how many piles of dog shit there are, and instead of being annoyed at humans, I just send them a little love. We’re all doing the best we can every day. Don’t tell me if that isn’t true, because my faith is deep on this one. I think when people do irresponsible or neglectful actions -like not picking up dog poop- that there is an underlying reason for that. Maybe they just can’t deal. Maybe it was snowing and they couldn’t get to it. Perhaps they were out of bags. Perhaps they had 4 other dogs and they went a million directions. Sometimes, because I can, I pick up one extra. Not to feel superior, but to use my resources and privilege as a helper, versus a condemor.
As we walk along, her smelling all the good smells (this is her doggy Facebook), I look at the rocks or bushes or grasses or pieces of trash I saw the times before. One of these days I’ll come with work gloves and a bucket and we’ll pick up lots of extra trash. When we do come across others with or without dogs, we step aside and give others a wide berth. Other walkers do the same. We smile from afar, maybe say hi, and keep going.
This is one of my favorite stops along our walk. This big boulder juts out in the path, and it has all these little rocks and pebbles on it. Most are not the same mineral as this rock, so it has the appearance of an altar. I feel like I’ve stumbled upon someone’s prayer as I pass this rock, and I’ve adopted it as one of my holy natural places. I place rocks or sticks on it now, say a little prayer, and keep walking.
As we walk, the trail goes up up up the hill, and when we get there it looks like we’re walking straight into the sky. It’s like a big road right up to the clouds, and God is usually showing off with amazing clouds. Today it was a bald eagle calling, swooping, watching. Eagles are not easy to photograph with an iPhone, but I captured it in that cloud picture, a little black speck. I find Montana to be notoriously hard to photograph and show the sheer scale of what I’m seeing with the naked eye.
As we walk I recognize that there prickly pear starting to bud next to the yucca. The landscape is so different than the Montana of my youth that I am still surprised when I see a new thing. The prickly pear was a recent discovery. Another lesson I’ve learned is that Billings is 2,000 feet higher in elevation than the Yaak. It’s truly a high desert, very similar to Bend, Oregon, a place I thought I was going to move to this time last year.
Our daily communion with nature has become the cornerstone of my healing and self-care in this challenging time. I can’t remember to do things for myself very easily. But taking my dog for a walk, and therefore taking myself for a walk, that I can do.
What can you do today, for yourself or others, that helps you feel healed, if even just for a moment?