This I Believe

Helen - Bellingham, Washington
Entered on June 13, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50

This I Believe

On my walk this morning, I happened upon a five-inch-long, yellow-green banana slug. I noticed the variations of color and texture on its body, its delicate antennae testing the air. I watched for a few moments as it glided across my path.

I mention this because I haven’t always been fascinated by banana slugs, or even fond of walking. In fact, for a long time I didn’t much care for the outdoors. I played outside as a kid, but eventually ballet class replaced tree climbing and a trip to the mall trumped a game of hide and seek. Perhaps it was the return of the 17-year locust when I was 11 that dampened my outdoorsy spirit. The sensation of a big, clumsy bug flailing about in one’s hair isn’t easily forgotten.

As a young adult, I never sought outdoor adventure. Rafting, rock climbing, even camping, didn’t appeal. I was a city dweller in my 20s and early 30s. Getting out in nature meant going out on the balcony. No, I can pinpoint the change pretty precisely to a time seven years ago when we got Sid. Sid’s a cattle dog—what they call an “active breed.” Give him plenty of exercise, we were told, or watch out.

So in the interest of keeping our new charge happy and our furniture in tact, we took Sid to the dog park. We took him to the river and to the nearby schoolyard. As time passed it became clear that I sympathized with Sid’s need to get out more than my husband did. By the time Sid was two and we had moved to the Northwest, I was the designated dog walker.

Now, each day—every day—regardless of the weather, I choose from a selection of appropriate footwear I’m proud to own, and Sid and I venture out. We like the familiar, like the trail that spans a pretty lake-side park before it dives into an evergreen wonderland, winding past the old railroad trestle, over the stone bridge near the waterfall, and deep into the woods where the ground never completely dries.

Sid sniffs, I breathe, and we find our rhythm. Soon my face relaxes, my nose begins to run and my mind—that’s the neat part. On a good day my mind shifts. The list of to-dos, the self-talk so often negative, the obsessive rehash of an earlier conversation, or the imagined dialog of one I haven’t had yet, all of that fades as my senses take over. I start to really see and smell everything around me. I start to feel joined to something vital.

Sometimes I wonder: if I didn’t have Sid, would I still be an enthusiastic walker? I hope so. I hope I would still take time to marvel at the shaggy green moss that dresses the trunk of a maple tree, to find those moments when the internal chatter grows faint and I just am.

I’m still easily startled by things that buzz and flit, but I believe in getting out in nature, because, it’s what we are.