“Would you like me to take your picture together?” I asked.
Big smiles. Heads nod in unison. Up and down. In broken English, the woman replied. “Oh yes please. That would be most nice.”
I told Ellie to sit and stay, took the proffered camera, focused on their smiling faces and clicked. As I handed the camera back, Ellie grew tired of sitting and raced forward. The woman laughed at Ellie’s antics.
“Please,” she asked. “Can you take picture of us together?” and she swept one hand in a motion to include Ellie in her together.
I laughed. “If she’ll sit long enough with you.” (Ellie is not known for her ‘sit’ when being friendly with strangers. She prefers to squirm and wriggle and make all sorts of fuss about how they’re the only people to pet her and make her feel wanted…)
“We’d like very much,” the woman said.
And Ellie sat and the couple smiled and I took a photo and a sunny warm spring afternoon grew brighter.
When we parted, the couple thanked me profusely and I smiled and waved and Ellie and I continued on our way down the trail towards the river as they walked back towards the parking lot.
It was a simple thing. Taking their photo. A less than five-minute moment on our walk that made a difference in the lives of two strangers. A small thing that left everyone laughing and smiling, even Ellie.
We hiked along the ridge, down the escarpment to the river’s edge. Ellie splashed in the water as I built a sculpture out of heart rocks on a patch of icy snow that clung to the riverbank. The afternoon sun beat down and I felt its warmth soak me to the bones.
When we were finished, we climbed back up the escarpment and on our way back, I walked past a crumbled up paper bag that lay discarded at the edge of the path. I thought about picking it up but didn’t have an extra bag in my pocket. My mind wrestled with the ‘do it ethics’ as I kept walking. A few feet down the trail, I stopped, turned around and walked back to gingerly pick it up by a corner.
I thought of the hiker’s creed — “Carry out what you carry in.” When I started my walk, I was smiling and my mind felt light and carefree. I wanted to carry out what I brought with me on my walk.To walk past the garbage and ignore it would leave my mind unsettled. There was no sense in letting a crumbled up paper bag mar the beauty of the day.
Minutes later, the dirt trail met the pavement where the garbage can sits. I threw the garbage in and Ellie and I walked slowly back to the car. I was content. I was carrying only my peace of mind and a great big smile.
And somewhere, two strangers were carrying a memory of their encounter with a dog who made them smile too. It was a perfect day.