Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. ∼ Ralph Waldo Emerson ∼
I walked at Nose Hill Park on Friday morning. Ellie, the wonder pooch, was with me every step of the way. Her spirit shimmered in the long grasses whispering in the breeze, her furry, waggy body bounced along the trail, nose pressed to the ground sniffing out gophers not yet risen from their winter sleeps and any other rodent foolish enough to stick their head up out of the ground.
I have not visited Nose Hill since long before Ellie’s passing last June. In the final months of her life, her body didn’t like long walks, especially when hills were involved, but, earlier in the week when a girlfriend invited me to join her for a walk, I suggested Nose Hill.
It was time.
Time to reclaim my joy of walking, with or without the pooch. So I did.
Yesterday, I walked alone. As I clambered up and down the trail that traverses through the woods along the river not far from where we live, I thought about the last time I’d scrambled along that particular trail.
Ellie was with me. It was summer, the year before she died. The trail from the ridge down to the river bottom is very steep and slick. Ellie liked to run ahead, racing up and down inviting me to hurry up. Didn’t I know? The water was not far away and it was never too cold, too hot, too anything to keep her from racing into its inviting depths.
Not always trusting her where water, sandy river banks and people were concerned, I kept calling her to hold back, stay with me. Ellie was hyper friendly and a big lover of racing into the river, running back to shore and finding the first stretch of sand she could to roll in. If people happened to be around, bonus! She could then complete her personal mental health/happiness exercise by running over to greet them after her roll was complete!
People did not always take kindly to Ellie’s enthusiastic, let me shake my wet, sand covered body all over you.
I had intended to take the main trail down into the bottom of the river valley and walk around the reservoir. It was a glorious day. Sunshine, warm temps, a gentle spring breeze and the water sparkling in the sun. The parking lot was full when I arrived but someone was just loading up their car to leave so I waited and grabbed a spot.
The trail was busy and I could feel Ellie’s spirit urging me to let go the well-travelled path and head off along the escarpment to wilder trails.
I heeded her call and even though the main trail was packed with people out enjoying the beauty of the day, aside from a father and his two children hiking together, I met no one else on my traipse through the woods along the river. Given the mud clumped on my hiking shoes and along the bottom of my pants, I understand. The paved trail that circumnavigates the 15 kilometers of the Weaselhead/Reservoir can be much more appealing, not to mention clean, in spring’s thaw.
For me, navigating slick, slippery mud filled trails, stepping over deadfall, pushing aside errant branches blocking the trail didn’t matter. All that mattered was being outside, cherishing each breath, each moment and the pure delight of living right now.
It is not quite a year since Ellie passed away. For almost 14 years she was my constant companion on every walk I took. I can’t recall ever hiking in the Weaselhead without her.
Yesterday, I made a heart of heart rocks in the sand for Ellie and sat in the sun on a stretch of gravel beach by the river. I breathed in and out and savoured the warm air slowly entering and exiting my body. I closed my eyes and felt myself sinking deeply into the peace and serenity of knowing, with or without the wonder pooch running beside me, there is no excuse good enough not to get outside and savour life. And if the trail happens to be busy, it doesn’t matter. Get off the trail and find your own path through the woods. Don’t be afraid of a little mud. It’ll all wash off in the rain, or the river if you dare!
This is life. Messy. Wild. Free. Full of itself and calling out for more. Sometimes we have companions on the trail. Sometimes we walk alone. But no matter how or where we go, life is an adventure calling us to live it up for all we’re worth. And we’re worth a lot!