My spiritual life has recently been invigorated by a Springer Spaniel with an inquisitive mind, a super-sensitive nose and unwavering insistence. Charlie is a new addition to the household, and has daily needs that I must help him fulfill, lest my carpet and hardwood floors suffer the consequences.
Charlie must be walked several times a day — a task I struggled to fit into my pastor’s schedule and workload that had very little wiggle room to begin with.
When Charlie first came to live with me, I was hellbent on training him to keep the walks just as brief as they could be. Five minutes away from my computer — 10 minutes tops! My attitude was, “Do your business and let’s get back in the house.”
Charlie would have none of that. For one thing, his bodily functions refuse to work on command. For another, his sense of wonder and curiosity is too grand, and his nose is too keen.
Whereas I desired to speed down the path through the apple orchard behind the house, he insisted on a snail’s pace, sniffing everything along the way. No rotten apple, no clump of weeds, no bird feather, no snakeskin, no item of trash, no mole hole was too insignificant to forgo a thorough olfactory examination. I fumed with every distraction, rolling my eyeballs to heaven and huffing under my breath, “Come ON!”
Then a funny thing happened. I surrendered. Rather than train Charlie to MY schedule and pace, I decided to train myself to enjoy Charlie’s way of walking.
Now I take the leash off the hook in the kitchen and know that Charlie and I will be out awhile.
What Charlie does with his nose, I try to do with my eyes and my ears, as well as my nose. I focus on the walk, opening my senses for details that I may not have noted before as we make our way through familiar territory: What kind of wildflowers grow in a neighbor’s garden; what the toys in a backyard reveal about the family who lives there; what music spills out from the windows of a passing carload of teenagers; what roadside trash tells me about the eating habits of litterbugs.
Beyond that, there is the never-ending, always-unfolding spectacle of nature: What colors the setting sun shoots forth behind the hills; how brightly the milky way spills across the autumn night sky; what phase the moon is in and how even a sliver illuminates our village’s quiet cemetery at night; what smells ride along the brisk fall wind — fallen leaves, dry grass, smoke from a fireplace, ripe apples in the orchard.
For me, as for Charlie, each walk is an unhurried adventure of the senses. A moment-by-moment awakening anew to the familiar world all around. I know how much I’ve missed.
How much are you missing? And who will train you?
Copyright (c) 2010, the Rev. Rob Blezard. All rights reserved.
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