What began as a day of taking care of grown up responsibilities, shifted very quickly. For whatever reason, be it remembering my brother today or it was the closest at hand, I dressed in camouflage.
I did get the house tidy and I did get the laundry done. When my son came in for lunch he took one look at how I was dressed and asked if I had been hunting. I just laughed and shook my head, no. When he left though I got to thinking, why not? I said I needed to get out of the house. I said I needed to mix and mingle so why not? It was time for a mountain hike.
I had to get the youngest of my two dogs inside because I couldn’t handle both. Molly is too much puppy to try to handle both her and Bella at the same time. After getting Molly inside, I got Bella ready, grabbed a bottle of water, my keys, my wallet and headed out. Bella knew where we were going and she kept looking at me as if to ask why were we not already there.
The drive from the house to the mountain doesn’t take that long. The traffic wasn’t too bad today which made it easier. As soon as I made the final turn before turning into the parking area, Bella was crying excitedly. If she could talk, I know she would be asking me to hurry up. Once parked, I got her out of the car and the adventure began. Are you ready for us, Crowder’s Mountain State park? I love going on week days because it is much less crowded and you can hike with much less concern about getting around other hikers and more of a concern, their dogs. Most control their dogs, most dogs are not a problem, but ever so often there is the one person or the one dog where there are issues.
We started up the trail with no one else in sight. Bella wanting to check out every scent and making the initial climb slower. As I walked, I made one decision, I was going to speak to everyone I passed. I’m usually friendly enough when I go, but I’ve never spoken to everyone. Other visitors I passed would speak when spoken to but few spoke first. Today, I was going to speak to everyone. Today, I was going to begin my mission to be different and climb out of that self imposed isolation. Today, I was going to begin taking my life back.
As Bella and I walked, the quiet and the beauty began to soak into a weary soul. Wildflowers bloom along the trails and bob and dance in the slight breeze. Bees were taking advantage of the warmth and busily moving from flower to flower, preparing for the coming season of rest. I heard the sound of voices approaching and watched as the couple came around a curve in the path and walked my way. My smile was genuine, my greeting honest, and they returned the greeting just as honestly. This very encounter buoyed my courage. This was going to work. With every person I met along the way, I smiled and spoke in greeting. Every person who heard, responded in kind. There was the one who was wearing headphones and didn’t hear but it isn’t unusual for folks to like to listen to their music as they hike.
Now I will admit that the ascent was not easy. I’ve been trying to stay active while out of work, but this, was different. This is a steep climb that includes over three hundred stairs that take you to the top. Thankfully the trails and the stairs are well maintained so risk of injury is minimized there. But that climb, definitely raises the heart rate. But the exhaustion that is evident to others also is a common factor that brings out a kinship and feeling of understanding. Having Bella with me helps as few can ignore a cute canine companion. Bella at home, is always in constant protection mode, Bella out in society, is a sweetheart. When a young girl slowly approached with her hand outstretched I didn’t stop her. Her dad and sister were close by watching. Bella allowed her to scratch her ears and pet her gently but then turned to look at me. The young girl wisely took that as a signal to stop and she walked over to rejoin her family. We parted with a smile and my praising Bella. This was working, this new determination was coming to a form of fruition. Granted the meetings and greetings were brief, but they were successful. There was no fear or concern over the fact that I didn’t know any of these people. There was a feeling of empowerment, of growing courage, of success.
While at the top of the mountain, I gave Bella some of the water I had brought for her and enjoyed the view as she drank. I overheard some of the folks who were there when I arrived. I watched as they took turns taking photos and enjoying the sights that spread out before us. I even braved tossing in a comment here or there which were laughingly responded to as if I were a part of their group. We even discussed how one could take a hobby of photography and bump it up a notch or two to try and earn some money from it. Those folks had no idea how a brief conversation could mean so much to me, where my comments where not only heard and considered but would be looked into.
It takes a lot longer to walk down as I take a different trail than I do going up. Along the way were more flowers, more bees, a few butterfly and more people. It was among those folks, that I failed. I have trained Bella to walk closer to me on the far side of the trail to approaching people, especially those with dogs. I know how Bella will act, I don’t know how other dogs will act. As we were going down, I heard people ahead of us. There was a group of four sitting on rocks beside the trail. They had two dogs with them. One of the two dogs decided it did not like Bella, growling and trying to get away from his people and after her. Thankfully this dog was on a leash and they could control it but this dog tried until we finally moved around the next curve and out of sight. I did not try to speak to those folks, I just felt it best to get Bella out of sight. I knew that I could work on this greeting everyone again next time.
By the time we got back to the car, both of us were tired. Bella was happy to jump into the backseat and stretch out. I began to drive away when I tried to turn the air conditioning on i the car. The lights that usually come on, didn’t. I wondered if something was wrong, but after doing what my son has told me from day one, look, push buttons, experiment, I managed to get the air working and the car that had been sitting in the sunlight growing very warm, began to cool. Another small success, but feels so big.
I have a daily step goal of ten thousand steps, today I got 12520. Today I wanted to speak to everyone I passed, I almost made it. Today, I wanted to go hunting for adventure, I succeeded. Its been said, that every journey begins with that first step, today, I took that step big time. The journey to a better, stronger, braver me, has begun.