Today I drove Honey-Bear and me to RiteAid, parked the car, and then we took a walk. My partner wasn’t around, so I did both drop-off and pick-up, enabling us to avoid the uphill climb from downtown to home in hot weather. Honey-Bear spent the first five minutes in olfactory bliss in the tiny strip of green at the edge of the lot that separates RiteAid from the Citgo station. I thought we might spend the whole walk there. There’s no way to tell the dog, “We’re going for a walk, anywhere you want, go wild!” But as soon as she turned her head toward the sidewalk, we were off.
That was my first joyful moment, watching her get it; “Oh boy, a real walk!”
We cut through the Bank of Maine parking lot and made for a picnic table by the railroad tracks. As we wound our way through the drive-thru lane, I looked up and saw the teeniest bird perched atop an ornamental tree, about 15 feet above us. I don’t know birds, and I’ve always wanted to be a nature writer, so I’ll pretend I know what I’m talking about and call it a Pointy Bird.
Then Pointy Bird flew away. She reminded me to appreciate beauty and the habits of our loved ones right then and there, because, often enough, they fly away. A few feet later, there she was (I’m sure it was the female) atop the highest wire spanning Oak St and the tracks. I know without doubt that I’d make for the highest perch if I were a Pointy Bird. That was my second joyful moment, imaging what it would feel like to be able to hang out above the traffic, and to have that kind of balance! Whee! Then she flew away for good, and I thanked her.
At this point we turned onto Oak St and began making a large circle back toward the car. Of course, Honey-Bear, sensing this, immediately wanted to go across the street in the other direction and lay out a greater circumference. She was already panting mightily, and so, I admit, was I. (I’ve already tried bringing water for her to drink. She turns up her nose, literally. Drinking comes after walks. Only.) Thus, we had our first power struggle, which lasted just a moment. I had my third joyful moment, a moment of pure admiration for the lame dog who will walk uphill just to have a bigger adventure.
Instead, I steered her toward the credit union parking lot, where there was lots of shade and another nice cut-through. The walkway there was lined with poison ivy, and although I’m supposed to hate it, I kind of admire that, too, because it is so hardy and adaptable and can even change its appearance to suit its surroundings. This patch had fine ripples on its leaves. Maybe it was something else entirely. But being a nature writer, I will call it Poison Ivy.
After that patch came the large stand of sumac with its impressive dense, dark burgundy plumes. At the edge of the parking lot was a downhill slope toward the sidewalk, which Honey-Bear took at a trot, with me jogging behind. I can’t remember the last time we ran together on a walk, but if this was it, then I will. Fourth joy: being conscious enough to appreciate something I might have taken for granted.
The rest of the way to the car was both downhill and shady. There were no sidewalks, so we walked at the edges of the yards. As a kid I adored cutting through people’s yards. Today, I had my excuses ready if anyone had come to their door and admonished me for walked through their yard. I was going to blame Honey-Bear, of course. Fifth joy: Cutting through.
Little joys, nothing monumental. A walk around town, a chance meeting with a bird. The luxury to muse and enjoy with little interference. A little bit larger view shows me having prioritized what matters, and having the freedom to do that. These are the things that make for a happy life, the kind of life everyone wants.
I remember times when the world stopped and the pain was enormous. The little things were the only things that could comfort: the smell of summer evening, a delicate green bug on my wrist, Aunt Pauline hemming my pants, Cousin Mary keeping me company. The big things were too big to be experienced all at once.
All I can do today is nurture my own ability to see, to appreciate, and to love my world. One day I might be called upon to share something of it with someone who has only very big things to comprehend.