Life, dog poop, and being in the moment
More and more these days I am finding myself enjoying the simple task of taking my dog for a walk.
Sure, each walk involves a slightly humiliating undertaking of picking up dog poop, which turns into a fully humiliating undertaking of picking up dog poop when someone I know happens to walk by right as I am bending down to pick up the product of my dog’s digestive system.
“Hello, how are you,” I hear just as I reach down to pick up the brown piece of joy while my dog is pulling on his leash as if saying, “come on, what’s he hold up, can’t you see I desperately need to get going? We have territory to cover, woman!”
In the meantime, I am desperately battling the eternal question, should I first pick up the poop and then say hello as I am tying “it” inside the little black bag or should I look up at that neighbor/friend and say hello as I pause inches away from “it.” Or should I talk and work at the same time. It seems kind of disrespectful, don’t you think, to talk to someone while I am looking down to make sure I bag my dog’s crops instead of accidentally picking up an old one that belongs to some bad, bad person who did not pick up after his four legged master.
Yesterday the humiliation took a new meaning all together as I found myself picking up the deed while having my butt illuminated by a set of very bright headlights. Turns out my dog chose to do his business near someone’s mailbox as the owner of the said mailbox drove up to retrieve the mail. As the driver of the car patiently waited, I could not help to think whether she was grateful at the fact that I am a good citizen or amused by my bent-over-butt-in-the-air position. I’m thinking it was a bit of both.
If you must know, I did turn around to wave hello to her after I bagged and tied “it.” It was a spur of the moment decision and I cannot say I am not proud of it.
Despite all the embarrassment and having to hold my breath whenever I happened to stand downwind of “it,” every day, three times a day I repeat the process. Walk, wait, pickup, walk, wait pickup and so on. And all in all I enjoy the process. For you see, having to walk my dog means that I get a chance to go for a walk. Whether I want to or not, I have to stop everything that I am doing and go outside.
What’s more, on that walk I cannot look at my phone or be distracted in any way. There are several reasons for this, all outside my control but not completely unwelcome.
I have several bad, bad neighbors with dogs the size of small cows, who are not nearly considerate as myself when it comes to taking care of the common areas. I’m taking about the owners, not dogs. Dogs are always considerate. Multiply these several (considerate) dogs and (inconsiderate owners) by two to three outings a day and you’ll agree that it’s important to watch where you step.
We also have wildlife who prey upon small, chubby, fluffy dogs. Having a dog that falls into all three of these categories, I have to watch my own dog like a hawk or like a coyote, in case a real hawk or a coyote decides to have a go at my Misha.
So you see, no checking the news, texting or arguing on Facebook is possible during a dog walk.
But what IS possible blows my mind.
When I walk my dog I get to stop thinking about my day and my to-do list. I get to look around, see the trees, the grass, notice whether it’s cloudy or sunny, see the lengths of shadows change sometimes even within the same walk. And the sunsets here are to live for. Last week the sunset was lilac and blue. The week before it was fire red.
Someone told me that coyotes are especially active doing dusk and so I have no choice but to take in my surroundings and to notice all wildlife around me… the bunnies, the birds, the lizards and yes, even the scary caterpillars.
Several times I did come face to face with a coyote. Both times we were coming around the corner in opposite directions. I though the coyote was beautiful. The coyote clearly did not share these thoughts as he turned around and ran. I was relieved yet at the same time my self-esteem took a slight hit.
My students often ask me, what can they do to stay in the moment.
My answer is: get a dog or if you cannot, then simply look around you.
Wherever you are going, whatever you are doing, look and see. Take a moment to get out of your own thoughts and notice the world around you.
When going to a store, park a little further away and look up at the sky as you get out of your car.
As you walk toward your destination, don’t think about what you need to buy or where you need to go afterwards. Allow yourself to take in everything that your 30-second walk has to offer. When crossing a little patch of grass, look and see the grass. Notice the color, is it green or yellow. Is it thick or thin? Try to imagine the last time that grass was cut and what it must have smelled like. But do watch out for that treeee. (George of the Jungle reference, if you don’t know look here.)
When paying at the checkout register, look the cashier in the eye and notice the person handing you the receipt. See the people around you as individuals with unique life stories rather than some objects moving in the periphery of your vision as you desperately check the latest news.
When you are stopped at a red light, become curious. What does your world look like at this instant? Can you see your car’s reflection in the shiny bumper of the car in front of you? Is the person in the car behind you picking his nose, seemingly forgetting that he is inside a moving aquarium? Look to your left and right, how many people are checking their phones while pretending that they are not checking their phones?
That’s how you stay in the moment, by being fully present and taking in all the little details that surround you. By enjoying each and every moment, even if that moment involves an unpleasant whiff of your dog’s trice daily creations.
Have a wonderful week my friends, may you notice and enjoy the intricacies of the world around you, for beauty and peace can be found every situation. Yes, even in our most tragic days the sun still warms our skin and the wind still softly sings its ever changing song.