My yellow lab Ben and I headed out the next day on a relatively mild winter afternoon. My goal was Lake Michigan’s shore. Since Ben and I both have mobility issues now, I debated with myself--should I drive to the town to the north where the walk to the lake was easy; or take the more challenging route across an open field, over a wetland dam, and then down into a steep, narrow valley that opens to the lake? I knew deep joy would be in the valley. I rationalized that after the more difficult access, I could give Ben a pain pill when we got home. Just my decision to go the valley route gave me a shot of euphoria.
As we walked across the snow covered field I figured the return back to the car would be easier when the northeast wind would be at our backs. Ben was euphoric and ran ahead. In my mind’s eye I saw the four-month old puppy that would bounce down this field and remembered the three-hour summer walk we took here while I seriously wondered if I could keep him because his energy and mischief were so extreme. (That was a very short ten years ago.) The six-inch snow cover now obscured the path descending into the valley. When I eventually found it I broke out in a broad smile. Carefully, I picked my way down the steep snow covered slope; grateful for the help from my walking stick and the one who made it for me with the carved inscription, “Life is good.” The calm quiet warmth in the valley seemed womblike and almost brought tears to my eyes. Returning to this once so familiar landscape was like being greeted by old friends—the winding path and creek, high banks, cedars, and deep silence. Eventually we reached the beach where a hard cold wind met us, along with three young boys who Ben joyously greeted. Ben then had a coughing fit hacking up some phlegm. When the boys looked concerned I said, “He’s just and old guy.”
Back home I did give Ben a pain pill. Amazingly, my knee felt even better than when we started the balancing fun walk to the beach.
What if we each asked ourselves periodically, “What do I need to keep me more balanced?”