It’s been a little over a year since Nora and I began our adventures in the woods together. In the grand scheme of things a year is not a long time. And yet in this particular year of selling the family home and leaving the community we had been part of for sixteen years, there has been much change, much to adjust to. I forget sometimes that she has been right alongside, sharing these changes with me. Her process for adjusting is bound to be different and carry energy I can’t possibly understand. And yet I still feel when something shifts, when there is a new pathway in our relationship that veers us in a slightly different direction.
I felt such a shift this past week. It feels connected to summer and a consistency of rhythm we have established over the past three months. Being so in tune to the ritual of ‘getting out’, all I have to do is lift my hiking pants and shirt off the hook and she begins her dance, and before I have even sat down to put my socks on she is running in circles, nudging my walking in the woods boots toward me, literally talking to me in a range of yelps that carry the clear message of “hurry up!” That she has so clearly identified the boots I would put on from the rest of the shoes there on the mud room floor, was my first tip off this week. She knows what is next. I can trust she knows what to do.
But even so, I still continued to take the leash off the hook and go through the ritual of walking out the front door where there is road, on leash, only to walk just around the corner to the edge of the path leading to the woods, to unleash her. It is all about safety, about controlling any possibility that she might run out into the road and be struck down by a speeding car…
Once in the woods, life with Nora feels exactly right. It’s taken this past year of daily walks in the woods for me to fully accept the wildness that is her essence while negotiating the evolving space that exists between us too. It has taken a year for me to come around to see how she, as a free companion, is my guide in every way.
The shift happened two days ago. The pattern up to this point had been to call and leash her as we approached the path leading out of the woods back to the house. We would emerge, and I would decide to go directly back to the front door on leash or continue on the mowed path that circles the meadow and to the back door, off leash. Nora was already in the habit of running ahead out into the meadow before I even reached the end of the woods, always returning when I called to obediently be leashed. However, since I was choosing the meadow path more frequently, the short ritual of leash and unleash over the transition was starting to feel silly to me. The next day, I simply walked out of the woods without leashing her, saw she had, of course, smile, chosen the meadow route, and followed.
I am so used to being the one in front, the one leading, the one making the decision and the choice. Not necessary a bad trait, however it can make for challenging negotiations in relationship. I suppose this could be an attribute born out of living alone, but I know this need for control is part of my wiring, a need buried deep in me, something I have always struggled to express in appropriate ways.
That moment of yielding to Nora felt so potent. I stopped and took in the vastness of the meadow,
felt how much love I have for this place, for the simple beauty of the wild flowers swaying in the wind,
the brilliance of the field giving form to the single blades of grass there…
Nora never goes too far ahead. I may not be able to see her, she is always there just around the corner.
Sometimes, if I take too long dawdling or taking pictures, she stops and turns around until she can see I’m there, following her.
Later, with the sun now illuminating the meadow from the other direction, I see the blades of grass in reverse, each one carrying the brilliance of the light against the backdrop of a dark field.
Maybe this is like the shifts that happen in relationship too. Sometimes we are the one in the light, sometimes we are the one that can only be seen against the brightness of that which we are related to. Either way is beautiful.
The next day, as she was nudging my shoes toward me, I knew it would be the day to emerge outside with her completely unleashed.