(listening time: 4:03 minutes)
Before heading out for my walk with Asha, I quickly scan my email to see if there’s anything that requires an immediate response. The subject line “Bears, o my” grabs my attention. It’s from my dog-walking friend Deb whose house is at the edge of the woods where we usually walk. I open it and read:
Heads up for walking on Cricket Hill. We got home from paddling yesterday afternoon and Melia [our dog] let us know there were bears just over the stone wall in our yard. Soo, keep your eyes open, the woods are hopping right now.
Oh shit, I think. What do I do?
I have no idea how Asha would respond to a bear. She’s been curious about turtles and porcupines. She sits and watches the Canada Geese on the beaver pond as well as my neighbors’ horses, but the other day she ignored the deer drinking several yards down the stream from us. She is, however, part Norwegian Elkhound, a hunting breed that tracks and follows large game, including bears. I don’t know if that instinct will kick in, and if it does, what that will look like.
As I ponder my options, staying home is not one of them.
I could say this is because Asha needs the exercise. That is a true statement. She drives me crazy on stormy days when the rain keeps us inside.
But there’s more to it.
About fifteen months ago Asha pulled me towards the woods. Something in me said yes that day and since then walking in the woods has become soul work. It may be riskier than staying on the road, but I – we – need to be there.
I don’t want to be unnecessarily reckless, but I also don’t know where the bears are. If I knew where they’d be, I could decide accordingly. But the reality of this place I’ve chosen to live is that they could be anywhere. This is their home too. Based on the stories of bear sightings I’ve heard, they aren’t interested in meeting us.
I stick with my original plan and ask my partner to drop us at the trail head on her way to work.
Driving down the road, en route to the woods, a bear crosses in front of our car.
I laugh and think, The moral of this story is you never know where the bears are going to show up, so don’t let them get in the way. I might avoid the woods for fear of encountering a bear and instead meet the bear somewhere else.
But the moral of the story is deeper than that. It makes me realize how important these walks are to me even if I can’t yet explain it other than to say I am walking toward myself.
As we walk, I’m on alert. I chat with Asha more than usual. I hear the clicking of the tags on her collar as she runs and wonder if this sound will notify anyone of our presence. We meet a porcupine, but no bears.
There have been times in my life when the “bears” have stopped me from doing what I felt called to do. Right now I feel called to walk in the woods and I’m leaning into that call.
This means showing up, knowing we might meet bears. In the process, I’m learning to trust myself and my journey and building the capacity to show up for things that feel scary.
This is part of the soul work of my walks, part of why I keep going into the woods, not knowing what I will find.