The morning hike starts the same way every day.
It is just past dark, but before sunrise when Jack and I set out. He is always anxious, curious and a little nutty. I am usually sore, always alert and making sure he doesn’t get into trouble. We take the first few minutes to get settled. Jack does his business. I get my iPod ready and we are off.
The beginning of the hike is flatlands leading to a climb. Even though we have done it before, each day is new. Our muscles start to anticipate and if anything is going to surprise us, it usually happens here. We are figuring out our mountain, finding a groove.
The initial climb brings on the sweat, or pant in Jack’s case, and we feel good as we round the first bend. The work starts and Jack is usually leading, pulling for the next turn, loving the challange.
We dip down before we approach the next climb and the area is cool, shaded. We look forward to this section and it’s a bit of a down hill, so we usually run. My music in my ear, we are frequently all alone on the mountain and yes, we sing sometimes. The dip is wonderful, but other creatures also enjoy the shade, so we have to watch for snakes.
I’m always on the lookout because Jack hasn’t experienced everything yet and he sticks his nose everywhere. There are certain areas I am cautious and pull him into a heal because I want to make sure, just in case. He’s usually not thrilled and shoots me a look that says the hike is no place for heal. He wants to go, but he reluctantly walks by my side.
Most of the four-mile journey is a steady, in sync pace. Jack in front, the occasional breeze. Minutes go by, one step followed by another. There have been a couple of times I have tripped. Jack has gotten a jumping cholla in his back paw twice. Things happen on the hike, most of them mild, but sometimes I’m aware of this weird sense that we could fall into the rocks, or a rattle snake could surprise us. In my mind, it’s usually like the Jungle Book snake and it swallows us whole.
I have an active imagination, but those thoughts are few and they never deter me from the adventure. Day after day, sunrise after sunrise, Jack and I hike. Ninety percent of the time is heaven, a gift, challenging but uneventful. The rest of the time is figuring each other out, stumbling and recovering.
During Spring and Summer, the sun is glorious on the last bend toward the car. We drop into flatland again. I am soaked, Jack is panting. We are in prefect exhausted rhythm. There’s an ache, a feeling we have been somewhere, done something together. The hike is over for the day, but never really finished. It’s our thing, so I will look to see if we made good time, check Jack’s paws, and then we will head out again the next morning.
This morning as we rounded into the sun, it occurred to me that the hike, the cadence of it, the ups and downs, the work, is very much like parenting.
Huh, I was going to share that with Jack as we loaded into the car, but he already thinks I talk too much.
My thoughts from the laundry room. Early to Bed.