Thursday, January 28, 2016

Walks with Kali: The Importance of Quiet Time



Every morning, I walk with my dog. We’re like postmen, I guess. Rain, snow, ice…we’re out there. We’re out there on brutally hot days when we have to walk early, before the pavement heats up enough to burn her paws, and we’re out there on days when the wind-chill factor is well below zero. (Though to be fair, those are Kali’s favorite walks. The colder and windier the better, for her. Our vet says that’s the influence of the Nordic branch of her mixed-breed tree.) If I have somewhere to be, I set my alarm 40 minutes earlier so I don’t let her—or myself… but mostly her—down. 

It’s our time. A stolen part of the day before work and writing and family carry me away. Before Kali has UPS drivers to watch for (they bring biscuits) and carrots to chase (yeah—it’s a thing) and neighborhood cats to bark at from the living room window. Before the day spins away into chaos.

I know it’s the highlight of her day. And most days, it’s the highlight of mine, too.

But I’ve realized something funny lately. It’s that we pay very little attention to each other on these walks. She’s walking. I’m walking. We’re walking—technically—together. But we’re also…well…not. She’s busy interacting with the world, listening to other dogs barking, smelling all the interesting smells, checking pee-mail (probably from her Siberian husky best friend), maybe burrowing into snowbanks or inspecting insects. (Once, to my dismay, she ate a whole, live cicada. I could hear its wings buzzing as she chewed.) And me, I’m taking everything in, and I’m processing.

Like many writers, my mind is often cluttered, chaotic, disorganized, incessantly whirling from one thing to another. But our morning walks, I’ve found, are my quiet time. They’re my chance to hear my own thoughts, to digest things that have happened or are yet to happen, to process my life. They’re the moments when my mind finally quiets, when my thoughts are clear.

I take advantage of that. Many days, my thoughts turn to whatever I’m writing. Without planning to, I use the time to flesh-out ideas, to work through plot problems, to get inspiration.

Maybe there’s just something about the rhythm of walking, the elements (except maybe when it’s -12°F and sleeting), the quiet of the neighborhood, that’s conducive to reflection, to problem-solving and clarity of mind and inspiration. I get a lot of writing done on those walks, even though I’m far from a computer or even a pen. And sure, I’ve thought of bringing a voice recorder, or even a notebook to capture the thoughts I have on those walks, but that seems somehow wrong, a blasphemy against something sacred. So if I lose a few thoughts along the way, I can live with that.


My life is about to get busier, in ways I can’t yet comprehend, and I’m not quite sure where the world is going to take me in the next year. (Seriously, there may be a state-to-state move involved.) But I do know that every morning when I get out of bed, there will be a dog not-so-patiently waiting for me to put on my sneakers and clip on her leash, and together-but-separate we will venture out into the day.