Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Ditching the To-Dos

This morning, after my three children had their lunchboxes in hand, knew I loved them, hopped out at carpool, I drove to the mountains. It was 8:09 AM. I had exactly six hours and 51 minutes before I needed to be back. My yellow lab Sunny knew what was up. She saw my backpack and hiking boots. She heard as I grabbed a scoop of food for her and put it next to my baked sandwich. She eyed me as we and wagged her tail turned right towards I-5.

That's me! No to do list in my hand!
Usually Sunny and I meet my friend Zoe, whose  old, big, great dog Ozzie taught Sunny how to be a good trail dog with us. But back in May, Ozzie barely made it up to strenuous Mailbox Peak; she had to lay down and rest on the hike back down, and Zoe and I carried her the last mile. She weighs almost 80 pounds, and we barely made it back before pick up time. But it's Zoe's pace that I love the most, and it's her swearing and laughter and sharp observations that pair so perfectly with a good hike. Zoe and Ozzie hop in my Suburban right after morning drop off, so I get an extra two hours with her.

Other times I meet my friend Jamie, who has never brought her her goofy young retriever, and it's wise to leave behind her flat-faced, not-so-nice French bulldog. But I'm happy to hike just with her, listening to her stories of Ironman and Mont Blanc and the regular ups and downs of a long marriage. Jamie's pace is excellent, too, though we pause from sweaty ascents to snap photos of waterfalls or neat bridges or beautiful, Evergreen covered paths that show us the way.

Every now and then it's just me and Sunny. I know that bears and cougars and unkind people exist out there, not that we've run into any of them. When we hike alone we stick to popular trails and I tell my husband where I am, when I leave, and when I return. But I can go my own pace--a steady, strong "Ranger walk," like my dad used to when I hiked with him. I don't take breaks and I don't slow down; my thoughts wander and I breathe in the smell of fresh rain and pine trees. I always have to laugh at how fast I get to the top.

Sunny at Lake Serene
I trained for and ran marathons for years. When my children were born, I did P90X in our basement before they woke up. I switched to Crossfit when they could stay with a sitter and I've been doing that for years. But hiking feels different. There's no one else pushing me. I'm outside in nature, with another like-minded woman nearby, connecting with just one person. I'm smiling as my dog turns into a mountain goat and does twice my mileage and has an even bigger smile on her face. I leave my to-do list at home and hardly move my phone from my pocket. This feels so very devious! Like I'm skipping work...even though, as a stay-at-home mom, I don't work in the way most do.

I pay attention to time only because I need to get back to school by 3, with a tired and muddy pup, to pick up my kids. We all return home--to normalcy, to the to-do list, to a much-needed shower. My body is tired but my heart is happy, and I can continue with all my stay-at-home mom stuff with more humor and good stories. When they tumble back into my car at the end of the day, loud and loose after being on their best behavior for hours, they ask me, "How was your hike? Where'd you go?" and they ask when they can go, too.

In time, they'll come with me. One of these days, maybe I'll let one of them skip school and head to the mountains with me--they'll know how good it feels. Just a little bit naughty, but very good for the soul.

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