Walking with my friend Stephanie and her dog Tulip has been one of my consistent pleasures since moving to Portland four years ago. On our last ramble, watching Tulip run through the leaves in Laurelhurst Park and tug Stephanie every which way for the purposes of sniffing or pooping or sniffing some other creature’s poop, I knew immediately what our next FHP activity would be.
Lest you fear this post may take you to a less than pleasant place, don’t worry. You won’t have to follow Tulip’s lead. Not exactly.
So, if you want to get right to a short list of guidance for your FHP adventure, just scroll on down.
Or if you’d like to ramble with me for a moment on your way there, here’s a little more back-story:
I used to wish I smoked or that I had a dog so I could have good excuses to get outside when I needed a break. How strange is it that I’d need an excuse to get fresh air, especially one that’s kind of the opposite of that?
A few weeks ago, my beau and I went to hear a talk by tracker and naturalist Jon Young, and I had a big realization about those old wishes of mine. In our American culture, we need permission/ provocation/ justification to go outside.
If you don’t know Young’s work and are longing to be in tune with the world you live in, I highly recommend checking him out.
Among numerous fascinating observations about bird language (did you know that if you pay attention to the birds around you, you can predict when other people or animals are going to show up?), Young talked about deep nature connection, something that’s tremendously nourishing for human beings, but only widely possible when it’s culturally supported, built in to daily life.
As Young spoke, I had my Aha! moment: I don’t live in a country/culture that has built-in nature time, so if I want it to happen (and I do!), I’ve got to cultivate my own culture.
Truth #1: my body and soul are hungry for fresh air and movement.
Truth #2: I don’t need to take on a new addiction or even a pet to make sure I get fed. I just need to take myself outside.
So, thusly inspired, our FHP activity for the week: take the wild part of yourself out for a walk. In case you haven’t had time with your wild self for a while, I’ve compiled some guidance for your strolling pleasure. Following the example and inspiration of our canine friends, here’s your list of to-do’s for the walk, which could be anywhere from ten minutes to two hours. You choose.
Side note: the instructions for this walk may also apply to the rest of your day.
1. Tug at the leash: We have leash-holding parts of ourselves that restrain us and order our lives, and they’re not entirely bad. We also have wild parts that want to tear after our yearnings and desires with abandon, and those parts are not entirely good. Although we need a balance, more often than not, we let the leashed parts of ourselves run the show. Or at least I do. So, if you’re like me, on your walk, occasionally let the wild part win, which might mean…
2. Run & chase something: Do you see some incredible architecture across the street? Is the wind blowing a perfectly scarlet leaf just out of your reach? Was that your old dear friend Melanie who you haven’t seen in ages and have been missing the business out of, disappearing around the corner? Go after it or her!
3. If you need to let something go, do it: I’ve often found walking a great time for releasing unhelpful emotions, bad tastes in my soul-mouth, or worry about some upcoming event/appointment/duel with a nemesis. You might imagine whatever it is draining out of you through the soles of your feet and into the earth and breathing in something more refreshing. You might need to talk to yourself, whisper something into an understanding flower, or just, as Spinal Tap might suggest, “Listen to What the Flower People Say.” Important addendum: if your chosen form of release will leave a mess on someone else’s lawn, clean it up.
4. Sniff & stare & listen: Basically, use your senses. We could add lick to the list, but I’ll leave that to your discretion. If compelled to lick, this is where that leashed part of yourself might actually come in handy. Or see #5.
5. Eat some grass: While I hear this can actually help dogs with digestive issues, I’m not sure about humans. But why not get to know the plant life in your area and find out what’s safe to eat on your stroll? I love having edible-plant-smart friends who have directed me to munch on herbs or cedar needles or wild grapes or figs. Although just being outside is nourishing, I find it extra delicious when I can eat my way through a walk, too.
Regardless of how long you ramble or what you do as you go, I wish you and your wild self a wondrous walk in the now and the here.