It’s amazing what can happen when you decide to break from routine – when you turn that corner you’ve always peeked at, and go around the other side to see what’s there.
Pretty much every morning, I walk with our dog down on the beach at the foot of our property. Sometimes we go West; more often, East. To the East lies a river that flows down into the sea. It starts up in the mountains and I’ve seen it from a clifftop on a neighbour’s property where we walk sometimes when it’s windy. Up there, the river runs through a winding canyon and it reminds me of the North.
Yesterday I threw my coat on over my sweatpants and headed down the hill to the beach. We headed East. When we got to the river, instead of turning back, we tested the ice and tentatively stepped out on it. I listened for running water and looked for breaches in the ice. There was not much snow for this time of year; travel was easy. We moved upstream.
About 500 metres upstream, I noticed the coyote tracks I had seen from the clifftop days earlier. They drew me onward, around the next bend, over the huge fallen tree, from river left to river right, upstream, upstream, upstream. My dog’s tracks were bigger than the coyotes’ and less sure-footed. The coyotes had known exactly where to walk on the ice and their tracks did not skid or slip like my dog’s. They were not in a hurry; they knew how to move on this land, unlike us. Their tracks guided me when I had to decide on the best path, while my dog bounced in and out of the forest and skidded across the ice, covered in burrs, grinning and wagging.
We finally arrived at the canyon I had seen from the clifftop. I had seen it so many times from up high, and had never taken the time to venture to it on land. But here we were, and where else could we go? Could we follow it further, find its source? Had I eaten breakfast and not worn sweatpants, we could have gone on all day. It reminded me of the idea of micro adventures – Alistair Humphrey’s idea that we don’t have to go on epic expeditions to feel what we feel when we are on epic expeditions. This was my mini-microadventure, and I was feeling those things: Confidence, yet trepidation. Discovery, and a sense of belonging. Strength, and vulnerability. Connection to the natural world and a realization of how far we are from it most of the time.
On the way back, crossing under a bridge and back into “civilization”, I realized the ice was smooth as glass all the way back to our beach. I’ve always wished I had a river I could skate away on, but so rarely does it happen that the conditions are right!
I brought my daughters there after school to skate on the frozen river. We skated up and down, listening to the different sounds our blades made as we passed over different sections, checking out the bubbles in the ice, daring each other to go closer and closer to the open parts. They knocked icicles off and ate them, and skated up hill and down hill on the banks of the river. There were owl tracks and wing marks in the snow.
We don’t always have to go far to discover something amazing. Our routines can be stabilizing and keep us feeling in control; they allow us to predict outcomes and to be organized. But when that opportunity knocks to go up the river, and around the next bend; to test the ice and see if it holds, even if it takes extra time…what might we learn that we weren’t expecting?
Today it snowed, and the tracks are covered…