on planning and smiling

I woke up slowly this morning- smiling. I’d planned a quiet start to Shabbat- as I now am wont to do; dog cuddles, coffee in bed, HuffPo articles, and then a late morning walk with B. At 9am she popped her face up at the foot of the bed and smiled- her paw scratching the bed covers, “Come on, Mama.” I’d planned a 10:30am walk, but her smile. Her smile was eager, and I smiled back. “Come on my stinky, shepherd. Mama’ll get dressed and we’ll go for a walk.” I couldn’t help but respond.

I’d planned a route for us; around Leverett Pond and then perhaps up to Jamaica pond; 5 miles and about 90 minutes. At our first intersection I went to turn right to take us around Leverett. She went left. “Bryce, Mama’s leaving you,” I called. And, unlike her usual weekday response, a look, smile and gallop to my side, she kept going left to greet a golden retriever.

Tails up, they circled and sniffed and smiled. The retriever’s person and I exchanged “Good morning” and wished each other lovely walks. We continued- heading left.

Adapting to the new route, I calculated our new five mile trek. In decided to avoid the woods (our favorite place) because they’re now slick with icy paths due to this constant melting and re-freezing. With me in tennis shoes and my knee being shaky, I didn’t want to take any risks.

And then we met a 9 month-old black lab coming out of the woods. Whining and tail wagging her bum in circles, she bounded up to Bryce who immediately responded with a smile and play bow. I let loose the leash and they ran in circles. And again, I shared “Good morning” with dog’s person. We began to chat as the dogs played; about the Boston flower show, the Horticultural Society, composting and the best places to buy shade perennials. It wasn’t until let a “Rwar bowrwawr rawr wow” followed by an insistent scratch of the ground (the dog equivalent of stamping one’s feet) that I realized they’d stopped playing chase and that Bryce was asking to go to the woods. As she stood there insistently smiling, I laughed with the other person. “It’s time to go to the woods,” she said. “Yes,” I concurred. “Have a beautiful day.”

As we stepped off-leash into the woods I realized that I was going to have to leave the paths and head into the trees so as to avoid a slip and fall. So I ducked and brushed branches, darted between trees and laughingly watched my Bryce follow me in circles.  We smiled.

Once we got to Jamaica Pond, we headed right- Bryce on leash again. I planned a brisk walk around the pond- until we met the golden retrieve, and then the three German Shepherds, and then the older black lab mix, and the second golden, and the sprightly black whippet mix. At each greeting we slowed, Bryce smiled and wagged her tail. And, honestly, so did I. I petted each pup and said “Hello” to the people. I smiled. And as I raised my smile after each greeting to walk around the rest of the pond, I slowed to match Bryce’s pace, breathed in the sights of ice and people and trees and ducks, and let my plans float away on the breeze.

I noticed on the meander around the pond, that most of the people with dogs smiled at each other. They said hello. Some of the solo walkers smiled and others. And the runners, well, they looked down, or breathed hard, and appeared serious.

This was an interesting experience for me having been a dedicated runner at different times in my life. As I reflected on my runs, I realized that I too was that non-smiling runner; let’s be honest, it took most of my concentration to keep breathing (even when I was running 6 and 7 milers regularly). Recently, I’ve missed running. I’ve missed the endorphins after, the feeling of accomplishment, and the status of “being a runner.” I’ve not been running for the past 9months; instead, I’ve been nursing a knee and nursing my feelings of guilt about not running.

But yesterday, yesterday at the end of our walk, Bryce and I ran in circles around a sports field. I sprinted away, she chased, and when she “tagged” me with her nose, I gave her cuddles before sprinting away again. For 10 minutes we ran and smiled and laughed together. It was awesome. I was running. And, I was smiling.

As we finished our journey around the pond, I smiled as I realized that I’d been running and smiling yesterday. I smiled as I watched others smile back at my smile. As I looked at Bryce’s smiling, panting face looking up at me, I gave up my plan to push us to a 5-mile finish and let her take the leash. And she walked us along the mile-long stretch to home- smiling by my side the whole way.

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