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Updated: Jun 1, 2021

It is time to go on the walk.

Like many others who find themselves owned by a dog, as I lace up my shoes Indi bounds about excitedly. Her enthusiasm is both energizing and exasperating as I turn my head to avoid a French kiss.

Here, we can just head out, leaving the leash behind, down the cottage road. Going off leash is dog freedom at its absolute finest. As a well-behaved dog, she will never leave our property unaccompanied yet once we are on the road, she is diving into leaf filled ditches and kicking up dirt like it’s nobody’s business.

As Indi follows her nose, periodically perking up to ensure I haven’t fallen too far behind, I relax into my cottage walk. It is a routine I prefer to do alone, just my pup and I, no social distractions. I feel the ache in my lower back acutely at first, punishment for too much time spent sitting and working. I round the first corner and feel my toes spread out in my shoes. I start to breathe, really breathe. I feel as though I haven’t actually taken a breath since the last time I was here. My arms swing just a little bit more smoothly and widely, as if the joints have been oiled. My shoulders press down away from my ears and my face lifts slightly. An observer would miss these small changes in my posture, yet the lift of my heart is there, I know.

Through the four seasons my route remains similar – it is the scenery that changes. This morning, it is cool and crisp. The sun is shining, making it’s way through the trees into the woodlands that line the road. The ground is carpeted in fallen leaves, dappled by the light. Rationally, I know the bed of leaves are wet, cold and likely smell like dank dirt, nonetheless, I can’t quell the desire to slip into the forest and lie down upon them, with the striking white birch trees lifting my gaze to the canopy and the sky beyond.

Indi bounds back to me, cocking her head, reminding me that this is a walk and we must resume. There is a soundtrack to the nature around me that I never drown out with earphones or music. I like to tune in instead – to the rustle of the trees and the conversations between birds. They are all worth inviting in. Although uncommon on this road on a day like today, I also must listen for cars. Today we see not a one, pleasing me greatly. I am not required, therefore, to hold Indi’s collar or wave politely as a car passes. She can carry on, unleashed and unbound.

Incredibly, as I walk, I experience the unleashing of my mind. As we cover ground it is as though the cloak of thoughts that lay heavy on my mind has been lifted and tossed aside. As I walk, I ponder. I dream and I long. I feel free; free from the busy mind that runs all day and I worship in this feeling. I take the time to really see my surroundings – the beauty of the light as it hits the pine needles and dances, the moss-covered rocks begging me to come and sit, the solid and exposed Canadian shield, glinting with Fool’s Gold. I reach for my phone but a photo would not do this justice. It is so much more meaningful than the visual effect – it is the feeling it evokes. It is the unleashing. And I need this, this unleashing. To be, even briefly, unleashed.

Dr. Dayal is a rural family physician living in Port Perry, ON. She has a particular interest in creative writing and narrative medicine.

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