On Saturday afternoon, I took my puggle (Nena) on a walk along the C & O Canal on the edge of Bethesda, Maryland and the border of northwest DC. The clouds looked a bit stormy so I ran some errands first to see if it would rain. When the sun came back out, I decided it was time we take advantage of a nice fall day before the weather turns cold. Off we went down to MacArthur Blvd, over a small bridge, along a small trail to another bridge that leads down to the historic C & O Canal which sits next to the Potomac River. As I walked along the trail I saw a sign that said, “Bridge Closed.” I thought to myself, “How can this be? There is no other path to the C & O from this spot without crossing a walking bridge.” I went a bit further and wouldn’t you know it, the bridge had a metal, wire fence blocking off the entrance. The other side of the bridge below had a similar fence.
My first thought was, “Now our walk is ruined! I cannot walk along the beautiful C & O or come across turtles basking in the sun.” Turtles are my favorite animal to encounter in nature. I could hear children playing below and I wondered how they got down there. I tried another small path towards the right which came by a small stream of water heading south towards the C & O. Nena was a bit hesitant to climb the rocks with me, so I took a seat on a rock by the stream as she waited on the bank. I found the sun shining in just perfectly on my face, bouncing off of the water and I was quickly at peace. I thought to myself, “this is better than the lack of serenity I had seeing the bridge was closed.” It was quite peaceful and I took in the fresh fall air. Nena braved it over to my space and happily put her paws in the water so she could take a drink of fresh spring water.
After a few minutes of contemplation, we trekked back up towards the car to try another entrance at the Glen Echo National Park just down the road. I know the C & O connects here, but I haven’t walked it up this far except for during one MS Walk several years back. I parked at the entrance closest to the street and took Nena on another exploration. We found a social dance event going on, kids playing in the grass, the carousel was lit up for rides and several museums were open on this gorgeous fall day. I was still in search of the C & O path which had been there for me in time of struggle so many times before. We found another path, but not canal route. We found a few other historic sites at the park which were full of great history, but no canal path. As I made my way over another small bridge and back towards the car, I realized how much I had enjoyed our walk to, “nowhere.”
Even when we think our path is set, our plan is finalized or our live is in order, life happens. After losing my job on Thursday, this mindful exercise of walking my dog along a route I knew by heart – and not being able to take that route – was just what I needed to reaffirm that I am learning to go with the flow. Unexpected life events happen and we learn from them. We learn patience, grace, humor, acceptance and kindness. If we only learn to shut people out and shut ourselves off, we will only be forced to learn to soften, all over again until we do just that. Take a moment to walk your dog in silence, smell the crisp fall air, play with a child or simply rake some leaves as you focus on your breath. It might be amazing because in essence, life purely is just that – amazing, unexpected and beautiful.