It was springtime. I rambled through a remnant pine and oak forest in a place called Deep Run Park with my good friend Beau, an Irish setter who was nine years old at the time. Damp, rotting earth and the smell of new green growth reawakened childhood memories of growing up in central Virginia, when trees and forests and creeks and fields appeared so vast and untamable that they went on forever. But in
these remaining woods, it was hard to tune out traffic snarling along suburban parkways marking the park’s perimeter.
This is what struck me most about visiting this place after not having lived here for nearly a decade. Peace. Quiet. Being fully present and focused on one’s natural surroundings. Things easily accessed and experienced growing up here, yet now hard to find. The woods still had a palpable and primal pull on Beau. His entire 120-pound frame suddenly energized and captivated by a scent, he pulled harder and faster on his leash, lurching toward the source of the smell.
Before I could intervene, he discovered—and proceeded to roll over—a no longer identifiable dead animal. After his bonding ritual with the carcass, he sniffed, then sneezed, and waded chest deep into a briny creek. Beau crawled out and dropped to the ground, rolling in mud that clung in large clumps to his dripping, auburn coat. I laughed and smiled and shook my head, knowing he would equally relish a garden-hose bath back at my dad’s house.
I saw Beau one more time, when visiting family the following year. Beau was nearly 11 years old. He had lost 30 pounds and had grayed considerably, his arthritis preventing him from getting up or walking much anymore. It was crushing to acknowledge we would no longer journey to our suburban sanctuary together, to walk, to fetch small logs, and to soak up the scents of what had first brought us here when Beau was a big-footed, unruly, and exuberant four-month-old puppy.
My walks without him were lonely and inward, mirroring the early winter landscape of soggy leaves and barren trees. It felt empty and strange not being tugged to investigate something along the wooded trails. I walked more slowly than was ever possible with Beau, and paused more often, as if collecting fresh experiences, memories, and scents to take home to him to remember.
The last walk before returning home to Montana was the hardest, knowing that the next time I visited, Beau would likely be gone. As with Beau’s impending death, I did not want to face what had happened to the spirit of these Virginia woods, which had ignited and fueled my love for untamed places.
I cried, not only for Beau, but for the loss of a once beautiful place, where kids and dogs could run and play in a landscape wild enough to inspire and enlarge their imaginations. I did not want to face the future, a future without Beau, without these woods.
I stopped to sit on a decaying oak log where we had often stopped to rest, wiping the tears from my eyes. A sudden flash and whoosh of red and brown and white caught my focus, as a red-tailed hawk landed on the top branch of a dying old oak tree. She perched there silently for several minutes, scanning for field mice, voles, or maybe rabbits, intently ignoring suburban distractions on the edge of her home territory a few hundred yards away.
In that instant, watching that age-old ritual, I felt a grain of hope. Beau would never return to these woods, but other rambunctious dogs and kids undoubtedly would, if we protected and connected what was left of them. I drove back to my dad’s house and sat beside Beau, and told him about my walk and the hawk I had seen that day. I think he was listening. I think he understood. I think it made him happy.
With each seasonal change, Hobie Hare finds his way to Dunrovin Ranch to sit on the “porch swing” with SuzAnne to celebrate nature’s annual cycle. Hobie has a way of letting you close your eyes and follow his voice to that special natural space where your soul is replenished – no matter where your feet are. It is a gift that Hobie has to share, this ability to follow sounds, conjure the sights, and ask our minds to take us to nature to receive its many healing benefits, even when our entire body cannot there. It works and it is such a blessing.
Be sure to check our DaysAtDunrovin calendar for Hobie next visit. He also hosts a forum on the DaysAtDunrovin web site where he would love to hear from you!
You can connect personally with Hobie by visiting his web site at YourLifeNature where you will find meditation tapes and nature photographs to help build a nature connection into your daily life.