Afoot and lighthearted I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long, brown path before me . . .
     —Walt Whitman                                                          

I’ve wanted to write about pathways, not as some mundane idea, but in sentences wise, maybe even soul-stirring, like the Whitman quotation. I like Shel Silverstein’s promise to children: where the sidewalk ends is a new world of grass, birds, minty air, and oh, adventure. In meditation, with my room darkened and candle lit, I reflect on Proverbs and Aristotle, writers who insist on the narrow, winding, and sometimes treacherous way lit by right choices.


Yet that is not my everyday experience of pathways. I push my small cart to buy grain-free “Taste of the Wild” and on to Winco for tangerines, broccoli, peppers, bananas, bagels, milk, and (sometimes) low-salt potato chips. I walk to Kohl’s for a sale on socks. And every morning I bundle Angel, my eight-pound Shih Tzu, in her red-plaid jacket and trek through the neighborhood.

The psalm tells me God’s pathways are peace, but in actuality, mine are usually concrete.


A few days ago, with leash in one hand and camera in the other, I documented my open road. At this time of year, a January morning, it is no fun to rise and shine, especially when the shining comes from rain. Even with a break in the clouds, beige twigs and gray branches dominate, except for berries the color and shape of red-pearls. My task, however, is not for the enjoyment of nature, but the health benefits afforded to one human and her canine companion. We walk straight ahead in our predictable circle: along curved sidewalks, past a pocket park, follow a tangent towards a gentle giant, and then head home.

Thinking about this predictable ritual, slivers of insight cut through: life contains an oxymoron of linear circles, going forward and roundabout. Unbending tedium and spiraling energy converge. A walk can give me circles of laughter from an open window, or the straight ahead surprise of a young woman walking her cat. Coming back home is as familiar as the round plush slippers inside my front door.

Enough grand thoughts. Tonight, hearing rain slash the window, I’m not eager for the morning nor the sidewalk that does not end, though my east-west direction is clear. Like all the winter mornings through the years, I will repeat the cycle: crawl out from warm covers, put on my poncho, attach the plaid coat to Angel, and both of us, jaws set, travel forward until circling back to the place from where we started—one paw, one step at a time.