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It’s summer vacation for me, and I won’t lie. I have been enjoying every minute and recharging my batteries for next year.
I also have been doing some lesson planning and book revamping, but not too much. That will happen in August. However, in the spirit of enjoying summer and soaking in every ounce of freedom, sunshine and moment in the great outdoors that I can, I have been taking Bella (my 6-year-old Akita) on hikes in the morning around the area.
We have been branching out of our normal comfort zone, which is Mosquito Lake Park. We explored Turkey Run Trail one morning before the heat hit. We took a drive early another morning over to Trout Island Trail and then the next day did the Seth Meyers loop. We have a few more trails on the list to explore, but we are limited to the morning hours because Akitas are known for their love of the snow, not the heat. Yet, the trail walks with Bella have reminded me of a few things about life that I think are important for us to keep in mind with all the stress, strife and uncertainty surrounding the world today.
First, wake up every day with something to look forward to. Listen, I get that this is hard. I normally wake up with a list of 1 million things that need to be accomplished and already know I won’t get through half. However, Bella wakes up with a smile, tail wag, and when I say, “Let’s go to the park,” her ears perk up and she’s immediately ready for the day to begin.
So, instead of looking at these chores as something I must do, I’ve decided to take Bella’s approach: I’m excited we get to walk for an hour before the day gets crazy. It honestly has changed my perspective on a whole lot of things, such as lesson planning. I’m excited and grateful that I get to explore how to better challenge my students. It’s been a game changer.
Second, I used to spend part of our walks checking the news and my social media accounts. It wasn’t until a deer literally jumped out of the tree line and froze, staring at us like we were aliens, that I realized I was missing so much. World, local and friend news can wait. I only get a limited number of days on this Earth, and so does Bella.
I want to make every day count and to be present for her and myself. This also has led to me being more selective with my time. If I don’t want to go, I thank someone for the invite, but politely decline and then refuse to feel guilty. Sometimes staying home and watching the sunset with my dog is just what the soul needs.
Third, be adventurous. I don’t know about you, but Bella and I had gotten into the comfortable rut of Mosquito Lake Park, the 305 Park or Mecca Community Park. There was comfort and ease in the familiar, and so we would just default and go to whichever was easiest. It wasn’t until I realized that Bella and I had walked Mecca Community Park in a whopping 10 minutes (normally it takes her about 20 minutes since she stops and sniffs everything) that I realized there was nothing left there that was exciting for her, and she was bored. Turns out, I was bored, too.
So, I downloaded the AllTrails app on my phone, and we began our explorations. This realization of boredom led to me tackling some much-needed projects around the house and feeling pretty darn good about myself. It also led to planning some trips that I’m excited to take.
Fourth, these walks started to improve both our physical and mental health. I’m an active person, but I found that I was burnt out on jogging and cycling. I caught myself skipping workouts and generally being a couch potato earlier this summer. It wasn’t a good look; it was affecting my mental health since I kept beating myself up about these missed workouts.
Bella always struggles a bit with weight in the summertime. She doesn’t go out and play a whole lot because it’s too hot, and she tends to also get a little lazy. These early morning walks in the cool and a variety of locations have served to keep us both in shape, clear our heads, and provide a welcome amount of movement, even if Bella does stop and sniff every five feet.
Last and certainly not least, these explorations serve to get us out into the great outdoors and remind me of trips with my grandpa. As a kid, he and I would jump on the four-wheeler and head back to the woods where we would tromp around looking at trees, animals, creeks, moss, flowers and anything we could find of interest.
While I might not be risking my limbs to poison ivy as much as back then, these hikes have renewed my love of nature. It’s not just something to battle anymore with the mower or weed wacker. It’s not a chore to go explore and hear the birds, see the chipmunks darting over logs, or watch the deer leap away; instead, it becomes a form of art.
So, this summer, while the weather is still beautiful, I encourage you to take the family on a hike. It can be something as small as half a mile (Seth Meyers Trail) or something as long as Trout Island Trail (4.2 miles). Whatever you decide, approach it as an adventure in nature and use it as a time to unwind, relax, and enjoy!
Submitted by Christen Clemson, a member of the Trumbull County Farm Bureau who completed her Ph.D. at the Pennsylvania State University. She and her family farm in Mecca Township.
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