The sun was back in Napa Valley yesterday. It lit up the chrome-yellow of the wild mustard that burst into bloom between the vines, suffused the twisting, mossy limbs of the oak trees, drew birds and lizards and kids and tourists into the balmy air. But I wasn’t feeling it. Outside was glorious spring, yet in my interior dour, dithering winter lodged and refused to budge. I didn’t approve of my mood, but denying it didn’t help any. I’d received two pieces of news: one about a writing project, one about a dear family member. One hopeful, one frightening. Neither able to be shared, not yet, and both warring for my attention. I found myself caught between the polarities. Stuck. And I mean good and stuck, as in standing in the hallway, still in my sweaty pajamas, unable to decide whether to get dressed or eat a banana. As the clock ticked toward noon.
When I get like that, I confuse myself further by thinking that I need to achieve something big in order to right the balance. Redeem yourself, says I. Undertake the project! Complete the draft! Resolve the issue! Because it makes so much sense to expect big things from myself when I’m at my lowest ebb. Meanwhile, I’m still in the hallway wondering about the banana.
Luckily, I have a passing familiarity with myself. And I have a dog. When I don’t know what to do, Molly always does. And she knew it was time for a walk. Self-involved as I was, I didn’t see how mere walking could fix anything.
“I shouldn’t be wasting time; I should get something done,” I said to the dog.
“Walk,” said Molly, “Now.” So at her urging I got dressed, grabbed her leash, and off we went, up White Sulphur Springs Road. At first I stumped grimly along. But within minutes, the fresh air and the dappled sunlight and the comforting chatter of the creek began to work their magic.We spotted a pair of gray burros, fuzzy in the remnants of their winter coats, grazing in a meadow in contented company with a mule deer. Further on, three sleek horses were turned out where they munched happily on the lush grass amid the creekside oaks and bay trees. Rivulets and freshets coursed down the hillsides, temporary waterways that will grow still as summer comes on, but which for now played their quiet music as though for eternity.
My steps felt lighter. My head did too. By the time we stopped to admire a splendid gray squirrel, easily the size of a cat, lofting itself up a tree in which also perched a resting turkey vulture — a shaft of sunlight gleaming on its scarlet head — I felt as renewed as if I had molted.
“What did I tell you?” said Molly, “And you’re welcome.” When she’s not acting as my live-in therapist, Molly devotes herself to con artistry and napping. She was clearly ready for the latter.
“You were right,” I admitted. And then I took her home, gave her a dog cookie, and sat myself down to write. My internal season slipped into springtime, and the words flowed. All it took was a walk. Next time I’ll remember to listen to my dog.
What about you? What do you do to get yourself unstuck? Please leave a comment!