I hiked with the dogs this morning after dropping my kid off at school. It was a welcome return to a routine I haven’t had the time for in a while. I knew there’d be nobody out there on a rainy overcast Monday in that awkward season we used to call Indian Summer when I was a kid, not because we meant to be insulting but simply because that’s the only thing we knew it was called. Actually now that I think of it, I don’t know anything else that it is called. You know, that season that isn’t really summer but it’s not quite autumn yet either. Yes, that one.
The forest was still wet from the deluge of rainstorms we’ve been having. We do live in a rainforest, after all even if it’s a deciduous and not a tropical one. Though with the temps lately it feels almost as if it could be tropical. Either way, I needed to get out in the forest on my mountains as much as my dogs needed to get out there and it was a welcome reprieve for all of us. After a week, and weeks of being peopley, talkative, energetic, and outgoing, my mind needed the solitude of the woods where no one expected me to talk. And so I didn’t.
We hiked through the woods together up the first set of inclines, slick in spots over the rocks from the washout, muddy in areas where the ground leveled out. We stopped for our usual break at the lake and the dogs played as I sat down and appreciated where I live and just how much I love it here. I stood up and we continued, down the backside of the mountain over the very slippery wet wooden bridges where the creeks were all higher than I’d ever seen not just where they converged but upstream as well, still full from last night’s rain with more on the way. The dogs jumped in anyway – it’s not that deep – and while the mercury only read in the 60°s, the boggy air made it feel more like the actual tropics than Florida from which I had just returned. I smiled as they splashed.
We continued on like that for nearly all 4 miles, communicating in smiles and whistles, hand signals and thoughts. The only exception was to say hi to the neighbors in the sole house we pass along the way and make sure my dogs respected their property. They did. As we got back to the truck, the dogs hopped in without needing to be told, and I climbed in and we drove the short bit up the mountain and home.
The day continued like that, finishing farm chores, pushing out a round bale, filling a trough, coming in to do laundry and shower and make a smoothie and some coffee. Then finally, sitting on the couch with the dogs to settle into work as the clouds loomed darker overhead. The internet went out. And again. And a few more times. Work was only so productive without the internet and so we still sat in silence – no music and no tv, just the whirring of the fan and the tapping of my fingers on the keys as the dogs napped after their morning adventure.
I used the time in the woods this morning to do a lot more than just reconnect with nature. I let my thoughts sort themselves all out. It’s the best way I know to untangle my mind. I was able to sort out and plan work for the week, organize my schedule, revisit half of my presentation for the end of the month that’s solely in my head and not out on Google Drive just yet. I soaked in the damp air and the scent of decay and life the way only a forest can offer – in that good way that speaks of life and renewal and death as a means for ongoing growth, knowing that in just a few more weeks the leaves would be falling off the trees showing us just how beautiful it is to really let things go.
Most people have a hard time believing that I enjoy solitude as much as I do, but it’s more than that. I need it, I crave it, especially after travel and conferences and trade shows. I love what I do, but I also need significant time to recharge. #SleepWhenImDead, I always say, except for when I’m back from a stretch of travel barely sleeping and always hustling. I slept 12h the first night I got home. I slept 8 the second. At home 7h is normal for me – and when I am at my best.
But it’s more than that, too. It’s about not needing to entertain, impress, or wow people. It’s not about sharing stories and catching up with friends. It’s not about what’s next or what great adventure is right around the corner, or what big deal or next breakthrough will lead to the rebuilding of my company that in turn will continue rebuilding my life into something even better than I ever imagined. I mean sure, it IS about all of that. But it’s about the solitude too.
Someone offered to bring my kid home from soccer practice because they’ll already be there and live right down the road so I don’t have to go anywhere else today – just here. Just home. It’s such a good feeling. Sometimes I want music going in the background, or the television is on so that I have noise to break through the silence. Then sometimes on days like today, it’s the solitude that soothes my soul, both out in the forest and right here on my couch.