I spend a lot of time in the forest with just my dogs for companionship. We’re out there most mornings, all seasons, for at least an hour, sometimes up to three hours. It’s how we begin each day.
Sometimes a human friend joins us, but that’s rare. A true introvert, I enjoy my solitude and my dogs are my favored companions.
Non-introverts might wonder if I get bored out there when I don’t have anyone to talk to.
Secret: running, especially in a quiet forest, promotes creative thinking. Endorphins fuel a sense of well-being, and extra oxygen to the brain fuels creativity. Some of my best ideas come to me while running.
The trick, of course, is remembering them when I get home.
Even walking, which doesn’t create the endorphine rush of running, is balm for the weary soul and allows time for thinking and creative problem-solving.
Observing the forest – its flora and fauna – through the seasons is fascinating in itself.
Another secret: dogs are quietly entertaining. Conall especially has a sense of humor and keeps me smiling and laughing on the trail with his antics, which include a fondness for climbing boulders and posing.
Even better, my dogs don’t distract me with inane chatter or gossip. They do require constant low-level attention because they’re off leash and liable to chase deer, elk or cattle if I don’t stop them. Otherwise, they stay close, always checking to make sure I’m nearby. Their awareness of our surroundings is what allows me to relax and play inside my head while we’re running or walking through the forest. They also urge me to look at places and things I otherwise wouldn’t notice.
As the three of us move companionably across the landscape, my mind can wander. I work through issues that kept me awake the night before. I solve problems. Within the first mile or two, any negative thoughts or emotions have been resolved and disappear, a huge benefit. From that point on, I create to do lists, putting solutions into action. But mostly, I happily ruminate on topics that interest me, that might become a blog post, an article, a book. I compose as I go, quietly, in my head. Much of what I compose is lost, of course, because memory is fleeting. But I’ve learned when true inspiration strikes to either record a short message on my phone, or repeat the phrase or idea to myself several times to cement it in my mind for later retrieval.
Perhaps only another introvert will understand.
I do enjoy the company of key friends when running trails, those with whom I can talk about shared interests, whose energy is positive. But mostly, I prefer hanging with my dogs. I’m thankful for their silence, as it lets me be silent as well. I get to hear the bird songs, the creek flowing below us, the wind through the trees, the rain hitting the leaves of nearby foliage.
I’m never bored when I’m running with the boys in the forest. Quite the opposite. I interact with them as we go, whether grazing huckleberries, praising Conall for finding forest treasure (old animal bones), or just telling them what good dogs they are. But I’m also filled with creativity and inspiration on our runs, taking photos of scenes that catch my eye or the boys doing something charming, musing on writing prompts and themes, always wishing we didn’t have to go home so soon, always hungering for more time in the forest’s nurturing embrace.
Featured image: August 10, 2019, following the boys through the forest on a morning when wildfire smoke in the air cast a yellow glow on the landscape.