The dogs and I are back on the trail again. Part urban, part rural, the path we choose on any given day may take us along small town streets, down country lanes, next to train tracks used by the Denton County light rail system, or to the shores of Lewisville Lake. We might walk next to a cemetery, a soccer pitch, a softball field, city hall buildings, a man-made tyrannosaurus rex statue, a family of llamas, horses, cows, chickens and roosters, or through small nature areas. On a recent hike, I saw a road runner where I had previously seen one years ago. It was great to see the bird again.
Shady Shores, Corinth, and the northern edge of Lake Dallas are the primary communities where we find our trails. Hikes can be as short as 1 mile or as long as 10 (depending on our energy and available time). The variation in scenery and the rustic natural beauty in and around these small towns is quite appealing.
An interesting thing happens when you walk streets that are normally driven: you notice things. Sometimes it’s a bush or a tree or a creek that, when passed at 35 miles an hour or faster, looks like a blur or a flash. Yet, when approached at walking speed that same object pops into sharp focus. Bright flowers, green leaves, rough tree bark, glittering water, fish, birds, and other wildlife begin to appear and the unique features and beauty of each can be appreciated.
I am always amazed at how much trash we are exposed to in our daily lives. Sometimes I wonder if, as a society, we have simply become numb to the point that we don’t see the trash around us – it essentially blending in and becoming a normal part of our urban landscape. Whatever the case may be, trash that is invisible when driving by in a car begins to stand out with jarring visibility when seen while walking. It cannot be ignored.
I have a rule when on foot: if I am literally stepping over trash or see it within 5-10 feet on either side of me, I will pick it up. I have resumed my old habit of carrying plastic grocery bags with me so that I can pick up and carry back the trash that I find. Recently I came to the unfortunate conclusion that grocery bags were not big enough and started taking my 45-liter North Face backpack with me.
On the trail, the dogs wait patiently as frequent stops are made to pick up litter. Gradually our routes are cleaning up. The sad thing is that this is a job with no end: new trash appears almost as fast as it is carried out. Thinking about that too much can be depressing and lead to thoughts of giving up. It’s much more productive to focus on the positive aspects of taking action – it feels good to be making a contribution no matter how slight or fleeting the overall impact.