Tuesday, May 6, 2014


    On the forested nature trail I often walk, it's not unusual to encounter dogs running free, a gesture of trust by permissive owners. Not a dog owner myself, I've grown accustomed to  frisky pets on the path and to the shouts of "Come!" or "Stay!" or "Down!" from dog owners. 

   So there was no surprise one afternoon when a fast-moving runner approached me on the path accompanied by a dog trailing its leash at her side. 

   "Focus!" the young woman commanded as the dog raised its head to eye the approaching walker. "Focus!" she repeated, a forceful, no-nonsense tone in her voice. I watched the dog consider the option of pausing to sniff a leg, and then pulling its attention back to the path to run smoothly past me at its owner's side. 

   "Focus!"  The order stayed with me as I continued on my walk, piquing my imagination with its novelty as a behavior prompt. "Focus!" Clear. Strong. Effective.  I marveled that this  runner had chosen "Focus!" as a command that kept her pet at her heels. Imagine having a guiding voice that did the same for me,  correcting my attentiveness when temptations pull thoughts away from the path at my feet. If it could work for pets, perhaps it could work for me! 

   "Focus!" I began to instruct myself on future walks when my mind strayed far from the path I was traveling. It made me smile, reviving a visual image of the running dog, leash on the ground, eyes bright with curiosity, but steadied on the designated path by a call to "Focus!"

   A week ago, as my husband and I traveled desert trails through the foothills of the Catalina Mountains near Tucson, AZ, I heard the reminder loud and clear. Just one year ago, these trails were the scene of a fall that left me with a broken elbow and a wounded ego.  A return aroused both apprehension and resolve. 

   "Focus!" my mind commanded as I eyed rocks jetting up along the trail. The tone was firm and clear, like the voice of the runner directing her dog. "Focus!" I insisted when my toe stubbed a stone. I like hearing it. I liked the straight, unequivocal order. No lengthy lectures. No mental recriminations. Nothing more than a sharp directive: "Focus!" Be present. Be here. 

    The word served me well and brought me home free of injury to bones or pride. Many thanks to the unknown woman who gave this gift to me! 

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1 comment:

  1. This is a good one, Carolyn! It's so easy to be scattered no matter where we are or what we are doing. I like that word and the directness of it a lot. Thank you!


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