Leaves under our feet and blue sky above our heads, we saunter into the empty solitude of the tiny park near our house. My Great Dane Edmund cannot keep his feet moving fast enough underneath him to keep up with his excitement. Nose plowing through the piles of leaves as his tail wags, the park is a beacon of curiosity and contentment.
However, it’s really nothing special, in truth. A few play areas for kids, a few pavilions, and lots of trees. The paved path loops through the entire park, and we rarely leave the road.
Edmund is, admittedly, not a huge fan of nature. He appreciates sniffing the grass, the trees, and the forest creatures from afar—he enjoys this park because it is an urbanized version of nature. Still, his entire body relaxes when we are at this small abode.
The typically anxious, always on high-alert Great Dane settles into himself and the freedom I offer him on his leash to just sniff, to just be a dog. To Edmund, our weekly jaunt to the park near our house is an adventure, a reminder of how the world is there purely for exploration.
If I’m being honest, though, our weekly trip to the park isn’t just for Edmund—it’s for me, too. For while the park is a chance to get out and explore for Edmund, it’s a chance for me to get away. It’s a place of true quiet, where even the traffic fades into the distance in favor of the heron’s calls overhead. It’s a place that doesn’t require anything of me—not money, not interaction, and certainly not status. It’s a place where I can breathe in the silence and exhale all of society’s pressures as I take in the vastness of the trees, the leaves, and the fact that nature doesn’t care about any of it.
Watching Edmund explore this simple place near our house, I’m always reminded that the world really IS a vast, wide-open place waiting for us to notice it. And I’m also reminded that even though exotic trips and locales are exciting, you don’t have to jet-set to Paris or the Caribbean or Egypt to find marvels. There is exploration and adventure to be done right in your hometown that doesn’t cost a thing. There is inspiration around you if you take a moment to unplug and appreciate it. There is always something new to see, to marvel in, to revel in, if you’re willing to go out and find it.
You don’t have to go somewhere to special to realize how special life is. That’s the lesson I’ve learned from this tiny, humble park near our house. That’s the lesson I come back to every single week when I come with Edmund to this holy ground of sorts—because isn’t it just so easy to forget all of that in the hustle and bustle of life? Don’t we all need a reminder sometimes of the words my favorite poet Whitman says when pondering the meaning of life:
Answer: That you are here.
That life exists and identity.
That the powerful play goes on,
And you may contribute a verse.
USA TODAY Bestselling Thriller author with Avon Books (HarperCollins), The Widow Next Door, The Diary of a Serial Killer's Daughter, and other creepy thriller books