Springtime finally made a brief appearance in Scotland County the same day that Daylight Savings Time began. The skies cleared and the temperatures proved to be absolutely delightful. I was beckoned by the great outdoors, so I heeded its call.
There is something truly special with spring in Scotland County, which traditionally begins in February. It is the season of new life as the trees, shrubs, and flowers start to bud and eventually bloom. The birds build their nests and a new generation springs to life. Even the turtles in the swamp emerge into the sunlight to catch its warmth and to begin breeding.
On a personal level, the winter of 2014 has been one of frustration due to our excessively cold weather. After recent cardiac bypass surgery I’ve sought times to walk and walk in nature, but my best attempts have been thwarted by the cold, snow, ice, and rain.
I had no goals as my journey began other than to listen to my body and observe nature. It had been over a week since my last walk of about a mile, so on that afternoon my goal was simply slow and easy.
The first sights and sounds were the birds as they sang their songs, gathered seeds for food, and grass for nests. Next was a box turtle that had emerged from its burrow and sought the warm sunshine.
As my journey carried me out onto the country road in front of our home, I spied a hawk circling over a nearby field. There was little doubt that the hawk was seeking its next meal, and its flight patterns revealed that it had found it. Breaking quickly out of its pattern, the hawk literally dropped quickly, opening its wings just before the ground and snagging its prey. The hapless field mouse rose from the ground in the hawk’s talons.
Turning my eyes closer to my path, the disgusting and unnatural sight of trash; bottles, cans, and paper thrown from car windows littered the ground. They were signs of human destruction and carelessness, not signs of God and nature.
Walking further, a rabbit quickly darted by and squirrels made their ways in the trees and limbs. My strolling stopped as watching their interactions and movements revealed another natural moment. They stopped and watched me, so once again I began walking.
The next natural experience was that of falling water as rain water draining from a nearby pasture made its way into a ditch and filtered down to the stream running under the road. The melody and harmony were nature’s songs, free for anyone pausing to listen.
The horse pasture was ahead, and the horses were out and about grazing. Observing me walking by, they all raised up for some “people watching.” As I paused in return to watch them, they went back to grazing. Yeah, I must be that boring.
Down a little further the pasture contained horses and miniature donkeys. The horses continued grazing and paying little heed to my presence, but the donkeys were curious as all raised up to watch me and walk closer. I paused to marvel as to how much they resembled “Donkey” in the Shrek movies, they started braying as if reading my thoughts.
As I reached the corner of Old John’s Road and Barnes Bridge Road the length of my journey dawned upon me and I had to return the same length. Eighteen years ago my wife, Lynn, and I were walking and jogging that distance, but that afternoon I was blessed to just be walking it.
The return trip was different as it became time to merge my thoughts during my casual stroll with the words of God; to thank him for the beautiful and natural world that he has given us.
In our increasingly fast-paced lives the best relaxation sometimes comes from pausing, seeing, smelling, and hearing the natural world that is just outside our doors.
My journey covered more than two and a half miles. The best of all: It wasn’t tiring. It was refreshing!
Beacham McDougald is president of McDougald Funeral Home and Crematorium in Laurinburg. He serves as vice chair of the Scotland County Highland Games, on the Scotland County Tourism Development Authority, and is the founder and liaison of the Scotland High School-Oban High School student exchange program.