A Natural View: Just on My Way to Work

Terry Sprague

Terry Sprague heading off to work in his local marsh. Photo by Mike Burge.

I remember reading about a Canoe Lake Road resident near Frontenac Provincial Park who would ease himself into his Tsunami kayak every morning and spend the next hour going to work. The resident worked from his home office and like others who work from home, all he had to do was wake up and work surrounded him. However, this fellow reasoned that most commuters in Ottawa and Toronto spent at least an hour on the road each day, so why not adapt the same daily grind to the boundary waters of Frontenac Park?

Every day, he got up before dawn in time to watch the rising sun illuminate the Park, and then set off, taking a different route each time, depending on his mood and schedule for the day. He usually arrived back at his desk and was ready to start work at 9 a.m. He would do this until Kingsford Lake produced the wind-chime tinkling of ice crystals as the gentle wake of his kayak shattered the paper-thin ice. In spring, he would commence his season again when there were only a few open leads in the ice.

Like this person, I work from home. Although retired, I still maintain a rigid daily schedule of things that need to be done. So, I begin “work” much the same as the person in this story. I am accompanied by my Shih Tzu, Christie, and together we set off down the road, or along a nearby trail somewhere for a three- to five-kilometre walk before I start my workday. The morning stroll serves to clear my mind and prep it for the new day ahead.

Along the way, Christie and I meet friends, different ones each day. They may be coyotes that cross our path, a chipmunk scurrying into the forest, or a meadowlark announcing its spring arrival. Spring is a time of renewal, a time when these critters—there are different ones each day—give us some hope about the COVID-19 pandemic that has changed our lives and the way we do things. At least, for outdoor enthusiasts, we are still free, even encouraged, to get out for a walk, to “forest bathe” as it were, and try to make sense of the world in which we live today. The morning exercise gives me strength and inspiration to “go to work.” 

Columnist Terry Sprague walking to work, even in a light rain.
Photo by Mike Burge.

There is something truly spiritual and profound about early morning and Nature carrying on as it has for thousands of years. I think about all the things I am grateful for and it always starts my day with optimism. The air is fresh, still, and free from mechanical sounds. It reminds me of the time I kayaked around Yorkshire Island near Main Duck Island, in the middle of eastern Lake Ontario, and that same inner peace washed over me. For just a little while, there were no cell phones ringing, no computer noise, and no traffic or construction noise. I was very much alone, and the change felt good. Morning walks, when the air is tranquil, are heavy with scents from spring wildflowers, decaying forest debris, sometimes even a passing skunk. The whistled notes of two, sometimes three, White-Throated Sparrows often drift my way, invisible, as they usually are, and similarly hidden are at least four towhees. When the pressures of the day are upon us, we seldom note these special things, and it is beneficial to our peace of mind to have an hour when we can bask in the nature around us, and utilize our senses to their fullest.

I am energized, awakened, and mentally uplifted. “Walking to work” rejuvenates and revitalizes—it motivates and empowers. It’s a kick start from the sluggishness of early morning and connects me with my inner rhythms. American author and poet, Henry David Thoreau, once said, “Walking is a blessing for the whole day.” Just the delight of movement is enough to refresh me for the entire day, and that connection with nature makes it complete. I question those who walk while connected to their music devices, thus missing the essential component of the experience. 

Thankfully, I am not alone in my love of the morning. I often come across men and women of all ages out walking, some of them purposefully, along rural roads, sidewalks in town, campgrounds, trails, everywhere. It is exercise without expensive memberships, and spirituality as close as our backdoor, free for the taking. A time for mind purging and welcome inspiration. One does not have to walk far to realize the benefits. It’s a matter of divesting oneself from the mindset that early mornings are offensive and that it is impossible to get underway because it is too hot or too cold, or too windy or too wet. As someone from Napanee once said to me, “There is no such thing as bad weather—just inappropriate clothes for the weather.”

So, if someone should stop and ask where you are going, simply tell them, “I’m just on my way to work.”

Terry Sprague lives in Prince Edward County and is a retired interpretive naturalist and hike leader. See his website at www.naturestuff.net. He can be reached at tsprague@xplornet.com

Avid hiker and photographer, Barry Kant of Brighton, walks regularly at Presqu’ile Park before starting his day. Photo submitted by Barry Kant.