My dog, Bruce, and Me.
Today is the first day I am able to think of nothing else but trees, birds, blue skies and my dog.
Editor’s note: Our Red Squirrel blogger Christine Thomas came home to the hills on April 29 after spending six months at the Kandahar Air Field in Afghanistan where, as a volunteer with Canadian Forces Personnel and Family Support Services, she worked at Tim Hortons serving up coffee, treats and smiles to Canadian troops. The blog below was written shortly after her return. Welcome back, Christine, and thank you!
It has been 13 days since I returned home. This is the first day I have felt anywhere near normal in mind, body and spirit. Today I walked the Bruce Trail with my dog Kelly. We walked the trail almost every day before I left. This is my second attempt to find normality and reconnect with life back here on earth!
During my first attempt to walk the Bruce, my legs were heavy, my feet shuffled beneath them. My head remained down. It took two hours to walk a 60-minute circuit. My dog had three poops – THREE! She never has three poops! Today, I feel like running the trails! My legs are light and full of energy. My feet don’t just work one in front of the other, they dance! And Kelly barely has time to poop once!
The air is crisp and full of life. A symphony of birds chirps in the treetops above. Accentuated by a flock of geese honking unceremoniously! The landscape is hostile looking…barren, no leaves on the stark trunks that reached toward the cloudless, blue sky above. The dirt path reminds me of my home for the past six months. But the composting leaves and needle bed providing ground cover is being assaulted by a blanket of green, punctuated with wild flowers of yellow, white and aubergine. And trilliums, a sure sign of spring! I smell pine and cedar in the air. I haven’t smelled air like this since last October. It is such a gift. The trail is such a gift. A flock of six turkey vultures fly so close I can hear the swoosh of their wings.
The oddity about all this is the quiet. I have lived in a near 24/7 environment of noise. Everything from bombs to jets, to gunfire, to helicopters. After a while you filter out the obvious, but always keep your ear attuned for the ones that could damage. Here though, there are no damaging sounds, no harmful smells. The only sound I hear at this moment is the pant of my dog as she rousts out a wild turkey from a cedar brush.
The other obvious oddity that strikes me is that this is the first cognisant thought process I have been able to garnish over the past six months. My writing has been nothing more than first-hand, frontal-lobe thinking and reactions. I haven’t been able to think about much else other than what I was feeling or thinking in the particular moment. Today is the first day I am able to think of nothing else but trees, birds, blue skies and my dog. It is empowering and welcome.
I round a corner and see the roadway that leads to Mono Centre. There, real life awaits my return. My dog slows up and waits for me, gazing upward for my command. I stop to pet her head and give her a kiss. I love the smell of her, I’ve missed it about as much as I missed the Hills, Bruce, and, oh yes, my husband. On a good day, I’m elated with my return, but still feel certain sadness and just a little depression about missing the men and women I served and worked side by side with. But here, in Mono, back here on earth, I am home, safe, sound and maybe in a week or two sleeping like a baby!