As a Humanities professor who teaches at a school of engineering, I often talk to students about the need to engage in reflective thought. It’s a critical part of the learning process—to connect the information that is new (short-term memory) to information that is not so new (long-term memory). The brain is designed to make these connections, but we often interfere with the process by overstimulating ourselves. If we’re always on our digital devices, and if don’t take the opportunity once in a while to stare out the window to reflect, then “learning” doesn’t take place to the same degree.
That’s why I love having Rush in my life. Rush is a year old Australian Shephard mix we rescued last October. Our last dog, Lucy, had passed away the month before, and I missed having a dog. It’s really a lifestyle: if you have a dog, then you have to feed it, play with it, and most important, take it for long walks. Having Rush means that, two or three times a day, I need to leash up his harness and take him out into the neighborhood. It’s good exercise for us both; it’s a chance to simply go for a nice long walk. Without Rush, I doubt I’d walk that much, and going for walks, on a consistent, scheduled basis, provides ample opportunity to engage in reflective thought process.
It’s also an opportunity to get back into nature. The photos in this post were taken at Lapham Peak, a state park outside of Delafield, Wisconsin. It’s a bit of a drive to get there, but it’s worth it to watch Rush run off leash in the woods. It’s also worth it to feel my brain shift into reflective mode as we walk the paths through the woods.
I’ll encourage my students to get a dog when they graduate, just so they have the opportunity to take it outside several times a day. We need to get outside, and having a friend that needs it too is a great impetus for reflection.