Home > Pet Ponderings, Pet Product Reviews, Wildlife > A Following Atticus follow up – What fills your soul?

A Following Atticus follow up – What fills your soul?

September 11, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

Reading Tom Ryan’s book Following Atticus was just supposed to be a book review. I would read it, review it, and be done. Instead, I have found myself thinking about it a lot these past two weeks.

Why? What was it about this book that resonated so with me?

The answer came to me slowly, but when it did I was left thinking about it and my life and what I was missing.

When I was a pet sitter there were two things I loved most – the dogs and cats I cared for AND being outside with the animals and nature. While most people were at work, I was outside walking a dog. When people were heading to bed, I was heading out into the still of the night to care for a pet. When people were driving to work and stuck in the mindlessly frustrating gridlock, I was enjoying the sun rise, or the rise of a flock of birds from the Minnesota river, or taking in the beauty of the newly fallen snow. When I was a pet sitter my soul was fulfilled by the beauty that surrounded me. I was in awe and wonder most of the time.

The woman who hated winters in Minnesota grew to love them. The sparkling snowflakes falling on my nose, the crunch of my boots on the packed snow and the sound of my own breath as I walked in the quiet mornings were all that I needed. They fulfilled me more than any desk job could.

I got to see and experience so many things as a pet sitter, but above all the ones I treasure most are the quiet moments with just me, a dog, and mother nature. That’s why Tom Ryan’s book resonated with me. He got it. For me, and for him, it is being in nature that fills our souls. It’s a sense of connectedness and completeness.

In Following Atticus, Ryan wrote: “For the first time that day, all the clouds shifted and completely lifted out of the way, revealing a vibrant blue sky that stretched over the mountains, which were now a brilliant white, glowing under the sun. It was so stunningly astonishing, so striking, I was left speechless. It was so beyond definition or description that my heart ached and tears welled up in my eyes. Man and dog, connected in adventure and solitude, stood together, gazing at the world few had ever seen before. Something changed when those clouds lifted. Not ‘out there,’ but inside us. Our lives would never be the same again.” (Following Atticus, Pp. 138-139)

This one moment stuck with me long after I had closed the book. It reawakened something in me that had been lost when I went back to the corporate world – a realization that I am happiest when I am in nature. I am most fulfilled when I take in all that surrounds me with all 5 of my senses – a sunset, a light breeze, a snowflake on my tongue, a cardinal singing, the essence of lilacs. Those are the things that fill my soul.

So what about you? What fills your soul? What rejuvenates you? What inspires you?



  1. September 11, 2012 at 9:09 AM

    This post is so timely as I have been thinking of much the same things lately and have a post half-written on a subject that closely relates. I’ve been struggling for a long time with an answer to these questions and while I don’t think I’m quite there, I am close. I too am inspired by nature. My “happy place” is walking along a trail with my dog darting around off-leash, with no where else in the world I need to be. I don’t know that it fills my soul necessarily but walking has always been the perfect recipe for a cloudy mind.

    Hopefully one day you will be able to enjoy such a lifestyle again and it will be much more permanent.

    • Mel
      September 12, 2012 at 9:38 PM

      Thanks Kristine. I look forward to reading that post someday soon. I know what you mean about being close. I think reading Tom’s book reminded me of what I loved so much about my job as a pet sitter. I think dogs get it. You know what I mean? And yes, a walk definitely clears the cloudy mind. Often when I have had a hard day at work the first place the dogs and I go is to the dog park. The woods always help.

  2. September 11, 2012 at 2:39 PM

    Richard Louv coined a term in 2005 – Nature deficit disorder. I think this is a common feeling and may be the reason so many people are unhappy with their lives. Being content and finding peace in our connection with the natural world is the ‘magical pill’ I happily swallow!

    • Mel
      September 12, 2012 at 9:36 PM

      What a great term Dinah. Seriously. It describes what I suspect so many of us feel. It’s probably why I loved my uncle’s farm so much. I would take that pill too.

  3. September 11, 2012 at 2:43 PM

    Spending a day in the woods, or on a hiking trail, particularly if fortunate enough to have your 4-legged companion alongside, replenishes the soul in a way few things do! You articulated so well one of the best themes found in “Following Atticus”!

    • Mel
      September 12, 2012 at 9:35 PM

      Thank you. I could just “feel” it when reading Tom’s book. It was like I had forgotten all the joy I used feel when I was outside walking my clients. I loved those days. There was always something new to see, hear and appreciate.

  4. September 11, 2012 at 9:37 PM

    I’m a lot like you, I feel more connected with what I love when I’m outside and away from all the other connections of the world. I’m hoping that with the weather cooling off that we’ll be able to enjoy more time outside together. It’s funny, because I am a bit of a solitary person, but I feel that I do seek connections, perhaps just not the way a lot of people do. I’m not a social butterfly, by any means. I prefer a small, close-knit group, and I generally do prefer the company of my dogs more than that of most people.

    One of the people I was the most connected to was my grandmother. And a lot of the time, I could sit out on the front porch with her (out in the woods) and “just be.” Conversation wasn’t necessary. That might be another reason why I enjoy being close to nature a lot of the time, too. 🙂

    • Mel
      September 12, 2012 at 9:32 PM

      Wow. I love that story of you and your grandmother. How peaceful and soul-fulfilling that must have been Carrie. She sounds like a special lady. I am happiest when I can just sit by a stream or water and watch nature happening around me. But, second to that is walking with the dogs in the woods with just the sounds of the birds to accompany me.

  5. September 12, 2012 at 2:09 AM

    There is certainly nothing better than the outdoors with some happy dogs.

    • Mel
      September 12, 2012 at 9:29 PM

      Amen to that Jana!

  6. September 12, 2012 at 4:46 AM

    I found your post good and informative. I like your article. Thanks for sharing it…

  7. Mary Whitney
    September 12, 2012 at 7:52 PM

    Ditto…what fills my soul is being out in nature with my dogs and horses too. Nature seems to soothe the soul and connects you to mother earth. I just finished Tom’s book and feel the same that being out in nature heals the soul for both human and dog. I just recovered from two years of not being able to walk and now I can. My dogs are so happy that we can again hike in the woods!

    • Mel
      September 12, 2012 at 9:26 PM

      Wow Mary. I am so very happy you are not only able to walk again, but to be able to reconnect with nature. You reminded me that being grateful for the things we have now is also important. Thank you.

  8. September 12, 2012 at 8:15 PM

    I couldn’t agree more. If there is anything I can’t stand it is being in four walls. Everything about nature is a connection for me and awakens my soul like nothing else.

    • Mel
      September 12, 2012 at 9:28 PM

      It’s nice to see I am not the only one. It’s what rejuvenates me too.

  9. Donna
    September 13, 2012 at 6:55 AM

    A beautiful, meaningful review. Especially when I scrolled down and saw the beautiful elkhound stretched out resting on the trail. A very special elkhound, Somerri Erin, CD got me through my turbulent teen years. Tom’s book reminded me how dogs have always been there. Keeping me grounded and reminding me what’s important in life. Chuck, Keno, Erin, Tana, Sadie, Abbie, Violet, Charger, & Timber, you are all in my heart. In October a new puppy is coming into our lives and I cannot wait to see where this lovely golden retriever girl leads me. I’m feeling all of the wonderful things my other dogs taught me will help this beautiful girl and me find new meaning in life. One thing I do know, is Following Atticus has awakened my dog soul.

  10. September 13, 2012 at 2:57 PM

    One of the reasons I find fall hard is because I have very few days left where I can do my work outside on the porch. Yes, if I could walk and hike all day long, I could be outside. But my work is more mind-based than body-based. And soon it will have to be done inside.

    I think Tom Ryan expresses a joy in something many of us experience as a loss. I hope that you can find your way again soon to satisfying work that sustains your soul and supports your body.

  1. December 30, 2012 at 8:28 PM

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