Every morning when I’m in town, I purposely set aside time to take a walk around “The Loop,” a little stretch of land that starts in my backyard and winds along a grassy path in Franklin.

To those familiar with Franklin, The Loop is just a slice of Harlinsdale Farm. It’s a rare gem of a place that, according to city records, is the most significant historic farm associated with the modern Tennessee Walking Horse industry. These days, this 198-acre historic district is maintained by the city and is open to the public.

On my two-and-a-half mile walk, I pass by a small lake filled with geese and ducks, several ramshackle barns spotted with a blue heron or two, a river lined with trees claimed by hawks (and, more rarely, an owl), wide open pastures of green grass and the infamous old horse barn where people come from miles around to take wedding and family photos.

Words can’t do it justice. It’s a breathtakingly beautiful place to walk, enjoy nature, and to be in the moment.

Yet, every time I take my morning walk, I have to remind myself to remove my gaze from the ground and look up. Why do we have such a hard time experiencing the moments that are set right in front of us? This is our one life, and we must look up to enjoy it.

This morning started out the same as always. I beckoned my dog down the stairs, and we headed out the door. I always take my cell phone with me, and I usually connect to a distance-tracking app to count my steps and play some country music.

Today, however, turned out differently. I didn’t turn on my phone. Typically, I walk the loop, keeping my eyes focused on the path and steering clear of any holes or “gifts” from the local animals. On this morning, I chose to turn my eyes upward toward the grass, the trees and the wildlife — just to enjoy the moment.

Most of the other folks walking The Loop were with someone else and chatting, sometimes taking in their surroundings, sometimes not. I saw one couple walking, a woman in front of a man, who was distracted by his phone. He wasn’t looking up.

As simple as it may be, I urge you to look up today. Just look up. As we enter this new year, give yourself a renewed sense of beginning. We have yet another chance to “get it right,” and be better than we have been in the past.

Here are some practical suggestions for the new year. Take something from this list, and improve your own life in just one step.

  • Do one thing you’re afraid to do.
  • Apologize for one thing you need to apologize for.
  • Start one thing you’ve always planned to start.
  • Tell one person how amazing they are.
  • Offer to help one person.
  • Just once, refuse to care what other people think.
  • Do one thing that’s not your job.
  • Embrace one thing another person does.
  • Do something foolish.
  • Call your parents. (My dad says this should be at the top of the list.)

Soak in the solitary moments, and take them for what they are — your life. Have you looked up today?


This article originally appeared in the Tennessean.