It was hot. I walked with the kids along the trails out back. We trudged along happily on the hot packed earth, taking a different path than usual and picking wildflowers.

My son, freshly bathed, decided to play in rich brown dirt on the side of the path, a brown sugar sandbox.

We got home from our walk, exhausted.

Later that night, as the pinkish-purple sky brought a breeze through the forest, I walked the dog. We meandered around the side path and then began to climb a rocky hill toward a gnarled pine, the wise old man I call him, when a coyote howled from the pond near home. It was about a mile away.

We moved faster to the top of the hill thinking maybe it was time to head back. Then came a shrieking bark that morphed into a howl, but this time from deeper in the woods, from the darker spots. It was followed fast by a yip, yip to the right.

It was definitely time to go home. Me and the dog hustled down the steep path, dodging jutting rocks at a risky pace. The dog, perhaps unnerved, barked loud a few times. I shushed him quickly and we hit the bottom of the hill at a jog. I looked behind me constantly.

When we were in sight of home, the coyote near the pond let out one last howl. It was still a distance away. We paused at the road and I caught my breath.

It’s one thing to hear there are coyotes close to the home. It’s another thing to experience them.

Everyone needs to have heroes.

Someone said that at a recent professional development conference. It could have been the Olympic gold medalist or the big shot chairman or one of the other speakers. It didn’t seem important enough to write down at the time.

But it resonated.

So here I am on Saturday morning thinking about that. I’m shooting the breeze with my daughters, 7 and 5:

“Oh, you like mermaids, do you?”

“Yeah,” says the seven-year-old.

“So what do you like better mermaids, or,” I pause to think of something remarkably important… “Unicorns?”

Her face screws up for a moment as her mind wrestles with that previously unconsidered question. Then she holds up two fingers on her left hand and one finger on her right. “They are both No. 1,” she declares, a┬áconnoisseur of mythical creatures.

I turn to her sister who repeats the same chain of events right down to the two fingers (middle and index) on the left and one on standing up straight on the right (flipping me the bird).

Heroes, I think, everyone needs to have heroes. For these two girls, it’s big sister playing hero to little sister, at least at this stage of their young lives.

I’m back from travel.

When I’m gone, I miss home. I’m not really the type who can travel in an endless merry go round of airplanes, hotels and restaurants. I like being on my couch. I like sleeping in my bed. I like eating food from my fridge.

I also like the routine of a 9-5 workday, preparing supper, kid bedtime routines and a couple hours of unwinding surrounded by my stuff. It can be zen.

That said, a break from a routine is good. It’s how we stretch.

I almost always get sick just before and at the beginning of travel. When I went to Mexico with my parents I got the flu. They drank champagne in the marble lobby of the resort while I sweated and shivered and fantasized about how soft covers and a squishy pillow would feel.

Maybe it’s the stress. Or maybe it’s become so routine that the anticipation of getting sick makes me sick.

I’ll be travelling to my hometown at the end of the month with my oldest daughter. We’re going to see the tourist sites, like the CN Tower, and we’ll try to take in a Jays game at the SkyDome (or the Rogers Centre, as my dad corrected me tonight). We’ll also do some things that I did when I was her age, like turn rocks over in the local creek looking for crayfish and swim in my parents pool.

We’ll synch up with my parents routine for a little while and fondly recall our own as we adjust. Then when we get home and crash on the couch and eat food from our fridge and sleep on our beds, we’ll look forward to the next break.

Some of the little things on my desk:

  • A baseball from a Blue Jays game in the 1990s that was given to me as a kid at the SkyDome.
  • An odd Knick-knack one of my oldest friends gave me when we were teenagers.
  • No. 43/264 of the 2014 Laird of Fintry single malt whiskey made by Okanagan Spirits. No. 41 went to the Mayor of Kelowna and 42 to the B.C. premier.
  • A spike from the railroad leading to Walden North, a nuclear fallout shelter near Lillooet.