Tuesday, January 22, 2008


The moon was big tonight, big and orange, like a peach, or a breast. Big enough to pluck from the sky and carry home with me in my pocket. A new ball to toss for Duncan. An eye watching the night. I figured we'd climb Rebel Hill where we haven't been for a month and watch the moon rise over the DTC and Aurora. Occasionally I get these romantic notions of walking my dog, of doing something poetic and nice, something I think I'll remember forever. We all have those moments, when we're standing outside, our faces tilted up into the sweet-smelling rain or when we're jumping into a lake, the sound of laughter rising up all around us. Or driving fast down a long straight stretch of road with a really good song playing loud, maybe "Fresh Air" by the Quicksilver Messenger Service or "Cowgirl" by Underworld. I've had those moments where I step outside myself, watch the scene, like that last good New Year's Eve in Pocatello when everyone was there, dancing at The First National Bar and Ruth smiled and cried out, "It's just like a movie." And it was like a movie and all I could think was, I will remember this forever. The night I watched Elijah slip into the world, purple and wet and so, so new, I felt the same thing. I will remember this forever. There are moments that stand out for no reason whatsoever that will be with me always: pulling over at a rest stop in Minnesota with my mother and sister late one August night. The air was heavy and warm and I'd been sleeping in the backseat using a folded up green Boston College sweatshirt as a pillow. My face bore all the lines and wrinkles of the sweatshirt, like long pink scars criss-crossing my cheeks and forehead. I strolled through a grassy field to sneak a cigarette, which tasted and felt different in such humid air. Like the cherry wanted to jump right out of it. The grass was long and brushed against my calf and I thought, I will remember this moment forever. Or the afternoon Winnie and Pip, still kittens and able to fit into the palm of my hand, curled up on my lap and slept for hours. I didn't want to move so I stayed still, my legs falling asleep under me. They were so warm and felt so safe on my lap. It was a moment that could've slipped right past me but I carry it with me. Forever. There a million of them. Running down the hill on a Sunday afternoon to play in the fields behind Edahow Elementary School with my sister, two step-sisters and a step brother. Sitting at a bar in downtown Pocatello with my mom while Ray Charles' "One Minute Julep" played on the jukebox. Playing Hansel and Gretel with my grandmother and sister and later reading Italo Calvino's Italian Folktales. Grandma had a cubby hole under her stairs and Casey and I liked to pretend it was our house. The night my friend Blaise taught me how to pick out the constellations. A million things I will remember always. Forever.

Anyway, I thought Duncan and I could climb Rebel Hill and watch the moon rise over the city, the first full moon of the new year. He'd sit next to me, his hip warm and soft against my foot. The wind, cool but not cold against my neck, not stinging my eyes or biting my nose. The sound of the traffic would fade away as it sometimes does when you hope it will, when you want to make yourself very small but still very present, alert to every rustle in the branches of the twig-like saplings planted last Spring, aware of the moon glow on the snow and even the places where it doesn't glow, the dark places. Maybe more aware. And as one little wisp of cloud slips overhead I'd think, I will remember this forever, me standing here in silence, a secret from the world, a part bigger than the whole, my dog sitting at my side. A breathing poem.

But then Duncan discovered the joy of sliding down the hill on his side. At first he just rolled, in that seizure-like way of his, where he throws himself down, burying his nose in the snow, shaking his head as it piles up around him. Then he flips over on one side and pulls himself forward, then flips over on the other side, his four legs sticking straight up and dancing on the night, a jitterbug right across Orion, before he turns. It was then that his momentum propelled him forward and he slipped, like oil on water and slid probably twenty feet. His head perked up as he discovered he wasn't where he started. So he leapt up, climbed the hill and did it again. And again until his coat was shiny and slick with ice crust, his nose white, his eyes dark, like olives. And I thought, I will remember this, but not for the reasons I thought. But remember it nonetheless.

God I love him. Especially when he's just a dog and not what I want to turn him into.

1 comment:

Lori said...

These are the beautiful moments dogs give us. (Especially goldens) We don't even know what our spirit needs, until they show us. My Ripley did that every day of his too-short 12 years. He's been gone 14 months now, and my heart breaks for him every day. But I still carry the memories of those moments with me, and they help, even if just a little.