Friday, March 21, 2008


Sometimes Duncan leads me places and is able to show me exactly what I need to wash the day away and find myself once again. Late last Summer, as the students returned to school and I worked long, seemingly endless and thankless hours, he took me to the lake and led me to the last of the sunflowers. In October, with the wind howling through the trees, we chased leaves across the dark grass at the park, stirring up their music with our steps and tossing them into their air to rain down on our heads. In December he pulled me through the ankle-deep snow, which was windblown and hard and made a most satisfying crunch as it held my weight for a moment and then caved in, swallowing my booted feet. On those cold, clear nights with Orion standing tall in the southern sky, he insisted I throw myself into it and roll across it, burying my face until I could not breath and and my way was so lost the only place to go was back to me. My dog is wise beyond explanation, or perhaps he only seems wise because I'm willing to listen and treat him as my friend, not as something I own or can call mine. He knows what I need, can make offerings, however simple, which lighten my spirit and center me again.

Today I returned the favor.

He was anxious to get outside from the moment I got home and could hardly stand still long enough to be leashed. He practically dragged me down the yard to the corner where we always stand under his tree as we wait for the traffic on Bowles to pass. He picks the direction and I follow, but today he didn't know which way to go and so we meandered back and forth for a bit and when it became obvious that neither knew where we were headed, I took the lead. We walked down the long sidewalk toward the library, past the soccer and lacrosse players, past the skate park, which always smells of cigarettes and makes me a little nervous. At the corner we skirted the edge of the tall, dead willows, a giant net of sorts, which caught the windblown refuse of winter: empty and crushed water bottles, a t-shirt, bags from the Carl's Jr. just down the street, a stray sock or two. We walked up the hill on the backside of the park and when I dropped the leash and laid down in the grass overlooking the lake, Duncan seemed confused, but then turned and saw the light, startlingly bright, dancing across the water, saw the dark shapes of the mallards, their heads more purple than green, swimming along the edge of the shore. Someone guided a kite above us, and though the hillside was warm and calm, the kite, a huge thing, as big and colorful as a costume from The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, whipped back and forth, caught in a nearly violent wind, careened low to the ground and then pulled up at the last second only to climb higher than before.

And as I had trusted him months ago in the snow, Duncan trusted me and followed my lead. He threw himself to the ground and rolled right over me until I wrapped my arms around him and we wrestled, sliding down the hill, laughing and snorting and giving the ducks something to stare at. It seemed exactly what he needed, like something he'd forgotten and rediscovered, a sweetness his life had been without for too long.

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