Saturday, May 31, 2008


I swear to God, if I'd been born into the animal kingdom I would've been cast out of the den for being too frail and sickly. Once again I've come down with a little something-something, this time one of my infamous sinus problems, which literally started with a swallow last night. One moment I was fine, the next my head had exploded and I was miserable.

Duncan has been quiet all day, sleeping on the couch while I've nested up on the love-seat, my sinuses packed and inflamed, my throat swollen and raw, a fever coming and going and coming again. He's glanced over at me every now and then and then out the window, an act which is usually followed by a long sigh and the rising and falling of his expressive eyebrows. He's not happy with me and would much rather have spent the day outside but sadly, that was not to be.

If someone locates a four-leafed clover, please send it my way.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Little Steps

For all the walking Duncan and I do, places we go together and people we visit, it's the little steps that matter the most, like making the long journey home over the holidays with a little help from some significant friends, Duncan's first swim at Easter, learning to fly a kite, or even the very first day I ventured out and wrote about our walks together. Miles and miles and words and words but despite the mountains we've climbed or paths we've followed, I'm still mindful of the little things, the easily overlooked and all-important details of life, like the ants scurrying across the sidewalk and being careful not to step on them or disturb the amazing little mounds––teeming with all their comings and goings––they erect along the places between sidewalk and grass, entire cities constructed of dust and pebbles, built by blind armies with devotion and hard work. It's the little steps that get us where we're going, one at a time, that make the most difference. For me it was traveling home solo for the first time since getting sick three years ago. Today for Duncan it was standing five feet away from the fountain at the park, big splashes of water slapping the ground around us, some even hitting the bill of my cap or falling on the curling red hair of his back. We sat for quite a long time and I know that soon, some hot, blue afternoon, while the leaguers play ball on the diamonds and the kids skateboard around us, Duncan will take those last little steps into the water and we'll share a moment of joy and triumph, like so many of the others we've shared together.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Shire

I grew up in a very dusty place, dry and arid in Summer, a place where the true definition of humidity is almost unknown. There is a brief period toward the end of May when the mountains turn a surprising shade of green and tall willows sprung up along the banks of the Portneuf and Snake rivers, but most years it fades quickly in June and turns a bland yellow before burning into brown in July and August. I never thought of my hometown as a beautiful place until I took a job at the front desk of a local hotel and overheard tourists remark upon the stark radiance of the wide deserts and the quiet splendor of our narrow, little valley. It took many years of being away from there before I was able to appreciate all the seasons of my hometown for their subtle grace and austere beauty.

It wasn't until I moved to Chicago that I learned what humidity was really like. In fact, I didn't know my own hair curled naturally until my first full day living on the edge of Lake Michigan in Lake Forest. I marveled at the way sheets stayed damp all day and bath towels refused to dry overnight, or how my envelopes seemed to seal themselves and the way, at night, every street lamp held a halo of orange. In August, as school was starting, the last of the lightening bugs were still rising up among the trees and every year I was there I stood outside long into the night and watched their dance, breathing in the deep, loud scent of the lake.

I was never very happy in the Midwest; life was too quiet, too normal, too peaches and cream, milk-and-cookies-before-bed. I compared it to The Shire in Tolkien's Middle Earth, where the Hobbits were content to remain outside of the rest of the world, proud of their ignorance, basking in their perceived, but naive, safety. I was a man of Gondor, where the mountains rose up tall and dangerous, where life was still wild and spontaneous. But it wasn't until Ken and I settled in Denver that I realized how fully that humidity and the scent of the lake had permeated my being, like some sort of odor burnt into your nose or a stain that can't be washed away. There are still moments just before the rain falls, when the clouds are carving their way down the foothills but before the wind arrives, when I stand outside and close my eyes and imagine I'm on the shore of Lake Michigan, the waves lapping against the beach, the smell of fish and wet the deep washing over me.

This morning was the closest I have come to actually being there in nine years. Almost immediately after waking I leashed Duncan and we stepped out into a thick and fragrant mist which obscured the trees in the park, painting them in a sort of rich and mysterious kind of weather-poetry, turning them into something different while making them even more of what they already are. It took my breath away. The fog was heavy; I could feel it moving across my face and after the cars on Bowles passed by and the morning returned to silence, I thought I could hear it prowling through the grass, bending the blades and driving the ants and gnats ahead of it. While Duncan searched out a good spot under one of the short Junipers, I held very still and took long deep breaths and felt myself pulled back to The Shire, where life is not at all bland, but rich and full of meaning and steeped in memory.

I really must go back. It would be nice to walk Duncan along the beach and play with him in the waves, to chase the lightening bugs at sunset and sit with my friends in silence and appreciate the simplicity and quiet of a thick Midwest night and the glowing halos ringing the lamp posts around us.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Happy Dance

There was a moment this afternoon between heavy, gray doldrums, when one field of rippling clouds had moved to the east and the other was only just beginning to creep over the mountains, smudging the strict dark line between rock and sky with pale fluffy fingers, when the sun came out, bursting into a sky so suddenly blue it caught my breath and tickled the hair on my arms and legs. We had swung past the eastern edge of the lake, climbed the hill behind the amphitheater and had raised a ruckus among the local prairie dog population when the sun slid out, igniting the world in golden light. Duncan pulled me into the grass where the leash was wrenched from my hand as he began rolling madly in the green, the leash coiling around him, under him, entwining among his legs, all splayed in the air at all angles, rising and falling at various times like women in some frenetic synchronized swimming competition, if the women were incredibly thin and worse fuzzy red coats and were hopped up on sunshine and pumpkin treats, that is. I watched a portion of his exuberance up close, through the lens of my camera and caught only a portion of the dance as an occasional splash of red against at lush green background, followed by a grin almost maniacal in its joy.

No one knows how to savor a moment like a dog.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Bad Habits and New Friends

I have made a rookie mistake and have allowed Duncan to develop a bad habit, which, it turns out, proves that people are as easily trained as their dog companions.

As the weather has sweetened Duncan has taken longer and longer each morning to tend to his business and as a result I arrive at work later and later. It finally dawned on me that, in a sense, I've been "punishing" him for positive behavior by taking him inside just after he's completed a Big Job. He is a dog who loves to be outside and is not particular about the season or condition. He is just as happy rolling and snorting in the grass as he is sliding across snow and ice. Sometimes, when I'm relaxing in the living room with a cup of tea and a good book––I'm just starting The Shadow of the Wind––or listening to Big Head Todd and the Monsters on the stereo, I can glance up my red boy, sitting in front of the sliding glass doors, and feel my heart break at his longing to be outside. It's the feeling that drove me to suggest we buy a house–– which nearly ended in disaster––so he could have his own yard to run in. And now, three years later, when that dream is a long way off, I indulge him as often as I can, taking him out with me on the patio or even if I have to run to my car to grab something I've forgotten. He goes with me often because of the guilt I feel if I leave him behind.

Our morning ritual has turned unpleasant for the both of us, with Duncan dillying and dallying and taking his sweet time exploring every new scent, investigating every possible blade of grass while I stand over him, arms crossed impatiently and curse down at him in an effort to get him to poop. Poop now! Now! Poop, I say. Poop now! No one could perform under those conditions and so he takes his time, prolonging his stay outside, basking in whatever color sky or kind of weather the universe has tossed our way because he knows the second he's done and I've scooped it up in my handy green baggy he'll be whisked back inside where he'll sit and brood in the window watching the world pass by until I come home nine hours later.

Bad Papa! Bad! Bad! Bad!

And so we've begun a new strategy. We don't walk in the morning. We stand in one place and wait for the transaction to be completed. Only then do we walk. And this morning we met up with Toby (and his companion, whose name I not only don't know but haven't bothered to ask. I can name most of the dogs here and in the park but with the exception of Melissa, none of their guardians). Toby is a Golden, the same age as Duncan, who from a distance, looks exactly like him. Duncan's hair is a little more coarse and has more wave to it, but the color is spot on. Duncan and Toby took to each other like brothers, and while Toby's dad and I stood around and talked about The Ponds and the dog park at Chatfield Reservoir, they scampered and sprang back and forth like fawns in the high grass. I'm hoping we can make this a regular morning occurrence because I'm sure we'd break this nasty habit in no time at all.*Okay, so it's not the best picture of Toby and Duncan, caught as they are in a rather awkward moment, but it's the only one I could manage with my cell phone. I hope there will be more soon.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Green and Gray

The best thing one can do when it's raining is to let it rain.
(Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)

It is lush and green and fragrant out, but the sky is low and gray and has spat rain in intervals throughout the day. Duncan and I moped together on the couch, his head resting on my ankles while I alternated between finishing up a book––Thirteen Moons, a perfect gray day read, beautiful and melodious and as lyrical as the patter of raindrops against my windows––and knitting the blanket I foolishly vowed to have completed by the end of Summer. Neither of us could quite wake up or summon the energy to do much beyond eat breakfast and laze about. The rain, from our side of the windows, was a crushing way to end the long weekend, which has been as sweet as strawberry juice and busy, too. Figuring we'd both go insane with longing, we made the most of it and ventured out into the park to play in the mist, dampening our feet and chilling us only slightly. We played despite the wet, rolling in the grass and running, kicking up wakes of water as we passed. Duncan was not content until his ears were soaked and the hair on the tall point of his head stood up in spikes, until blades of grass had collected like a wreath in the chinks of his collar. My jeans were soaked and my hands pink and cold but it didn't matter because we'd found a way to enjoy the afternoon in our own pleasant way, splashing the puddles and smiling into the place where we knew the sun shone even though we could not see his face.

Sunday, May 25, 2008


Finally a beautiful day. Finally a walk in the park without a jacket or keeping a watchful eye on the clouds spilling down from the mountains, turning them white until they're almost gone entirely. Not mountains at all but the memory of them. Finally sunshine and the smell of dew on grass and dandelions and bark. Finally a day when wishing from behind windows paid off, when the breeze was warm and the park was our own again, blessedly silent except for the birds and the softness of their flitterings through the trees, the dancing jingle of Duncan dragging his leash behind him as he chased after his ball.

A million dollars would be nice. A small house with a big yard would be a dream come true. Even having someone to do my chores would seem glorious. But if I had to wish on a dandelion I'd ask for more mornings like this.
Exactly like this.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Roiled Sky

From sunshine to snow to tornadoes, the week in weather has certainly been interesting. Today could not decide quite what it wanted to be. Our first walk of the morning was bright and clear if only a little brisk with a taste of sun still to come. By afternoon the sky has turned ragged, the wind had picked up and because the temperatures dropped I closed all the windows and settled on the couch with a blanket. By evening, though, when we took out last walk, our sunset walk, it had warmed back up and the as the clouds pulled away the sky did amazing tricks for us. We settled on the hillside in The Glen, Duncan and I laying on our backs, the grass cool against my neck and bare feet, watching our small patch of sky roil past. When the fading sun caught the top of the clouds and illuminated them in gold against a pink background of churning vapor, we hurried to the park where we stood on the hillside overlooking the lake and watched the sky change minute to minute. Even Duncan seemed transfixed by the endless shifting and the warm wind that caught in his red ears and tail. It was amazing to see.

Friday, May 23, 2008


There is a fountain in the park, not far from the baseball diamonds, a simple thing really, that sends low towers of water, maybe ten or twelve in all, shooting up from the floor of a small, simple cement courtyard. I discovered it last Summer shortly after we moved in, when the nights had begun to cool off and the days were slipping into darkness earlier and earlier. On hot afternoons I watched as barefoot children and dogs danced through the columns of rippling and cascading water, parents and companions gathered around to smile and clap their approval. Duncan has never enjoyed getting wet, going so far as to sidestep even the smallest of puddles on our daily walks. He'd eyed the thing nervously last year but I'd hoped that after his spectacular swimming escapade on Easter that he'd be willing to at least investigate it. Today was the first day the water has been on since August and as we approached it, I noticed he hung back, falling directly behind me, as if to keep me as a barrier against even the smallest of drops or the mist that was carried away by the wind. When I turned and stepped aside to let him see it, he stepped right with me, staying behind me, not even wanting to look at the thing. I faked right then quickly hopped left only to turn and see he hadn't been phased at all and was still shielded from it. After several minutes of coaxing and faking and pulling he grew tired of my antics and grabbed the leash in his jaw and began pulling me away. For once I was the uncooperative one not doing as I should. He pulled and reeled me in exactly as I collect the slack when we near the baby bunnies. He would have none of it and slowly but surely pulled me well out of range and back toward the safety of the grass where, exhausted and relieved, he collapsed and refused to look directly at me.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


Duncan has never been groomed. Not professionally, anyway. He gets regular baths and a fair share of brushing, but recently I've started pricing groomers and browsing Craigslist for someone who could do it inexpensively without having to kennel him. When I mentioned this to Chelsea at Heroes Pets, she suggested I try the Oster Rake. We'd talked brushes once before, but because her store doesn't carry The Furminator I thought she didn't know a brush from a blender and didn't pay much attention to her. But when she opened up a Rake and let me take it home to try it out, I was forced, once again, to admit that when it comes to pets and all that comes with them, Chelsea knows best. The rake was the most amazing brush I've ever used! With only six or seven very light passes over Duncan's back I pulled up more undercoat hair than I would've had I spent an hour using my rinky-dink and suddenly inadequate Furminator. And as if to sweeten the deal, Duncan sat calmly while I brushed him. There was no chasing him around the apartment or sitting and trying to brush him while he attempts to lick my hand. I didn't even have to crack open his treats as a bribe. He merely sat, and at one point even seemed to doze off. Granted, The Rake is a pricey little number ($42.99) but maybe Santa will be nice next year and stick one in Duncan's stocking if he's good and promises to only look at the bunnies. I must have one. And so must you. It is simply the most amazing brush I've ever used. Now if only Oster had something that made giving baths easier!
*This clump is the result of seven trips across his shoulders alone. How many dogs is he hiding in there?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Desperation and Oblivion

Duncan did not do his business this morning, not for me, then not for Ken, then, assuring that I'd be very late for work, not for me again. And so he spent the better part of the day dealing with that. By the time I got home at 5:30 he was more than willing to cooperate, doing his little dance in front of the door, following me around and clutching at my wrist to lead me back outside. He was almost unendurable as I sat and put on my tennis shoes, whining and barking, shuffling back and forth between my chair and my legs, knocking the shoe off my foot and getting tangled in the laces. When I was finally suited up and was ready to go he couldn't sit still long enough for me to put the leash on so I kept commanding him to sit, only to get halfway through fastening it when he'd jump up and wind himself around me, the leash trailing behind and winding around my legs. After several minutes I finally got him ready to go and no sooner was the door open than he bounded outside, dragging me behind. Normally it takes some time and work to get things moving but not tonight. Barely had we cleared the breezeway before he was squatting, sans the careful sniffing to select the perfect spot or his regular spins and numerous shuffles back and forth. I stood looking down on him, shaking my head, and only after about ten seconds or so did I see the rabbit, too terrified to move, crouched down low in the grass not three feet away from Dunc. I held my breath and waited, slowly reeling in his hemp leash should he spot it and lunge. But he didn't see it, not even after he'd finished his Big Job and was kicking the grass out behind him. The rabbit, close to being stepped on, sensed its peril and seemed to weigh its options: either run and risk being noticed and nabbed or stay put, hunkered down low, ears pressed back against its brown and gray body and try not to get stepped on. Even after Duncan moved away and I pulled the leash in close and said, "Duncan, where's the bunny?" he didn't see it, looking instead at the place we visit every morning and night to watch the baby bunnies as they feed in the clover against the hedge on a neighboring building. Once it became clear the dog was a complete and utter moron, the rabbit took three or four careful hops and vanished into the shrubs, unnoticed by my genius dog.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Thisway and Otherway

Unless you're standing at the edge of a lake on a very clear and very calm day, there is an Otherway world that can easily be overlooked. Even then, unless the stillness happens to catch your attention, you can walk right by it and not even know its there. But if the warm breeze holds its breath and listens long enough, if the clouds above strain to catch its reflection, you can stand for hours and gaze into it. It's a place not quite like our own––for if it were, it would not be worth mentioning at all––where the colors play together, where sometimes green is yellow and yellow can be blue, and the way they dance and mingle is evidence of magic. Rays of sunshine hum the tune and the heartbeat of the moon marks time, and together their music keeps the sideways world in motion. Our heaven is their earth and the flowers and trees sprout out of the constellations and grow in a winding and gently undulating line downward, a green canopy for clouds and clouds for mountains.If you stand long enough, a dog at your side, not pulling on the leash but sitting and watching the far shore where the ducks and geese mingle below the tall yellow reeds where the darting black birds perch, the place where the two worlds meet is little more than a line, and soon even it fades as your vision grows blurred and you feel the pull of that silent moon music deep inside your bones, pulling your muscles, tickling sinew and flesh until you're not sure which world you belong to at all, which feels more like home. But then, eventually the breeze will grow tired of waiting for you to make your choice and will whisper the truth, rippling that line, breaking that neat little window and forcing you back into your own shoes on the sandy shore where you've been standing hypnotized, your good dog still at your side, waiting as if you never left at all.

Monday, May 19, 2008

More Than the Day Has to Offer

"...But night, the reserved, the reticent, gives more than it takes." (John Ashbery)

Duncan and I ventured out after the sun had set and the sky had turned ocean-dark and the clouds rippled across its vast expanse like waves rolling toward the moon. The night was almost quiet, its stillness broken only by the sharp crack of ball and bat from the baseball fields across the street and the soft buzz and hum of the cheering crowd. It was a perfect night for walking, a lazy walk, an admire-the-moon or wish-upon-a-star kind of walk. The moon, still low in the west was half obscured by the clouds and rose tenderly over them, casting her glow across their long tendrils, a golden streak that smudged the night far to the south. While Duncan sniffed for the baby bunnies which have sprung up all over the place and sit in the shadows of the tall grass like large furry Brussels Sprouts, I turned my head back and breathed in the not-so-distant scent of Summer rising up from the heat of the parking lot and the grass--already in need of another trim--all around us. I'd donned my flip flops and the cool blades felt good against my warm feet, which felt tight and unnatural, like bread left out too long. But it felt good to be out with him, shuffling alongside me, the two of us sauntering through the grass, wrapped up in the quiet, less spectacular side of Spring, taking as much, if not more, than the day has to offer.

*Because I can't take a picture of the moon, this image courtesy of

Sunday, May 18, 2008


I don't care what you say, you won't be able to convince me otherwise, but I do believe I have the most handsome dog in all the world. Morning light and Blossom Spring suit him well!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Blossom Spring

To her fair works did Nature link
The human soul that through me ran;
And much it grieved my heart to think
What Man has made of Man.

Through primrose tufts, in that sweet bower,
The periwinkle trailed its wreaths;
And 'tis my faith that every flower
Enjoys the air it breathes.

The birds around me hopped and played,
Their thoughts I cannot measure -
But the least motion which they made
It seemed a thrill of pleasure.

The budding twigs spread out their fan
To catch the breezy air;
And I must think, do all I can,
That there was pleasure there.
(from Written in Early Spring by William Wordsworth)

Today as we skirted the lake and turned south into Lilley Gulch, where the willows have filled out nicely and the brook is running clear and steady, I realized four seasons are not enough. There is a time, an in-between period, when Spring is not just Spring but Summer also, and, as we've experienced this past week on the edge of the flowering and vibrant Rockies, Winter, too. The blossoms in the trees have faded and fallen, but the grass, freshly cut and fragrant, is thick and a kind of green that will not last long. The warm, left-over days of Summer that have bled into Autumn have been named Indian Summer so why shouldn't these bright days with perfect temperatures and cool breezes not have a name? Indian Spring, maybe? Or Blossom Spring? These days are unique, caught as they are between the rain and damp of April, and the searing heat that browns and dries the world in June and July. This is the time when the trees flower and rain petals on the earth, when the wind is still strong enough to hold a kite, but not cold or boisterous. The Russian Olives along the shores of the lake and the bank of the stream are beginning to bloom and it will only be a matter of weeks before their glorious, lemon-buttery sweetness fills the air and is carried across the fields on the breeze. The still-budding trees are just learning to cast shadows as they practice the art of making cool, gray shade. This is when baby rabbits, prairie dogs and foxes emerge from their nesting spots and venture out into the grass, ears pert and big, eyes as wide as the world they're seeing for the first time.

And each day we walk, Duncan and I stumble upon something new––splashing our feet in the creek, gazing for long moments at the ants and their big shadows as they rush across the cement and into the wilds of the grass, marveling at the jungle-like Sumac that springs up along fence lines. We have no choice but to stop and savor the bounty that has exploded into our world, searing our senses with tranquility and the joy of our most pleasant and vivid flying dreams.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Strange, Little Red Thing

There are times, if only for brief seconds, when I look at Duncan and I can still very clearly see the puppy he once was, in the shape of his head with the tall point on top, the way he raises his eyebrows and looks at me when I talk to him, or the wiggle of his hips when he walks, and especially when he does that thing he does every afternoon when I get home from work: jumping up on the bed and pushing his face against the comforter, first on one side, then the other, back and forth, ear flopping back and forth as he snorts and makes whiny little grunting noises, his paws splayed out in front of him, his back end up in the air, tail swishing.

On Friday, December 24th, 2004, Duncan was still relatively new to us when I wrote in my journal:
He's adorable beyond words, this red little thing that's found its way into our lives. Somehow, the other night, he taught himself how to hug and kept climbing up behind me, one paw on each shoulder as he leaned his head into me. It was unexpected comfort and meant more because I'd just scolded him for biting me, a lesson in unconditional love.

He's three times as big as when he found us a month ago and will only get bigger. I like him this size though, when he can curl up on my lap like one of the cats, his bunny hanging from his mouth. It's a good thing he's so cute because at times his behavior can be anything but. But his amble is magnificent, and the little sniff and squat and spin and squat when he poops, and his soft voice, his big, strange paws and the slow, gangly way he uses them to climb onto the couch. He is as amazing to me now as he is challenging and I think we'll keep him.

I feel I can never do enough for him, like there's always more I can give him and teach him.

He is a beautiful boy and I've loved him since the moment I first saw him and he winked at me.
I miss that puppy terribly, but the dog he has become is far more than I ever expected or ever thought I deserved.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


There was absolutely nothing remarkable about our walk this afternoon. It was another cold, dreary day with small breaks between storms and clouds, which have amassed over the mountains and spilled down on us in unending increments for the past week. The grass is green but the ground beneath it is soggy and makes sucking noises when stepped on. The soccer parents have gathered despite the weather, wrapped in blankets and huddled together, or sometimes sitting alone in their cars talking on their phones while their children slide through the wet muck that is the playing fields. The kids are determined and some of their dedication seems to have rubbed off on a few parents. Today as Duncan pulled me down the sidewalk, past the running cars, around various trees and garbage cans, winding between the few milling parents, we passed a couple who were leaning into one another, their hands intertwined while they watched whichever running, splashing, kicking child was theirs. They were ordinary in every way and it wasn't until we'd moved down the sidewalk and turned toward the empty baseball diamonds that I noticed what wasn't even worth noticing: they were both women. Fifteen years ago it would've caused a stir not only in this conservative, middle-class Mormon corner of Denver but in much of the country as well. And here they were, not flaunting anything, not turning their love for each other into a political statement, not protesting or picketing; they were simply standing together watching their child play soccer, doing exactly as all the other parents were doing. But the part that does deserve attention, was that no one seemed to care. Not in the slightest bit. In a sense they were like Duncan, who doesn't seem to notice that he has two daddies (actually he has only one, Ken. I'm his Papa). Duncan only cares that he has someone to love him and someone to love in return, which, I think, is what most of us want. In that sense we are all exactly alike.

*Images borrowed from
Animal Clinic Calgary and Google Images

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Styles With Which We've Grown Accustomed

When I was very young my mother and sister and I lived away from my grandparents and the rest of the family so trips home were special occasions. My grandmother and I were quite close and even after nearly four years there is not a day that goes by when I'm not keenly aware of her absence. Even as a child I knew that we shared a bond that––although not any stronger or more valuable than her relationships with her other grandchildren––was unique and powerful. I was thinking of one of her favorite stories, which involved my departure from Idaho Falls with Casey and my mother. We'd spent a long weekend with Grandma and Grandpa and when the time came to leave I was beside myself with grief. As we said our good-byes in the front yard I began to cry and became inconsolable. My mother practically had to drag me into the car, where even as we drove away I was racked with sobs. Several blocks from their home, Mom finally asked me what was wrong. "I didn't get to kiss Grandma's knees goodbye," I blubbered. My mother had no choice but to turn the car around and take me back where I did indeed hug and kiss my grandmother's knees.

* * * * *

There are mornings when leaving the apartment is almost unbearable, when Winnie and Pip are curled up in nice little balls around me on the bed, when Duncan is stretched out between us sleeping soundly and Olive blinks her eyes open when the alarm sounds and I stir. She takes turns sleeping on our two pillows and this morning when I turned and tried to get up she reached out her paw and touched my forehead as if trying to push me back down into a warm, blankety slumber. But the shower and tea beckoned and so I rolled out from under the covers and moved down the hall. The kettle took its time coming to a boil and it seemed the shower , too, was lazy in warming up. The sky was gray and even after the blinds had been drawn the morning light was still low and dim. I sat on the couch a long while, my big red blanket pulled up around my chin wondering if I'd ever manage to wake up. Everything seemed to urge me back to bed and although I was more than willing to go I knew I had to go to work in order to keep the animals in the lifestyle with which they've grown accustomed. Duncan was warm and cuddly outside and refused to venture too far from my side. We walked lazily along the edge of the property, each step in the wet grass a long sigh. When I brought him inside he sat in the doorway, cocked his head and frowned at me. I knelt down and he fell against me, licking my still damp hair. He smelled of morning, sweet like citrus and strawberries, and was as warm as a pillow. He did not want me to go and I did not want to. But I grabbed my bag and keys, kissed him on the head and locked the door behind me.

I crossed the parking lot and climbed into my cold car where I sat a few moments while the wipers pushed the water off the windshield. The sweet, licorice mint steam from my mug rose up and coated the windows so I turned on the air until they were clear. I backed the car from my spot and just as I was about to pull away I glanced at the bedroom window where the blue curtains I'd forgotten to pull hung long and limp. There was a rustling and then a sweet red nose appeared. I watched as Duncan pushed his head under the curtain and back out of his face. He sat there watching me watch him. I smiled and put the car into drive just as he reared back and placed both paws against the glass, his head still cocked, the frown still on his face.

That was all it took. I pulled over, left the car running and went back inside where he was waiting for me at the door. We laid down on the carpet and hugged and while his tail wagged and thumped loudly against the tile, he licked my arms and hands, then my head and face. When he was satisfied he climbed to his feet and plopped himself up on the couch, content at last.

Being late for work because the dog won't poop is one thing. Being late because he needed extra love is something else entirely. I'd gladly do it every morning without remorse or shame, for while I'm supporting him in the style with which he's grown accustomed, he's just as busy supporting me in mine.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


Since moving from southeast Idaho to Fargo, North Dakota several years ago, my grandma has lived at Bethany Homes, a community for seniors. From what I hear it's a nice place and Grandma is quite popular among the staff and residents. She's a sharp and witty woman who easily makes others laugh. It's been difficult being so far away from her especially during her recent troubles. Most of the ideas I have about elder care and nursing homes come from Dateline, 20/20 and films about such places so it's sometimes difficult to reconcile what my father tells me about the place and what I've learned from the media. But, I try to be accepting and trusting until proven otherwise, and I can't believe my father would allow Grandma to live in a place that doesn't treat her with respect and great care.

Tonight after a lengthy and difficult discussion about her circumstances with my father I was relieved to learn that Bethany has provided their residents with dogs who act as a sort of community companion. My father told me about Simba, a very old, very shaggy and very fat Golden Retriever who spent many years loving and being loved by the residents. He told me how several months ago he and Grandma were walking around and stumbled upon Simba, who was dozing lazily in the lobby or some such place. Grandma reached down and scratched Simba's ears and said, "Good dog." Simba raised her head and rested it gently on my grandmother's foot, an act I am well-accustomed to with my own friends, Pip, Winnie, Olive and Duncan. Quite often one of them will stretch out a paw and touch me, or lean their head on me while sleeping, a sort of "Just being sure of you," gesture that is tender and precious, a simple and quiet act of trust and gratitude. Simba's kindness and generosity of spirit to my grandmother meant the world to me.

Simba recently passed away and the community gathered to say their farewells to her. Although Grandma attended she soon forgot all about it. I wanted to make sure that Simba's memory lived on. I took Duncan for a walk this evening and although there was much on my mind and my heart was heavy, Duncan was slow and kind and stayed close to me, sometimes stopping and just looking at me in that way he has, the way that's gotten me through so many difficult times. And when we got home and I curled up on the bed to watch the snow and rain clouds pull away and reveal a gray-blue evening sky, he curled up next to me and rested his chin on my shoulder, breathing softly against my cheek. He knows when things are tough and looks after me. Although I don't know much else about Simba, I know she must've been a remarkable dog to be loved by so many people at such an important and challenging part of their lives. And if grandma called her a good dog, then she certainly was one.

Godspeed, Simba. You will be missed.

Monday, May 12, 2008

On Command

My morning walks with Duncan are my favorite. He's still a bit groggy and bed-headed, takes a lot of time stretching and doing his doggy yoga (Downward and Upward Dog are his favorite positions), is playful but does as he's supposed to do. We don't use the leash in the mornings and he manages to stay close by my side. The one thing he won't do in the morning, though is poop in a timely manner, which quite make me late for work. We'll walk the length of the property and while I watch the birds perched on top of the buildings or keep an eye open for bunnies, Dunc sniffs along the patios and the fence, taking special care to inspect every tree and clump of thick, dewey grass in between. He pees right off the bat but he has to work himself up to the Big Job. I've started carrying treats with me and rewarding him with them, along with extra ear scritches and loves in the hope of teaching him to poop on command, but it's one lesson we're having difficulty with. To be fair, I'd find it hard to poop with someone breathing down my neck, too. There's something vulnerable about dogs when they squat, an uncomfortable, exposed and almost shameful look on their faces as they go so I try accommodate Duncan as best as I can, turning my back and whistling while he tends to business, but he still needs plenty of time. I would, too, I'm sure, what with all the traffic and the open yard and the bright sunshine or cold grass on my sensitive parts. I don't blame him, I just wish I wasn't late for work every morning.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Flashback: Mom and Skeeter

While Duncan took a few tentative steps in the small creek that runs through Lilley Gulch this morning––his first since his spectacular swim on Easter afternoon––I remembered my childhood dog, Skeeter, a large, hairy and tenacious Cocker Spaniel who may have been part Wookiee. Skeet was the first dog in Idaho to survive Parvo, had been shot in the back, ate an entire triple layer chocolate birthday cake, jumped out of the back of a moving truck and was under one when my former step-dad ran over him, crushing his hip. But he hung on for twelve years and was a good dog––albeit not the best-smelling one––up until the end.

While Duncan waded and licked the cool stream, I remembered the time my family, including the step-siblings, went camping at the Blackfoot Reservoir in southeast Idaho. We'd set up camp not far from one of the docks but far enough way that we were protected from the the smell of the thick, green water. That summer, a particularly warm one, the top of the entire lake was covered in an algae so thick and foul-smelling it prevented us from swimming and left a heavy coat of green fur on anything that came into contact with it.

The seven of us were standing on the edge of the dock waiting to climb into the boat for an afternoon of fishing when Skeeter took a running jump and did an enormous belly-flop into the water. He'd never swam before and we were all a bit anxious to see what he'd do. Dogs are natural swimmers, right? Surely he'd know what to do. He didn't swim, that's for sure. There was a moment he seemed to sit on the surface, perhaps by the sheer thickness of the algae, and then slowly, very slowly began to sink, slipping under the surface until all that remained was a floating mass of formerly blond, now quite green hair. It hung for a moment, drifting lazily under the sun before it was finally pulled down into the muck. We stood frozen and silent, waiting for him to surface, but after several long seconds of silence the dock erupted into a frenzy with the kids darting back and forth, screaming and crying in a panic. Dan just sort of sat in the boat watching and waiting. It was my mother who finally took control. She pulled off her enormous sunglasses, handed them to me, along with her soda and Marlboro 100's then kicked off her shoes.

"Hold these," she said.

"Why? What are you doing?" I stammered, glancing from her to the wretched and foul boat-landing water.

"I'm going in," she told me.

"In there?" I gasped. Apparently the water was foul enough that I'd rather have risked my dog's life than put myself into it.

"What if he came up under the dock?" Mom said. "I've got to get to him!" She bent at the hips, kept her back straight, leaned forward but just as she prepared to dive Skeeter surfaced, fifteen or so feet away. We jumped up and shouted encouragement at him and he turned, his long blond hair now green and matted around his face. He paddled furiously toward us and when he reached the dock Mom and Dan leaned over and heaved him up, where he immediately shook himself silly.

No one would have much to do with poor Pete-Pete––as we sometimes called him––for the rest of the trip. But I do remember being locked in the camper with him on the unending drive home, the windows open and five little faces pressed against the screens trying to catch some clean, fresh air.

Happy Mother's Day, Mom. Thanks for being a hero to dogs! Skeeter certainly appreciated it, and I know you'd do the same for Duncan today. Or maybe instead of handing me your things you'd simply offer to take mine. I love you.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Prairie Dog

Not only is Spring fickle and shy, but she can't quite decide what she wants to be. One minute she's a flirting, free-spirited friend, the next she a dour and pouting child. This morning her skies were grim and low then they blued up and the wind died when she shut her mouth and held her breath. From the patio I could see the kites rolling lazy figure eights on the hill above the trees. Duncan sat in the window most of the day, his chin resting on the ledge, staring glumly outside at the gray and rain but once the clouds drifted past the sun he'd turn and glare at me with sharp, accusatory eyes, as if reprimanding me for not jumping at the chance to take him out. I was lazy today and didn't trust the weather to last more than a few minutes. But when Spring finally got her mood under control and the afternoon leveled off, we ventured down the back side of the park to Prairie Dog Town on the hillside behind the high school. We sat a long time watching the barking little dogs watch us. Duncan has never taken much interest in them, with their flattened bodies crouched down in their burrows, only the tips of their noses visible, but today I couldn't tear him away. He sat in the soft dirt, his tail thumping the grass behind him each time they squeaked their little bird-like curses at us. If I weren't quite so paranoid about the fact that the fleas on these very same prairie dogs tested positive for the plague last summer, I'd let him romp and crash through their little suburb, chase them under ground and have a merry old time. As it is, simply watching him enjoy them is enough for me.

Friday, May 9, 2008


There comes a point in May when it seems Spring isn't quite able to sustain itself. The thick purple and white blossoms, which only a week ago exploded in a brilliance there are no words for, have begun to fade and slip from the trees, replaced by leaves, curled up like new butterfly wings and too delicate to offer shade or shelter. Duncan and I stood at The Mound today, the slight hill, crowned with chokecherry trees, elm and pine, and watched the wind pull the bright blossoms from the branches and scatter them in the air around us where they hovered and finally rained earthward, spinning and turning softly as they fell at our feet. The grass, still new and thickening, is being carpeted over by purple and white, and specks of gold where the dandelions peek through. The sky clouded over and fine mist like rain fell, igniting such rich smells that I could only stand, eyes closed breathing the rich Spring fragrance while the petals alighted on my cheeks and Duncan's back. If only such moments could be repeated and our world was one where trees continually flowered and rained blossoms about us. I suppose it's the impermanence of Spring that makes it so joyful. Tomorrow we may not walk under a canopy of colors but a magnificent carpet will have been laid out for us, fresh and redolent. And that will a bliss just as kind as today's.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Look Up

This is what I think. I think the universe made kites so that every now and then, if only for a few, brief minutes, we have to look up.

I'd completely forgotten about them until a few months ago when I stood on the edge of the park on a cold and windy afternoon watching a child gaze up at the kite, dancing in the wind and tethered to him by a long line. It was a magical moment for me, like discovering a new photograph of a loved one long since gone. A piece of my childhood re-opened to me that night and I've stood transfixed by the kites at the park nearly every afternoon since. Some of them are enormous and cut the sky like a boat leaving a wake behind it. They sizzle as the air catches them and jerks them back and forth. But it's not just the big ones; the little ones, the cheap Wal-Mart variety, are just as magical. Last week Duncan and I stood near the playground watching a toddler, maybe two, hold a line attached to what appeared to be a green plastic Burger King bag which darted and jerked only seven or eight feet above her head.

This afternoon we sat in the soft clover at the top of the park watching a single flier ballet dance his kite above us. For long moments it sat motionless and silent in the air, like a strange jellyfish which has ceased to throb and swim and sits, floating in silence, contemplating nothing. But then he would pull on one of the thick lines and send it careening straight at us, only to veer away a few feet above our heads. I gaped and actually clapped when he finally let it come to a rest on the ground fifty feet away.

"Can I ask you a question?" I asked, climbing to my feet and walking across the field toward him. "What is it about flying kites, about coming out here every afternoon, that you love so much?"

He smiled the kind of smile that told me he'd been asked this question a thousand times and yet, when he answered it didn't seem rehearsed or as though it had been his response on a thousand previous sunny afternoons. It seemed to come from his heart and after he told me, "Because every time is like the first time," I wanted to ask him again and again to see why else he stood at the top of the park each day as the sun drew down close to the mountains, painting them bluer than the sky. Because it's like dancing with my first love. Because it's like fishing for the wind. Because it makes me feel like I don't need to dream about or wish I could fly. Any one of them would've fed me but it was, "Because every time is like the first time," that made me smile.

"I'm Mark," he said, holding out a weather hand.

"Curt," I said. "This is Duncan."

Mark scratched Duncan's head and stared at him a long moment, like he was reading. "Good dog," he finally said. "I see the two of you here every day." And then he handed me the reins. "Would you like to try it?" Before I could even respond he took Duncan's leash. "Don't worry," he told me. "He'll be safe."

I'd barely sputtered before I found myself getting a crash course in power kite flying. "Back is go, forward is the brakes. Pull hard left to go left, right to go right. Make it do lazy infinities," he said and I knew that somewhere in him lurked a poet, someone who sees the world simultaneously for what it is and what it isn't but could be.

And then there I was, fastened to four thick heavy lines, pulling back hard and watching the kite fill with air and rise above me. Almost immediately I felt the tremendous tug, then power of the wind and it rose and rose, then turned on its side. I was pulled forward and had to jog to keep up. My arms trembled and I realized I was holding my breath. With a grin I took a gulp of air and yanked the cord in my left hand, spinning the kite in the other direction, sweeping it down low to the ground, then wrenching the right cord, almost behind me. My elbows were back, my chest forward like some super hero proudly displaying the symbol on his chest. The kite whipped up, turned sharply and headed in the opposite direction. Mark was encouraging me, calling out instructions and I heard Duncan bark as I was pulled sharply to the side. Mark had let go of his leash and Duncan was running circles around me then darting away, chasing the kite's huge shadow in lazy infinities across the grass. Mark laughed and patted me on the shoulder. I don't know how long I stood there guiding the kite back and forth across the sun, the rush of it filling my ears, cutting through my body. It was like fishing with Grandma. It was like dancing to my favorite song. It was like hugging an old friend I haven't seen in a very long time, receiving a note from a secret admirer, climbing the driveway at my mother's house and seeing the Christmas lights up, waking up to sunshine and kisses. It was like the taste of lemon sherbet on a hot day, the feeling of leaning your arm out the car window and undulating your hand up and down in the wind. It was like when Phil Simmons, one of my college writing mentors, compared my junior writing project to Faulkner. It was like the first time I walked the streets of Chicago and looked up at the John Hancock Building and the Sears Tower. It was like being in the fourth grade and standing next to Paul Hunt, my best friend, and watching our two very small and very cheap kites climb into the sky behind Edahow Elementary. I tasted my childhood and could not believe how long it had been since I'd driven a needle into the vein of the sky and rushed its currents.

It was a marvelous thing. I can still feel the shake and throttle and the ground, no longer quite as permanent under my feet. This walk, this day, was good. I'm still flying.

"Throw your dreams into space like a kite,
and you do not know what it will bring back,
a new life, a new friend, a new love, a new country." (Anais Nin)

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Bully Stick

It stormed heavily last night, with bed-shaking thunder and flashes of lightning long and brilliant enough to read by. All four of the children slept with us, pushing Ken and I off to the far edges of the bed where we teetered and fought for blankets, bunching them in our fists and holding them under our chins in a vain effort to claim some for ourselves. Duncan slept soundly at the foot of the bed but I awoke several times to find him steadily munching on his Bully Stick. Unlike Ashley and Nikki, who were so afraid of our Illinois storms they actually dug a hole through the wall to reach the crawl space under the house, Duncan has never been afraid of thunder. Last night's storm was pretty intense, though, and when I woke up to discover the stick had been gnawed down to its last inch, I wondered if he'd chewed on it to alleviate some anxiety. He's not normally a chewer but tends to lick things instead––socks, sweatshirts, comforters, carpet, quite often until there are holes in them. Because he liked the stick so much I walked him down to Hero's this afternoon, braving yet another rain shower on the way. He plodded along, merrily hitting each of the puddles, taking extra time at trees and shrubs, rolling in the wet grass, oblivious to the rain. By the time we reached the store, though, the sun had come out and Chelsea was ready with another stick for him. He pranced around, head high, the sick clutched between his teeth. He even carried it all the way home, which almost never happens.

Ah, the lengths we go to to keep our friends happy.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Stationary Path

Before I leave, almost without noticing,
before I cross the road and head toward

what I have intentionally postponed—

Let me stop to say a blessing for these woods:
for crows barking and squirrels scampering,
for trees and fungus and multi-colored leaves,

for the way sunlight laces with shadows
through each branch and leaf of tree,
for these paths that take me in,
for these paths that lead me out
(A Blessing for the Woods, Michael S. Glaser)

There are three large trees that grow on the edge of the property between the fence and the street. They are enormous things, perhaps six feet in diameter at the bottom of their gnarled trunks. Quite often Duncan stops at the foot of each and cranes his neck up to catch a glimpse of the countless squirrels which play and lounge and live there. Although they are still naked on top, last week's cold and snow spurred some growth and I don't think it'll be long before the sidewalk and street are bathed in their heavy shade.

It's long been a fantasy of mine to not only live in a tree but to somehow build a village at the top of some mighty wood, like something out of Tolkein or Star Wars. As a child I spent hours reclining under the tall trees on the campus of Idaho State University envisioning tiny people with their tiny roads built across wide boughs and branches winding their way up to the suburban quiet on the edge of the furthest and highest of leaves.

Last Summer Duncan and I lounged in the long grass at their trunks and I lost myself gazing up at them, all those fantasies and memories rushing through my imagination again. Today we stopped for the first time since then. Duncan tends to grow restless if we stop in one place too long, ever eager to sniff and lay claim to new territory, but at the base of a tree he is content, his eyes sweeping every nook and cranny for real and imagined squirrels. I knelt down next to the thick elephant skin bark and studied the ants crawling across the gouged surface, following the lines and ridges like cars traversing the mountain and valley roadways. They are magnificent things, these trees. Following their paths is almost as good as walking, like moving without moving, flying over vast and intricate landscapes from the safety of the ground.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Foot Therapy

This is what you do when your feet hurt after a long day of standing on them at work. No matter how badly you think this is the night you can skip walking the dog and settle for a quick lap around the yard, no matter how angry and how vocal your feet are, ignore them. Leash the dog, put on a nice pair of flip flops or something that can easily be kicked free. Take him to the park where the kickball league is apparently celebrating Olivia Newton-John 80's aerobic costume night (I haven't seen this many pairs of extremely short shorts on men since last year's Gay Pride parade!). Kick the flip flops off (back in the day we used to call them "thongs," but I fear using that term as it now means something entirely different!) and bathe your toes in the long tall grass. It'll feel cool at first, and if it's slightly damp from a light afternoon sprinkle, it'll be even better, like sitting with a pack of frozen peas or corn on them. The grass will tickle and soothe as only fresh Spring grass can. It'll be the best therapy you can find.

How pleasant to be a dog in the Spring and tromp the fields and puddles barefoot!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Feeling Good

"Birds flying high––you know how I feel
Sun in the sky––you know how I feel
Breeze driftin' on by you know how I feel

It's a new dawn
It's a new day
It's a new life for me
And I'm feeling good..."
(Leslie Briccuse & Anthony Newley, as performed by Nina Simone)

There is a spot, a secret place somewhere between Here and Now, Way-Back-When and Someday-Soon, a cozy place under the purple-flowered boughs where, if the sun is shining from the most perfect spot in the quiet morning sky, if the air is warm and the butterflies are flittering in just the right way across the grass and clover, time stands still and all the magic and music of the world can open up to you. You can spend an afternoon laying under the flowers looking up at a sky-blue sky listening to the bees drone from above, feeling the subtle tickle of a single ant crawling across a bare foot, your head resting on the belly of your good, red dog, rising and falling as his heart thumpa-thumps gently only inches away. It is a perfect place, this hideaway where all that matters is now and there are no worries of how long you've been away or when you should be heading back. If you're ever here with me in the Spring time, I'll be sure to take you. Even if you don't ask. You should see it. It will make your spirit sing.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

After All

I'd like to be able to say the belly issues are behind us. We had four good walks today, a trip to Costco and Vitamin Cottage, a walk down to Hero's for a visit with Aunt Chelsea, who loaded us up with Bee Pollen and a long chewy stick (which, it turns out, is all that remains of a bull's penis. I'll have fun explaining that one to Ken. I'm still trying to be okay with it!), a romp through the park and around the lake, and a nice time gazing at two tiny bunnies, babies, no bigger than Winnie's head, which hopped nonchalantly in front of us while the munched on the clover. Duncan seems to be fine, but knowing him as I do, his moods, expression, his schedule, the way he plays and jumps and chases Pip around the apartment, I know things are still not quite settled. I have my suspicions about what he got into but I'm relieved that he's eating and drinking and tending to the rest of his business.At the park this evening as the sun was settling down low over the mountains, the sky still blue but turning gold around it, we passed a woman pushing a stroller and two small children following beside her. The girl, a lanky four year old with sunshine-bleached red hair, asked if she could pet Duncan. He sat for her and she reached out a tentative hand to pat his head. The oldest boy, perhaps six and decked out in his baseball uniform, was eating a sandwich and wouldn't get too close. Once Duncan spotted the sandwich, though, the boy was his best friend and he kept attempting to lure the kid in with cuteness and tricks, raising his paw to give him a high five and bowing at him. As we walked in front of them, the girl running her fingers through the long hair on Duncan's tail, I heard him ask his mother if they could get a dog.

"Dogs are a lot of work," she explained. "You have to walk them every day, even on days when it's very cold and the snow is blowing across the park. It's nice on days like today, but other times it's very hard," she said.

"Amen," I said, looking over my shoulder. She laughed.

"Harder than Eric?" he asked, meaning the baby in the stroller.

"Just as hard but in a different way," she said as Eric started to fuss. "Having a dog and being good to it means more than just feeding it and letting it out in the backyard. It means playing with it and giving it good food and taking it for long, long walks, giving it all the attention it needs. Having a dog means more than just sharing your home with it; you have to make it one of the family and love it just as much as mommy loves you and your sister and Eric."

It made me smile.

It looks like I'm a parent after all.

Friday, May 2, 2008

His Belly

I don't know if it's just my anxiety, The Great Yarn Crisis of 2006 or simply a matter of an upset belly, but every time Duncan doesn't feel well I get sick with worry. Aside from being entirely too selfish, this is why I would not make a good parent. I would never sleep, would spend my nights laying awake listening to the breathing of my child, resting my hand on their chest to measure the reassuring rise and fall of each breath they took. I would never let them leave the house without me there to hold their hand, ready to protect them from each and every thing that could do them harm. I would stand anxiously on the perimeter of whatever space they occupied––a playground, a street corner, a college common yard––ready to step in and save them from whatever dangerous intrusion the world has to offer up. Their spouse would quickly grow tired of me, their shrink––and oh, there would be a shrink, a fleet most likely––would encourage them to establish boundaries, and their neighbors would file restraining orders. No, I would not make a good parent.

I am entirely too paranoid and far too susceptible to imagine the worst things possible. I just don't like to hear Duncan gulp the way he does when he's on the verge of vomiting. It terrifies me to stand idly by while he sniffs for clean grass and gulps it down once he's found it. I don't like the way my mind makes the leap from simple upset stomach to the end of the world. And so I make rice, stir in hard boiled eggs and mix it with a fresh batch of homemade yogurt, watching while he eats. I imagine sleepless nights and the stink of animal clinics and those pitying faces of the vets at Alameda East. I do not want to go down that path again and every hiccup and burp makes me wince like it happened only yesterday.

We'll cuddle on the couch tonight. I'll rest my hand on his side while he leans his head against my hip. I'll listen to every sound he makes ready to jump up and take him outside if necessary. I'll sleep with one eye open.

This is the only thing I know to do.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

A May-less May Day

The flowers are not happy this May Day. The dandelions, joyous and exuberant in their yellowness only yesterday, have puckered up tight in the wake of this morning's rain and then snow. They have lined the sidewalks at the park where we walk, and have even sprouted up in the thick clumps of tall grassy wildness in the fields, but this evening they were gone. All that remains is their long thin necks, their nearly closed mouths and just the tips of soft yellow and white fuzzy tongues, giving this dreary May Day one big raspberry. The blossoms from the trees have fallen, browning and turning soggy in the damp grass and snow where they landed. The sidewalks are littered with them and I couldn't help but think how similar they look to leavings of the geese, which have departed completely. The tulips spent the day pouting, their backs turned to the world, their bulbs pulled up tight under the green shawl of their leaves. Walking through the park this afternoon I felt as Dorothy must have when she returned to Kansas, dull and dark after the Technicolor glory of Oz.

By the time we ventured out the snow had stopped and was all but gone except on the northward side of things, where small masses of it clung tightly together, not enough to play in, much to Duncan's displeasure, good, perhaps, for little more than gulping down or scattering away with a single swoop of his tail. But Duncan didn't mind the wet grass, greener than even yesterday, especially under the gray of the sky. There was very little noise, not even from the traffic, and the only real sound came from a far parking lot where two high schoolers tossed a baseball back and forth, the smack of the ball on their worn and faded leather mitts almost as wonderful as the crack of ball and bat. Perhaps I'm a latent fan of the sport, or, more likely, I simply love the many sounds of Spring.

It was a quiet walk and uneventful, and not the May Day I had hoped for. Because it was cold and silent, the park void of patrons, we ran into The Shepherds, who now make appearances only in the worst of weather when the dogs can run loose in a people-free park. We spotted them across the field and once they recognized us the dogs were leashed. They went their way and we went ours, but I found myself glancing over my shoulder several times to make sure they weren't near.

Because there were no flowers on our walk and because May Day is a celebration of flowers, I thought I'd share a few that Kevi sent me this morning. In lieu of a field of bright tulips and gladiolas, pansies and whatnots to run through, perhaps you can create your own. I know in my mind this* is where Duncan and I would love to be.

*Simply drag and click anywhere on the screen. Have fun.