Thursday, July 10, 2008

Bone and Blade

There is nothing good about this kind of Summer day, when the heat is as uncomfortable as a dirty look, making you squirm and shift restlessly, when the shimmering air rising off the sidewalks pulls the breath out of you and replaces it with hot, bleached bone. The grass has started to crisp and yellow in big southward-facing patches and walking on it in the high heat of the day can be like walking on pricklies, crunching under the soles of your shoes or stabbing the delicate, pink places between your toes. The air is dry and weighs nothing, feels insubstantial but gives one the strange sensation that they're about to be lifted away, pulled into the hot, blue atmosphere and burnt to a cinder. I remember those July days in Illinois, drowning with each breath, waiting, it seemed, for months for the world to dry out. I remember my family saying things like, "It's hot here and muggy," and knowing that their definition of humid meant something in the range of thirty-five percent while I was swimming to work in a nice, solid ninety-eight. And I'd tell them, feeling superior, "Yeah, but it's a dry heat so it doesn't count." Ah, the ways we enjoy telling others that our own suffering is greater than theirs.

Even though I have experienced both extremes, having lived seven years in the moist, green Shire and the rest of my days in the desert or on the high prairies, I will not debate the issue. I will only say that opening my door this afternoon to take Duncan for his first walk was like standing in front of a giant kiln. I felt myself bake, felt the moisture pulled from my skin, felt the burn in my lungs and the searing of my eyes. And that was in the shade of my breezeway. Pushing out into the sunshine was like trying to climb through a burning brick wall. If it had been just me I would've selected a few choice words and turned on my heels for the cool of my living room.But Duncan was there, smarter than me, and pulled us forward, across the street and into the shade of a few tall juniper trees. The grass was long and cool and we both threw ourselves into it, clouds of minuscule gnats rising up like mist around us. It felt good on my bare legs, so I kicked off my flip-flops and ran my toes through it like I'd run my fingers through the hair of a lover. Duncan kicked his legs in the air and did his best to stain the red fur of his back with grass juice, huffing and snorting as he went, occasionally pausing to see if I was doing the same. The trick worked last winter when it was so cold the only thing I could do to enjoy standing knee-deep in snow and ice was to throw myself into the large drifts and roll around with him until our faces and bodies were covered in soft, glistening powder. I followed his lead and began to roll alongside him, which spurred him on and soon we were doing a sort of synchronized land-swim across the grass, spinning around each other, occasionally entwining and moving apart, rolling over one another. It was bliss and I didn't care who saw. One of the groundskeepers rolled up in his golf cart and watched for a moment. I waved, Duncan snorted and we continued until he drove away satisfied that we weren't suffering seizures and did not need medical attention. Three children pushed by on their scooters and later a small gaggle of skater kids lazed past, all stopping to watch. I laughed at the absurdity of the situation but was redeemed when one of them, the tallest boy, said, "Great looking dog, guy!" Five minutes later they'd settled into a similar shady spot not too far away, below the skate park, and were following our lead, rolling and cavorting, pulling grass up in big clumps and tossing it, not at each other, but into the air above their heads where it spun down around them.

The world would be such a better place if we put our faith in our companions. They always know best. I learn the lesson over and over every day: Trust Duncan. He has not led me wrong.

1 comment:

Greg said...

Em and I have been sitting out on the front lawn some evenings lately, enjoying the cool grass underneath us, as we find breezes to cool us that would not venture inside.

We hadn't considered rolling around on it, though...'til now! : )