Friday, August 29, 2008

Summer Red

Even though Colorado has been a very blue state this past week, I couldn't help but notice the definite burning red of this afternoon. The politicians and delegates have departed and life and traffic, it would seem, have returned to normal, but because I tend to try my hardest to savor each given moment as something unique, I saw the red burning all around us today.

There have been several fires in the area and the mountains have been obscured in a soft, cottony gray haze, losing their definition and becoming more than they are, not less, memories of mountains, or dreams of them, something far away and close all at once, visible but concealed, always just out of reach. The smoke has been a subtle thing, its scent absent in the morning when the world smells of moisture and green, but thicker in the early afternoons, never pungent, more the scent of a neighbor's backyard grill or childhood summer nights falling asleep in a tent when the fire is dying down, a small lump of red hidden behind a mound of ash, popping and spraying sparks only occasionally. The best part of the fires, if there is actually anything good about them, is the sun behind the smoke paints the sidewalks a dull red, almost a soft pink, and shadows lose their definition, become like wet, brown gauze.

But the burning is not just in the forests around Denver; Summer is nearing its end and somehow manages to burn brighter and harder than it has for the past three months. There is a desperation to its living that is both inspiring and a little tragic, as though all the dreams that haven't been realized are flaring up for one last chance.

In the park, under a cloud shaped like a miles-high question mark, I dropped Duncan's leash and let him amble ahead of me. He's been trained well and doesn't go too far, only about twenty feet before he stops and looks back as if to check in and make sure I'm okay with where he is. He'd done this several times but as we neared the place where we turn toward the baseball fields, he picked up speed and trotted off. As I followed after him I saw a couple, young, probably entering their last year at the high school, entwined around each other on the grass, not kissing, just holding each other and watching the sky change. The boy nuzzled the girl's neck and she dropped her hand familiarly onto his thigh, giving it an affectionate squeeze. They were beautiful, her pale body spooned against his dark skin, the tenderness of their grasp, the relative newness of such physical intimacy. I smiled at them and then realized Duncan was headed their way. When I lay on the grass with him it means we're going to wrestle around each other, and I assume that's what he thought they meant as well.

Their eyes has slipped shut and they did not see him coming. His cold nose peeking into the spot where their cheeks touched must have been a shock for they both flinched and their eyes came open. Dunc's tail wagged and he leaned forward and licked their joined faces. The girl lifted her hand from her partner's leg and placed it on Duncan's shoulder, pulling him closer to them. The boy laughed and sat up on his elbows, reaching one hand for his girl's hand on my dog's back. Their fingers were beautiful, entwined briefly in his red curling hair. I apologized and stepped forward but they shook their heads.

"He's wonderful," the girl told me, burying her face in Duncan's chest. "He's just what we needed. Now we'll remember this forever."


caboval said...

Thats beautiful and Im glad he didnt scare them!

Sue said...

That's an awesome story!

So much better than what happened, many years ago, with our yellow lab, Sandy. We'd taken her to the beach and for some reason she'd gotten spooked, and run away from us, directly to an unsuspecting couple, very similar to the pair in your post. The couple was sitting on the beach, enjoying a bottle of wine, and a freshly delivered pizza. Sandy ran directly up to them, scattering the wine bottle, glasses, plates, napkins, etc., and proceeded to stand directly in the open box of pizza, and place her hind end in the woman's lap. As we approached, Sandy's tail wagged, and she ran back to us. We offered to get them another pizza, more wine, cash to replace everything, etc., but they just kept saying, "JUST TAKE YOUR DOG AND GO!!"

It was not nearly the pleasant walk on the beach we'd hoped for, and I'm sure that the couple also would "remember this forever!"