Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Shades of Autumn and Long Minutes of Belonging

Today down on Leawood I plucked a clump of lavender from a large fluffy bush still teeming with honey bees, small and vibrant as they darted amid the thick purple flowers, and I wondered, who do the flowers belong to, the gardener or the bees, or the person who stops on the sidewalk and admires them, pressing his face into their fragrance before taking a sprig home with him? And who do the rabbits belong to, nestled as they are in the yards, moving without moving, ears pressed flat, eyes big and wide reflecting the last of the sun and the long shadows? Do they belong to the grass where they huddle and leave their scent, or to the dog who stands long minutes, a single paw raised and pointing as though calling attention to them from the universe itself? And who do the leaves belong to, glowing and quivering in the sun on their boughs, the tree who birthed them or the ground, patient and almost motionless, which has watched them enviously for long, long minutes and will finally claim them? Who do the names carved in the railing at the lake belong to, the lovers who felt the press of time against them or the fingers which find them and trace them over and over and over again? Who does the wash of warm western light belong to, the gracious and generous sun or the silhouette of the dog which catches it and radiates it back into the flowers and the eyes of the bunnies, the shimmer of nearly invisible bee wings, the honey-lit leaves and the long grass? And does it matter, this belonging, or is it enough to stand before them for long minutes and know them utterly and openly, content that you belong to them?

Monday, September 29, 2008

Political Monday: "Campaign '08"

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There's always room for levity, even in the most important matters. I wanted you all to know I do have a sense of humor despite the fact that I think the soul of America is on the line in this election. Enjoy Duncan's cameo appearance, send your own cards, but remember to vote, to educate yourself about the issues and to speak to those people who haven't yet made up their minds. And don't forget to watch the Vice Presidential debate on Thursday night. I'm sure we'll all learn a few not so shocking things and maybe get some more laughs out of the whole thing.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A Strange Acquaintance

The man, tall and wide at his front, with long uncombed hair, wide eyes and an unruly and rather patchy beard spread across his pock-marked face, was the kind of man, who if seen on the street or alone on the lake path, would've caused others to give him a wide berth. But he was not alone, and because of his animal companion he drew many curious, if not affectionate glances. He coaxed his friend along, not tugging on her leash or rushing, as so many other walkers do, but walking directly beside her, offering soft words of guidance. She took her time, each step gracefully following the last and she smiled into the sunshine, squinting as she and her friend walked directly into it. Her tail was up, tall and straight, a striped stem rising into the light but bouncing casually, confidently, as though today and this walk were no different than any other. Duncan, who is a curious and sometimes overly-friendly walker, took an immediate interest in her, and as we approached them, he tugged on the leash and pulled me in their direction. I tried to reign him in but even before he neared she'd spotted him and flopped over on her side, exposing her fat, white belly.

"I'm sorry I said," holding my breath as Dunc pushed his cold nose into her.

Her companion smiled. "Carl doesn't mind at all. She gets this a lot."

"Carl?" I asked.

He nodded."She was so little when I rescued her that I couldn't tell what she was. The people at the shelter thought she was a boy so I named her Carl. I liked the name and we'd both grown used to it so I kept it," he explained. As he spoke I thought of Cricket, the kitten my roommates Wendy and Jen and I had adopted a few months after graduating from college. We'd been told he was a girl but learned otherwise from our vet after his first visit.

I watched Duncan sniff Carl's belly while she beamed from ear to ear and stretched out on the sidewalk. Others walkers continued in their sadly hurried march around the lake, smiling at Carl and Duncan, who seemed fast friends. Because Duncan was so much bigger, I kept a tight grip on the leash and pulled only when he scooched up next to her and rolled over on his side almost on top of her. Carl hardly moved.

We talked for a minute until Floyd gave his nylon leash a few quick tugs and Carl jumped up. "Time to go, girl. Dinner won't make itself." We said our farewells and Duncan and I watched as they ambled down the sidewalk into the sunset. Duncan's tail wagged and he whimpered a little as Carl went. She gave him one last look over her shoulder and kept going, purring the most contented purr a cat has ever purred.

The lake trail is full of discoveries, from the strange and incomprehensible conversations of the Juicy Buns to the roller-blading priest who listens to Night Ranger on his iPod, but I don't think I've ever been as impressed or startled as I was by Floyd and Carl. How we missed them for a year I have no idea, and I certainly hope we run into them again soon.

Despite the recent embarrassing political posturing on the part of the Republican candidate, Friday's debate still appears to be on. Don't forget to watch it. Host some friends and neighbors if you can and remind others that tomorrow will be an excellent opportunity to learn more about the candidates and the issues which matter so much during this election. If you've made other plans please tape it and take the time to watch it yourself. The brief sound-bites the news channels will offer are not enough. You should see it for yourself, in context and with an open mind. Learn more here.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


It was a perfect night, perfect because the lake's surface was more smooth than I've seen it in months, glassy and clear, moving only because of the fat fish breaching its surface in search of flying, buzzing dinner; moving because of the squadrons of mallards which glided down from the pink sky and slid into it effortlessly, their voices a greater cacophony than their delicate touchdowns; moving only as the light moved in the west, the day's final blush rising and falling across it like the color on the cheeks of a little girl in love. Duncan marched at my side, head high, his eyes bright with sundown, his tongue pink and languid at its corner. The darting bugs, fighting, it seemed, not to alight on our bodies, but in our eyes and the corners of our mouths, did not even trouble us. The air was clean and clear, the day and night only just beginning to trade places, their meeting and parting embrace colored in cinnamon.

A perfect night in every way until we reached the hill at the edge of high school practice fields, where the silence and stillness were broken by

Please remember the first of the presidential debates is on Friday night. If you won't be home to watch, make sure you tape it. It's too important to miss! If you can, host a debate party and watch it with your friends, family and neighbors. Order a few pizzas, drink beer and wine and discuss what you can do as a community to help win this election!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Political Monday: The Truth

It's become quite obvious (even to ABC News, who couldn't find the news if it ran over them with a Mack truck) especially over the course of the past week, that John McCain is either a) completely off his rocker and has no idea what's going on; or b) a self-serving liar who's in bed with big oil, big Washington lobbyists and the men who've held our country hostage for the past eight years. First he claimed the fundamentals of the economy were just fine, then he got all fired up and demanded greater governmental regulation, the very thing he's spent his entire career in the senate arguing against. Just last week one of his most trusted economic advisers (and former CEO of Hewlett-Packard) went on MSNBC and claimed that not only could Sarah Palin not manage a large corporation, but neither could John McCain. John McCain has been all over the map lately, so much so that many of his own supporters, including evangelical leaders, are calling him unprincipled as they turn against him. He's continually lied about Barack Obama in his campaign ads, so much so that even Karl Rove jumped in and said the senator had gone too far. He even appeared confused as to where Spain was and whether or not the Spanish are our allies (they are!). The last week has not been kind to John McCain but we must remember the last eight years have been far worse for many Americans (who lack health care, educational opportunities, jobs, homes and retirement). McCain is finally revealing how little he knows, how ill-prepared he and his running mate are to lead us, and how ready Americans are for change.

Please, now, more than ever, we must all educate ourselves and act, not for personal benefit, but for the benefit of our children and grandchildren, the sick, the forgotten, those who are less fortunate. John McCain is the wrong choice. We all know it, even they know it, and even though it's easy to let fear dissuade us, we must hold firm, we must reach out and offer guidance, set an example, we must not be afraid. Barack Obama can not win this election alone. We must all work together to win it. Speak with others, offer them sources of information. If they talk about taxes, show them this link and explain how 95% of Americans will save money under Obama's tax plan. Do not sit idly by. Voting is your civic duty, but becoming an informed voter is an ethical one. Please share everything here and on trusted news sources (such as NPR) with your friends, family and neighbors, especially those who don't share your beliefs. They are the ones we need to reach. More than ever they need to understand the truth.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Red Tonic

Summer is holding tight but we are on the brink of Autumn, tumbling, gracefully and slowly, like cotton drifting down from the trees, but tumbling nonetheless. It was a magnificent day, clear and bright, far warmer than it looked from my bedroom window when I opened my eyes and peered out through the blinds. I bundled up in the jacket I've started wearing on our morning walks and quickly discovered it wasn't needed. And because there aren't many more days when the water at Chatfield will still be warm enough to enjoy, Melissa and I decided to take Kona and Duncan there to run free across the forested trails, only barely beginning to burn with Autumn's fever, and to swim in the series of small lakes that have recently become our favorite place to walk.

It's hard to believe that only a month ago Duncan refused to play in the water. Now it's all I can do to keep him out of it. Long before the trail reaches the lake, Duncan has already mounted the last rise and thrown himself into the water long enough to get completely wet before scampering back down the hill to urge me forward at a faster pace and share in his discovery (which means he waits to shake himself dry until he's standing right beside me). And while I stroll the trails which wind among the meadows and trees which line the shore, Duncan is content to paddle beside me, climbing out of the water as rarely as possible. Then there is that moment when we reach the far, wide beach where all the other dogs have gathered. Duncan gallops through the water, heaving his body upward and forward, undulating as he goes and leaving a gentle wake behind him, always diligent about keeping his nose, and sometimes only his nose above the surface. There is nothing shy or trepidacious about his arrival as he plunges into the crowds of wagging tails and butts waiting to be sniffed. He will steal a ball or floaty toy from any dog regardless of size or health, swim halfway across the lake to catch someone else's stick and then forget about it and release it as soon as another is tossed from the shore. He's become quite good at abandoning his own toys far out into the water in favor of chasing another, racing along beside a newfound friend only to snatch it from them once they can touch bottom again, which usually results in a discussion about what it means to share. He listens patiently but I can see in his eyes that he's already forgotten my name and only hears that voice reserved for adults in the Charlie Brown cartoons.

Kona does not swim but prefers to wade just up to the point where she can still feel the muddy bottom against the very tips of her toes. Instead she likes to run up and down the shore, sometimes ploughing right over other dogs and even their human companions. After being knocked down several times I've started referring to her as "Tank." But she means no harm and is quite sweet, standing by Duncan's side and wading out to greet him after a long swim leaving his toys floating out somewhere in the middle.

The walk back is a winding one but doesn't seem to last as long as the walk to the water. Especially now that Autumn has flared up and is painting the trees, the heart-shaped leaves and slinking vines along the path in heavy golds and reds, which creeps like a virus overhead. As much as Autumn hurts my spirit, I can not help marvel at her pallet and the slowness and stealth of her infection in these early days. Everywhere I turned was a wonder to be found, erupting amid the blades of grass, spilling down from walls of ivy, wrapping around weathered trunks.

Autumn's infection is remarkable, beautiful and calm, tricking us into believing she's anything but fatal. And in these early days, the days I could write long and hard about, I don't mind one bit. I have a my red dog at my side, always waiting on the path ahead, a tonic against the winter to come.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Sunset Alchemy

Softly the evening came. The sun from the western horizon
Like a magician extended his golden want o'er the landscape;
Trinkling vapors arose; and sky and water and forest
Seemed all on fire at the touch, and melted and mingled together.
(Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Evangeline)

There was a moment this evening, just before sunset when day and night seem to hold their breath, as if making a silent, solemn vow to one another, when Duncan pulled me down the side of the hill toward the lake. The willows and long grass along the shore stood at attention, saluting the golden light, every tip reflecting and magnifying it, taking what was given and somehow making more of it, turning everything into gold, a kind of sunset alchemy. Duncan, always eager and sometimes more so, led me through the field of reeds, shimmering bulbs and whispering grass to a pair of small wild sunflowers which grew no taller than his face. I marveled at the light dancing around me reflected from all directions, but especially from the water and the flowers, dappling my skin and dazzling my eyes. I could not believe I'd stumbled upon and become a part of such a perfect moment. And then I turned to Roo, standing as he was near those bright yellow petals. He smiled at me and as he raised his head his eyes were obscured by the sunflowers, which replaced and become them, brilliant and wide, unblinking and magnificent. It lasted only a moment before the ducks paddling nearby caught his attention, raising his ears as they passed. It was a moment I will always remember, my boy one with the field and the sunset and all the world rising up to meet the light shining around him.

"The setting sun, and music at the close,
As the last taste of sweets, is sweetest last,
Writ in remembrance more than things long past."

(William Shakespeare)

Monday, September 15, 2008

Now is the Hour

The electoral votes have shifted dramatically in the past week, and not in the favor of progress and change.

How is your health care? I hope you're better off than the 47 million who have none.

How do this country's students measure up against those in China or Korea?

Are you one of the lucky ones who still has a house?

What happened to your 401K today?

Have you talked to your friends about Troopergate?

I can not urge you enough to pass on this video, not only to those who share your beliefs but most especially to those who don't. I am an idealist and a patriot and I want desperately to feel proud of this country again, to know that the world holds us in the high regard they once did. I want to walk my dog in the park in the afternoons and not shudder at the McCain Palin signs which are beginning to creep up around me. I want to believe that Americans are smarter than to think the Republican agenda is about anything other than keeping rich, white folk rich, the disenfranchised forgotten, and all the rest of us poor, sick and scared out of our minds.

Stand up. Learn all you can learn and educate everyone around you. Now is the hour. If you are as repulsed by the past eight years as I am, why would you do nothing to prevent another four? If you're like many of the people I know who vote Republican and don't know why, who do it because their parents did and don't care to learn about the actual issues, not the lies, then make a point of asking someone, or shut the hell up and get out of the way of progress and change. This is my country, too, and I take responsibility for it. We all must. There is no time left to abide ignorance and laziness.

Now go do something.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Summer's Silhouette

On this night, the night Summerset has ended––the tents folded up, the wares placed back in their careful packaging and the crowds dispersed––Summer really does seem to have gone. It rained for two days straight, clearing up yesterday, enough to appease the crowds and vendors, but turned cold again for much of today. Duncan and I have avoided the park; it's too much to see the litter everywhere, our precious fields reduced to parking lots and lanes. But this afternoon, as they were tearing things down, we wandered across the street if only to visit the Colorado Democrats booth and see if perhaps they had some Obama signs left over. They were quite happy to report that they had none, that, in fact, there wasn't a single sign to be had in the entire state. More should arrive on Tuesday at a town hall meeting so hopefully I'll be able to grab one. Afterward we wandered the park, Duncan's eyes and nose aimed at the ground where he sniffed for remnants of corn dogs, turkey legs and funnel cake. The sky seemed far away as an enormous hawk cut across it, riding the air from the golf course to the park and back again, its wings spread out, hardly moving, its eyes seeing more in the end of the summer than my fellow groundlings. My eyes, though, were trained on the trees, especially the elms, which almost look like they had not even experienced the green of summer. Their leaves have withered already and the branches, which only a few weeks ago were dense and heavy, are now bony and bare. Most of the leaves that have already fallen had been carted away for the weekend's festivities, but a single gold one alighted near my foot and came to rest against a curling dandelion, papery and as transparent as Summer's silhouette can be, perhaps the sign the hawk had been seeking.

My heart breaks every year at the passing of Summer, but tonight, as I prepared a heaping pot of chili, I kept the patio doors open to allow the air inside while Duncan curled up with Bugsy on the cool cement, his nose still turned toward the now empty field across the street. While I chopped and cut and mixed and sipped from the spiced rum which I dribbled into the pot, the slap of a baseball striking a bat rang loud and true, followed by the frenzied cries of the team and spectators. It was a welcome sound, a song of summer, and seemed to drive back my autumn melancholy a bit. Summer is not gone. Not yet, not as long as the lights on the field slice the night and I can hear the game, as long as there is a dandelion left to cast a shadow.

Friday, September 12, 2008


There was a package waiting for me when I got home yesterday, a nice big, heavy one, the kind that makes you smile when you jiggle it to hear what kind of noises it makes. Duncan was slow to greet me, asleep as he was across my side of the bed, dreaming of Winnie feeding him pumpkin cookies while Olive and Pip rubbed his feet. But once he heard me cutting into it he was quick to snap into action and whine and do his shaky little rump dance at my feet, somehow knowing the contents were for him.

It seemed that Val from My Boo Bear and Sue at Random Ramblings had sent us a little care package with all sorts of goodies inside, including a new bunny (we've already dubbed him Bugsy), a duck (Beaker), a crazy Zap Ball, which looks and acts like the amputated nose of a giant clown, glowing and lighting up as it makes all sorts of crazy amputee kinds of noises that have Duncan pining for it every minute of the day. They also sent a perfectly timed package of doggy bags for our walks, three big chews, a San Diego Golden Retriever Meetup group t-shirt and hat, which I assume were meant for me since they look ridiculous on Dunc, and because the fields of Colorado have been devoid of them this summer, they included a beautiful set of ceramic monarch butterflies so that I always have them nearby to guide and direct my course. It was an incredibly thoughtful and generous gift, and has already brought us hours of fun. Duncan will not let Bugsy out of his sight, but I'm afraid his Berry is feeling a little abandoned.

As I told them yesterday, when I first began writing about my walks with Duncan a year ago I had no idea I'd meet such wonderful and supportive people. I have received far more from my readers than I could've hoped and I'm grateful everyday for each and every one of them.

Thank you Sue and Val. You mean the world to me. And Duncan, too.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

"... Put lipstick on a pig, it's still a pig."

There are many, many reasons not to vote for John McCain and Sarah Palin this November such as their positions on education, health care and the war, just to name a few, but I wanted to share one which only recently came to my attention. My friend, Greg, at The Midnight Garden, posted a clip about this last week and I was reminded of it again this afternoon by another friend. As you watch, look at those faces––really look at them. Do they seem that much different from the animal companions in your own life?

Perhaps politics are best left to other, more appropriately suited blogs, but as the election draws nearer I have to ask myself, are we really better off now than we were eight years ago? The woman I spoke with today who has no health insurance would certainly say no. The vet I met downtown last week who was missing both legs and a fair portion of his cheek would certainly agree that we are not. I ask each of you to sit down and consider that maybe this election is about more than your own well-being, that perhaps we need to look beyond ourselves and make some changes for the betterment of others. If nothing else, look for guidance in the faces of those who have no voice, the children, the forgotten and the animals.

We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.
(Native American proverb)

Visit BarackObama.com to see how you can make a difference in your community

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Autumn Lover

The coming of Autumn is an awkward thing, strange and uncomfortable, unreliable and unpredictable, wild and tepid all at once, like taking a new lover to bed. There is strangeness and newness, not knowing how to hold one another, or where arms and legs fit best together, wanting desperately to be revealed fully and with abandon while also maintaining restraint for fear of going too far. They are dangerous times, the early days, because it's all too easy to forget where you've been and throw yourself headfirst into where you think you want to go.

If nothing else, Autumn is a damn fine tease, luscious and ripe, with cider-lipped kisses and full-bodied embraces one moment, a cold and icy stare followed by a barely whispered litany of curses the next. She has been many things in the week or so since she invited herself to stay and I can't help but think that if she were indeed a prospective partner whether I'd return her call the next morning or chalk up our brief tumble as drunken lunacy.

We have turned a corner here on the Front Range, and I can't remember when it has ever seemed so abrupt, like flipping the dial on the radio. Until recently our nights have been quite warm and Ken and I have slept with the windows open, pulling a breeze from one side of the apartment to the other. Duncan spent much of the summer under the bed, away from Ken, who burns in his sleep like a furnace. The cats, even Olive, have retreated to the dining room where they huddle on the chairs tucked neatly beneath the table. It has been quite nice, having the bed to ourselves again, being able to spread out, our legs stretched and bent in number fours, our arms draped across one another with little care. But Saturday morning we awoke early, the air in the bedroom startlingly cold on our faces, our bodies nicely warmed tucked under the comforter, Duncan, a thin lengthwise line lodged firmly between us. The pillows had grown cats while we slept, which purred softly against the tops of our heads. It has been easy to take Duncan out in the mornings, slipping on a t-shirt and a pair of shorts, wandering into the grass in bare feet while Duncan plods along ahead of me. But Saturday it changed and since then we have stumbled outside early in the mornings, while darkness still whispers and hums a lullaby to the west and just as sunlight begins creeping forward along slender, dewy spiderwebs in the east. It has been shocking to see my breath, to feel the muscles of my body condense and compact around my bones. The grass is like needles, cold and sharp and my bare toes have been concealed by socks and shoes, my shorts replaced by jeans––the first I've worn since May.

What kind of lover makes you dress up each time she reaches her arms out to you? Summer pulled the clothes from our bodies, kissing the tips of our noses with each new bare limb, whispering dirty little words in our ear as we went. Autumn, though.. Autumn is a bitch and throws them back in our faces and calls us sentimental bores.

Oh that Summer did not have to go away to college and we could hold on to it forever.

Friday, September 5, 2008

When Ya Gotta Go: Two Roads

"I see my path, but I don't know where it leads. Not knowing where I'm going is what inspires me to travel it." (Rosalia de Castro)

Funny, the way we set off in a direction with only a vague idea of destination, and eventually, when we're not even looking really, reach that place we didn't quite know existed. One year ago Duncan walked me across the park and led me to that momentary encounter which changed our walks forever. Prior to that they'd been private affairs and most of what occurred remained in my head, only occasionally surfacing in dreams or perhaps journal entries or conversations with Ken; the vast majority, though, are lost, little more than flashes of experience which flit across my sense memory and then fade away again.

Let me tell you.

When I was six and shortly after my mother and sister and I moved from Nampa, Idaho to Pocatello, I remember asking my mother to sit down at our kitchen table and take dictation. There was a story about a monkey and a pig and a walk through the jungle that wasn't going to tell itself and so Mom sat patiently and filled in the words I was unable to commit to paper. She may still have them even now.

By the time I was ten and able to scratch words out on my own, I was the star of creative writing in the fourth grade. Mrs. Coons, an army sergeant of a woman who I feared first and loved later, encouraged my writing, and my voice. That summer I began writing plays which all the kids in the neighborhood performed for our parents in my backyard.

At thirteen I began an epic story, a soap opera really, which I wrote for the next ten years, filling more than twenty enormous volumes. It had an unfortunate title, Love Affair, but to give you some idea of how long it was, if it had been on television and you were to watch one episode a week, thirty weeks of the year, it would take you fourteen years to reach the end.

At twenty-one I awoke from a sound sleep, a voice speaking in my ear, deep and omnipotent––one of those voices you do not ignore, like Kevin Costner's character in "Field of Dreams,"––telling me, "If you go, it will happen." My gut told me I needed to move to Lake Forest, Illinois to study creative writing. And so I did, without much explanation, and with little warning. While there I composed three books, one for each year, made only ten copies and gave them to those friends and family I was closest to. I graduated with many honors from my department and with the aid of my words was fully expected to make something of myself.

And then, by the time I reached thirty, the words seemed to have dried up and left as suddenly as they appeared. One morning not long after my mentor, Phil Simmons––author of Learning to Fall––, had died, I awoke, Ken asleep next to me, to find Phil sitting at the foot of my bed, his hand firmly planted on my calf, shaking me awake.

"Curt," he said in that high-pitched and unsure quivering voice of his. "You are not doing what you are supposed to be doing."

I actually argued with him––which was not an entirely new thing to occur between us––tried to convince him there were more important people he should be sitting with, his wife and two young children that I did not matter, than the words were gone.

"Shut up," he told me. "And listen..." And for the next five minutes I did as he said, never doubting he was really there, awake and as sure of his presence as I was of Ken's, or Winnie, curled up on the pillow where my head had made a nice round, warm impression for her. Phil reminded me that I was a writer and that I was squandering the gift the universe had bestowed on me, that I needed to write because that was what I had always been meant to do. And then he was gone, had slipped from existence, leaving behind a sense of where he'd sat, the warmth of his palm on my leg, the sound of his gravel voice still humming inside my ears. Ken awoke, asked who I'd been talking to, and when I explained, he smiled and pulled me into his arms, not disbelieving my story and told me, "Well then, you should write."

My problem has always been beginnings. They are elusive and I am a perfectionist, and if the words don't hit the right tone, have a perfect rhythm or make the complete and solid sound of a lid sealing a jar, they are no good. Despite having the entirety of my first novel in my head, a novel I know is good, know will be published because Phil told me so, I haven't written it because I've been waiting for the words. And so a year ago I started my first blog, School Daze, which eventually led me to Duncan, who has spent the past year leading me every other place, the most important of which has been back to my words. I have worked hard sharpening my voice and finding confidence in it, rediscovering the joy that can be had in a good story. Walking is a lot like telling a story. There is a place to begin, there is a route which, although not always visible, will lead you, if you persevere, to the place you need to go, or maybe even some place better. Then, last Sunday morning, when I did not expect it and was hardly prepared, I awoke at that place. Words had arranged themselves in a new and surprisingly good order inside my head, and it was only when I jumped out of bed and committed them to paper that I realized I'd been handed the plans to my next journey, which I have been waiting a long time to take. The novel I have waited so patiently to begin writing has finally decided it wants to be written. And so it shall.

I have been faithful and disciplined and there has not been a day since I began this undertaking a year ago that I have not walked Duncan and brought you along for part of it. We will still walk and you are still invited to share it with us, but I must take the new path as well, because, as Phil said, that is what I am meant to do. There are more stories to tell and although Duncan's is far from finished I can no longer tell it every day. It won't be easy; I've fretted over it for a very long time but I wanted to tell you because even this has been part of the journey. From the moment I shared our first walk, I had a plan; I just didn't realize it would come so soon.

Duncan and I will be waiting for you. He is always ready and my legs need to be stretched often. Autumn is nice around these parts and I'd love to tell you all about it. There is a mist out tonight and although most of the sky is clouded, I can see Orion peeking out from behind the clouds. He has had many adventures since last we saw him. Maybe he'll share them with us next time. Whenever that may be. Not too long, I hope.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference. (Robert Frost)

*Photo, as usual, "borrowed" from Google Images

Thursday, September 4, 2008


Walking a dog can be like dancing, with both partners attempting to move as gracefully as possible while seamlessly navigating around each other. Duncan and I often struggle over who is in charge, and despite my best efforts I have to admit that most of the time he leads. And even though I allow him to take us where he will as often as possible, we still get our signals on occasion and find ourselves sprawled on the ground.

This afternoon––a beautiful, warm afternoon walking among the tall clumps of lavender and hip-high wild grass which has yellowed nicely––I dropped his leash and let him run free at the top of the park. He'd stumbled upon a brand new tennis ball on the far side of the courts and I mistook his delight in its fuzzy greenness as an invitation to play fetch. Duncan wanted only to hunker down in the grass and gnaw on it as the clouds merged and parted above us. After several attempts to pry it from his jaws he jumped up and scampered away. I leapt after him, which only spurred him on harder. He bolted several yards ahead, dragging his leash after him. I charged close behind, reaching out for his tail, pinching his rump, making all sorts of playful noises and not paying the slightest attention to where my feet landed, which ensured they'd come down on the leash.

Duncan came to an immediate halt. Or rather, because his speed and my foot on the leash prevented him from going anywhere, he did an abrupt somersault, his chin pulling into his chest and his hind end––the last part of him to figure out what had happened––came up over his head. He flipped on his side and because he still couldn't move, splayed out flat on his belly, legs akimbo. His sudden lack of momentum caught me off guard and I toppled right over him, jogging my feet this way and that, rapidly tip-toeing to avoid his paws and tail. He tucked his head down and waited for me to pass above before careening completely out of control and landing in a heap a few feet away.

When it was done, me crawling across the grass to check on him, he gave me that scolding, "You-had-to-mess-it-up" look I get only when he really means it, then turned away from me, pulled the tennis ball out from under his belly and went back to chewing on it, keeping his back to me for a long time. A very long time.

It was an hour before he let me near enough to retrieve his leash and walk with him back home.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Happy Birthday, Dunc!

"It takes a long time to grow young." (Pablo Picasso)

Homemade cake (raw beef patty, rice and peanut butter drizzles): $6
Balloons and homemade party hat: $2
Celebrating your dog's 4th birthday and making yourself look like a fanatic on the internet...


Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Numbered Days

It was cold today, colder than it has been in a very long time. There was a morning in May when I stepped outside in my sweatshirt and pajamas and realized the world had changed, warmed, and I suddenly felt as though I'd drown in all my clothes, drown and then spontaneously combust. This morning, in my shorts and flip flops I realized the world had changed back, that I could see my breath and the air on my bare feet was not just uncomfortable but icy. When I checked the temperature I was shocked to see it read 47˚, the kind of day that requires long socks and a jacket.

There was a breeze on our walk this afternoon and while I tried not to let it bother me, tried to focus on Duncan plodding through the newly cut grass before me, the clippings catching in his ears and cheeks as he bent low to sniff his way through them, it did bother me. There was less leisure to our stroll, little enjoyment in watching the teams on the baseball fields, greater urgency to escape that shrill cacophony they refer to as a high school marching band. As we walked, the sun far away and behind the clouds, I realized that my days of bares toes and sandals are numbered. It will have snowed once by the end of the month as it has every September since we moved here nine years ago. First my feet will hide, then my legs and arms and far too soon only my face will be visible on our walks.

As we waited in the island on Bowles for the traffic to clear Duncan sat patiently at my side looking up at a tiny piece of cotton dancing in the breeze below the leaves. I followed his gaze and saw a spider, tiny and young, still white and almost translucent, struggling to climb its wildly waving thread, moving carefully an inch or two at a time only to catch in the wind and drop lower, its little legs clutching and grasping all the while.

I will clutch and grasp at the last of Summer as long as I possibly can.

Monday, September 1, 2008


We walked early, perhaps only to catch the last fleeting signs of August and the Summer we are fast leaving behind. I dread the shift into Autumn, which, perhaps, is the very cause of my fierce love for Summer. I have spent much of the past three months memorizing the colors and textures, the scents and shades of the world because they are the only things which buoy me through the bleeding sunsets of Autumn and the naked bones of Winter.

Little has changed, of course, except perhaps for the sky, which seems to have pulled a little further away, is still big but in a more distant way. Summer skies, intimate and near, heavy as berries, are the kind you can almost reach up and touch, rub with the tips of your fingers, staining them with blue residue. September skies retreat from touch and look down on us at a great distance, cool and reserved, uninterested in our meager goings-on.

It seems only a few weeks past that the samaras were still pink and curling, heavy with juice, the tree limbs drooping under their collective weight. Walking among them, bending down to step through the dusk-lit caves created by the arced boughs on which they rested, I imagined them the fat fleshy thumbs of garden gnomes, captured by marauding trolls in the early hours and hung up to dry like trophies or warnings.

Now they are dust chimes rattling in the breeze, their music and life blanched by August's breath. Many of the trees, standing their full height for the first time in months, have shaken them loose, littering the ground at their feet with fossilized brown paper dragonfly wings.

But many, the sturdy ones, still cling in tight fist-like clusters to the branches on which they've hung for so long, flying in that unique way that belongs to leaves and kites alone. And when they do finally decide to let go and fall, to mingle with the sweet embrace of gravity before they kiss the earth, where they will rest forever, they delight the eye of children, fluttering in splashes of gold which whirl and spin wildly like the rotors of nature's helicopters, softening their landing as they hum the last bars of summer's song.