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.


caboval said...

Oh it makes me so happy to see Duncan in the water! I know how much he loves it!!! And its so beautiful there! I am looking forward to your pictures of the changing colors of the season!

Charlie said...

I love the picture of you bending over to talk to a very wet Duncan!
- Anne

CJ said...

Love the smell of a wet dog.;) I've got to get one of those pinching? colars for my lab.
Great pics and thoughts. Send autumn my way please.

traci said...

"I have a my red dog at my side, always waiting on the path ahead, a tonic against the winter to come."

Nice. Love this line.

Sue said...

Excellent pictures Curt!

Thoughts said...

Those are some great pictures. I especially like the one of wet Duncan! How cute! I love wet Golden Retrievers, they're always so happy!