Saturday, November 29, 2008

Second Snow

It is the sound I love most about the snow, the way, from inside, bundled up on the couch, the world gets very quiet on the other side of the window and only reveals itself with the soft slice of the occasional tire crushing over it, the way trees somehow catch the music of its falling and swallow it, a sound like a melody rising up from some deep belly.

We walked early in its falling last night, before it got too deep but well after the street lamps reflected orange off everything it covered. Duncan played rapturously, caught up in the memory of the stuff on his nose, batting his big brows, catching and melting against his soft eyelids. He was reluctant to come back inside so I promised there would be more for him in the morning. Still, while I pulled the blanket over me he sat guard in front of the window and watched it come down, his tail moving softly against the warm carpet every now and then, a release of the joy which built with each settling flake.

The morning was bright, and as promised, I took him out to gallop as madly as he wanted, drive big mounds of the stuff before him, spinning wildly, his back legs driving beneath him. His earliest days with us started in the snow when he was so small he sunk deep, with only his nose visible above the white. He ambled through it, driven forward by a sense of exploration and discovery, only whining when he got lost and couldn't find his way back to our ankles, planted firmly only a few feet away. Now, of course, he stands above the snow most of the time, and his vantage couldn't make him happier. Snow is his earliest memory and he revels in it like I revel in the memory of fishing with my grandparents. It is who he is, perhaps more so than the summer sun, which turns his red coat gold and brings tears to my eyes. While I stand and alternately dread the thought of driving through it and wondering at the soft underside of it in the trees, Duncan has found a way to make it play with him, to rise up from its soft mounds and hum music I will never hear.

I have never loved the snow and thought I never would but then Ken delivered this warm, little, blinking red life into my hands and when I watched him love it I could not help but do the same. I have spent many afternoons lately walking with him at the park, turning my face into the setting sun, whispering my gratitude softly into the unusually warm November air, hoping Winter would somehow forget about us this year, ascend the mountains and leap far over us, landing somewhere in the Midwest, anywhere but here. It is a lot of work and preparation to walk in the snow, what with the heavy boots and thick socks, the coat, the knitted hat, the gloves and scarves wrapped and wrapped around me. I remembered the burden of it but not the joy. Duncan's joy.

Although I don't look forward to it, and would much rather watch him race through the sand and into the surf, I will love watching him this winter, will love watching him scamper and slide down the hill at The Glen, catching the snowballs Melissa tosses, will love kicking the snow at his face so he can snap at it as it disperses around his glorious head like wished-upon dandelion dust. There is much to love about the joy of another.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Little Dignity

I'd gone to the gym with Brady this afternoon and by the time I got home my legs were starting to stiffen up and whatever poor excuse for muscles I have in my shoulders and arms were throwing a loud and obnoxious tantrum. Duncan, of course, was in exactly the opposite condition, jumping and full of celebration, demanding we walk and walk and walk some more. I agreed to take him for a quick one around the complex with just another time to pee and poop and check the fire hydrant messages which had been left for him. He didn't quite agree and decided to drag the walk out as long as possible, sniffing every rattling leaf, scouring entire patches of sidewalk for the faintest of odors, moving on and then doubling back to make sure he hadn't missed anything, forcing me to stand in the cold, bouncing on my aching legs to keep warm. It was my punishment for being gone this afternoon, which obviously should have been spent with him, playing with his Birdy, being spoon fed stuffing dipped in gravy and cuddling on the couch. His slow pace wasn't a problem until we came around the Bowles side of the building and stopped near the low hedge directly behind the bus stop. The sun had gone down and darkness had settled in, along with a sudden and surprising chill, and while Duncan nosed around the shrub I shivered and told him, "You need to poop. You need to poop now." He didn't even look up. "If I were you I'd poop. Poop now. Poop now!"

The man sitting on the bench a few feet away turned in my direction, Duncan completely concealed from his line of sight. "By all means poop!" he told me. "But at least wait until I get my ass on the 5:35 and away from you!"

At times Duncan loves to remind me that my dignity means very little to him.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thank You

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Unlike it's more ostentatious cousins it asks very little of us, only that we gather together and honor the bounties of our lives. We're not required to wrap our houses in increasingly obnoxious light displays. We don't have send boxes of pilgrim hat-shaped chocolates to our loved ones. Nothing explodes in the skies. We need merely pause and be grateful for whatever gifts, however large or small, have been bestowed on us.

I try to give thanks every day, letting the people I love know how much they mean to me, sharing whatever goodwill I have with the people who enter my life, turning my face into the sun and thanking it for its warmth. But this year, on this day I am especially thankful for
  • the voice of the American people for rejecting incompetence and finally selecting a leader who will help this nation fully realize its potential and promise (all while speaking full, clear, grammatically correct sentences).
  • Ken, for working as hard as he does, making the tremendous sacrifices he has and being the person I most want to share my life with.
  • Kevi's courage and perseverance throughout this difficult and lesson-filled year. She does not know how much her strength and patience have inspired me.
  • the many new friends I've made because of the places Duncan has led me and the experiences we've shared.
  • butterflies and honey bees, which were scarce in my part of the world this year, but whose rare and sudden appearances reminded me that there is tremendous power contained in the smallest and least likely of places.
  • Homemade honey maple yo-Curt with almond Kashi for breakfast.
  • The lake at Chatfield where Duncan learned to love the water.
  • the Magic Feathers and all the people who sent them to me, which I collected last year (and will soon ask for again), which reminded me of the courage I already possess but occasionally forget.
  • David, for calling me "kiddo" and being such a generous and sincere mentor.
  • Mom and Casey for coming to Denver in my hour of need, keeping me busy and making me laugh and look at the world through new eyes.
  • the scent of the Russian Olives and the Linden trees, the memory of which is forgiveness for winter's bite.
  • the poetry of Mary Oliver.
  • the precious memories of Thanksgivings past, spent with April and Ken in Round Lake, making vast quantities of good food, playing Risk, holding hands and saying the blessing.
  • the rabbits, which keep Duncan occupied on our walks and allow him to be the dog he truly is.
  • Tom Spanbauer for writing Now is The Hour and the line, "The only thing that keeps us from floating off with the wind is our stories."
  • The song, "For What It's Worth" by Buffaloe Springfield, which had particular meaning for me this Fall.
  • The music of Duncan's voice when asked, "Who do you love" and he replies, "I love you."
  • Chelsea for being the responsible, socially and environmentally-aware business owner she is, and for Hero's Pets, the best damn store west of the Mississippi.
  • Brady, for his excitement and enthusiasm in learning that participation is another form of patriotism, as well as teaching me to play Guitar Hero.
  • My dad and Jane for a memorable day together last August, the first such day in over eight years.
  • Rabio Lab on NPR.
  • Oberon, my grand oak tree at Lake Forest College, standing watch over the edge of the quad, and the long winding staircase Jen and I climbed countless times to the top of Carnagie Hall there, to sit and talk, or not, and watch the stars climb over Lake Michigan.
  • Winnie's soft weight on my hip in the morning, Pip suffering species identification problems and thinking he's a dog, Olive's enormous owl eyes batting at me from her roost on Ken's pillow in the morning.
  • and, as always, A.A. Milne, who wrote, "And by and by Christopher Robin came to the end of things, and he was silent, and he sat there, looking out over the world, just wishing it wouldn't stop."

One Wish

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Cusp of Dark

The sun was still up and the air still warm. Several men had gathered to play what will surely be their last shirts-and-skins game of football in the big field at the park. Afternoon was quickly turning into evening, a delicious and fragrant night on the edge of a winter that has been uncharacteristically timid this year. The air was calm and none of the few leaves which still cling, like poltergeists, to their nests in the thick branches of the elms stirred. Duncan and I sat at a bench and watched the players slowly toss the ball back and forth while they plucked their shirts off the withered grass, tightening their shoelaces as they made their way slowly back to their cars. The sun hung for a moment right above the mountains and the park grew utterly silent as it hovered on the cusp of dusk, night drawing a deep breath before slipping its shawl over us. The last of the light warmed my face and then slowly, almost imperceptibly, began to fade as the sun lowered itself behind the foothills. I felt it go, inch by inch across my cheek until all that remained was one last sliver, like a finger hanging on to the horizon. And then it was gone. A rush of cool air swept over us and I remembered standing on the deck of the big ship when my father and I went on our cruise through the Caribbean thirteen years ago. Nearly every night that week I'd gone out to watch the sun set and see if perhaps I could spot a school of dolphins playing in the thrust of the big water off the bow. As the sun melted into the sea I strained my ears and almost imagined I could hear the soft hiss as it was extinguished by the rush of water around its glowing body, a gentle breath before being claimed by the depths. I can still hear that imagined sound, and as the light slid from the sky tonight I could hear it again. And it was good.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Duncan has never given up on a walk. Not once. Even when he was sick after eating 500 feet of yarn, when he was hunched up on the grass puking up an endless line of bright red fluff which had been meant for a scarf, he wanted to walk. I was in a frenzy, uncertain what to do, but there was Roo, a trooper through and through, a length of yarn caught in his stomach and hanging out of his mouth dragging on the ground beside him, gagging and whining around it while still attempting to make the rounds. Last winter, when snow would ball up under his sweet paws, causing him to limp, he wanted to do another lap around the lake, maybe head down Leawood and see what was shaking on the elementary school ball field where he likes to run. There where frozen nights, tall and cloudless with a moon whiter than exposed bone, when I had to drag him home and carry him across the parking lot because his feet hurt so bad. He has never given up.

Until tonight.

I'd come home, found him curled up on the bed, or rather in it. Somehow or another he decided the bed would be more comfortable if he swirled the sheets around himself and propped his head under one of the pillow, a single back paw and his tail the only sign of him protruding from under the comforter. He snorted when I sat next to him and plucked his paw up into my hand. We attempted our welcome-home routine, which entails a lot of rolling around and pawing and huffing, all of which took place tonight under the covers. When he did finally emerge he grabbed my wrist in his mouth and trotted us down the hall, through the dining and living rooms to the front door where he wiggled his bum and chirped like a bird until I leashed him up and pulled on my cap.

Duncan is an eager walker and pulls hard on his leash when we first leave, only calming down once we cross Bowles, where he sits nicely, smiling up at me while we wait for the traffic to clear before crossing. He did all of that, and once we reached the lower soccer field he traipsed and gallivanted, head held high after discovering someone's discarded soccer sock, which he carried proudly, like a shot duck, in his mouth. We played chase for quite awhile until he suddenly stopped and looked north toward the big queen willow. A soft whine came to his throat, and although he didn't release the sock he stared nervously and kept looking over his shoulder at me. Finally he began a slow walk back up the hill, keeping his eyes trained on the tree and the tall reeds which crowd her base, and moved across the larger field, a nearly inaudible whine rising up from his chest as we went. He led me back across the park to Bowles, where he plopped his rear down in the cold grass and waited to cross, never looking away from the willow. There was no reluctance as we entered the parking lot and headed toward home. By the time we reached the door he was practically running, dragging me behind.

It was only an hour later, sitting on the patio watching two bright southern stars rise up over the trees that I heard the yipping of the coyotes over the grind of the traffic and understood why he wanted to come home.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Season of Falls

I have taken tremendous pleasure in our unseasonably warm temperatures over the past several days. My friend David is the recipient of much of my gloating and to his credit, handles it pretty well with only minimal name-calling. This morning, though, I couldn't help but think that perhaps he got a bit of revenge for all my talk of sunshine and temperatures which came awfully close to 80 this week.

I fell asleep on the couch again last night, a bad habit I really need to get a handle on. I had a short but vivid dream of talking on the telephone with David and boasting once again about the perfection of Denver's weather. I could hear him scowl all the way from Illinois and rather than call me a "dirty rat," as he usually does, he said, "You just watch yourself, mister. You'll get yours."

I finally woke up a little after 2 and took Duncan out for one last bathroom break. Our nearly balmy night had been replaced by frigid air and a thick, heavy mist which cast orange rings around the lamps in the park and made the street on the other side of gate shine like a black snake's back. It was a wet mist, and because it was cold it was already freezing. The grass was stiff and slippery and crunched with each tentative and sleepy step Duncan took. I did not envy him having to lean into it to pee.

After he finished we walked around the side of the building just to stretch our legs a bit before heading back inside to the warmth of the two comforters Ken had pulled over the bed. As we came up the slight incline of the front walk in front of our apartment, I felt my feet slip on the fine layer of ice which had formed and before I knew it I was at that place I came to know so well last Winter, the place between the sky and the ground where I hover--arms and legs akimbo--only long enough to anticipate how hard and cold the ground will be when I return to it once again.

Duncan stopped dead and turned just in time to see me come back down, first on all fours, and then when the ice did not approve, flat on my belly, a hhwump sound echoing off the buildings all around. He seemed to shake his head and glance around to make sure Kona or Toby or even the Wretched Hyenas who froth and growl and threaten us from their window next door did not witness my grace. I picked myself up, wiping crystals from my pajamas, some of which slipped down my naked ankle and into my slippers where they stung the soft warm part of my heel.

It is the season I dread most, my season of falls. Let's hope both Duncan's pride and my head survive.

Somewhere I know David is smiling. I got mine.

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Night So Big

This night was so big, the sky so vast and clear, the wind so gentle Duncan and I could've hunkered down on the grass, still warm from an afternoon spent glowing under the sun, and outlined a constellation for every person I know, from my mother, with a speckle of stars dancing like clouds of humming birds around her head, to Lori, with a pack of dogs running wild like comets at her feet. It was a beautiful night and our walk felt like it could last forever, like it should last forever. The light tickled the surface of the lake, rippling across it as it washed up on the bank, which has receded several feet over the past month. Duncan hoped to chase the ducks swimming along the shore, so we walked down in the place where the water used to be, mottled and wave-scarred sand which felt hard when stepped upon but turned soft and gave away each time I lifted my foot. The air was so clear I swear, given enough time I could've smelled what you cooked for dinner and listened as the wind carried your whispers across the miles. Duncan rolled in the grass, picking up the once-leaves, catching them in his long hair, and though The Shepherds passed quite near, nervous at the sight of us, their companions reluctantly leashing and pulling them in the opposite direction, we did not care, did not let their appearance mar the night. There were no spectacular colors, only the warmth of the shadows and the memory of the scent of the Russian Olives as we passed by them on the lake trail, the gentle chink of Duncan's collar and leash bouncing and ringing with each step and discovery.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Colors of a Blessing

Although it snowed Friday morning, an event which would've crushed my spirit had Duncan not loved it as much as he did, it was gone by the afternoon and the rest of the weekend was sunshine and perfection. Life on the edge of The Rockies has been very kind and at times it's been too easy to believe winter will never stake her claim. Autumn has gone on and on day after day and if I didn't know how the weather in Colorado loves to tease I could easily be tricked into thinking the snow will never come. Duncan and I spent much of the afternoon, after the chores were done, the bread baked and yogurt made, walking the park, sniffing out bunnies, dancing in the leaves, laying on our backs staring up at the blue sky, a warm breeze blowing over us, a clatter of leaves racing across the grass and breaking against the sides of our bodies. It was the kind of November day I can not remember from my life in Idaho or the years I spent in Illinois. It could only happen here, in this place where we walk through all the seasons of the year and experience blissful days of spring in November, or early Summer in the dead of winter. This whole week promises to be kind and gentle and we may even see 70˚ again.

And the sunset was amazing, a bonfire burning behind the clouds, the wind settled and calm, the smell of pine needles thick in the air, like a living room on Christmas morning. Duncan and I stepped outside and sat on the grass behind the apartment, he chewing a bully stick, one paw resting on the top of my foot, while I marveled at the dusk and marked it as a gift from The Universe. The colors of this night were the kind that made me want to call everyone I know and urge them outside where their faces could be painted in amber and crimson, a kind of blessing and prayer against the cold of December and the frigid breath of January.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Measuring the Moon

"Dreyfus once wrote from Devil's Island that he would see the most glorious birds. Many years later in Brittany he realized they had only been seagulls... For me they will always be "glorious birds." (Harold and Maude)

We watched the moon rise from the top of Rebel Hill tonight, silent and pale, with only a few small patches of clouds interrupting the vastness of stars hovering in space. I'd spotted it as Duncan sniffed the scrawny trunks of the locust trees which have either tragically or blessedly been planted amid the plaza of cement down between the four baseball diamonds. I happened to glance over my shoulder to see it erupting from the eastern horizon and gasped aloud at its suddenness and the silence with which it rose. Duncan startled at my breath, his body going tense and his face reading mine for some indication of what had happened. He followed close at my side as we hurried across the parking lot and up the hill behind the park and rec building to the path winding up from the memorial. It was where I'd led Elijah last Easter, where he'd told me I'd never be alone as long as I thought of him while Duncan and I sat on the low stone bench looking out over the plains and the mountains and the city which rises up between them.

Duncan sat next to me and together we watched the moon, amazing in the ascent we all take for granted. There is magic in the way she climbs the night and I've been told that her size on the horizon is exactly the same as her size when she reaches the highest point of the sky, that she is no bigger at the beginning than she is at the end, that it is nothing but a trick of light and angles. So I measured her with my thumb, holding it up close to my eye. She was as big as the nail but far brighter and much more beautiful. I let Dunc's leash fall and while he sniffed the edge of the walkway for bunnies, I spread out on my back and played with the clouds. Several drifted past which looked exactly like Santa's eyebrows, mustache and beard, all floating independently of each other, hair without a face to grow on. They seemed not to move at all until I looked past them at a small quiet star when their pace would suddenly seem to jerk and accelerate as the wind caught them and pulled them toward the north. Looking directly at their mustached center they stopped again until my eye rediscovered the star. Over and over I did the trick, and sometimes it seemed that I could see and feel the spinning of the entire world beneath me as the sky moved without moving. After many long minutes my clouds grew bored with my game and turned into something else entirely before moving out over the golf course and beyond my field of vision.

Later, much later, at an hour when Duncan is used to the sound of my sleeping, we ventured back out across the street and up the hill. The park was silent and the traffic had found a den to curl up in and sleep until the early hours when it spills out over the world again. Such silence, broken only occasionally by the appearance of a single car on Bowles, its solitary rush and hum almost beautiful as it moved alone, the sound of its wheels cracking across the pavement like a song, like the fall of snow, like everything and nothing. How is it that one sounds like music but the symphony sounds like madness? The moon had made much progress and not even Orion could match her brisk pace. We sat in the same spot and with Duncan at my side I raised my thumb to my eye, held it as close to her pale body as I could and gasped again. It's true. Light and angles and the horizon had played a trick on me, but I prefer to call it magic.

We should all make time for the rising of the moon. Every once in a while.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Many Stars

My friend Lori, who writes the blog Fermented Fur, said farewell to her much-loved Golden Retriever, Sprocket, yesterday. She and her husband Tom were with him as he crossed The Bridge, and we all know in our hearts that their companion Ripley, who crossed two years ago, was with Sprocket, guiding him across.

Last night I'd promised Lori I'd give Duncan extra love, so I took him to the park after the sun had set, just as the sky was in that inbetween place, like when you're half awake and half asleep, when dreams seem more real than reality and reality as magical as dreaming. We stood on the low hill overlooking the willow where Lori and I stood with Duncan just a few weeks ago. I watched the stars blink awake and when I squatted down to Duncan, taking his paw in my hand to whisper a blessing for Sprocket, the southern sky before us flashed for a moment and when I looked up I saw a shooting star burning brightly, flaring once and then fading down low on the horizon, fiery dust trailing after it.

"Your beautiful boy is racing with Ripley," I wrote Lori. "And all the skies of the universe are their playground. Please find peace in that thought and know that you, Tom and the rest of the pack are greatly loved. Many stars shine down on you tonight as many people hold you in their hearts."

If you get a moment, please stop by and offer your words to Lori and Tom. There is no such thing as too much kindness and at a time like this I know they could use it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

One Leaf

Duncan and I spent a long moment this morning watching a single leaf, a brown and brittle hunchbacked thing as big as my palm with the fingers curled inward liked the hooked legs of a spider or a crab, crawl across the sidewalk. It moved slowly, taking tentative steps until the wind caught it and hurried it along at an awkward gallop. The Cottonwoods have been slow to change, as they were slow to bud last Spring, and just a week ago I remarked to Brady that it was almost as though they were the last of Summer's celebrants, still so green with full, tree-bound leaves swaying in the wind, a gentle chorus, so unlike clamor that accompanies the slightest shiver from all those who have fallen and scuttle and crunch underfoot each time they stir. Now, though, they are nearly bare, enormous clenched hands, rising dark against the blueness of the sky.

I have spent our afternoon walks trudging through the leaves, dragging my feet through them, making the most of their voices, taking what little joy there is to be had in their bodies, driving them before me like waves and dolphins before a ship. But watching that one leaf crab-walking across the sidewalk reminded me that there is life in even those things for which we have little use and are busy forgetting. It's walk and rush were feral and alien, but I stood transfixed and remembered that quote from American Beauty, the one I have used so often here: "[It] was, like, dancing with me. Like a little kid begging me to play with it. For fifteen minutes. And that's the day I knew there was this entire life behind things, and... this incredibly benevolent force, that wanted me to know there was no reason to be afraid, ever."

Sometimes it's difficult to find the joy in this season, but if we remember that life does not end, that death and Autumn are an illusion, we can find great comfort in its beauty. Duncan knows this. He finds joy in every patch of grass, every twig and cast-off branch, every gust of wind, carrying the scents and flavors of the world to him. It's in watching his joy and delight in this suddenly barren world that I rediscover my own.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Walk On

It feels as though we've been walking and walking and walking some more, from afternoons when the sun was hot and it was easy to raise a sweat just by breathing, to these cold days when the wind has lifted the leaves from the trees and scattered them in a raucous chorus across the yellowed grass. But, as I've always claimed, the destination would be nothing without the journey.

Over these past few months I have made friends and shared experiences I'm unsure would've been possible without the journey of this election and the reward of its historic outcome. My faith in mankind has been elevated and I will never forget those jubilant moments just after Barack Obama's name was announced as our 44th president. I will take that memory with me on many journeys and I'm sure each of you will do the same. It is important, crucial even, that we never forget how we felt at that moment, like the door had swung open, light had been let in and all the promises of our country were made real.

If there's one thing I've learned from walking with Duncan it's that no matter how satisfying a walk can be, how utterly fulfilling and joyous it is, there is another waiting just beyond it, full of the same unknowing and challenges as each of its predecessors. Duncan demands we keep walking and despite weary legs or a tired spirit, blistering heat or painful cold, I take him out and we walk again, not always with the same result, but rarely without reward. Duncan knows with his special wisdom that there can be no destination without a journey, and we must apply that same knowledge to our new government. As Obama said in his acceptance speech on Tuesday night, this election was never about him, it was about us. He did not elect himself and he will accomplish nothing without our assistance. So, in these days of celebration and excitement, I call on each of you to search your soul and find one issue that is of special significance to you––be it health care or equal pay, the environment, education or gay rights––and never stop walking until you reach a destination that brings you comfort and peace of mind. Write your senators and congressmen, join a group, educate yourself, speak and speak until your voice is hoarse and then speak some more, and do everything in your power to make your vision a reality. Do not stop until you've reached the world you've always wanted to live in. Walk on.

"If you're walking down the right path and you're willing to keep walking,
eventually you'll make progress." (Barack Obama)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

This Day

On this day, this most important day, the day I have written about and studied and spoken with countless people about for months and months, the day I have argued over and dreamt about, made myself sick over, this day when I really honestly feel as though this country is on the cusp of monumental change, as though things are finally and blessedly about to shift from darkness back into light, I have to stop and give thanks to my dear friend, David. Without his patience and knowledge, without his outrage at the state of our decrepit health care system, his indignation at the treatment of our fellow citizens, without his guidance, I may have spent this election cycle attentive but inactive, concerned but woefully uneducated.

David is a remarkable man and there is much I--and to some degree each of you--owe to him. He is passionate and dedicated, loyal beyond words, and at times, when I have been unsure of myself and the direction of my life, David has been there as only a few others have. Despite the neglect and ignorance which have guided this country for the past eight years, David's belief in its potential is staggering and inspiring. His heart is the heart of a poet, for not only does he see things as they are, but he is able to look beyond them and see what we can be. We have spent innumerable hours over the past year agonizing about this day, this one day when the eyes of the rest of the world are on America, watching and waiting for us to finally, at last, make the right decision. His emails have encouraged me, enlightened me, frightened me, and finally ignited a fire in me that would not go out until I had used what little voice I have to speak up for what is right. It is because of David that I have used this place to rail against the dangerous arrogance which currently controls our government and the ignorance which threatens it again. Because of David I have attended rallies. I have walked the streets handing out leaflets, knocked on doors asking for support. I have spoken with friends who only a few weeks ago seemed beyond reach but have come to realize this country deserves more, deserves better.

In a letter I recently received from him, in an envelope scrawled with his familiar and much-loved handwriting, a single sprig of lavender folded between the pages, as he has done since I moved away from Illinois and the kindly Shire-like folk there, the very people who have given us Barack Obama, David wrote:

This election has inflamed the best and the worst of this nation. We will, each of us, vote according to our character and collectively define the character of the Unites States. The election booth will become a sort of civic confessional in which we exercise our faith in this country. I vote tomorrow. I have waited a long time, and it will feel good to finally have my say.

On this day, this morning when here in Denver the sun is out and the sky is blue, when anything and everything seem possible, I ask you to vote according to your character. I ask you to be brave and look not at the past, but to the future. I ask you to put the last eight years behind us finally and forever and to take a deep breath before we begin the much needed healing of this nation. I ask you to raise your voice and change the world.

*The banner at the top of this post was designed by my friend Kelly, who created it on her blog, Property of Kelly. Not only is she one of my most favorite people, but she's a talented artist and designer.

Animal Farm

Monday, November 3, 2008

Sudden Dark

Yesterday, on our late afternoon walk, Duncan was not ready to come home. We'd already strolled up to the library, around the side of the lake, up the hill above Columbine, down to the gray cinder block parks and rec building where the bunnies hole up on the safe side of the chain link fence, back across the park and through the lower soccer field. The sun was warm despite being low in the western sky, hovering just above the mountains, casting them in heavy shadow even as it favored the rest of the land in gold. It was a marvelous afternoon, with one or two stars already peeking out and the wind blowing the smell of toffee and cinnamon. So I indulged him and let guide me across Pierce to Leawood, where he stopped and sniffed at every spot where we've ever encountered a rabbit. He played with Jinx, a familiar Golden on our route and chased only a handful of bunnies under a large, low-boughed pine tree. And even after the sun had slipped behind the mountains and the sky began to turn, when the air cooled and rustled our hair, chilling, if only a little, our cheeks, he still did not want to come home. With some coaxing and promises of extra treats with his dinner, I was able to convince him, but as I sat on the patio outside, my feet propped up on the railing listening to Miles Davis, I wondered if coming home had been the right choice. We have been unseasonably lucky here in Denver the last few weeks, with clear mornings, nearly hot afternoons and mild nights, the kind which allow for windows left open a crack to cool our dreams and night imaginings. I realized after the sun had set and Duncan had finished his dinner (in addition to some of the duck strips Lori brought him when she visited two weeks ago) that the day's glowing afternoon walk will become a rarity, that the sun will have set by the time I arrive home. Time has suddenly shifted and where there was day there is now dark. I will hold the memory of yesterday's walk with me a long time, watching Duncan sniff under hedges, step gently around fences, the sun dancing as it does so willingly across the curling gold and red of his back. He knew dark was coming and wanted only to walk in the sun as long as possible. My wise, wise friend.

Imagine One Voice

Music Playlist at

"You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one
(Imagine, John Lennon)

Sunday, November 2, 2008

A Word on the Tip of the Tongue

November has been uncommonly kind to us this year, warm and mellow, and, as Ken remarked this morning as we stood on the patio looking out across the park, a steaming mug of coffee curled between his cupped hands, the warm lip of a cup of tea pressed to my mouth, "It's like Spring, except for the smell. If I closed my eyes I'd never know it wasn't May." As he said it a warm breeze stirred the myriad leaves which have collected in the gutters and sent them clattering across the deserted street. "And the sound," he added. "The sound is unmistakably Autumn."

Duncan and I rose early. I prepped his raw chicken breakfast, tossed in a load of laundry, took a glance out the window at what can only be described as the most perfect of Autumn mornings: the sun bright but still low, the streets empty and silent, the air unmoving. I leashed him up and we jaunted across the street to the park, which was empty of the usual Sunday morning revelers, even the kids who dress up as medieval warriors and wage sword battles down by the big willow. The time change must've thrown some of them off, which didn't bother me in the slightest. I love the park best when it is wide and open and all ours.

Many of the trees are nearly bare, especially the elms, which cast off their clothing back in September, and now only the Lindens are left, their leaves still thick and mostly green, the ghost of their summer scent lingering in my memory as we pass beneath their slowly thinning canopy. At the top of the hill above the lake, where the city and the foothills spread out before us, the colors are nearly spectacular, with a thousand shades of gold, dwindling reds and the deep almost-gray of the evergreens, all of them pressed against the rich blue of this clear and healthy sky. Looking at the tree-tops from a hill is a bit like studying the slow slide of the clouds across the sky as the eye seeks out patterns and shapes, recognizable forms: a car, a fish breaching the water, grandpa in profile.

Trees in Autumn and the light sifting through them remind me of that first fall after I got my drivers license, when I climbed into my old silver Ford Fairmont on Sunday mornings and drove the quiet streets down by the cemetery, the one place in Pocatello where the trees grow wild and tall and unlike anything else in that faraway corner of the world. With my windows down and the air cool on my knuckles, clutching the steering wheel and singing along to Depeche Mode's album Black Celebration (the most Autumnal album in my entire collection, even twenty-two years after I first bought it) I couldn't help but feel as though I'd missed something, as if it had been within reach, whatever it was, but had slipped away. Every fall since I've felt that way, sad and reflective, unable to grasp what it feels like I should have grasped. Like a word on the tip of the tongue.

I still don't know what it is and I probably never will, but Autumn makes me feel poetic and reflective, only now, with Duncan snorting his way through the leaves, pushing them aside to reach whatever scent lies buried beneath, their familiar churning crunch as we carve a path through them, I feel a little less like sighing and more like dancing.