Monday, June 30, 2008

Slow

Blue skies are enormous and night skies are even bigger, almost as big as our imaginations. Meadows are vast and succulent with flowers and bees and the clouds of gnats hovering over them, visible only when the sun dances on the edges of their wings, spinning and churning in the air before us like stars and space dust and other things we've meant to think of but haven't gotten around to yet. Even the rocks, trapped as they can get in the hot cement of our streets, are wonders to behold, countless and vast. They are not like the little dots on ceiling tiles, the kind of things you can count if you choose to. And there would be something limiting about knowing their precise number, something sterile and too specific for a mind like mine. The world––or rather, the world I want to live in––is not meant to be framed in such ways. There doesn't seem to be much room for poetry and magic in precision and exactness.

I have been riding my bike a lot lately, to and from work, around the lake, through the park and up the hills above Lilley Gulch. My walks with Duncan have taught me to be aimless and open to the slow revelation of the hours and the seasons. Biking is like walking, only from a slightly higher elevation. With the wind in your face and a rush of momentum pushing against you it can even be like flying. I spent much of my long ride this morning with my arms outstretched and my head thrown back enjoying the exhilaration of speed and the forward thrust of my body through the air.

I watch people. It's what I do. I see them walk the lake or the trails, or jog or ride their own bikes, and I see so many of them passing through the world without taking notice of it at all. Perhaps their televisions or car windows have convinced them they don't know how. They shield themselves with their iPods or their cell phones or their conversations about which neighbor is doing what or sick with this or that. There is safety in gossip and isolation, but there certainly isn't much freedom. They all seem so sad and weary and it's remarkable to me that they don't even let the world touch them. I am certainly no better than anyone else, but on mornings like today's I can not move even a few feet without startling at some sight or another, be it a bee plodding through the tall, pink fluff of a flower or the dance of light across the water in the brook while the moss pulls and twists in the current just under the surface. I watched the clouds form over the mountains, big and white, taller than anything built by man and I marveled at them and how in a strange way they looked like the Eagle Nebula, a nursery and place where stars are born and whose tallest spires are far wider than our own solar system.This morning was bursting with discovery and as I moved through it I was thankful for my pace and the slow unfolding of my passage through the valley, for the exertion of my legs and lungs and for my eyes and ears, which made me witness to much more than most of the people I passed even dream about.

"Didn't you know,
you get to know things better
when they go by slow ."
(The Ancient Egyptians, Poi Dog Pondering)

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Dreams and Distances

We laid out on the grass tonight, Duncan and I, looking at the stars. He was unusually mellow and let me rest my head against him while he gnawed on a stick and cupped one paw over my hand. I craned my neck skyward and watched the Big Dipper hang above us, dipping into the orange haze that hovers over Denver, and thought back on those summer nights when Casey and I slept on our porch, telling stories to one another and reading books aloud, talking about our dreams and what we wanted our lives to be, our eyes focused on the space between stars, the wide darkness occasionally split by a shooting star, something we gasped at and tried to point to, never quite managing before they burnt out and faded over the horizon. Sleeping outside was a precious time for us, a time for hushed voices and confessions, the night cool on our faces and arms, our bodies tucked into the warmth of our sleeping bags. I would like her to come for a visit so we could sleep out again and talk long into the night, maybe explore new dreams and hopes for the future. We have changed and our paths have changed many times over, but the Dipper still hangs in the sky, the second star in the handle hugged close by another one, further out perhaps, and not as bright, but if you look carefully you can see it there, almost on top of it. I like to imagine that's the place our dreams are born, waiting until the time is right before they travel untold distances to shine upon us and illuminate our lives.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Grrroomed

Today marked one of those momentous occasions for Duncan and me, and not because of some grand event but for something quite mundane: he got a haircut. His first, in fact. I spend plenty of time brushing him, although not as much as I should, and he gets a bath every now and then, but he's never been professionally groomed until today. We spent some time last night discussing it on our walk, talking about what to expect and how things would go, but I'm not quite sure he quite grasped what was going to happen.

Diane is an excellent dog groomer, a patient and kind woman who gave up her job as a software developer to do something that fed her spirit a little more. So she cashed in her options, converted her garage into a shop and opened a grooming business. I liked her immediately, with her short hair and small, open elvish face, kind eyes and warm laugh. Duncan took to her immediately, but once she placed him in the tub and started spraying him with water he wasn't so pleased. He tolerated it, somewhat reluctantly, staring at me with woeful eyes and whining pitifully, which, despite my enthusiasm for a clean, trimmed dog, was heart-wrenching. But he was adorable in his wet-dog way, skinny and pathetic, with those big brown eyes staring at me, bigger than they'd ever been, and he kept kissing Diane, as a diversionary tactic, trying to tempt her with his tremendous love and kindness and sheer cuteness.


video

It wasn't until she attempted to dry him, though, that things got really nasty. Dunc did not like the drier at all, and as he flailed and thrashed about, I gathered my things and stepped out of the shop, walking down the alley in the vain hope of getting out of earshot of his cries. Having played the role of Mister Curt for a bunch of four-year olds several years ago, I know that the continued presence of mom and dad often feeds anxiety on everyone's part and that things tend to calm down once mom and dad remove themselves from the situation. I stayed outside for the remainder of his haircut and heavy brushing not wishing to make Diane's work any harder or prolong Duncan's fear. It was not pleasant, listening to him bark and whine and howl for me, and as I spoke with Ken on the phone I told him I felt a bit like a helpless parent who has taken their child to the doctor and must endure the wails and shrieks as a shot is given. Duncan was in no pain or danger, he'd just never been groomed, and despite my long talk with him did not know what was happening.

But in the end Diane won him over and we'll be back. He looks amazing, better either Ken or I have looked in months in fact, and I know we'll be returning. If only I could talk Diane into washing and trimming my hair. I'd promise not to shriek quite as much when she turns the drier on. There's only one tiny problem. Somehow or another I ended up with poor Diane's phone in my pocket. I'll take it back to her tomorrow, pray for her forgiveness and hope she's kind enough to allow us back.

Despite telling Duncan that he wouldn't be allowed outside for the rest of the weekend, if only so I can enjoy all Diane's hard work and get the most bang for my buck, we went for a long walk in the park. He made quite the striking figure, with none of that ratty, unruly hair flying all over the place. He seemed to know he looked and smelled good, and walked with his head held high and his tail wagging back and forth. It was quite the contrast from Skeeter, our Cocker Spaniel, who hid under the table for days after being groomed.

It didn't last for long, though. No sooner has we passed the last group of weekend revelers than my boy got back at me for the torture that had been inflicted on him all afternoon.

It's a good thing he's so dang cute and I love him as much as I do!

Friday, June 27, 2008

While Working with Duncan

It's official, I am finally on vacation for the next eleven days. I can barely contain my excitement, and because the store is closed on Fridays and I only work a half day I decided that Duncan would come to work with me. We did this last year and had a great time; in fact, it was one of the best days I've ever had there. This year was just as wonderful. Duncan was quite the hit, flirting with all the girls, especially Amber, but that may been because she was enveloped in a cloud of his favorite perfume, Eau de Turkey Sandwich. He spent much of the morning laying quietly behind my chair, only occasionally getting up to demand a game of fetch down the text aisles. He rarely left my side and began crying the one time I stepped out to fill his water bowl so I hurried back in so he could jump all over me and shake his rear end like he hadn't seen me for weeks. It was a glorious reunion, let me tell you.

I think every day should be Bring Your Dog to Work Day. It's so much more fun, and even a little productive. We should start a petition or a movement!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Water World

Something was terribly wrong with the fountain in the park this evening. It's not a spectacular fountain as far as fountains go, but for some reason it couldn't seem to manage to do its job very well. Rather than offering ten or twelve jets that shoot up six or seven feet, it just sort of spat water out in a single frothy, burping mess which resulted in a churning, foaming pool that laid claim to much of the courtyard in which it sits as the centerpiece.

I didn't have a lot of time this afternoon as I had tickets to attend Sondheim's musical Company. As I was leashing Duncan up I told him, "We can't be out long so you better make this adorable." And although he had nothing to do with the condition of the fountain (although I wouldn't be surprised if Pip and Olive weren't the masterminds behind the entire affair), Dunc certainly delivered. From the moment we stumbled across it he was intrigued.
But once he figured out he was safe and could even have fun, there was no stopping him.

video

You might say he even got a little carried away.

Remind you of anything?


Eventually, after the chum has dispersed and things returned to normal, he was able to frolic and play and even joined several small children in splashing and cavorting.

Adorable indeed. And I wasn't even late for my show!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A Face and a Heart

"There's no art to find the mind's construction in the face."
(William Shakespeare, Macbeth, as spoken by Duncan, King of Scotland)

How blessed I am to be greeted by such a face first thing every morning and cuddled up next to it each night. Where so many see walking their dog companions as a chore––and I admit, I sometimes do, at least until I'm greeted at the door by such a smiling, laughing one as this––I know that walking with this face has brought me new friends, led me places I never expected to be taken and has illuminated even the darkest, coldest walks. This face has drastically changed my own, widening my smile lines, easing the worries held in my tight forehead and opening my eyes to the wonder of the discovery of the world, which no longer seems quite as fearful. There is joy in this face like none I have known, and it reveals all the things I aspire to be on a daily basis: open, friendly, warm, comforting, generous and excited at the unfolding mysteries found in the simplest and briefest of moments. But faces do more than reveal the mind behind them, they reveal the heart as well, and Dunc has one of the biggest hearts that I've ever had the joy of being touched by.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Another Life and a Good Place

There are wondrous moments, on the edge of nightfall, after the day has been busy being loud and ominous, when the sky has clouded over and cleared then clouded again, after the sound of the rain has sprinkled in the grass like chimes, when the sky calms just enough to offer its apologies by painting fire across the horizon, burning the silhouette of the mountains. They are precious times, when dreams materialize, transcending circumstance and become clearer than the stars that tease on the edge of night. Walking summer sunsets is magic and nights like these are too precious not to be out with Duncan ambling along beside me, his leash dragging behind him. We move without direction and stop for long periods to lay in the cool grass. Duncan will find a stick and chew contentedly while I lay on my back, my arms behind my head and imagine we are somewhere else, doing things that only happen in novels and movies, for surely they are too magnificent to happen in real life. Nights like these make me dream of packing a few essentials and walking away from everything except my dog, if only until September cools the world. I envision us, dusty and tired, clad in denim and a bandanna around Dunc's neck, hiking down back country roads or up tight, green mountain canyons, getting out of the way of the big trucks which rumble like thunder down the narrow roads. I imagine spending a week or two washing dishes in some greasy spoon in the Midwest, spending just enough time to make money for our next adventure, and sleeping in a field, Duncan curled up against me as the stars slide silently across the sky. It's a romantic vision and one that certainly will never happen, but when the sky is on fire and I dream of watching eagles fly, it seems close enough to reach out and touch, like something I could make happen tomorrow if only I could summon the courage or somehow forget the comfort and smell of my pillows. The people who know me best would be surprised to discover I have dreams like this––Curt, who likes lotion and doesn't know how to build a fire, who can't go two days without a shower and spends far too much time on the phone––but dreams like these are things we keep close because they can seem so absurd. Perhaps that's why they only come out on special occasions, when I'm weary and feel like there's more to be done, when the night is dark but painted in brilliant colors. But, it's one thing to imagine myself wearing cowboy boots and thumbing a ride with Duncan in the back of someone's pick-up truck, and quite another to do it. I am not that person––at least not today––but watching the night take a hold of my side of the world it feels like something that should be done, like a part of my life will always be incomplete if I don't, as though there are lessons I'm meant to learn that will lead me into my next life, whatever that might be.
Since there are no highways to step onto tonight, no haylofts to slip into, no streams to wash in, I will take this park for what it is, a place my dog and I have explored and claimed, enjoyed and made our own in our own way. It's a good place, for what it offers as well as the dreams it nourishes, and I won't turn my back on it. After all, there are people out there on the road dreaming of this very spot in the world, searching for it and they move and move and move, their dog following along like the best friend it is.And yet:
When he first came to the mountains his life was far away
On the road and hangin' by a song
But the string's already broken and he doesn't really care
It keeps changin' fast and it don't last for long

But the Colorado rocky mountain high
I've seen it rainin' fire in the sky
The shadow from the starlight is softer than a lullaby
Rocky mountain high
(Rocky Mountain High John Denver)

Monday, June 23, 2008

Raspberries and Sincerity

Lately something has been giving me the impression that Duncan occasionally like to mess with me. On our walk today we'd just reached the top of the park, which overlooks the lake and the amphitheater, and where Mark let me fly his kite earlier this Spring, and we were able to look up at the thick clouds which were slowly moving down the mountains and only just beginning to swallow the green foothills. Duncan looked magnificent, his coat so red against the green and heavy movement of the gray sky, the wind only just tugging at his ears, ruffling the thick fur there. I knelt down beside him and pulled out the camera. His eyes followed the playful dancing arc of a butterfly's flight before it flitted down in the clover beside me, and the look on his face was one of such wonder and sincerity that it brought a smile to my lips. As I snapped the picture I thought, My dog knows things I will never know, enjoys the thrill of life in a way that perhaps only a small child would be able to understand, loves all things for their glory and simplicity and does not judge. I thought this as my finger pressed the button, and in that fraction of a second he pulled a trick on me.The little bugger.

We tried it again, and after only a little coaching, and help from the butterfly, which startled at my sudden laughter and scritching of Duncan's ears. It took to the air again in a sudden jerking leap, a paper kite without a string and I was able to get the shot I wanted. I think I know which one is my favorite: the one which truly captures the playful, and sometimes precocious spirit of my best friend.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Blow: The Undoing of a Musical Genius

As previously mentioned, and well-known by everyone who knows me, even if only slightly, I am a whistler. It's the one musical talent I inherited from my grandfather, who taught me everything I know about it by simply telling me, "Put your lips together and blow." His lesson, while not the most detailed, and which certainly omits quite a lot about the actual technique of whistling, was a valuable one, and one I have practiced daily since that very first whistle, standing in his garage on Reed Street in Idaho Falls, back when I was no more than five years old. While not the best whistler--I'm certainly no Cartter Frierson!––I am pretty good, especially in the morning. At work. When no one seems to like me. Long years I have entertained the idea of cracking into that great untapped Whistling Market, recording and releasing an album of favorite whistles. I envision a world where farm fields in upstate New York will overflow with the muddy and sometimes nude bodies of tens of thousands of America's youth, who've gathered for a four day music festival of world renowned whistlers, like Frances Bonifazi, Fred Lowery, the Great Roger Whitaker and Mike Riston, a Whistival, if you will, a place where we can meet free of shame, unafraid to practice our art without fear of retribution. But alas, that day has not yet come and so I dream alone, whistling as I work, sending my call out into the world in hopes of attracting others like me.

Like many talented musicians, I am haunted by my art. I spent much of last winter with Arthur Fiedlers's "Sleigh Ride" banging around inside my head, demanding I purse my lips and belt it out at the top of my lungs, or tongue, or whatever it is whistlers like me use to craft our music. "Sleigh Ride" refused to let go of me and still occasionally sneaks up on me when I least expect it. About all I can do in those moments is let it out, over and over again, all day long. Sometimes I whistle the melody, sometimes the harmony leaks out (which is interesting because, unlike my friend Jen, who can harmonize to a fart, I can't pick one out to save my life), and sometimes I attempt a grand symphonic discourse and end up with a strained tongue and chapped lips, which, if you're one of the Whistling Ignorant, is the worst thing that can happen, like writer's block, or a bad hair day.

I do have my standards, those tunes I whistle over and over and over again. There's Für Elise, which I do first as Beethoven intended, but on my second trip through I jazzify it and transform it into a snappy little number you could bebop along with. Then there's "I'll Be Seeing You," which, for three years, drifted over the campus of Lake Forest College late at night as I walked back to my room keeping my eye on the moon, or if there was none, on the halos which glowed around the lamps which lit the paths. There's also "Recipe for Making Love," by Harry Connick, Jr, which is just plain fun on the lips. But of course, as an artist, I must constantly push myself, which is why I've gotten pretty good at whistling "Lose Yourself," by Eminem. I would, after all, hate to be pigeon-holed as a performer of nothing but pop standards. "Lose Yourself" was my version of Dylan going electric.

I hate to admit it, but Summer can be just as dangerous for earworms (those tunes which get stuck in your head) as the holidays and that damn Feidler tune. It's only crept up on me the last day or two as Duncan and I have strolled the park and even on the edges of Lilley Gulch. It starts off innocuously enough but before you know it, it's lodged as firmly as a twin absorbed in vitro. It only appears during the hot Summer months, and typically only within earshot of places where children gather, children with money in their pockets or grown-ups who can be pestered for money.

That's right. It's the ice cream truck with that damn ice cream truck song that every person in this country knows by heart. The damn ice cream truck has crashed my whistling party and made a mockery of the tunes and voices which play constantly in my head. Even Duncan, who normally isn't phased by anything on our walks, other than the hopping-away of a rabbit or a screaming squirrel, has started whining when we walk the park. Or the lake. Or down Leawood. I'm hoping that when my vacation starts next week we can get up into the mountains where there's nothing but peace and tranquility. And Für Elise, of course.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

A Stick in the Park

video

There's nothing like a long game of fetch (although it's obvious we need to work on the retrieve part of the game a little more) on the longest day of the year.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Rainbow Bridge

I'm sad to report that Joey, companion to my friend Sally and her husband Mel, crossed the Rainbow Bridge last night. His vitals were good and strong but after numerous surgeries and no clear diagnosis, Joey made the decision for Sally and her husband, who had struggled with it the past several days. Shortly after they arrived, they each gave him a farewell kiss and held him as he took his final breath. The family is understandably saddened by the loss of their courageous little companion. The people at work, who have been offering their support and encouragement to Sally, were also sad to learn of Joey's passing.

Having endured Duncan's Great Yarn Crisis of 2006, a portion of which was spent at Alameda East, where Joey fought most of his battle, I know that caring for a pet under these circumstances can be quite expensive. I was lucky in that Team Duncan was able to offer financial support when Ken and I were unable to manage the cost of his medical bills on our own. Without their help, Duncan would not be with us today and the stories and thoughts I have shared with you for nearly a year on this blog would not have been possible. I am in debt to their generosity and compassion.

I know that these are difficult times we live in and that with the rising cost of gas and food it's hard to find any extra money, but I spoke with Lisa at Alameda East and learned that Joey's medical bills are considerable, especially since Sally and her husband are on a fixed income. It is my hope that with even the smallest of donations we can help them, even if only a little, to offset these expenses and give them time to grieve their loss rather than worry about money. If you'd like to donate (even $10 or $20 will help!), you can do so by credit card or check. Credit card contributions can be made by calling the hospital at 303-366-2639 or you can send a check to:

VCA Alameda East Veterinary Hospital
9770 East Alameda Avenue
Denver, Colorado 80247

Please mention Joey's name, as well as the name of his companions, Sally and Mel Almendares. Their client ID number, which I'm told will expedite the process, is 121374.

If you're unable to contribute but know of any organizations that help provide relief for families on fixed incomes who have suffered the loss of an animal companion and the high veterinary bills, please share those with me as well so that I can pass them along to Sally and her family.

Thank you for your support and kindness.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Wisdom and Timing

For all his wisdom and beauty, his sensitivity and gentleness, it must be said that Duncan certainly knows how to crash a party.

Nearly every afternoon on our walks through the park or down around the lake, Summer revelers have gathered to picnic, play volleyball or Ultimate, practice soccer, or merely lounge in the grass, their faces and tanned bodies illuminated by the sun, their blankets spread out with their collections of food, coolers and boom boxes. Nothing makes people happier than frolicking and laying under a warm blue sky, unless they can do it in large groups, be they family or friends, schoolmates or veterans organizations, those annoying spandex clad women who practice strollaerobics, after work league or people like me, who just stop to chat up strangers as we make our way through to somewhere––and occasionally nowhere––else. People like to gather, and Duncan likes the gathering of people. If only his timing were better.

It seems that the moment we approach people, near their picnic tables or on the edges of their games, Duncan decides there is no finer place to manage a Big Job and so he does his little circle and sniff dance, squats, circles and sniffs some more, then gets down to business. Dogs tend to look somewhat embarrassed by the whole procedure, and Duncan is no exception, but it gets worse when I'm standing nearby, leash in hand, smiling politely at the family gathered around their potato salad and brats watching the whole thing with a look of disgust on their faces.

In such situations it's difficult to chat people up and so I smile, a tight closed-mouth grin, and bob my head, offering my sighs and the occasional shrug until he's done and kicking the grass out from behind him.

Tonight, near the Dave Saunders Memorial Baseball field, the little twit got kind of ballsy and actually attempted to mark someone's cooler as his own, raising his leg and sidling right up to it. I gasped as an older woman, a tight-cheeked former member of the Juicy Bun club, pointed and tried to speak but couldn't find the words. "Duncan," I cried and pulled him away. He shot me a "What gives? It was almost ours!" kind of look and ambled along beside me.

Such tremendous wisdom.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Sculpted Night

There are many good ways to walk: in the sun, under a wide blue sky, in the morning with the sweet grass wet underfoot, on the cusp of night as the last rays of gold burn and fade from the sky, in the Autumn when the leaves rustle and dance around your ankles and the air smells of earth and red and brown, in the quiet stillness of a snowstorm. Tonight, though, as we teeter on the edge of Summer, when the moon was pregnant and amber in the sky, it seemed much of the world stopped to marvel at the illusion of her size, a quiet settling over the park and streets. Duncan and I stopped, too, to marvel at our smallness, which is a good thing to do every now and then. If the sun makes us bold, the moon should make us humble and reverent. I caught my breath as it slid slowly over the horizon, the night turning dark around her, the stars seeming to move out of her way. The world seemed frozen as Duncan milled at my feet while I snapped pictures and composed odes in my head. The leaves on the trees, silvered on their edges, ceased their rustling. The grass seemed to rise up to meet her. The stones and pebbles trapped for all time in the street cement glistened like moving water. Strange how things can move while standing so still. And yet the night still seemed transformed into a vast sculpture garden and as I put the camera away I had to wonder, were watching her or was she, an admirer of strange art, watching us?

"Moonlight is sculpture; sunlight is painting." (Nathaniel Hawthorn)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Killdeer

The secret of a good walk is to allow the walk to guide you, lead you where it will and not direct its course or decide what kind of walk it's going to be. On countless occasions I have been in a terrible mood, reluctant to spend more than the most cursory amount of time outside being dragged around by Duncan, only to discover that the walk would be the best, most forgiving and therapeutic part of my day. Likewise, there have been afternoons when I felt as though I lived in some grand Hollywood musical, as though the walk would take place in Technicolor, with little cartoon birds alighting on my shoulder while fauns and bunnies traipsed along beside us, sniffing flowers and singing in harmony to the song of the sun and the swaying clouds. On more than one such occasion I've been disappointed to learn that Duncan did not feel the same way, that he was grumpy or reluctant and that Walt Disney was not in charge of animating my day. You may think the path leads one way and if you're not willing to take a chance or have some silly preconceived notion of what a walk should be, you'll likely discover it will take you in a completely different direction altogether.


I had a terrible day. My sinuses and ears have been acting up, my cough, although not racking, is annoying and unproductive, my doctor offered the wrong treatment for it and the two night-time cold capsules I took last night kept me drowsy and foggy until well past noon. It wasn't until Duncan pulled me out of the apartment and across the park to Lilley Gulch that I felt as though I was actually a participant in my day. The air was hot and the sun in my eyes would've been uncomfortable if didn't feel so damn good on my face and arms, warming my throat and the tip of my nose. The reeds along the creek have sprung up almost overnight, growing over last year's dead, yellow stalks, offering lush new homes to the birds that nest there. If you skew your field of vision just right you can erase the homes and streets that line the gulch and imagine you're alone in the foothills, which always roll west ahead of you, turning a welcome shade of green as they near the mountains. The birds were mostly quiet, except for the lowing of the Mourning Doves and the faraway high-pitched cry of the killdeer which nest at the dry, rocky base of Rebel Hill.

Their voices beckoned and so Duncan turned and followed the path to the creek, where I jumped across while he waded a bit, then up between the tall rows of lilac bushes, now white and browning throughout and completely void of the perfume which lasts only as long as those delicate days before the heat sets in. We came out into the wide field on the southeast edge of the lake where the ground rises up and turns yellow with the tiny petals of a million wildflowers. We teased the prairie dogs, who barked at us and stood protectively over their pups and eventually Duncan spotted a killdeer and set off in her direction. I knew her game and kept my eyes open for the chicks, which scurried around for shelter in the tall grass. Duncan eventually caught onto her broken wing antics as she led us further away from her nest, but I brought him back around and we followed one chick, a scurrying, scrawny, fuzzy thing, for several minutes, Duncan's nose quite close to its tiny, bald little tail, practically pushing it forward while its mother screeched at us from nearby, huddling in the grass and playing as though her wing were broken. Our chase was short-lived and we headed up the hill, around the memorial and back down into the lower side of the park where the baseball diamonds sit and the crowds had gathered for an evening of America's national past-time.

Our walk was like killdeer; it started in one direction, seeming to be something solitary and quiet, but turned another way and became something playful and more social. It was wonderful watching Duncan discover the chick and follow close behind, his tail wagging, his sniffing low and gentle, his gate easy and careful.

And that is the secret to walking in the world. Let it lead you, open your eyes to discoveries unexpected and unplanned, look for beauty in the rugged places as well as those settings where you expect to find it. This is the way to experience the world, and to let the world experience you.

Monday, June 16, 2008

More Precious Than Breath

Sally, a woman I work with, has had a difficult time with Joey, her Pomeranian, the last few weeks and what seemed relatively minor only a few days ago has left him on the verge of the death this afternoon, with his family considering euthanasia. Luckily his doctor doesn't think they've quite reached that point and so Joey's troops are rallying to his side, praying and sending all their good thoughts in his direction. Sally was obviously quite emotional about his condition for most of the day and even though we tried to offer what little we could in the way of sympathy and consolation, it was not enough. We could only watch her and reach out our arms to offer hugs and strength. Sally spent much of the day crying and in sitting with her and listening to her talk through her fear and grief, several members of the staff, myself included, were moved to tears as well.

Duncan was very much on my mind all day and I could not think of much else aside from coming home, taking him outside where he could lead the way and then finally, at the end of our walk, under the shade of the big cottonwoods, wrap my arms around him and kiss his precious red head. Duncan was quite lucky to have made it through The Great Yarn Crisis of 2006 as well as he did, but I can still recall how weak he was and the pitiful little whimpers he made as he laid on his belly in front of the fireplace, wrapped in one of my t-shirts and a blanket. Seeing him in that condition and being unable to explain to him what was happening or how I was trying to help heal him was one of the most frustrating experiences of my life. But the not-knowing was even worse. I can not imagine how frightened Sally is at the prospect of losing her boy, the one who only ten days ago was the picture of good health.

And so we walked, Duncan and I, and I watched his back as he pulled against the leash. I watched his shadow prance along beside him, lifting its leg and stopping to scratch behind its ear right along with him. I watched him watch the kids play kickball, his ears high and his body tense as he prepared to dive right into the game with them. I have said it before and I will say it many more times for the rest of my life, but I am blessed to have shared these three years with him at my side. He has been the most devoted of companions, tireless in his loyalty and love for me and I can not thank the universe enough for his presence in my life. If it were a choice between Duncan and the smell of Russian Olives, or the sight of the blossoms in the trees each Spring, or the magic of Christmas, I would forsake them all for the love of my best, bestest friend.

He is more precious to me than breath.

Note to Fellow Bloggers: A Call to Action

This has little to do with Duncan, other than the fact that I enjoy walking him in a clean, safe world with blue sky, green grass and water that doesn't smell like sludge. I recently added a new badge to my sidebar, the 350 Challenge. I strongly encourage each of you to visit the link and add the badge to your own blogs. Every blogger who does so and registers will get 350 pounds of carbon offset in their name. The more bloggers who join, the more carbon imprints we're reducing, thus helping preserve a little of the grass Duncan and I roll in, the dazzling skies we walk under and the water I'd like to get him into even though he's terrified. It's a simple thing, easier, even, than making the bed!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

A League of Our Own

One of Duncan's friends, Maggie, is the world champion UFO dog. She's a local girl, rescued from the Denver Dumb Friends League who went on to become the winner of the UFO World Cup two years in a row. We've seen her practicing at the park numerous times and run into her occasionally at Heroes, but we've never joined her in her endeavors. The truth of the matter is that I'm a bit intimidated. The one time Duncan played with a Frisbee he confused it for a chew toy and demolished it in about two minutes, punching a hole right through the middle of it and then slowly peeling back all the nice plastic until the thing wouldn't stay aloft if put into orbit aboard the space shuttle. Maggie, obviously, has far more respect for the Frisbee than Duncan. Still, Melissa brought one down to The Glen to toss around with the dogs and I agreed to give it another try. Melissa was quite good at throwing it and put this nice little spin on it so that it seemed to hover in the air at the end of its flight, right above Duncan's nose so that he was able to lean back, tilt his face up and practically inhale the thing. Kona, who's been looking a little paunchy lately, didn't care much, but Duncan ran back and forth for Melissa, retrieving the Frisbee and dropping it at her feet over and over again. When it was my turn to throw I whipped it hard and sent it crashing straight into an Aspen, where it lodged just out of Duncan's reach. He sat under it, tail thumping, head craned back, barking and barking and jumping and jumping, doing little dances I've never seen him do. Melissa and I watched and laughed while Kona, content with the life's simpler, easier pursuits, dug for some mud, which she ate in quiet bliss.

The fault was all mine. I am not destined to have a world champion UFO dog simply because I can't throw. But, now that I know Duncan can dance, we may start working on some new tricks. Who knows, this time next year he may be doing the Funky Chicken with the best of them! The UFO might be out of our league, but Dancing with the Stars may not!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Looking Down on a Cottonwood Sky

I could tell you how blue the sky is or how my heart is slowly breaking because the Russian Olives have reached their peak and are dropping their yellow blossoms and fading from the world once again. I could tell you how hot it was today, the air solid as a wall which allowed no room for breathing or sweating and smelled of tires and hot oil and traffic. I could tell you about the seemingly endless sound of Duncan panting and slurping at his water dish then panting again and laying on the tile in the doorway to cool down. I could tell you about all the obvious things, the big, easily noticed things, or I could simply say that there were small discoveries today that made the rest of it bearable, even beautiful because they were reminders that truth and poetry and magic are in the details, the things we step over and take for granted if we notice them at all. Walking with Duncan today was like sledding across the clouds, looking down on a world I could only dream was real. Thank the universe he led me to the base of the Cottonwoods, where the grass was cool and smelled sweet, bathed as it was in mist and mystery, otherwise I might never have discovered the joy that made today wholly unique way and one I will always remember for the beauty of grass and flowers and seedlings.
*For Greg, the Midnight Gardner, whose journal is kept in the careful tending of his garden and his devotion to color and dreams.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Days Gone By

"I'm trying to tell you something about my life
Maybe give me insight between black and white
And the best thing you've ever done for me
Is to help me take my life less seriously
Its only life after all."
("Closer to Fine" Indigo Girls)

I feel blessed and lucky. After a wonderful night with my friends, Andy and Sarah and their family, a night of hanging out on the patio, laughing and sharing stories, making fun of each other and people we know, drinking beer and eating grilled chicken and some mighty fine potatoes, I drove home, the windows down, the cool night air blowing through my hair, a cigarette clenched between my lips and sang along to the Indigo Girls. With the smell of the Russian Olives so much sweeter and clearer in the darkness and empty streets, I felt as if I'd somehow made my way back to those wonderful and free Summers of Days Gone By, before all my friends had children and we could stay up drinking and smoking pot until all hours of the night, when it didn't matter how much sleep we got because we were young and had untold energy and no fear of anything. It was a feeling I knew wouldn't last, but the true joy of it was that I got to come home and walk with Duncan through the park, dodging sprinklers, watching the constellations turn slowly above us and the planes fly in from the southeast as they circled around the city before banking north and heading in the direction of the airport, making their own changing constellations as they moved. Duncan was happy to see me and I was happier than I thought I would be as a grown-up, the memory of Summers Past still fresh in my mind.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

An Unmade Bed

I am one of those people who believes a bed should be made every day. If Ken leaves before I do, I make it after getting out of the shower and while waiting for the tea kettle to come to a boil. There are a slew of other chores to tend to, like doling out breakfast to Duncan and the cats, who yowl and pace back and forth, their tails sharply upright in anticipation of their morning kibble, packing up my breakfast and lunch (Yo-Curt with fresh berries, a turkey or peanut butter sandwich and a Pink Lady apple for my afternoon snack) and making the rounds to confirm the windows are closed and locked. Somewhere amid all that the bed gets made, the comforter gets folded nicely and placed at the foot of the bed and the pillows get fluffed in preparation of the hours Olive will spend lounging on them, her belly spread out around her. A made bed is important to me if only because it's so much nicer to climb into at night, and on those mornings when Ken is still asleep when I leave, nothing irks me as much as coming home to discover he forgot to make the bed. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of more important issues to be outraged about (Bush, the War, lack of universal health care, Bush, the price of gas, Bush) but there is something so simple and solvable about making a bed that it seems there's no reason not to do it.

Like sharks to chum, Duncan and the cats are drawn to the bed by the mere presence of one of their two-legged companions. They can not resist, circling slowly before moving in, eyes locked on their target, then sidling up and hunkering down. Come home and lay down for only a moment and you'll find Winnie and Pip vying for rock-star parking on your chest as Olive makes a nest in the crook of your elbow while Duncan slides up against you and spoons. It's like instant Valium and down you go. Before you know it you've been asleep for hours, the animals purring and snoring all around you, their bodies warm little pillows that rise and fall in a slow, sleepy rhythm. Luckily I've developed a slightly stronger resistance to their spell than Ken, who quite often sleeps through his alarm because "the children were just so cuddly."

This morning after taking Duncan out, Ken jumped into the shower and by the time he was done, all four of them had taken up their spots, curling up in the folds of the comforter, nestling between the pile of pillows, slipping between the sheets and tucking their delicate little paws under their chins like chubby-faced cherubs resting on clouds of cottony fluff. Ken stood there and watched them a moment, his cheeks glowing pink, his elfish smile wide and happy and then decided not to disturb them and leave the bed a twisted mess. By the time I got home they'd all relocated to other hot spots (the window sills, the rocking chair in The Jungle Room where we store all the stuff that still needs going through, on the red blanket draped across the back of the couch). And the bed, which had been the picture of serenity and "cuddliness" in the morning, looked like a herd of buffalo had stampeded across it.

He's such a sucker.

But I do love how much he loves them.

*Photo taken from Google Images

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Dog Knows Best

It was a lovely September day, bright and only occasionally warm, and even then only in the sun and when the wind wasn't blowing. It was a nice reprieve from yesterday's heat, which lasted well into the night. These are the days I love most, cool ones after long hot ones. We slept with the windows open last night in attempt to keep the air moving, but when I awoke at 5:45 this morning the bedroom was cold and Duncan had wedged himself between us on the bed, pushing Winnie from her perch on my hip and Olive from Ken's pillow. He'd stretched himself out in a long, thin line, his chin resting against the top of my head, one paw draped over my arm. When the alarm went off, pulling me out of a dream I tried to remember but couldn't, Duncan groaned and actually attempted to hold me down. He's quite good with his paws, which are surprisingly strong. My new Summer work schedule has altered his and it was obvious he dreaded getting up and walking in the cold almost as much as I did. Ken didn't even stir as we climbed out of bed and ambled down the hallway, Duncan doing his yoga as he went, first Downward Dog at the side of the bed, then Upward Dog halfway down the hall and then back into a long, groan-filled Downward Dog, at the edge of the kitchen. It's his favorite pose, the one he uses to greet me when I come home from work, a sort of bow, which I always return. I pulled on my hoodie and we ventured out onto the damp, cold grass. Typically it takes a minute for him to pee, but this morning he'd barely stepped off the sidewalk before he started. I'd hardly had time for my own stretches before he was dragging me back inside. I figured Duncan would want his breakfast, which Pip was loudly reminding me about as he knocked his dish onto the floor, but he didn't. He simply trotted back down the hall and when I finally caught up to him he was back in bed, pressed against Ken and sound asleep.

He knew better than I that today was definitely a day to pull the covers over your head and ignore the world.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Spring Night

It's been a long time since I've really looked at the stars. It doesn't seem all that long ago that most of my walks with Duncan were spent under cold dark skies, Orion rising in the south and prowling across the sky above the park while we plodded through the snow or laid down on the firm crust of ice that covered the hillside above the lower soccer field. Those were such magnificent evenings despite the cold, simply because they were quiet and all the night seemed ours. Now, when Orion has moved on and the Big Dipper is righting itself in the northern sky, Duncan and I are settling in for the evening and cuddling on the couch while we wait for Ken to come home. We make a few trips out for quick bathroom breaks, but we don't stay for long and I can't remember ever stopping to look and listen to the night.

Tonight, because it was our first hot night of the season, I refused to cook and made a nice salad instead, and although we took a quick walk through the park after work, I saved our big stroll until after the sun had set and the Ultimate Frisbee players had gathered in one of the baseball fields to chase their red and blue glowing discs. Except for the grunts and cheers from the twenty or so players, the park was quiet after the traffic died down and it seemed our own again. No runners, no crowds of after-work leaguers vying for time on the diamond, no thugs menacing the skate park. A nice warm breeze drifted over us and even in the dark I could see the snow falling from the Cottonwoods which ring the soccer field. The lower field is my favorite because it is the darkest and the shadows are the deepest and the willows, which stand at the northern end look magnificent under the moonlight, their long, slender, branches swaying in the breeze, their long fingers reaching out to stroke the dancing moths. Duncan and I could lay in the cool, clipped grass and go unnoticed by anyone who happened to be walking at that hour. Last Winter, after the after-school sports teams had moved on and the park emptied out, I felt as though we were its guardians, there alone to enjoy and revel in it, but when Spring returned, with her noisy kiddie soccer teams and their terrible SUV-driving parents, it seemed as though our devotion to it during the long, dark months meant nothing. But tonight, under a clear sky overflowing with stars, the park was ours again, and the sway and rustle of the willow tendrils and the slow arc of the moon and stars above us were reminder enough that the park has not forgotten our devotion and has saved some of her best moments for our eyes alone.

Monday, June 9, 2008

High Spring

Sometimes, even when you aren't aren't expecting one or hardly think you deserve it, the universe hands you the loveliest of afternoons, when the sky is a rich, deep blue without a cloud, the kind you remember from childhood summers, and the air is filled with darting insects which glow golden in the light, like dancing dust, and somehow manage to stay out of your mouth and away from your eyes. Such was today, when the Cottonwoods were suddenly full and the shade they offered was solid and complete, and even though the afternoon was warm and not quite hot, their far-reaching shadows offered unexpected and simple comfort as their seeds, white and fluffy, drifted all around through the air, mingling with the gnats, a June snow storm that drifted across the grass and caught on the edges of the paths like candy-coating. June, not October––resplendent with color and tragedy and dulled by layers of clothing and layers of emotion––is my favorite month. An enormous pelican, gangly as a Great Dane, and pale, floated on the lake, paddling aimlessly across the tranquil water, his head and beady red eyes peering into the green murk for the big fish which jump and slap themselves against the water. We must've watched him for twenty minutes as the joggers and other walkers moved past us, entirely ignorant of his quiet, graceful hunt. In Lilley Gluch, where we have not walked for several weeks, the afternoon seemed to stand still and all the world held its breath as the sun hovered above the mountains, painting the grass and trees and paths a kind of gold that can not be enriched even by memory. The Russian Olives are at their peak so I stopped and plucked big clumps of leaves and blossoms to carry home and keep protected for those months when their scent could not seem further away. Duncan trotted lazily in front of me, lost in his own thoughts and occasionally getting quite far ahead but suddenly realizing it and so stopped and turned and waited for me, the place where his red body meets the air dazzlingly outlined by the sun. The ferns along the path were huge and far more lush than I would've expected out here on the edge of the high prairie. They seemed out of place, a lost tribe who wandered away from Oregon or the California coast and somehow found their way here where they settled and made the most of it. On the path ahead of us a man and his small son were working with their chocolate lab, tossing things that looked like dead ducks into the creek and the tall, stiff reeds that line its shore, where the dog leapt and cavorted and retrieved. Perhaps it was the light or the nostalgia I feel on days like this, but the way they moved seemed so familiar, the turn of the man's head, the swing of his son's arms as he ran after the dog, the shape of their hands; I might've known them a long time ago, maybe not even in this life, but I felt my heart well up at the sight of them, as I would upon seeing an old friend from a distance.

There are few things in this world that are perfect but I will go on record claiming that this afternoon, this glorious day with Duncan plodding ahead of me, his tail wagging at each new discovery of bird or bee, was as perfect as I've ever witnessed.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Taunt 2

There's this rabbit, a cocky little snot of a thing who's started messing with my morning routine, which, you may remember, Duncan and I have been retooling. A few weeks back I realized that Duncan was taking his sweet time tending to business, sniffing and investigating and refusing to deliver the goods because, like an idiot, I was taking him back inside as soon as he finished, which, to a dog who lives for the outdoors, was like being punished for a job well done. Now we don't walk in the morning until after everything is wrapped up. We stand in one place and look awkwardly at each other until it's done, then we walk. It's been a slow process but just when I started to notice some improvements this horrible little hare arrived on the scene and is threatening to undo all my hard work.

Four mornings in a row now, just after Duncan has picked his spot, tamped down the grass to an appropriate degree, shuffled around so that his back is to me and finally assumes the position, our friend, Bad Boy Bunny shoots out from under a shrub, streaks past us, right in front of Duncan, and bounds lazily down the yard, his fluffy tail flitting and waving all the way. Duncan, being the marvelous hunter is, forgets the task at hand and lunges after him pulling me behind. I slam on the brakes, reel in the leash and listen to Dunc wheeze and strain against his collar as our friend skips under a bush and vanishes along a row of lattice. From that point on pooping is out of the question as Duncan drags me along the side of the building in search of the hare, who's probably already at home laughing about it with the wife and kids. At that point I can't do anything but take Duncan back inside and hope he doesn't need to go too badly because it's going to be a long nine hours before I get home and take him back out.

One of these mornings, though, the next time we see our friend, I'm simply going to let go of the leash and see just how funny he thinks it is. Duncan may not be able to poop, but I have a feeling we'll be able to follow a trail of it all the way back to our rogue rabbit's home under the flowers.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

His First Film!

Duncan has always been a pretty quick learner. In fact, at his very first obedience class his instructor decided to skip the beginning lessons and move him up to the advanced course. He excelled and we still work on "tricks" all the time. His latest, which we're still perfecting, and doesn't come out as well as I'd hoped in the video, is a response to a question. Sometimes he nails it dead on, sometimes he just barks, and sometimes he just runs through every "trick" he knows. But stay tuned because one of these days you'll hear it very clearly.
video

*I apologize for the poor video quality. There's only so much my phone can do!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Scent as Journal

But what is a Russian Olive, some of you have asked? I can import pictures and I can tell you about the vivid memories which race through my head each time I breathe their scent, but the true beauty of the tree is not in its shape or its leaves or its color, or the way its bark seems to flake away in long fibrous strands, it can not be truly described by its sharp thorns or even the long, tubular faded yellow flowers that gush forth along its branches in June. Honestly, they are not pretty trees. When mature they look like enormous, unruly clumps of sagebrush. The true miracle of the Russian Olive can be discovered not with your eyes but with your nose. Its fragrance, which––glory and praise to the universe––I was able to enjoy fully today, is the binding on the spell that is cast on me each June. I've described it as sweet and buttery, but that's only in texture. Scents have textures that rise up and fall away from one another like the strange architecture of M.C. Escher, winding in intricate and unexpected lines, twisting back and forth on each other, distorting perspective and reason. The scent of the Russian Olive is just as obvious and elusive, sweet and buttery, like heavy cream with a bit of lemon meringue whipped into it, but there's also a top note of mint that is countered with a very subtle cinnamon bass note, both so caught up in their dance and mingling that neither exists apart from the other, becoming, instead, something wholly unique, neither mint or cinnamon. There is the scent of green, not like grass or earth or wet, but the light and warmth around those things, the yellow that makes them green. There is also something dusty about the perfume, like a room left closed off for too long that has rendered breathing almost impossible. In my part of the world the explosion of its scent is the grand finale of all Spring's work, the crescendo that signals the burning advance of odorless Summer; it is to Spring as the changing of the leaves are to Autumn, just as bright, just as significant and, ultimately, just as heartbreaking. If I could I would send each of you a sprig which you could hold to your face as I'm holding the one I picked this afternoon near the lake on the most splendid of Spring days, and although it would not hold the same significance to you as it does in my life, you would understand its depth and allure, but unlike opening a page of my journal and reading my most private thoughts, you would learn a great deal more about me than simple words can convey.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

A Whimper and a Bang*

As predicted the day started off with a whimper, from both the wet, dreary, truly March-like weather pouting around on the other side of my window, and from me when the alarm when off and I was made aware, once again, of my rotten sinuses. I knew it was cold because all three cats and Duncan had resumed their usual positions on the bed, a luxury they forgo during the warmer months when snuggling gets too hot and unbearable. Nights tend to cool off remarkably up here at 5280 feet until the end of June, but we've kept the windows open the last few nights because it's stayed warmer later. Last night, however, it turned cold and even with the windows closed I expected to discover a fine white crust covering everything from poor Ken, whose head barely peeked out from under the comforter, to the carpets. Duncan groaned and stayed put until after both Ken and I had showered and decided to put off the morning routine until the very last minute. The apartment stayed dark even after the curtains were drawn, and once they were flung open I thought it a perfect day to stay home again, curl up on the couch and watch a Bette Davis or even a Great Garbo film. But alas, work was calling and although still not fully recovered, I felt well enough to make a go of it.

It stayed gloomy all day and only when I returned home did the rain give up as the sun crept out from behind her gauzy blanket of clouds. Duncan was practically beside himself with joy to see me, grabbing my wrist in his mouth and guiding me around the apartment as if showing it to me for the first time. His tail wagged furiously, rocking his entire southern half from side to side and the bird-chirp had returned to his voice. He waited patiently while I changed clothes, donned a sweatshirt and grabbed a bag of pumpkin treats for our first walk in the park in nearly a week.

Since school ended, the soccer hoards have been absent, which suits me just fine. Only one team was practicing––a nearly grown-up one at that so there were no milling parents clogging the sidewalks, buzzing on their cell phones like annoying little gnats–– and not even the baseball diamonds had filled up with the after-work leagues. With the exception of the teenage couple having sex among the willows (my willows!) we had the park almost entirely to ourselves. It was not a long walk but we were out for quite a while as Duncan had a great deal of catching up to do. He'd been away for six days and apparently all sorts of messages and memos had been posted on every tree trunk, on the sides of all the big rocks, the posts of the fences, several tall clumps of grass and a single tire of the UPS truck which parks in the lot late in the afternoon while its driver catches some shut-eye. I simply stood for most of our walk, watching him sniff and peruse the news, scroll through the gossip section and catch up on all the current events. Normally I don't tolerate too much of this and urge him along but today I simply let him do as he pleased. I do owe him that much for his patience.

It felt good to stretch my legs again, even if I couldn't breath and my head still pounded from the gridlock still stuck in my sinuses. Nothing seems more miserable than a walk when I'm ill, and although I still feel wretched, it was a wonderful way to end the afternoon, with something familiar and relaxing, the sun warm in the cool air, Duncan marching along beside me. And as we were coming back, waiting on the sidewalk to cross Bowles, I think I may have caught a hint of the Russian Olives I've fretted over the past week. It was fleeting and not very strong, but my spine stiffened and I felt my joy receptors sit up, do a little dance and proclaim a loud, "How-dee-doo!" I'm not there yet, but very soon I'll be back. With a bang!

*Actually, there were two bangs if you count the incident in the willows. My willows!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Guardian and Companion

This was the perfect day to (still) be sick at home. The skies were gray and heavy and I think––although it's difficult to say with any certainty since I spent most of the day passed out on the couch, Pip curled up in a bunny-ball on my shoulder, one paw curled up and tucked under my chin––it rained and turned Bowles into a hissing line as the cars passed over it, spraying water onto the sidewalks and the tree-lined island which runs down its six-lane center. It was cool and tomorrow promises to actually be cold before the high heat which will consume us this weekend. I don't think Duncan minded staying in so much but he was still anxious to get down to The Glen where he and Kona wrestled and ran while Melissa and I stood on its grassy slopes and watched. Earlier today Melissa witnessed a black lab––very similar to Kona––getting hit by a car. Luckily several professionals were on the scene, including a PetSmart delivery van, which picked the poor thing up and radioed back to their clinic for a surgery-prep. Melissa was very shaken and it reminded me of a similar scene which Mom and Kevin and I witnessed several years ago when they were in town for a weekend visit. While driving back from dinner we saw a large Boxer get hit, a sight that replayed in my head every time I blinked and which is still quite vivid. I was a little more protective of Duncan this afternoon, a little quick to use my Big Deep Papa Voice (which sounds rather funny now that I'm congested and half hoarse) when he didn't respond to a command. I think I scared Kona, who hunkered down next to me, something she almost never does. Duncan was resistant but I was firm and we eventually reached an agreement. I only use The Voice because I love him and constantly watch out for him. I guess this makes me his Guardian, which made me ponder whether or not I'd voted correctly, but eventually, when we sat down in the long damp grass and he rolled his head against my knee and reached out for me, I remembered that I try to be his friend far more often than I play parent, which is exactly as it should be. I'm happy Companion won. From now on that's the word I'll use instead of "owner."
Thank you all for voting and thank you for the well-wishes. I hope tomorrow is the day we're back to the park even if the weather is cold and wet. We deserve it.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Soon

I did make it out of the house today, briefly this morning with Duncan and only long enough to tend to business and to chase one nesting bunny out from beneath a short, red-leafed shrub, and then later, sadly without Duncan, on a visit to see my doctor, who, I'm convinced, is the most amazing doctor in the entire world. It was a three hour round trip and I came home with a bottle of horse pills to fight off the sinus and ear infections which have taken up residence inside my head (she actually gasped when she peered up my nose and in my ears, but then let me look into her ears with that pointy little instrument minutes later, so it's all good). It was a long day (my fever woke me at 4 AM and I've been awake ever since). I did manage to take Duncan out early this evening, bundled up in a hoodie to keep warm despite the near 90˚ temperature, to throw the ball up and down the yard and to sniff out even more bunnies. He's such a good hunter, crouching down low and moving with very slow and cautious steps, careful not to let his chain rattle, although he's terrible at spotting them. All it takes is a "Duncan, look," from me and he's peering up at the top of a tree, or somewhere in the sky, but never at the rabbit crouched five feet away. I kneel down next to him, grab his head and point it in the right direction and hold him until I feel his body tense, a sure sign that the target has been spotted and locked on. But if I don't do that he'll drag me under cars, over cars, and every possible place a rabbit won't roost. He's quite remarkable this way and sometimes I come home feeling like the Annie Sullivan of the Golden Retriever world. I've spent a lot more time today tossing his ball down the long hallway or from the couch into the dining room so he's not quite as annoyed with me as he has been the last few days, but tonight he stopped and stared a long time at the park while I shivered and imagined I could almost smell my trees wafting up from down by the lake.

"Soon," I tell him. But I'm also telling myself.

Companion

It looks like "Companion" may be the winner of my little poll. "Guardian" held its own for most of the month but I've watched my personal favorite slowly creep up and surpass it the last few days. There could be a sudden change at the last minute (there are, after all, still two hours to vote), but in this day and age anything can happen. Just ask Al Gore.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Oh, the Trees!

It's no fun, this being sick during my favorite time of the year. I can see the Russian Olives--God bless the Russian Olives!––blooming outside and I know the air is slowly being filled by their sweet, buttery fragrance. Their leaves are the softest shade of green, an almost-not-green green, like green erased or bleached by the sun and the blossoms––so tiny––are a dusty yellow and could easily be overlooked if they didn't smell so unbelievably delicious. The Russian Olive is Idaho to me, Idaho at the height of my adolescence, Summer nights spent driving up and down Johnny Creek, skirting the foothills with my windows down breathing in that heavy perfume while listening to Poi Dog Pondering or Summertime as sung by Janis Joplin. I cannot miss the Russian Olives! I don't care if my nose refuses to cooperate. I will make it work! Come hell or high water, Duncan and I will be down by the lake tomorrow night, walking and breathing, caught entirely in the moment even as I'm revisiting years and years of my favorite Russian Olive memories. They are the Scent Track of my life.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

View from the Couch

Much of my day was spent on the couch, Pip curled on my chest purring against my cheek, his whiskers tickling my chin. Duncan, still pouting about my health and lack of energy to take him outside, stayed under the table, his back to me most of the day. I did manage to take him for a brief walk around the grassy space between the building and the fence and we shared a soft pink and blue sunset with spectacular clouds, but I had to drag him back inside where he sighed and snorted his disapproval. Luckily he got to chase a bunny and a squirrel, and was rewarded with some nice pumpkin snacks for his effort.The worst part of being sick is not the aches and pains, or the fever on a hot afternoon, or even the sinuses which are packed full, it's not the constant discomfort and tossing at night under the blankets, it's the disappointment in Duncan's eyes. I fight to get better just to make that go away.