Thursday, October 29, 2009

Snow Day

It started yesterday morning and hasn't stopped yet.

Having been forced to drive in it twice, I was less than thrilled, but Duncan... well, Duncan could care less. Sure his poor tender feet get packed with ice and his long hair collects dense clumps of snow which require a quick rinse in the tub (which he hates but endures because he loves to be toweled off). For him the snow is pure, effervescent rapture.

This morning's snow is deep and wet and difficult to get through, and rises above his shoulders, and yet it doesn't slow him down. His mouth hangs open and he gulps down enormous quantities of the stuff, breathing it back out in heavy clouds and driving it forward by the force of his joy. He is unstoppable, as a squirrel learned this morning when he plowed through a drift and sent it scampering up someone's screen door to avoid being caught.

And when we're not outside he curls up next to me on the arm of the couch, just as the cats taught him when he was a pup. He sits stoically and watches me and makes sure I notice him looking glum and dour and miserable because we're not outside playing in his snow.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Duncan has spent many a morning sitting in the window near my desk looking down on the yard and the bunnies who roost in the hedges there. Sometimes Winnie will join him and the two will pass the time together content but silent. Winnie claims not to like Duncan, but every now and then when she thinks I'm not looking I'll catch her nuzzling him, or running her cheek across one of his paws.

I take no great pleasure in the snow myself. I am not a skier, I do not snowshoe and it's been years since I built a snowman. I am one hundred percent Summer and need to be coaxed and prodded to spend any time outside in the snow. Duncan, however, can't get enough of it. We're polar opposites in this regard, so to speak. This morning I caught him staring longingly out the window, but the moment he heard me he turned, leapt up, did his chirping, butt wiggle dance and pleaded with me to take him out.

Being a good papa I did, but I didn't enjoy it as much as he did. And the cold has made me feel older than I did just last night. Spring can't come fast enough.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Not Alone

The morning my grandmother passed away last week I spent some time on the phone speaking with my cousin Cookie, who I have not spoken with in several years. Cook, like the rest of us, is suffering the grief of losing our grandmother, but she is also struggling with the additional nightmare of having recently lost her home (the house my grandfather built) in a fire. She is a brave soul, though, strong and smart, and although it's not immediately apparent how she will manage, I know she will. Her faith alone will carry her through and beyond.

She was grief-stricken, sobbing and frightened and completely exhausted. I wanted nothing more than to race home to Idaho and help her family in any way I could but all I had to offer were my words and my good thoughts carried on the wings of imagined butterflies in her direction. I was still numb from the news my father had delivered only an hour earlier but Cookie was expressing everything she felt that cold Sunday morning.

"I'm so glad you're not alone," she said as she finally began to compose herself. "I'm happy Ken is there for you." We had never discussed my thirteen year relationship with Ken and this was her way of telling me she loved me no matter what, that she understood.

"Oh, Cook, I'm sorry," I told her. "Ken and I separated last February. But don't worry, " I offered after a momentary silence. "I'll be okay."

There was a longer silence and then her grief broke through again. "Then..." she cried, her words coming in big, heaving gulps. "You. Are. Utterly. Alone. There."

I hadn't felt alone until she'd said it and then suddenly there it was, an enormous gulf between me and the rest of the world. There was no one to rush to and throw my arms around, no one who knew my grandmother and could cry with me, no one who understood what a unique and special voice had finally fallen silent.

The rest of the week was extremely difficult, not only because I was grieving but because I came down with the flu and spent much of my time in bed, Duncan and the cats curled around me while I shivered in my sleep. My sister traveled to Fargo to be with my dad, sharing stories and reminiscing, consoling one another. I stayed home and felt sorry for myself, resenting my flu and the anxiety which kept me grounded and unable to travel. And I felt truly, "utterly" lonely, still too numb to cry much, too sick to care.

And then tonight Duncan and I strolled through the park. The soccer kids and their wretched parents were wrapping things up. Duncan had pulled an enormous branch off of the big willow and was happily prancing through the leaves and across the field with it clutched firmly between his jaws. I chased after him and finally settled down next to him while he chewed and gnawed. His face was rapturous, eyes closed as his teeth slid up and down the thick pole, peeling the thin, papery bark away before plunging into the depth of the green and golden wood. He rested one paw on my hand as I laid on my belly next to him. The sun had drifted behind the mountains and while the sky was bluish white the clouds caught the last of its beams and exploded in pink and purple above us.

I don't know how long I slept. It couldn't have been long because Duncan hadn't turned away and his paw was still curled around the back of my hand. The park was nearly empty, though, and the color in the clouds had melted. The sky had darkened just enough that a few stars had begun to peek out. The grass beneath me was warm and even the air had yet to cool. I did not want to lead Duncan back across the street to our small apartment, did not want to stand in the kitchen while I ate alone. I did not want to curl up in my bed tonight with no one there whose arms could fold around me, someone who could kiss the top of my head while I slept. I only wanted to roll over, lay on my back with my good dog's paw resting in mine and watch the stars, remember my grandmother and her laugh, her refusal to smile, the smell of her mint gum.

Duncan rolled toward me, spooned up against me and licked the top of my head. He smiled into my face, that big, hearty warm smile of his. The world may be a lot less friendly without a grandmother there to love, but it is certainly not empty.

I am not alone. And I am very much loved. Thank Dog!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

First Snow

It is a hard thing to bundle up and walk in the snow, especially when the memory of sunlight and Summer is still fresh on your arms and cheeks, when the taste of morning dew is still ripe on your tongue. But The Run is a beautiful place, a canopy of amber and red hanging overhead, filtering even the grayest light and turning it gold, catching the snow and making it sing its way through the lingering leaves.

And then there is Duncan––my Duncan––beautiful and eager no matter the weather, thankful for each and every season, reminding me to look beyond my eyes, to feel and rejoice in being alive, to take no moment for granted.

Thank The Universe for the wisdom of dogs and their unbound love of all things, especially us.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

While Walking Curt

It's been nearly a week since Duncan and I have strolled through the park. The rain and cold have kept us close to home, playing with other dogs in our vicinity down in The Glen or in the little bowl directly beneath my window. But tonight before I got home Duncan had decided that come hell or high water we'd be visiting the bunnies.

He was perched in my bedroom window when I drove up, his stuffed bunny hanging from his mouth, and although I couldn't see it, I'm sure his tail was wagging, smacking Olive, who likes to stand impossibly close to him at all times, nuzzling her cheek against his. I've watched her take a swish of his tail in the face then turn around and run the length of her back along his belly, heedless of his dancing feet.

By the time I'd climbed the thirty-seven stairs to my door, Duncan had plopped himself in the entryway and had already grabbed his leash, something he has only even done once before. He chirped like a bird, did his happy dance and followed me from room to room while I changed my clothes and grabbed a jacket. He met me at the door, one end of the leash still clutched in his mouth, the other dragging behind waiting to be picked up.

I'd barely done so and opened the door when Duncan pulled me outside and took me for a walk.