Monday, November 8, 2010

End Song

There is a place halfway down The Run where three old aspens grow in a wide triangle between the buildings and against the fence. Their trunks are mottled and thick, not smooth and pale like the younger trees in the park. They are a favorite of the squirrels and Duncan has been known to sit in their center, neck tilted far back to simply watch them perch on the high branches watching him while they nibble on the bird seed they have scavenged from the second and third floor patio feeders. The grass fanning out around their roots has been blotted out almost completely by a bed of heavy golden leaves which crunch underfoot in the afternoons but are damp and soft and silent in the humid mornings.

This morning we slipped down The Run, past the place where the three mutts I refer to as The Harpies, froth and growl and snarl at us each time we pass. Duncan trudged through the shrubs, nose down, hunting for the little gray and brown birds that linger there unseen until he rouses them and sends them darting in playful clouds around his head. The morning was quiet. The trees were strangely absent of squirrels and the scratching of their toothpick-long nails on the thick bark. The air was unmoving, until we reached the center of the aspen triangle when a whisper of a breeze rose way up high where the branches are thin and willowy, far beyond where even the little birds do not venture. Duncan stopped dead center and craned his head back, as if listening to the trees talk. I followed his gaze, my eyes scanning the cradles between the boughs and truck for signs of squirrels but found nothing. Duncan would not move, would not even entertain the notion of my gentle tug. He glanced at me, snorted, and turned back to the wind high up, watching the branches slide back and forth against one another, listening and waiting.

At the exact moment the sun broke across the line of the roof, the leaves began to quiver and then slip free of the branches that have held them across the days of the summer and through this endless fall. They turned in the air, brushing against each other, bouncing off the branches, slipping down the side of the trunk and raining down around our heads, their sound like the soft, tinkling of bells in the distance or the crystalline fall of snow on a wide and windless field at midnight. The air was suddenly warm on my skin and the music of the leaves making their single journey warmed my spirit. Duncan shimmied where he sat, his tail giving a feeble little wag and rustling the leaves around him. He chirped softly and looked at me with the same eyes I've seen on children when they behold something entirely new and magical. I sat next to him as the leaves, hundreds of them, alighted on the ground around us. I caught my breath, reached for Roo and rested my hand on his back, closed my eyes and listened, really listened to this final, wonderful song of Autumn, another gift I would've missed without the wisdom of my dog. It went on and on until finally the breeze found a new tree to play in and slipped away, leaving us with a heavy silence, the kind best shared among friends who don't require words.

seeks the center
of every tree and rock,
that thing we hold closest-
the end of songs.

(Michael McClintock)

1 comment:

caboval said...

Curt, You MUST write a book about Duncan!!!! You just have to!!!! Ive learned that Duncan has taught you so much and opened your eyes in so many ways I just love it so! When I read your posts its as though Im right there beside you!!!! I love it and give Duncan a big hugs from us!!!! LOve Valerie