It is not often we walk the lake path after dark, especially when it is cold and the snow has been sprinkling lazily down on us all day, more of an afterthought than anything to be taken seriously. Like dust swept up from the ground. There is no accumulation and not enough for Duncan to play in, but it has crisped and frosted the long grass that sprouts up past my knees along the edges of the trail. Everything is yellow and brown and crystalline but that does not matter in the darkness. The lamps rise up every hundred feet or so around the lake, casting warm little pools of gold along the way. The shops and stores that line the its western edge paint the surface of the water in distorted and melting mirror images of their signs and storefronts, bleeding greens and gold from the Barnes and Noble, a waxy and watery blue from the electronics store, a neon scratch of pink and turquoise from the 50's diner. During the day I rarely notice the scents from the restaurants and fast food shops, or the warm and inviting fragrance of coffee from the Starbucks, but at night they are strong, almost overpowering, as though someone has saturated a rag in them and is holding it to my face. I can't imagine Duncan can smell anything in the grass and weeds but he seemed focused and determined. The ducks and a small flock of geese, returned from whatever bickering and hostile place sheltered them over the course of the summer and long fall, gathered and mingled in the shallows along the shore. It has not rained with any significance for a very long time and so the water level is the lowest I've ever seen it. The ducks, wading and standing on the shore, looked to be walking on ice, their feet barely disrupting the mess of reflected color from above and all around.
It was a long walk, or rather, it felt that way, with my jacket bundled tightly around me, a cap pulled low over my ears, my gloved hands thrust deep into my pockets. Stupidly I'd left my scarf at home and my neck was tense and angry with me for such carelessness. I've forgotten what cold really feels like and have decided I don't like it one bit. Duncan, barefoot with his nose to the ground, hardly seemed to notice and not for the first time I wished I was a dog, plodding carefree, my senses alive, the cold something to be celebrated.