Sunday, February 28, 2010

Flight

There was a point in the day, before the clouds dropped down low trapping the geese between the earth and the sky, turning their calls into hollow, reverberating echoes, when the sky was nearly perfectly blue and clear and even my light hoodie made me feel too warm. I took Duncan, who has had a rough weekend with a bad belly, out into the warmth of the day to roll in the snow, which is heavy and only a sunny afternoon away from slush. It seemed to cheer him, and watching him play and stretch and forget our frequent late night trips out to tend to his business cheered me. The whole of Littleton seemed happy with our weather and good fortune and even the hawks, which nest in the tall cottonwoods dividing The Run from the golf course, were moved and urged to take flight. As Duncan and I trudged down the length of The Run their calls stopped us in our tracks. Duncan, rarely distracted from the snow, craned his head all the back and watched the two large birds circle overhead, barely flapping their wings as they rose and rose and then glided back and forth, their shadows dark on the white snow as they sped past our feet and then across the trunks of the trees before leaping up the side of the building and out of sight. They danced in the air for a long time and Roo did not take his eyes off them for a moment.

I could not help but wonder if he too felt the jealousy of their flight and how marvelous it would be to soar with him above the park and the lake, the red of him burning across the blue sky, trundling through the clouds, leaving no footprints, a wake of vapor expanding out behind us like dandelions caught on a breeze.

Monday, February 22, 2010

A Reason to Dance

The first day at a new job is a lot like the first day of school as a kid, with restless sleep the night before and a mind racing with all sorts of questions. I have not felt this way in a long time and although it wasn't entirely pleasant it was a reminder that I am alive, that life is ever-evolving and that some challenges are worth the fear and anxiety.

I did not sleep much last night, so I stayed up, pressed my shirt and pants--something I never do!--and paced until nearly 1 A.M. when I was good and exhausted and my pillow seemed like the best friend anyone could ask for. When the alarm went off at 6, three hours before I was supposed to report to work, I jumped up, fed the kids, took my shower and was ready to leave a half hour later. Duncan stayed on his big fluffy pillow at the foot of my bed until I decided it was time to go for a nice long relaxing walk.

It couldn't have gone more wrong. Aside from the fact that it was 3˚ outside and last night's snow was deep and heavy we also ran into two squirrels who caught us by surprise. I suppose they'd been huddling under one of the bushes Duncan prances through and that his sudden appearance caught them by surprise. They scattered, one up the closest tree and the other straight up a brick wall, but not before flitting and screaming all around his face. He snapped at the sudden flurry of tails and fur presented to him, but missed them entirely. I scrambled to put his leash back on and drag him away but only managed to slip and fall in the snow, wet but thankful my first day hadn't been spent at the vet.

Thankfully Duncan tended to business shortly thereafter, but by the time we returned home I discovered my keys were missing. I had plenty of blueberry pumpkin treats and poop bags but nothing resembling anything that would open the door and let me in my apartment. So back down the stairs we went on the long trek through The Run to the site of The Great and Sudden Squirrel Debacle, which is where I assumed / hoped the keys had fallen. Thankfully they were quickly located and we returned home nearly unscathed and partially dry.

After that it was the long drive across Denver, a day full of new and exciting people, lots of information and then the long drive back during a gorgeous sunset I'm grateful I didn't miss. And of course, waiting for me when I got home, was a happy dog, thankful to see me, more than willing to celebrate with his papa. It was something I'd looked forward to all day, kisses and hugs and dancing through The Glen like we haven't danced in a long time.


Sunday, February 21, 2010

Monday Coming

If you were to ask my mother she would tell you I am notoriously bad at change. My friends would tell you the same thing. And while they wouldn't be exaggerating, I don't quite agree as much as I once did. This past year has been full of changes and while I am the first to admit it hasn't always been easy, I would insist I've come out far better than many would've expected.

Monday I begin my first day at a new job. I have spent the past eight and a half years working in the bookstore at Arapahoe Community College in a job that was not exactly what I would call Curt-like. Quite often I wondered what heinous atrocity I'd committed in a past life that had earned me such a difficult and relentless punishment. But even though I loathed much of what I did there I grew fond of the people I worked with, somehow tolerated the smells coming from the cafeteria on the other side of the wall, and found a way to avoid prison time for reprisals against the laziest and most ignorant students I've ever had the displeasure of associating with. It was a grueling experience but last Wednesday as I left the building I couldn't help but wax sentimental. Yes, the people I worked with were truly a remarkable group and I will miss them terribly.

I will also miss the drive. The college was a mere seven minutes away from my home, except during snow storms when the drive could stretch into an hour long crawl. My new job is roughly forty-five minutes away, but it's a drive I did for six years before Ken and I moved to Littleton to be closer to our jobs. I know it well. But that extra hour and a half in the car each day will be time I don't get to spend at home with Roo and the cats, walking the park, chasing the geese, cuddling on the couch.

So I've been enjoying my time playing in the snow, watching Duncan tend to the busy work of being a dog. It can not be easy--all that unconditional love, the limitless enthusiasm, the tireless excitement of discovery and rediscovery. I am in awe of him, and tomorrow as I wind my way across Denver through the still-falling snow, I will relish the thought that he will be home waiting for me, ready to clock in and go to work.

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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Winter Awakening

I have been waking up early, jerking in my bed and bolting upright to see the light coming in the windows above me. Despite taking a long weekend before starting my new job on Monday my body is still in work mode and I have been unable to sleep in as much I'd hoped. Once the cats have scattered Duncan begins his soft whine, nudging the foot I hang off the side of the bed, tapping his cold nose to the warm valley between my toes.

It has been snowing and there is much running and sliding and celebrating to attend to. I, of course, am not quite as eager to venture out, especially since bed is so warm and my dreams have been so heavy. But he is a patient friend and very generous, so while I put on the hot water for my tea and feed the cats, he lays on the bed and waits for me, listening as I pad from one room to another, content to watch the snow come down, sometimes touching his nose to the window in hopes of catching a tumbling flake as it brushes past the glass. If he minds he says nothing so long as I bring my tea back to bed and sit alongside him, cradling my mug in my lap, breathing in the rich licorice mint scent, running one hand along his ribs. Sometimes I can coax him back to sleep while the cats wait for me, their warm pillow, to follow suit. Sometimes early morning naps are better than walks.


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Sliding

The October snow on the north side of the buildings has not melted. Occasionally it has turned slushy but the drop in the overnight temperatures quickly turns it into long, narrow streams of ice, treacherous and tricky to walk on. Even Duncan, usually majestic as he bounds down The Run, has slipped and skidded off balance.

As usual he could hardly contain his excitement this morning when he awoke to discover a white world, powdery and light, perfect for rolling in, for turning on his side and pushing himself down the hill like the shaggy red sled he imagines himself to be. I am not fond of winter and see little use for snow after the holidays, but it brings my dog such tremendous joy that even I can be coaxed into a snow angel or two, or even sliding on my back over Duncan's trails.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

At the End of the Day

At the end of the day, my last at the job I have had for the past eight and a half years, after bittersweet farewells, hugs and handshakes, kindnesses often unexpected and sometimes undeserved, I managed to come home, my body and brain aflutter with the realization that my life, changed so much over the course of the past year, is about to change once again. On Monday I will drive a new route to work, I will meet new people and struggle as I always do to remember their names and learn to talk with them. But until then, at the end of this day, there is the sweet homecoming to Duncan and the cats.

Roo was sitting in the window. Olive and Pip were in front of the door while Winnie, perched on the back of the couch, presided from above. When I came in I was carrying my loot of cards and gift certificates, my tea mug and lunch bag, a paper plate of cake leftover from the going away party. They waited for me to unload my arms and then it seemed each of them took turns sliding up to me, running the length of their bodies along my calf, standing upright, resting their paws on my shin, or in Duncan's case on my hips. They mewed and whined, tails upright and straight, as though aligned with some celestial point far overhead, each smiling as I rubbed their chins and scratched behind their papery ears.

And at the end of the day, tired and moved, all I wanted to do was lay down on the couch, the lights soft and dim, and be loved and comforted, congratulated and praised as only these friends know how.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Purpose

I awoke to a gray sky peeking in my window this morning. Duncan was curled next to me, his chin resting comfortably on my feet, one paw draped over my leg. I was slow to rouse, blinking away the sleep and dreams, warm under my comforter and snug with the cats curled against my chest. Dunc yawned and stretched his legs out far before him, rolled onto his belly and pushed himself up, wobbly and unsteady as his weight stirred the mattress, causing the springs to groan as he jumped down onto the warm carpet. He did his morning yoga, leaning far forward into downward dog, then coming up, arching his back and craning his head into the cobra.

I peeked through the vertical blinds and saw it was snowing, soft small flakes brushing past the window. I shook my head and sat up, scattering the cats as I dropped my feet to the floor. Duncan brushed against me, his cold nose on my naked calf raising goosebumps across my body. I shook my head as I pulled on my socks and jeans, telling him, "If it weren't for you, Roo, the snow would never touch Papa."

There are two things I have no use for: football and snow, and it just so happened that today was a day for both. We walked this morning, me tight and huddled up into myself, Duncan joyous and grinning as the flakes alighted on his face, bleaching his eyebrows and long snout. We walked again this afternoon while the laundry spun. And again tonight while the rest of the world sat transfixed before their televisions.

It was a quiet night and the snow continued to fall as we moved through the darkness and down the street, the soft crunch of it beneath our feet the only sound. There were no cars out and in the silence I couldn't help but feel as though it was Christmas Eve, when my hometown shuts down and no one ventures out. The snow was still coming in flakes that could hardly be called flakes. I could barely see them unless we passed beneath a streetlamp where they wafted about like gnats on a summer night, or like brilliant golden dust moats that dance in a sunbeam, the kind my grandmother told me were angels fluttering about us, keeping us safe. I could feel the snow on my face, though, cold and minuscule on my cheeks, refreshing on my eyelids. The air was clean and Duncan and I could not help but stop and turn our faces upward into the clouds, into the lazy fall of snow, into the vast quiet night spread out above us.

There is a use and purpose for all things, even those we are quick to dismiss, and especially those we strive to avoid.

Homecoming

It is one in the morning. I have just come home from a birthday party. It was not a long drive but my fingers are still cold from clutching the steering wheel and my glasses have fogged up from the short walk between my car and my apartment. Duncan has been sitting on my bed dozing, his face turned to the window. When the car pulled into my spot he perked up, stood and leaned his nose against the glass watching me gather my things and climb out. By the time I reach the second landing I can hear him at the front door, whining and chirping, and even though it is silent, I know his back end is shaking ferociously from side to side, his tail slapping against the closet and the bag of doggy bags I hang from its knob. By the third landing he is in full roar, unable to contain himself as my key slides into the lock and turns. Almost as soon as the door is open he is on me, leaping up, pressing his big, newly trimmed paws against my belly, pushing his warm nose into my chest, jumping as though to hug me. He grabs my hand softly in his warm, firm mouth and pulls me back outside, shimmying from side to side under the force of his tail. He leads me back down the stairs, across the drive and onto the grass, brittle and yellow, powdered white under a layer of crisp frost. He refuses to let go, refuses to tend to business, only wants to love me and welcome me home, standing back on his hind legs and nipping at my zipper, pushing against me like a child wanting to be picked up. I stroke the curling hair on his back, coo at him and kiss the top of his red, round head and tell him how happy I am to see him, how much I've missed him even though it's only been a few hours. And as we stand there together, dancing beneath Orion and The Dipper, I am grateful to have a friend such as this, to be welcomed home as though I'd been gone for years.