The moon––hanging over my shoulder as it does at this time of the month, not quite fully round but close, bold and coy all at once––was the color of the streets lamps in the park, pale and transparent, sifting through the high wisps of clouds like a dirty light in a dark aquarium. Duncan was as oblivious to her presence as he was to the goose droppings that littered the sidewalk, and plodded along ahead of me, his ears raised into the dark of night around us, his nose low, skittering over the place where the cement and grass met.
It was a long day and as tired as I was, I knew that the short winter walks were beginning to take their toll on Roo. We stay away from the park on winter nights because I can't see to steer us around the green goose tootsie-rolls. Instead we've been spending our time down at The Glen or exploring the sidewalks that line the perimeter of the apartment complex. It's not ideal, but it's the only option I have in the cold and dark. Tonight, though, exhausted and grumpy, I figured the best thing for both of us was a long walk through the park, down around the northern edge of the lake, still frozen despite our warm January weather, and back up past the golf course toward home.
It is difficult sometimes, after a long commute and a stressful day, to put the needs of Duncan ahead of my own. My mind was screaming to stop for a burrito rather than cook the Tilapia waiting at home for me. I kept imagining a glass of wine, which I rarely drink, and a long hot bath, the steam rising up around my face in comfortably suffocating clouds. I wanted nothing more than to read a chapter or two in a book and climb into bed, but Duncan needed a long walk more than I needed an early night, and I knew that afterward I would feel better as well. I'd be ashamed to admit how often I resist, but every time I relent he reminds me that a good walk, a quiet one at a slow pace, is always the best medicine and that more often than not there's something waiting out there in the world for us, something The Universe has put in our path for exactly that reason, something waiting to be discovered.
And so we walked. The lake water was stiff and unmoving, the light from the shops that ring its shores trapped on its frozen surface, preserved as though burnt in amber. The air was nearly sweet and clear as the traffic began to die down and in places, where the clouds had cleared, the red and green lights of planes coming in from over the Rockies blinked against the darkness of all those miles of space between them and the ground.
Duncan pulled me around the baseball diamonds. My pace had begun to slow but he led me steadily along, occasionally looking over his shoulder at me, his eyebrows bunched up in that familiar way of his when he wants to take me somewhere and asks only that I trust him. So I followed, too tired even to whistle. When we'd rounded the diamonds and came back along the path past the picnic pavilions, he suddenly stopped, looked at me once more, and then guided me through a ring of scattered picnic benches to a place where someone had brought a single recliner, a La-Z Boy, golden under the park lamps, its surface smooth and clean, one arm slightly loose but in good condition. He led me to it, his tail wagging softly. My first instinct was to stay as far away from it possible, but I trust Dunc, and so we wiped the once-leaves from its mottled velour surface and sat for a bit. He climbed up on my lap, placed his head on my arm and looked up at me. We were warm there, watching the traffic thin out on Pierce, the moon bright and bold before us but still not quite fully round, the stars emerging from behind the clouds, all the world perfect as only a dog can show us it can be.