Monday, February 28, 2011

At Last

My year has been a difficult one, from that morning we were hit by the car to the evening five nights later when I learned my grandfather had passed away. Each time I sat at the computer to write I found only anger and sadness dancing from my fingertips and I tried to remember what my grandmother often told me, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all."

So I stayed away, discontent with my walks with Duncan, dwelling not on the peace the rhythm of our footfalls brought, but on the cold and isolation of winter, the lonely bitterness of the wind against my face, the ache in my back and chest. I wanted only to rush through those walks and return home to make a quick dinner and fall asleep before I could think more about the unhappy hand I'd been dealt in 2011.

And then this morning I awoke to discover I had no blog. It was gone. Completely and utterly. The words, "This blog has been removed" sat on my screen like roadkill on the street, unmoving and tragic, heavy and frightening both to look at and to look away from. Although I had ignored this outpost on the internet I had never been able to ignore the possibility and promise of returning there when the time was right. This morning that, too, seemed to have been taken from me.

Each walk with Duncan is done with wide eyes, open ears, my skin prickling with the sensations of weather and the deep concentration of remaining open and unfocused with every step we take. But this morning after we ambled down the hall together and I prepared his breakfast, my heart was broken with the thought that all those walks had somehow been lost and the thought of starting anew was overwhelming and more than I could consider. Google had closed my account, erased my email and negated four years of travel with my best friend. Chalk up another bitter win for 2011.

It was only at the end of the day when the blog had magically been restored and an immense sense of relief settled over me that I knew tonight was the night I'd come back, that Duncan would lead me to the comfort I've been seeking but ignoring.

The sky on the drive home was incredible, a shade of washed-out forgotten blue with the fading streaks of clouds so golden they burned white, twisting and dissipating above the mountains. I could not navigate the streets fast enough or find my way home quick enough. The butterflies fluttered in my belly and I could almost feel the familiar weight of Dunc's leash in my hand and the gentle tug of him guiding me through the night. I watched the fading contrails above the mountains change slowly from single, humble scratched lines into billowing plumes that elongated and thinned, smudged and reformed into new shapes entirely. One, bright with pink and orange-dazzled edges, twisted itself into a question mark that hung miles large and I felt all those questions I've been grappling with these past weeks bubble up to dance on and confuse my surface. It stayed there long after I got home, turning, eventually into a child's drawing of a wave, jagged and high-peaked with deep valleys and no place to rest. It stayed there long after the blue of the sky forgot how to be blue and turned to something else, after I changed into a pair of jeans and the soft green and gray short-sleeved flannel shirt of Grandpa's that mom gave me, donned my new walking shoes and let Duncan lead me down the stairs, across the street and to the tall hill above the lake where we could watch the last of the light leave the sky.


And while we sat there on the cement bench, Duncan somehow content to rest his shoulder against my leg while the warm breeze danced in the long hair around his ears, that single treacherous wave of a cloud flattened out into the nearly straight line of a calm and serene sea with Jupiter glowing just below it but still above the black line of the mountains. We sat a long time in the joyous and deserved warmth of this February evening, content for the first time in weeks and happy to have something good to say at last, and a place in which to say it.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Someone Else's Valentine

It was one of the most beautiful nights I have seen. The sun had set and the sky had faded from red and orange into a bleached bone color right on the horizon before turning that deep shade of Colorado indigo I love so much. The stars began to salt the night and the clouds were high and distant, barely covering the moon. Two clouds, as enormous as continents divided by a dark twinkling ocean, the reflection of Orion glimmering on the gently rolling surface. of the sea of vast space, floated lazily overhead. They were watercolor white and looked as though a hand bigger than I can imagine had smudged their solid edges, whisping into smears that could have been floating ice or tall whitecaps. The very last of the night's pink frosted their peaks and a faint tint of gold rolled in their valleys.

I whistled, as I often do on our walks through the park, and sometimes, when it's just Duncan and me, I'll even sing into the night sky, each note falling in time with a nearly silent footstep, catching in the bare branches of the elms and aspens above us, rattling their leaves before falling to earth to slide across the surface of last week's snow, now barely more than thick soup on the drowned lawns.

Not far ahead of us a couple, young, probably still in high school, walked slowly, their hands entwined, their shoulders and hips bumping softly against one another in that way that couples have. They sat at one of the benches and leaned into one another, sneaking kisses and whispering. Duncan plodded up to them, his feet making delicate squishing noises in the slush as he approached to sniff their knees and hands, looking for a treat.

"He's friendly," I told them. "Sorry about that."

"No worries," the boy said while his girl patted Roo's head and scratched behind his ears.

I pulled Dunc away and continued down the walk, turning my face into the bashful moon before picking up my whistle where I'd left off.

I'd barely found the notes when the boy jogged up to me and asked, "What's that song you're whistling?"

"'I'll Be Seeing You,'" I told him. "The Carmen McRae version." As if he knew who she was or even that there were different versions of the song, one of my favorites.

"It's nice," he said and then fell silent, as though thinking of something but was afraid to ask.

"Would you whistle it for us?" he asked, not quite looking at me, his big feet kicking awkwardly in the snow at the edge of the sidewalk. "If you don't mind..." And then added, as if I didn't know, "It's Valentine's Day and all."

I smiled and nodded. He ran back to the bench, pulled his girl to her feet and led her back to where I stood under a glowing orange lamp. Duncan rolled in the snow on the hillside, his legs dancing on the sky.

The boy whispered to her and took her in his arms even though she giggled and tried to pull away. He whispered to her again and she fell still. He nodded at me over her shoulder and as I began to whistle, he rested his face in the warm place between her shoulder and neck and  they began to dance. She giggled again but he held her close and soon the two of them were lost in the night, moving slowly, the warmth of their bodies pressed together fending off the cool breeze which picked up and slid down the hill toward us. Duncan looked up at them, ran in circles around them and the continents above moved closer together, their edges colliding until they, too, were one, and Orion looked away while the moon smiled down on them and my whistled notes carried them from this winter night in the park to a place where this memory will live forever.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Track

I am tired of winter and it seems ours here in Colorado has only just begun. There is little I find enjoyable about it except watching Duncan's immense pleasure running through the snow, huffing his way through the morning's new drifts, oblivious to the cold on his naked feet or the powder that accumulates and balls up in the long hair of his chest and belly. Each morning and evening he runs far ahead of me, scattering the squirrels and little birds, driving a cloud of white billowy breath and snow before him. There is no limit to his love of all seasons, but it seems winter is his favorite. Many times I find myself alone on the trail we have carved in the snow along the The Run, looking ahead for a flash of red among the snow-covered shrubs or behind the ice-encrusted tree trunks. But then I look down and see his tracks running alongside mine, perfect footprints, a perfect accompaniment to my own and I am reminded that he is never far away.

Duncan is never far from me. We are bound together like the stars are bound to the night and although he may slip from my view momentarily he is quick to return to my side, his nose nudging against my gloved hand, the soft sniff warm against the bare skin at my wrist, the sound of his feet breaking the snow beside my own, leading me out into the world and then back home again where we are safe and warm and can rest.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Sucker

Grandma gave Duncan an extra special treat today, which he relished with patience and serenity.

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For a bit. And then he got greedy.

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