Tuesday, November 29, 2011

WinPipO

Several years ago Ken and I decided that we didn't want to pay outlandish prices for scratching posts for our cats when we could easily make our own for far cheaper. We went to several stores, looked at how they were constructed, consulted some online resources, paid a visit to our local hardware store and got what we needed. In almost no time at all we'd made three posts, one for each of the cats and spent the next eight years watching Winnie, Pip and Olive love the heck out of them. But at some point during the Thanksgiving weekend I came to the conclusion that the posts had been loved nearly to death. They still stood straight and tall but the rope had come loose and the Berber carpet we'd used was in tatters. So we stripped them clean, bought new carpet and fixed them up. And when we were done, Chelsea at Hero's Pets liked them so much she offered to make a place in her store for them if we wanted to make more and sell them.


So we hurried back to the hardware store, bought more materials and spent the last two days of the holiday break making more posts, which were delivered to Hero's this morning under the name WinPipO Scratching Posts.

One member of the family wasn't too pleased with the lack of attention and spent much of his time sulking around, getting in the way, whining to be taken outside and finally––when he realized we weren't going to stop––pouting, sighing loudly and watching us out of the corner of his eye.



Can you guess who???

The Simplest Thing

It was, what I thought, an ordinary walk in every way: the air was cool but clean, the sky was wide, the park was entirely ours. Duncan plodded along beside me, uninterested in roaming far and wide in search of any scraps or stray balls that might have appeared overnight. He was content to walk beside me, a happy, showy, Broadway sort of strut in his step, head high, ears higher, a grin on his face as he breathed in the morning air and sunshine and exhaled warm clouds of breath. I talked with him, as I always do, unconcerned that he's "just a dog" and that people might think the conversation one-sided. I know better, though. He responds in ways that only people who live with dogs would understand: dancing around me if he approves, cocking his head if he likes something I've said, blinking his wide eyes an agreement. We talk and share and confide and who cares what anyone else thinks.

I was unaware that we were being followed. I was whistling––a Christmas song––in time to Duncan's footfalls when the walker came up quite suddenly behind us. She was a short woman, athletic-looking, with her hair pulled back and a faded purple band covering her ears. he had a skier's face, tanned and lined by hours and hours in the sun on a mountainside. But she was smiling and relaxed.

"I hope you don't mind," she said as she came behind me, startling me and ending my whistle quite suddenly. "I've been behind you for awhile now and I just wanted to tell you that that is one happy dog."

And then she was past us, her arms swinging at her side in the way that serious walkers have. I didn't even have a chance to respond, so I looked at Roo who was looking at her, his tail wagging, and patted his shoulder.

Yes, indeed. He is one happy dog.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thank You

The last few years have been some of the most challenging of my life and at times it's been difficult to find things for which to be thankful but this year my blessings are easily recognizable and I am can say for the first time since my family lost my grandmother in 2004 I am truly grateful and humbled by the blessings that have found their way into my life. On this incredible Thanksgiving afternoon, on a warm, sunny Denver day, I am thankful for
  • Ken, who was able to find his way back home to Denver, and for the time we've been able to spend together since, rebuilding our family and bringing new life into these nearly sixteen years we've been a part of each others lives.
  • the smell of homemade pumpkin pie first thing in the morning.
  • Kevi, who reminded me this morning that we should be thankful for our troubles, for they too have purpose: to make us stronger and to help us truly appreciate the blessings that we have found.
  • Patty Griffin's song "Heavenly Day," in which she sings, "No one on my shoulder / Bringing me fears / Got no clouds up above me / Bringing me tears / Got nothing to tell you / I got nothing much to say / Only I'm glad to be here with you / On this heavenly heavenly heavenly heavenly heavenly day."
  • The good people I work with, who are supportive and kind, who make me laugh and think equally hard, who have become a sort of family to me.
  • The poetry of Mary Oliver.
  • The soft weight of cats sleeping against me on cold nights.
  • My family, who seem to get stronger and closer every day, especially my sister, Casey, who had a difficult year but has shone brighter than ever before.
  • The memories I have of the people who have walked with me, if only for a time, and shared so many special experiences, from April and the WNG to Marc, who knows he's smarter than me; from Kelly and The Dirt People to John, who has cow dreams; from Little Ruth to David, who taught me that not only are things good, but they're good for you; from Karren and her cookies to Rick, who understands the butterflies as well as I do.
  • The power of Skinadinkinaw!
  • The "It Gets Better Project" and Dan Savage for changing so many lives.
  • Russian Olive and Linden trees for being sweet enough to get me through the entire year.
  • Orion standing watch over these Autumn skies.
  • Facebook and the connections it has restored.
  • Duncan, for his ability to say "I love you," for his voice and eyes, his delight and wisdom, for the miles we have walked and will continue to walk, for the courage he has taught me and the dreams he has encouraged, and for being with me, not only during the difficult days, but the kind ones as well.
  • And, as always, A.A. Milne, who wrote, "And by and by Christopher Robin came to the end of things, and he was silent, and he sat there, looking out over the world, just wishing it wouldn't stop."
And I am thankful to all the people who have joined Duncan and me on our walks through this blog, who comment and email and love him as much as I do. You have all enriched my life in countless ways.
Blessings to you, this Thanksgiving Day. May they be too numerous to count.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Together

The sun has not touched The Run in the early hours for what seems months. It is a cold place in the mornings, shaded but open to the golf course on one side, a narrow trail at the end of the wind's path, cold and loud. It can be quite unfriendly, especially under feet of snow, but it is a place we love and the place where we walk each morning, so we go there, just the two of us, Duncan and me.

This morning, in the hard frost of the earth, we found two leaves, fallen together some time in the night, the last from the Japanese Elm at the head of our trail. They tumbled from their roost, the only place they have ever knows despite looking out over the world, and fell as one, alighting as though holding hands.


Duncan leaned over them, sniffed them gently as he would a small animal, and waited for me to join him at their side. We looked down on them for a long moment, a smile on my face, infinite understanding on my dog's.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Last to Go

It feels nearly complete, this Autumn turning. The trees, which have obscured my view of the mountains and the park since April, are little more than jagged charcoal lines bending and twisting into the sharp November sky. They are like fat, dark arteries fanning out into winding veins that end in a finger-like splay of capillaries, reaching into nothingness. And yet even they––bland and colorless––are beautiful in their starkness.

The Lindens were the last to let go. Their leaves held on, resisting the weight of our two October snow storms, curled up into tight knots around themselves, as brown as leather, as crisp as paper and as fierce as fists. And when they let go they did it all at once, a multitude in solidarity against the changing of the season. Our streets and lawns are covered with them, nearly knee deep in places. Duncan likes to run through them, pushing against them as he pushes through the water of the summer river, his chest heaving forward as his body rises and falls through their depths.



And though they are dead and will soon be buried and forgotten, their music is loud and true and, while it lasts, the most beautiful sound in all of Autumn.

Friday, November 18, 2011

All Those Years Ago

We fed Duncan early, took him for a late afternoon walk as the sun was setting and then another right before Ken and I went downtown to see the Broadway tour company's production of The Lion King. We came home, ate a very late dinner and took Roo for another quick walk before calling it a night and going to bed. It was only around three this morning, with Ken snoring on one side of me, Duncan on the other and Pip taking up most of my pillow, that I sat bolt upright in bed and caught Duncan's eyes, reflecting the glow of the streetlamps on the other side of the window, watching me. He sniffed once or twice then laid his narrow chin back down on his paws and blinked.

"We forgot Duncan," I said into the darkness.

"He's right here," Ken said, patting the bed beside him, his voice faraway, perhaps still in a dream. "Go back to sleep."

"No," I said, climbing out from under the covers and curling around Roo, who, having heard his name, was no longer asleep or even pretending. "It was seven years ago tonight you brought him home for the first time."

"Mmmph," Ken mumbled and resumed snoring.

So I laid next to Duncan, listening to him breath as my hand on his ribs rose and fell with each breath, and remembered that cold November night in 2004 when Ken arrived home, a small cardboard box seat-belted in his back seat. I met them in the parking lot and opened the door. In the darkness I saw a small red head poke itself up and turn toward me. Ken climbed out and watched, a grin on his face.

I touched Duncan for the very first time, pulled him up and toward my chest where he shivered and cowered against me, a high-pitched whine in his throat.

"You're so handsome, Little One," I said and kissed his head. Then I held him out so his belly caught the light of the moon and looked into his handsome eyes. "Are you a Duncan?" I asked.

He winked at me and I knew we'd be the best of friends.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Undivided Attention

It has been a long time since we have seen a squirrel in The Run. Ever since the arrival of Jeffrey's feral cat last Spring, their presence has dwindled and finally, by the mid-summer, they had vanished entirely. Before the arrival of the cat––who is now known as "Mama Kitty" for the litter of kittens she had near the hot tub heating unit last February during our coldest time of the year––Jeffrey adored the squirrels, left feeders out for them, and spent his mornings in his window watching Duncan chase them up the trees, up his screen and occasionally up me. They were the delight of our mornings and afternoon walks but Jeffrey could not turn his back on the cat. He took pity on the poor thing and slowly coaxed her into his apartment, even finding homes for each of her seven kittens. Mama Kitty, happy and healthy, stuck around but, sadly, our squirrels did not.

Now that the weather has turned cold and Mama Kitty has been confined indoors for most of the day, the squirrels have begun to return, if only for brief visits. When Duncan spotted one on our walk this morning there was little I could do to turn his attention away. He chased it out from under the shrubs and up an elm where he sat for nearly twenty minutes, a smile on his face, his ears raised, his attention focused entirely upon a single fat squirrel who looked down on me with exasperation. If it's not the cat, it's a dog. What's a rodent to do?

video


I finally had to put Duncan's leash back on him and drag him, snorting and huffing, away so we could resume our walk and I could finally head off to work. I'm not sure what happened to the squirrel but I know he won't be caught by surprise again.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

April

November is at its best when it behaves as though it is April, with skies that change from bright and blue and filled with sunshine, to mottled grey with silver and gold-lined clouds, then back to what it was before, sweet and wide and warm; when the small brown birds flutter from bare branch to branch, lining up like exclamation points to watch, twitch-headed and nervous as Duncan and I pass below; when the first thing that greets us on a morning walk is a lazy-flying bee, wandering low and confused over the leaves which only appear golden from the proper angle but are muted and yellow husks when finally alighted upon. The bee swept up suddenly, as though rejoicing at the sight of other living creatures, zipped a tight spin around first my head then Duncan's, tip-toed across his back and sped away, through the fence to lose itself in the sinking yellow wilds of the tall grass that lays down along the wide edge of the golf course.

It is hard to remember the holidays and the gales of true, unfettered winter are so fast approaching when all the world seems to be teetering on the edge of Spring, when the few remaining ruby leaves of the bush whose name I still don't know look like polka dots and the air tastes of mint and cinnamon all at once. But until the morning I know Autumn has surely passed and winter has claimed her place, Duncan and I will walk and marvel and take our rejoicing where we can find it. Exclamation points, polka dots and all.


Even if something is left undone, everyone must take time to sit still and watch the leaves turn.
(Elizabeth Lawrence)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Nurse

After a week of tending to Ken's nasty cold I have finally succumbed. While mine has bypassed my head it entirely it went straight to my chest, where Ken's is currently residing. Both of us spent much of the night hacking and sputtering, getting up for drinks of water and occasional restless trips to the couch in order to let the other sleep.

Duncan, unlike myself, is not a complainer and made the most of the situation by spending the night on one side of the bed or the other, shifting as we took turns getting up, sprawling out while we were gone. He snored blissfully while we coughed, scattering the cats and sometimes the pillows. The cats, however, took our restless, dark wanderings as a sign that it was time to be fed and so followed us around, mewing loudly as they entwined themselves around our ankles and tripped us up and yowled even more when they realized their dish wasn't going to be refilled as we headed back to the bedroom.

Duncan is patient, though. I spent much of the day on the couch, drowsy and restless, completely unmotivated to take him out for a walk. The day was warm and the sun coming in through the windows warmer, but finally, groggy and rested, I relented and took him out for an afternoon stroll. The wind was chilly but nothing so bad that a jacket and gloves couldn't hold it bay. We wandered down to The Glen and briefly across the street to the park. Dunc has been a caregiver from day one so even though I took him off leash to let him run loose to chase leaves and the fast food wrappers fluttering through the parking lot, he stayed close by my side and kept his eye on me. And when I was tired and resumed my hacking, he readily turned back toward home without pulling on his leash.

And when I reclaimed my spot on the couch, two pillows tucked under my head and my grandfather's favorite blanket––the one I gave him for Christmas two years ago––pulled over me, Duncan merely curled up on my feet, rested his head on my ankles and stayed beside me, his eyes never fully closed by watchful of me every time I resumed coughing.

What a good boy.

The cats who helped raise him could take a lesson.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sunday

Sundays are lazy days, at least after I clean the apartment, tend to the laundry, make the weekly menu and venture out for the groceries. My lunches come late and often I find myself curled up on the couch amid a pile of cats and a snoring Duncan curled up on the end of the couch while a book rests open and unread against my chest, the warm sun coming through the windows painting us all in gold. Sometimes there are no words to be written because sometimes our walks are just walks, quick jaunts down the stairs and around the property, lasting only long enough for Roo to sniff out his favorite spots and eye the geese which have begun to amass on the golf course side of the fence.

And when I find myself worrying about not having words to write or discoveries to make, memories to revisit, I simply follow Duncan's lead, which is to do nothing, to set the toys aside and allow my eyelids to grow heavy and spend the day dozing and dreaming.

So I think I'll set aside my fretting, kick off my shoes and rejoin the warmth of my four-legged friends on the couch, consider making a nice warm dinner and spend the rest of this night enjoying the exquisite delight of boredom and silence.


Always follow the example your dog sets. That's what I'm going to do.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Yes

It is an easy thing to do, on an Autumn afternoon, when the sky is bigger than you remember it ever being, and the sun, warm as it falls away toward Winter, is a thing that laughs at the wind and the tumult of the leaves ripping from the trees and the general discord of the season, to spend the day on the warm, serene side of the window watching the world shake itself loose outside and decide to nap and fold yourself in loud, vivid dreams and fill your head with the downy cotton of nappiness. It is all well and good but if it lasts too long you risk missing the smile and squint the sun and wind force your face into when you walk into them, while the clatterous music of dancing, bobbing leaves scuttles at your feet all around you.

And so groggy and sleepy-headed I let Duncan lead me to the park where, despite the rude nibble of the snow-scented wind, loud and insistent, I laughed and ran with him, held my arms out wide at my sides, unconcerned with witnesses to such dog-induced silliness, and felt my jacket pushed back tight against my body––flapping like excess skin under my arms and behind me––and imagined we'd leapt from a plane and felt both the sweet suck of gravity and the abuse and crush of the air against us as we moved down and back into the world to the safety of earth where we could run and jump and daydream some more.

Sometimes it takes wind and cold and a dancing dog to remind you what is real and important and what should be left behind on the safe side of a window.


“i thank god for this most amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees & for the blue dreams of sky & for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes.” (e.e. cummings)

Friday, November 11, 2011

No Good Scenario

Duncan took in quite the haul today: three tennis balls this morning––two of them multi-colored!––and the bottom of someone's shoe tonight.

It makes me think of Kevi's dog Ranger, a stocky, grinning German Shepherd, smarter than he let on, and devious. One day Ranger came home dragging a deer carcass behind him. When Kevi first told me I envisioned him running wild across the foothills of southeast Idaho, chasing a herd of whitetail deer and finally bringing one down, which he promptly dispatched and brought home to share with his family. The truth of the matter was he took it down from someone's garage during hunting season and dragged it a block or two home.

I'm not sure either scenario works well with Duncan and the shoe.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Hide and Seek

Duncan loves a good game of hide and seek. Sometimes I'll hide in the apartment, behind or door or in the shower. A couple of times I've even hidden behind a mirror which confuses the heck out of him. At the park when he wanders away I'll duck behind a tree or a low shrub or wall until he comes back, a panicked look on his face, his ears high, his face turning this way and that.

This morning at the park he decided it was his turn.


I think we both agree he hasn't quite figured out the finer points of the game.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Mosaic

I am not a man of few words, as these seven-hundred seventy-eight musings on this little outpost of mine can attest, but even I know when it's time to shut up and let the world and our walks through it speak for themselves.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Inferno

The world was on fire this afternoon just before the sun dipped below the dark, jagged silhouette of The Rockies. The park was ablaze with the last of Autumn's leavings, from the single tongues of flaming leaves catching the late season light, the yellowing blades of grass illuminated through their crisp, delicate skin, the veins dark against the burning, to the inferno that dazzled the trees above our heads.


The grass was a kaleidoscope of the kind of colors I haven't seen since my days in the serene solitude of afternoons spent walking the campus at Lake Forest College: reds the color of heart-blood, browns and blues so deep they were purple, like meaty, still-living tissue, golds and ambers like dreams. Even the walkways were ablaze with the final glow of the fallen locust leaves, tiny wisps of fire that melted the sidewalks of my imagination.


Surely this is Autumn's final burning before winter lays claim to the land. Not that Duncan cares. He is fireproof and reflects the blaze back into the world, lighting our way through the dark months to come.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Late

I am not a fan of this time change, most especially because Duncan and the cats don't quite know what to think of it and have somehow decided to hold me accountable.

First they thought I overslept this morning, which Olive and Pip were more than happy to inform me of at 4:30 by yowling and nuzzling against my cheek. Winnie, ever polite and always a lady, merely jumped from her perch on my hip to the floor then back to my hip, over and over again. Duncan, sleeping beside me in place of Ken, who has taken to the couch to recover from the cold that's been busy trying to infect me, merely stood up, stretched, leaned over my face, snorted once then settled back down on my pillow. I shooed the cats away, pulled the pillow over my head and tried to catch a few more winks but was unable to do so amid their clamoring insistence. The sun was up when I finally crawled from beneath the covers, and as I prepared their dish they were not at all reserved in voicing their displeasure at the lateness of their breakfast.

Twelve hours later when I finally returned home I was greeted by all three cats and Roo sitting in a half moon around the door, stern looks of displeasure on their faces, visible even in the darkness and the sliver of light shining through the door from the breezeway behind me. I stumbled down the hall, my back aching, and attempted to change from my work clothes to my walking attire. While trying to slip out of my khakis, one leg in and one leg out, Olive winding her way around one leg and trying to climb into my pants, Pip decided it was the perfect time to climb up my back, one crisp, sharp paw at a time. Winnie, patient and kind, merely yowled from the doorway as I hopped around the room, trapped between my clothes and Olive with Pip attempting to ride my shoulders for the full eight seconds.

Duncan, unhappy with the darkness and the necessity of the leash and the walk down the parking lot to the place where we cross the street, rather than his free ambling down The Run, eventually softened to me and stayed by my side once we reached the park and I could untether him and let him roam free, far and wide. He seemed to understand the circumstances were beyond my control and forgave me, and even stepped protectively in front of me when we returned home an hour later and were met by a cacophony of cats screaming for their dinner.

I do not like this change in the hours and the new, deep darkness of our walks, but he was like a golden light guiding me through it.

Thankfully it's only seven more weeks until the stupid southern hemisphere loosens its grip on our sun and allows it to creep earlier into our lives and stay later.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Out with the Old, In with the New

It was a busy morning, what with one neighbor moving out, taking Vinnie, his Miniature Pincher, and his loud, obnoxious girlfriend with him, and another family moving into the neighboring apartment. The parking lot was a mess of trucks and people carrying boxes, colliding on the stairs, and being as polite as moving allowed. Duncan, however, spent much of the day on the patio enjoying the impossibly blue skies and the warmth of the sunshine, his face poking through the railings to monitor the goings-on below. Unlike his papa, who, like most writers, prefers to be a casual observer rather than a participant, Duncan likes to be involved in everything, be it his business or not. And so I had the benefit of listening to him whine most of the day, and when he was inside, watch him pace from window to window to see what all the ruckus was about.

It was when we went on our afternoon walk that he decided he'd had enough with watching. We were returning from a nice game of fetch in the park and he was off-leash as he always is when we walk back up The Run. Normally he follows me closely as we near home but when I paused to talk to Chris, who was departing for Florida, Duncan ambled into his garage. I cut our conversation short and chased after him only to discover the garage empty. Chris invited me upstairs to check for him there but Duncan was nowhere to be found. The door into the breeezeway was wide open and it was only when I heard the giggling of small children downstairs and outside that I realized what had happened. He'd gone up Chris' stairs, out the door, into the neighboring apartment, presumably to welcome the new family, had followed the children downstairs and was now in their garage. So back down the stairs I went and humbly apologized to the family, who had gathered around their new, friendly neighbor, who had already claimed one of their dog's tennis balls. One of the little boys, hugging him and petting his back, was already pleading with his parents: "Can we keep him? Can we keep him?"

If he wasn't so cute I might have considered it. Silly boy.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Reminded

There are few things in life more satisfying and fulfilling than caring for and nursing the person you love most, the one who has caught a nasty little cold, spending an evening with friends eating wonderful food and listening to good music and then coming home to a dog who is waiting at the door for you, a deep whine of pure joy rising up from his tremendous chest and heart and a hind end wagging so fiercely that things get knocked over.

When I opened the door tonight Duncan was waiting for me. He took the sleeve of my jacket in his mouth, led me to the kitchen where I could deposit my water bottle then back to the door so I could grab his leash and the bag of treats I take with us everywhere. He refused to let go of me all the way down the stairs even though it meant walking much slower than he is accustomed to, and having to turn his head at an awkward angle to stay next to me. And even when we reached the bottom and stepped across the parking lot to his preferred grassy spot, he refused to let go of me. So I sat with him on the curb, the wind rustling the day's leaf-fall all around us. He leaned into me, pressed his shoulder hard against mine then gave my ear one quick lick. He winked at me, his eye catching the moon and holding it for me to admire. And only when he was good and sure that I knew I was loved did he step away.

Every now and then it is good to be reminded that you are your best friend's best friend.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Strange Games

The last walk of the night is usually a hurried thing right before bed, more of a final trip down the thirty-seven stairs, across the parking lot to one of the grassy islands spread throughout the parking lot where Duncan can pee while I stare at either the stars or the orange glowing clouds, depending on the weather. But tonight, late, when the traffic had calmed and the noise of the city had settled, it was still relatively warm so we ventured across the street for a final walk around the park.

Half a moon watched us as we stepped across the street and onto the soggy grass. Today's warmer temperatures put an end to the snow, except on the shadowed, north side of things, and the ground was dark, absorbing what little light the moon provided. Here and there the fish belly shimmer of puddles glistened amid the grass providing ghostly patches of light as we walked, but mostly it was a deep dark. I'd taken Duncan off his leash but made him him stay close, darting only a few feet ahead of me, so I could be sure of him and his safety.

We'd crossed through the baseball fields and were coming up the middle of the long soccer field, the elms empty bones above us, the last of their leaves silent in the unmoving cool of night. The street was quiet with the light of only a few passing cars illuminating the furthest edges of the park. As Duncan ambled ahead I heard the sound of laughing and saw the familiar green and blue flash of one of the glowing discs the high-schoolers use when they play late night games of Ultimate. I didn't think much of it until I passed what I initially mistook for a solitary patch of snow. It was only when Duncan stopped to sniff it that I realized it was a t-shirt, a crumpled white thing cast off and left behind. A few feet ahead a shadowy clump of jeans and more t-shirts told me everything I needed to know.

We'd somehow stumbled into a game of naked Ultimate. Up ahead I could see the dark shapes of people running back and forth as the glowing disc sped through the air and came down in someone's hands. More laughter––this time from a woman––broke the silence and I held my breath as I caught sight of a pale, round butt running forty or fifty feet ahead. Her laughter was answered by shouts from men and more women. Duncan stopped and watched them, his ears raised, his foot firmly planted on someone's boxer shorts.

The group of kids, fourteen or fifteen in all, were darting quickly back and forth, oblivious to our presence, caught up in this moment of theirs, one each of them would remember for the rest of their lives, like the afternoon I spent running naked through a meadow of wildflowers during one of the fiercest storms I've witnessed in southeast Idaho.

Mostly I only saw dark shapes and the whites of tennis shoes hurrying through the grass and muck, but occasionally the moon caught the streak of other body parts, quick glimpses that made the blush rise on my cheeks. I leashed up Duncan and pulled him back. We walked hurriedly back the way we'd come and circled around to the sidewalk to avoid detection, Duncan pausing occasionally to look back at them and whine at the Frisbee cutting through the darkness.

I have been witness to many strange things in the park, which is normally a very ordinary place by the time we walk across it, but I have never seen such strange games under the light of a half sleeping moon.

Good for them. A warm November night is a good time to make a lifelong memory.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Always

There are times on our walks, when Duncan is off-leash and the park is dark and entirely our own under a mostly-clear and starry sky, that we wander far and wide from each other. While I stare at my feet, plodding heavily and loudly forward through the snow's thick crust with the soft layer of stewy slush beneath, Duncan skips along, loping like a coyote, head down and back arched, sometimes stopping to investigate things unknown to me, and sometimes sprinting vast distances, his feet barely disturbing the surface. I keep my eye on him and listen for the musical patter of his feet, and wonder if he's forgotten me entirely, if some completely wild side of his nature has taken control and steered him far away to  place where I don't exist.

Tonight, after one of our these walks, with fifty or sixty feet separating us, he suddenly came back to me, leapt up and did a little sidewise jog around me, pushed himself against my chest and forced me onto my back in the not unpleasant cold of the snow. When I was down he threw himself into me, did a snow angel on top of me, rolling across my belly, his tail slapping my face, slid away, then ran through his complete repertoire of tricks, rolling three times one way and three times back the other, standing up only to bow at my side, raising first one paw in a high five and then both to give me ten, all while I laid on my back, my breath a cloudy halo above us. And when he was done he stopped, stared at me a long silent while then barked the three words he can speak, "I love you."

My dog has never forgotten me. Not for instant. And he loves me always.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Sit a Little

Even in winter an isolated patch of snow has a special quality. (Andy Goldsworthy)

video

And so we did. We sat, with the wind and snow in our faces, and listened to the crunching of the tires and the sound of flakes catching the branches and mingling amongst themselves as they were tossed about by this early winter dance.

And it was very good.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

For Ken

Two weeks ago, when the season seemed confident and strong, unwavering in its commitment to the final traces of Summer, before the clouds crept low and the snow came, knocking most of the brown and brittle, rattling leaves from the trees and carpeting the ground with their mottled slippery bodies, Ken and I took Duncan on an evening stroll along the edge of the property and across the street to the park. While Duncan tended to business, I caught Ken––who is a quiet sort of fellow and doesn't offer his opinions on things except when pressed for them––eying the buoyant red leaves of a bush I pass by several times a day, one I have taken countless photographs of––some of which have even been posted here. He didn't say anything about it but on our return he paused again, even though Duncan had no business to tend to, and said, "That bush is very pretty. It makes me happy."

It seems a silly little thing but his words brought a smile to my face and I thought, "I love it, too. I have loved it for as long as we've lived here." But I didn't say anything, just nodded to him and watched him admire it.

And then he had to go home to the upper peninsula of Michigan to be with his family during a difficult time. A week ago today we were driving to the airport thinking of the rumors of snow and watching the clouds slink in, a great white, billowing mass that consumed the plains to the north and the peaks of the mountains to the west. He was silent most of the drive, thinking of his long trip home and the grief his family was suffering, but he spoke up and said, "I'm sad that I won't get to see the first snow." He watched the yellow tips of the grass bend with the wind as we sped past. "And all the leaves will be gone when I get home. I wonder if that pretty red bush will still have its leaves or if it will look like twigs sticking up out of the ground..." He trailed off, so I reached for his knee and squeezed it.

He came home today and although the weather has been beautiful and sunny, warm nearly every day since that first snow, it is cold and the wall of clouds is descending once again. It will snow again tomorrow and his poor bush was indeed emptied and abandoned, twiggish and vulnerable, alone along the fence line. It will be a year before those leaves burn as brightly as they do every Autumn and because we are considering finding a small house with a fenced yard in another part of Denver, it is doubtful we'll be here to see it like it was just a few weeks ago.


So this post is for Ken, the man who brought Duncan into my life, the man I have spent more than fifteen years loving, and man who has a heart that burns even brighter and more fiercely than all the colors of October and just as beautifully as those fragile leaves that stood guard on the edge of the place we call home.