Sunday, December 30, 2012

A Family Again

After ten long days apart, with Ken in Michigan visiting his family, and Duncan and me in Idaho visiting mine, last night our little family was finally reunited. Duncan and the cats met us at the door and gave Little Man the greeting he deserved.



And Olive was kind enough to find some special time with him. She's a Daddy's Girl.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

An Effortless Chord

This is one of those things I love about Pocatello:

It was just after six this morning. It was still very dark out, without even a faint glow of light spilling over the mountains behind my mother's home. The low, wispy clouds from last night had drifted away and the sky had the kind of clarity and depth that buckle my knees every time I see it. Mom had turned the Christmas lights on and their warmth, gold and red on the blue of the snow, cast a welcome glow through the trees and the empty flower beds. There were two kinds of wind, the big one roaring through the narrow valley of the Portneuf Gap not far from here, and the wind churning its way down the mountain behind us. The house shielded us from its bite but not the soft whine of its voice as it rolled through the washes on either side of us. And then, from the city five miles north of us, came the low bass hum of a train whistle. The trains used to be one of my favorite things when I lived here. You can hear them from anywhere in town, the loud clang as the cars lock together, the grind of their wheels on the track, and that groan of the whistle. On the rare occasions I stayed overnight at a friend's house, I would close my eyes and listen for the trains and imagine I was hearing them from the comfort of my own bed.

This morning, standing with Duncan in the silence of the far south side of town, the faraway wind and the nearby wind, and then the whine of the train, joined to form a nearly perfect harmony, a simple, effortless chord that caused Duncan to pause on the step, cock his head and listen into the darkness. I stepped away from the light of the house and turned my face up into the abyss of space and listened with my ears and body, and smiled as the memories of living here and the comfort of coming home, rolled over me.

I do love being home at Christmastime.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Mr. Popular

There is not a dog on this property who doesn't know me, or rather the scent of the treats I carry in my pocket.


This is what it's like nearly every time Duncan and I venture out. If only I'd been this popular in high school!





*Thanks to Dee for being there to catch the feeding frenzy

Friday, December 14, 2012

Not Enough Kisses

While my day typically begins around 6 AM, Duncan's doesn't start until an hour and a half later. I get up, check the internet news, scroll through Facebook, shower, prepare my breakfast and lunch, feed Olive and Pip, and then start Duncan's breakfast, which needs to rehydrate for thirty or so minutes before it's ready. Only when he hears the jingle of food in his bowl does he amble down the hall, the hair on the top of his head mussed up, a grin on his face. We hug, he stretches and bows, and then we venture outside.

It was a nice morning, a little grey but not as cold as it has been and the sun was trying its hardest to peek out from behind the clouds. The geese had collected themselves across the golf course and another enormous flock was swooping in from the south, their calls echoing between the frozen, yellowed earth and the misty sky above. Everything in our corner of the world was exactly as it should have been: quiet, serene, safe.

At 7:30 we reached The Glen where Duncan ran wide circles along the rim of the bowl in the earth, careening between the trees, stopping every once in a while to sniff the patches along their trunks where other dogs had stopped. His ears were high, as was his tail and the smile never once left his face. I knelt in the grass and watched as he sped toward me, his tongue lolling from the corner of his mouth.

"What?" I asked him as he danced to a stop in front of me, his front paws jogging up and down in the frosted grass.

And then he lunged forward and kissed me. Not a sloppy, wet swipe of his tongue, but a quick brush of his lips against mine. I laughed and repeated my question. "What?" He did it again, and then again, and then once more, slowly forcing me backward until I was sitting on my butt amid the brown pine needles on the cold ground. I laughed again as he moved forward and planted another kiss on my face. When I held up my hands he did it again and again and before I knew it I was laying on my back, his gorgeous face obscuring my vision. For a moment the clouds broke and I could see blue sky above him and golden light until they were once again blocked by the ferocity of his affection. His tail wagged back and forth against my leg as he climbed right up onto my chest, laid down and kissed and kissed.

"You're drowning me, Roo," I cried as he persisted, relishing the sound of my laughter in the safe silence of the morning.

At that moment, eighteen-hundred miles away the world was no longer silent nor safe. Twenty small children and six of their adult protectors were being murdered and it will be a very long time until silence returns to that community. My heart has been slowly breaking today as the magnitude of what has happened sinks in, at the knowledge that there are presents under trees that will never be opened, that people will be outraged and horrified but that ultimately nothing will come of this tragedy. This country cares more about its guns than its children, than health care, than the kisses of loved ones. I am cynical and bitter tonight and only Roo, laying next to me with his head on my arm, can offer any sort of solace.

I would not trade a single moment with my dog for anything, but I would gladly trade every one of the kisses he gave me this morning for the lives of the people in Newtown, Connecticut. I would do anything to undo the pain of that community, to make it all go away.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

For Madi

Last night on Facebook I learned that our former neighbors and good friends Denise and Martin had to say farewell to their beloved Black Lab, Madi. It has been a very long time since we have seen them and much has changed in all our lives, but Denise, who was such a very good friend to me, especially during the early days of my anxiety, has always held a special place in my heart and is never far from my thoughts. 

Madi was Duncan's first friend. I'd been terribly nervous about socializing him as a puppy and it wasn't until we built our house and moved to Stapleton, befriending Denise and Martin, that his socialization really began. I didn't have much say in it actually. Denise is one of those magnificent people with a vibrant, take-no-prisoners spirit, and it was her confidence and good nature that allowed me to relax and let Duncan do what he was so supposed to do, which, apparently, meant racing tight circles around Denise's small front yard, chasing after and wrestling with Madi, who was patient and kind to him. She taught him everything he needed to know, and even took him swimming for the first time, and even after we moved all I had to do was say her name to send him, tail wagging, to the front door where he waited to be taken for a visit.

When I learned of Madi's journey across the Rainbow Bridge last night I went to Dunc, who was laying on the edge of the couch. I leaned down and whispered softly in his ear, "Roo, I'm sorry, but Madi is gone. She's no longer with us but maybe tonight on our walk we can watch for the new star in the sky where she is shining down on us." He listened to me, dropped his chin down low between his paws and sighed heavily, which made me tear up. A few minutes later he climbed down off the couch and ambled to his toy box where he dug through the contents until he found the toy he and Madi played with on their last adventure together, jumping in and out of the pool while Denise and I laughed and encouraged him to chase after the geese. It has been a long time since they have played together but I know he understood what had happened and needed time to grieve her loss in whatever way dogs do. We cuddled a long time, touching noses and crying, his paw resting atop mine.


We miss you, Denise. We miss Martin and Avery, too. And we will miss Madi. I am sorry for your loss but so thankful for the hours she spent with Duncan and the way their friendship cultivated our own.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Overheard

It was a glorious day, sunny and warm, over 70˚ with clear blue skies, a late Spring day much more than a late November one. The geese, when not congregating in the golf course and at the edges of the lake, were flying low overhead, the whites of their bellies reflecting the gold of the sun. Duncan and I ventured out several times, our feet too restless to stay inside for long.

On our last trip to the park a group of small children approached, their parents standing just behind them. They asked politely if they could pet Dunc, who sat nicely for them but turned his face into the sun and closed his eyes while four sets of tiny hands patted his back and rubbed his head.

"Look," one of the little boys said. "He has a rainbow collar. Maybe he's a leprechaun."


"No, stupid," a girl who was only slightly bigger than him scolded. "It means he's gay." She then turned to me. "I have a gay uncle. He wears all sorts of rainbow stuff. Is your dog gay?"

I looked up the nearest grown-up, a woman who was standing back smiling at me.

"I don't think so," I replied. "But his dad and papa are."

They all nodded and proceeded to tell me about all the gay people they knew, all while the woman laughed and listened.

It's a good world and I'm thankful not only to be a part of it, but that my good red dog takes me out into every day.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

For What It's Worth

Today is the day.

Last night on Facebook I posted a comment inspired by Kergan Edwards-Stout and an article he wrote recently regarding his friends who were supporting Mitt Romney.


I thought long and hard about writing that. It's not easy to remove people from your life but if those people believe I am somehow inferior to them and don't deserve the same rights they enjoy and take for granted there really isn't any question about what needs to be done. I have no room in my life for such people.

Duncan and I have walked many miles together with you tagging along. He is a wise friend, perhaps the wisest I've ever been fortunate enough to share my life and travels with. His love is unconditional and uncompromising and he has taught me far more than I could recount in this post but his example shines through every moment we spend together. He treats everyone equally, something I strive to do every day. But I realized that my momentum must be forward and there is simply not enough room in my life to bring along those who disagree with the direction I'm traveling. If you are one of those people I'm going to ask that you smile one more time at us and then travel your own path. I'm going to ask you to leave. And perhaps one day, when your eyes have opened and you're truly ready to learn what it is I've spent all these hours writing about, we'll meet again. But until then, this has to be good-bye. Our paths must diverge.

I hate to lose anyone but my life and the rights I am entitled to are just too important to spend with others who do not share the same vision. That vision is one of unity and respect for all, for equal treatment under the law, not just for LGBT people, but for women and their bodies, the elderly, for people of all colors and backgrounds, for the poor, for children who seek a good education, for the sick and needy, the disenfranchised, for everyone who wants to realize their own version of the American dream. Barack Obama is the man who can guide us there, set us firmly on that path. His opponent and his followers do not share that vision.

Today I am asking you to vote to reelect the President and to ensure a brighter future for this country. I am asking you to do the hardest thing that can be asked of an individual: to do the right thing, the selfless thing. I am asking you to rise up to the potential of this country and to put the past behind you.

Go vote for President Obama. And when you're done Duncan and I will see you out there under the blue skies. We'll be waiting.


Monday, November 5, 2012

Endorsement

Tomorrow is the big day. 

It's been difficult not to think about, not only because of the endless stream of ads on television, but because each and every time Duncan and I venture out we are forced to navigate an army of signs in yards and adorning the bumpers and windows of cars on the streets (my own included). But that is not the only reason I have been thinking about it.

This election directly impacts my life and the people I love. This election is about more than which candidate is the handsomest or speaks the best. This election is about very real issues, such as health care, education, equal pay, a woman's right to choose, improving the economy, and of course, the one closest to me, LGBT rights. A lot of progress has been made to improve the lives of so many people these past four years, and to fix the mess the idiocy of the last administration left for this one to clean up. It's easy for people to overlook the accomplishments President Obama has made, especially for the morons who watch FOX "News" and allow others to do their thinking for them. It's easy to believe the Republicans who would have you believe he has done nothing to improve our lives, especially when his opponents in the Republican party worked so hard to obstruct every ounce of legislation he sought to push through Congress. It's far too easy to be a sheep and follow along without ever breaking stride and doing what is honestly right.


It took fourteen years (and a world war) for this country to recover from the Great Depression. You'd have to be an utter imbecile to believe the President could accomplish a complete recovery from the mess of Bush's Great Recession. And now we have this jerk, Mitt Romney, a supposed business man, who believes he can do it when he couldn't even manage Massachusetts when he was governor. Do not trust him. His devotion is to his church and his wealthy friends, not you and not me.

I love my partner. I have loved him for the past seventeen years and believe with all my soul we deserve the same rights married people everywhere have. I do not want to fear what would happen if one of us got sick or died. I want to be able to stand up in front of my friends and family and celebrate our relationship. I want to be treated equally. Those things will not happen under Romney. Rather, every gain we have made will be erased and soon we'll be further back than we were under Bush.

Four years ago I received a letter from my good friend David, who wrote:

This election has inflamed the best and the worst of this nation. We will, each of us, vote according to our character and collectively define the character of the Unites States. The election booth will become a sort of civic confessional in which we exercise our faith in this country. I vote tomorrow. I have waited a long time, and it will feel good to finally have my say.

I am asking you to vote according to your character in the hope that your vote will help define the character of this country. Vote for progress and equality, for the health of this nation, for a woman's right to choose and to be paid equally. Vote to reelect President Obama. If you're a woman who has the tiniest amount of self-respect, who supports Planned Parenthood and the good work they do over a wide range of issues, especially breast cancer prevention, if you're gay or love someone who is gay and want to see us treated equally and fairly, if you have children in college or about to enter college, if you want to ensure all Americans have access to health care, if you believe in helping those who are less fortunate, if you want to continue to see the economy recover and not slip back into the desolation of the Bush administration, if you have any morals whatsoever, vote Barack Obama.

Do the right thing. Do the patriotic thing. Do the moral thing. There are no questions. It's obvious.


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Very Real Scare

Duncan's trick or treat came a day early. It was a pleasant afternoon, warm and sunny, without a breeze, only golden light, caught between a low bank of clouds and the mountains, reflected off the leaves both below and from those still hanging on above. We walked without jackets, Ken and I, enjoying the warmth of the sun on our bare arms as we talked about our dinner plans, while Duncan ambled not too far ahead, sniffing for sticks to chew and spit out as he passed by.

And then it happened. We'd stopped to chat with a woman and her new chocolate lab puppy when Duncan, indifferent as always to other dogs, bit into a stick that decided to bite back. Somehow or another, as we talked and played and fed the puppy pumpkin treats, Duncan's stick got caught. He coughed and hacked and when that didn't dislodge it he began to paw at his face, twisting his head this way and that as he rubbed it against the grass where we all stood. We grabbed him and while Ken held his mouth open I reached in and felt around at the back of his throat but wasn't able to find anything. I scraped a few remnants of bark from his tongue but he continued to sputter and wheeze.

At that point I began to panic, suddenly very aware that I didn't know how to perform the Heimlich maneuver on my dog. Ken gave me one of his calm and reassuring looks and asked me to hold Duncan still while propping his mouth open. I did as he asked while he peered inside and noticed a small twig had lodged, not in his throat but against the roof of his mouth, caught between his teeth. He reached in gently and pulled it out as Duncan sputtered one last time, coughed and then buried his head between the two of us as though thankful we'd been there to help.

As we walked home I couldn't stop shaking. My knees were weak and all I wanted to do was get home and hug my boy to me. When I asked Ken, who's schooling as a vet tech originally led us to Denver, about the Heimlich Maneuver for dogs he said he couldn't remember. So I came home, looked it up online and thought it would be a good idea to share it here. Make sure you learn it and are ready should the situation arise. Thankfully it didn't in our case, but it's better to be safe than sorry.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Happy

The landscape belongs to the person who looks at it. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

There is something about the sound of snow––the first real snow of the season––that, despite the change in temperature and the bland whitewash of the world, that seems to make it alright. It is a crisp sound, not quite musical so much as rhythmic, a delicate whisper as it alights on brittle, yellow leaves or sidewalks where only a few days before ants scuttled back and forth in their blind way, their evening shadows long and dark on the sunset gold pavement. It is a sound I have learned to love these past eight years on my walks with Duncan.


I did not want to go out. It took all my energy to get dressed this morning, to pull on my coat and mittens and take Duncan out into it. But he was sitting in the window watching it come down, his tail twitching anxiously, a very soft whine in his throat. He didn't want to miss a moment of it. So I knelt down beside him, put my arm across his shoulder and leaned in close to his ear. "I have never liked winter," I told him. "You can ask anyone who knows Papa and they will tell you I have always favored Spring, but winter is beautiful when you're out in it and I can't help but smile when you make snow angels. So we'll go outside and we'll both be happy together."


And we were.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

A Change of Season

And so as Autumn comes on, as the nightly winds rattle and shake the leaves and needles from the trees, pulling their colors from the boughs and littering the ground with them, our morning walks have changed, too. Flip flops and t-shirts have been replaced with good, solid walking shoes, and jackets, sometimes even gloves. The frost crunches beneath our feet as we plod along, Duncan jogging ahead, his warm, little imprints a trail for me to follow along the hedges and fence line. Jeffrey's cats are no longer granted free reign and his patio door is closed, leaving Duncan confused by his absence. Jeffrey has been there waiting for him nearly every morning for the past five months, a handful of treats, a herd of squirrels eating the nuts he has scattered, the jays squawking in the ash tree above. Dunc waits for a minute, his paws propped up on the rail, his tail swishing softly back and forth until he realizes Jeffrey is not coming. He'll sniff around a bit, search out the nuts, and then amble along. It is sometimes difficult for me not to project my own feelings onto him, not to feel disappointed at this change in his routine, but Roo is quick to bound away, his ambling through the leaves making music for me to follow. There is much for him to investigate: the branches that have come down in the previous night's gale, the golden pile of leaves that have gathered around the trunks of the aspens, the silence of the golf course.

It is a beautiful time of year to be walking early in the morning, when the sun is still new and the air is crisp. I could not count the number of such mornings I missed before he entered my life and am thankful each day for the ones his presence has granted me.



An early morning walk is a blessing for the whole day. (Henry David Thoreau)

Monday, October 15, 2012

Afternoon Drive

Ken and I decided to take Duncan for a drive up to the mountains in the new car yesterday. It's aspen season, which is nice but not quite like I remember Autumn in the Shire-like Midwest, with its myriad shades of red and gold and oranges. Autumn in Colorado is nice and the aspens are certainly beautiful, their leaves making the most beautiful music as they sway in the afternoon breeze, but the color palette, with its two shades of red and the single gold of the aspens, is rather conservative compared to northern Illinois, and I haven't seen a single shade of orange.

But it was still spectacular, something we haven't done in a very long time. The air was cool and the roads were windy and narrow, but the Outback held tight and was as smooth a drive as I'd hoped. We rolled the windows down, held hands and listened to perfect mountain driving-music while Dunc leaned his face out the window and grinned a wide, sloppy dog grin.




Duncan seemed a bit nervous at the start of the drive, whining and pacing in the back seat but when I realized it was that time of the afternoon when we usually venture out to tend to business, I pulled over so we could take a short walk along the roadside and let him take care of things, which he did almost immediately. And from that point on everything was golden. No more whines, no more pacing, only sunshine on a very happy face.


These are the kinds of afternoons I wish would last forever.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Not Everything Fades

There is something about riding in a new car, not just the smell or the quiet mobility, or the perfection of the pristine, fingerprint and smudge-free interior, but the way it transforms our perception of travel. I mentioned it to Ken yesterday on my first drive when we ventured out to Best Buy to grab a cable for my iPod, a drive we have literally made nearly a thousand times. The trees, now fully in the throes of their transformation, were exactly the same, the other cars were the same, the dips and bumps and imperfections of the road were all the same, but the drive was completely different, as though we were seeing the roads, the people, the color of the sky through the branches, for the first time, like discovering a new town, some hidden away, shady, quiet place discovered while on vacation. Everything about it feels new and wondrous, full of a sense of discovery and delight.

My forty-five minute commute to work this morning, and the return trip home this evening, were much the same way, and I found myself not minding the traffic or the delays or the noxious odors from the tow truck I followed for nearly half the trip. I listened to a podcast, as I do every day, rolled the windows down and enjoyed the coolness of air blowing through my hair. The sunset seemed spectacular and when my friend Sean called I urged him to look to the sky and the sun sitting above the mountains and shadows of those mountains resting on the clouds behind them. I told him, "It's a sad thing that in only a few weeks climbing into this car will be an ordinary thing, my drive to work will become a chore once again, and everything will be as it was only two days ago."

And then I came home, changed my clothes and took Duncan to the park where the baseball diamonds were full and the fields were dotted with the running bodies of the children's soccer leagues. The sun slipped away and shadows became darkness, the air cooled and the sweetness of the grass rose up around us. And then I remembered that even though those moments of adventure in my new car will fade, every walk with Duncan is as vibrant as our first, that some things never dull with the passage of time, that our blessings are not measured by possessions but the bonds that hold us to those we love and those who love us back.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

New Toy

So Duncan got a new toy this morning. Just a little sumpthin'-sumpthin'.



We took it for a spin before the weather got nasty and destroyed the shiny perfection and surprisingly, Dunc was not as happy as his papa was. Perhaps he takes after me a bit in that change doesn't always come easy. He whined and didn't seem too sure of his footing but hopefully it will grow on him. After all, there's a lot more room in back for him, enough for plenty of future road trip videos.

 Oh, and I like it, too. I think I'll keep it!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

A Wise Friend

Autumn is not my favorite season, although this year the change in temperature has been more than welcome. After seventy-three consecutive days with temperatures above ninety degrees, the recent coolness that has descended upon us has seemed like heaven.

But today, after two days of rain and snow, clouds and the kind of misty drizzle that paints halos around the moon––when she's visible––Autumn seemed perfect: cool but warm enough to walk slowly through the park, to lay in the grass with Duncan and roll around while he bombarded my face with so many kisses at times I felt I was drowning. It was a bright and windless afternoon with the constant rustle of golden leaves falling from the trees at their leisure, making a twinkling sort of music that makes it almost worth it. The ground is nearly covered in leaves, and walking through them, trailing Roo, who slices and gallops through them with the kind of joy only dogs know, was like walking on a golden cloud, the sun dappling us from above and reflecting off a million, curling amber hands, each of them waving farewell until next year.

Recently I lamented the passing of Summer on Facebook and my good friend Kemia was kind enough to remind me, "My dearest Curt -- take a lesson from wise Duncan and embrace it with every fiber of your soul. A season reviled is lost, and that is a tragedy. There is beauty to be found in the hardship and struggle of winter, as well as in the quiet, white beauty it brings."

She is right, of course, but the first snow is a bitter and difficult thing. But I suppose as long as there are afternoons like this, with my best friend at my side, there is more than enough to be grateful for and to delight in.


It was one of those perfect English autumnal days which occur more frequently in memory than in life. (P.D. James)

Friday, October 5, 2012

Good Morning, Winter

Duncan, of course, was delighted.


Needless to say, I was not.

Good thing this is the weekend I make my annual batch of French Onion Soup. That should make things better.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Price of Vanity

Duncan got a bath this afternoon, a nice one with mint shampoo and lavender conditioner so he'd smell nice. The sun was still high and peeking through the windows above the mountains, bathing the apartment in bright, honeyed light, perfect for hunkering down for a good long brushing and pampering. He's never been afraid of the tub, perhaps because he loves the toweling-off part of the bath the best. He leans forward, nose to the floor, rump high in the air, tail wagging, and snorts and grunts while I wrap the soft towels around his head and rub hard through his ears and over his face. And afterward, when he's fluffy and his red hair is standing on end, he likes nothing more than to lay down in a sunny spot and let me brush him out, first with The Rake, and then with the soft bristles of his other brush, which smooths everything out, lays it flat and makes him look his most handsome.

And then, of course, there's the walk which comes afterward, allowing him to prance down The Run to show off for Jeffrey and Cindy and Pepper, Soldier, the Shepard mix in the balcony he torments from below, and the two new bony little female Boxers which have moved in, Bruno and Barry Manilow. After that, it's time for a quick gallop through The Glen and a walk around the park where he can find a nice pile of leaves (of which there aren't many as it still feels like Summer here) to roll around in.

I was watchful on our last walk, careful to keep him from getting too dirty, wanting to enjoy the softness of his coat and its sweet smell when he cuddles up to me tonight. But as he brushed by some low shrubs a yellow, twisted leaf caught in the hair below his ear and jiggled as he walked away. I reached down for it to pull it free and only when it was captured safely between my fingers did I realize it wasn't a leaf at all but a spider, the kind that tormented me in my youth, a big yellow and black garden spider, also known as a writing spider. It writhed and wriggled, twisting until its legs caught on my thumb. I shrieked, as I'm known to do in such situations, and shook it free. It bounced into the grass and scurried away into the shadows while Duncan just looked at me in that way he has, like he wants to shake his head in exasperation.


After my adventure with the snake and the fly a few months back, it's all I can do to get Ken to join us on our walks down The Run. Perhaps its best if he doesn't find out about this little incident. Agreed?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

47%

While I have never been shy about my politics (see the entirety of Fall 2008 or visit my Facebook page any moment of the day for the latest zinger), Duncan has never really announced his. In many ways we are opposites: I prefer to stay inside and mind my own business while Duncan loves nothing more than traipsing through the outdoors sticking his nose in any and all business he can find; while I am steadfastly nonathletic, Duncan is a bit of a jock, running every morning, bounding through the snow, swimming any chance he can get, doing anything and everything I've worked my entire life to avoid. Because of our differences I always sort of assumed he'd be a Republican (just to spite me, even though he's far too giving and compassionate), or worse, a "Libertarian" (as if such a thing really exists. It's like bisexuality, it's a myth that's perpetuated by chronic indecision. Make up your mind already!). 

So I was shocked this morning when he led me across the street, over the soccer fields and straight to the skate park, a place we hardly ever venture near. He had one of those purposeful looks on his face, ignoring the tall clumps of grass where the last traces of discarded food remains from last weekend's Summerset festival. He was a dog with a mission and he wouldn't stop until he'd taken me where he had to take me. And then once we arrived I completely missed what it was I was supposed to be looking at. I was focused, instead, on the man riding the giant mower which kept coming closer and closer, and the hoodlums who'd chosen to skip school in favor of a morning spent on their boards. But Duncan, ever patient and persistent, barked once and wagged his tail to get me to turn in his direction and finally spy what it was he wanted to show me.

And there it was. He was coming out as a good and decent Democrat, a believer in the power of the people (all people, not just some of them).


I couldn't have been more proud.

How could I not love a dog with such a clear message for his papa?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Turning

The season is turning, slowly and with hesitation, and surprisingly I don't seem to mind. After a grueling hot summer the cool, nearly cold mornings are a welcome relief. The helicopter seedlings are starting to shake loose of the maples and only a few leaves are beginning to change. The mornings are sweet and moist, and sometimes smell like mornings I remember from my childhood when my family camped overnight on the edge of some lake and I awoke in the stale, cold air of our tent. At this time of year I spend half our walks lost in some memory, revisiting the past, blissfully unaware of the dew that gathers on the cuffs of my pants even as it saturates Duncan's paws and belly. It is all glorious and exactly as it should be.

But the evenings are my favorite because there is this moment when we walk through the park, weeding our way through the soccer hoards, blocking out the infernal noise of the Columbine High School marching band with an Autumnal song I whistle over and over at this time of year, when the sky changes moment by moment and I am reminded every second how fortunate I am to live on the edge of the Great Plains at the foot of the Rockies. As the sun dips behind the tall peaks everything seems to go silent for a moment and the world sighs. The earth seems to open up in relief and all the fragrances which have baked there throughout the day are released: the sweetness of the grass, the coolness of the water, the heavy scent of the bark, from the stringy elms to the whispering aspens, from the gangly, awkward poplars to the regal cottonwoods. As we walk over the grass we pass through pockets of shivering cold air mere feet in diameter, like stepping in October, and then back out into the summer warmth of the day. They are like invisible polka dots that bring a smile to my face.

Duncan loves all seasons equally and plods ahead merrily, unaware perhaps, how inspiring his delight is to me and how much I love him for it.

Friday, September 7, 2012

One More Feather

We are getting through this the best way we know how. It helps to believe we did the best thing possible for Winnie every moment of her life––from the moment she stumbled into our laps, her Dalmatian spots and graceful, careful steps around her scampering, awkward litter-mates, including Pip, to the moment she closed her eyes for the last time while I held her in my arms, wrapped in my baby blanket, whispering close in her ear, "Papa is here, Bean. I'm here. It's okay. Find me again. I'll look for you." Our apartment is small and plenty full between Ken and me, Duncan, Olive and Pip, but the enormity of her absence is felt every moment, creating a much bigger space than I remember before.

Aside from myself Pip seems the most effected. I assured Winnie that he was safe, that I would look after him and make sure he always knows he is loved. We had the vet, Dr. Jason Cordeiro, come to our apartment to assist in her passing, sparing her the anxiety of being moved to an unfamiliar, sterile place away from the others. After she was gone, curled up on my lap, each of her siblings came to her, touching their noses to her nose, sniffing and then moving on. Only Pip lingered, standing over her protectively, his body taut and straight, unmoving, for a long time. He has stayed close to me ever since, snuggling to my chest, climbing onto my hip where she once laid, constantly reassuring himself that I am nearby. The night her ashes were returned to us and we placed her in the beautiful urn we picked out, Pip lingered long moments nearby as though understanding that his sister was back home where she belonged but unsure why he couldn't see her. Wednesday night, long after Ken and I had tucked ourselves into bed, Pip's screams pulled me, running, down the hall to him. It was a sound I'd never heard him make, a tortured yowl that was pained and desperate. I found him curled up on the arm of the couch looking at her urn, his body trembling. He ran to me when I appeared and let me carry him back to bed where he stayed curled against my shoulder all night. I stayed awake long after he and Ken had fallen asleep, each of them snoring in the soft way they have, stroking his back, running his paws between my fingers, kissing his ears and telling him he was safe, just as I promised I would.

I cannot tell you how fortunate I feel that Dr. Jason was the man who assisted Winnie in her transition. He was empathetic and kind, patient and sincere. He stayed with us for several hours, letting us take our time, laughing as we shared memories, holding our hands and hugging us when we needed it. Tonight I received a heartfelt condolence card from him that brought me peace even as it brought tears to my eyes. He is a good man, the kind of person I'd like to know better, and I am grateful for his presence at such an important moment in our lives. You can read more about the work he does on his website, One Last Gift. If you live in the Denver area and are in need of such services, I cannot recommend him enough.

We bought Winnie's urn at Hero's Pets, from a local artist, Lee Wolfe. Despite being larger than we needed, Ken and I knew the moment we saw it that it was perfect in every way, especially because of the feathers that were hand-painted across it, one more to give me strength as I move forward. 


I still call out her name, especially when I'm in the shower, where she liked to join me in the mornings, sitting safe and dry behind the liner, watching me, occasionally talking and rubbing up against the plastic while she waited for me to finish so I could spank her gently on her rump while she rolled on the bathmat. I still see her from the corner of my eye, especially in those places she spent her last days with us, curled up behind the guitar, sleeping peacefully on the chair, perched on the table drinking from her glass of water.


It's still there. Waiting for her. As am I.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Gratitude

It was five years ago tonight I gave up my previous, short-lived fiction blog, took Duncan for a walk and thought, "Hmmmm. What if....."

An hour or so later, thanks to a little boy who couldn't wait, While Walking Duncan was born.


Eight-hundred seventy-one posts, forty-thousand plus page-views, and countless feathers later I'm still going strong. Readers have come and gone and come again but every day Duncan and I walk. It's what we do.

Thank you not only for tagging along but for the support and encouragement you've offered over the past five years. My life has been forever changed by your presence in it.

If you'll allow me to share another poem from Mary Oliver, who seems to know exactly how I feel every moment of my life, I'd be most grateful.

Gratitude


What did you notice?

The dew snail;
the low-flying sparrow;
the bat, on the wind, in the dark;
big-chested geese, in the V of sleekest performance;
the soft toad, patient in the hot sand;
the sweet-hungry ants;
the uproar of mice in the empty house;
the tin music of the cricket’s body;
the blouse of the goldenrod.
What did you hear?
The thrush greeting the morning;
the little bluebirds in their hot box;
the salty talk of the wren,
then the deep cup of the hour of silence.
What did you admire?
The oaks, letting down their dark and hairy fruit;
the carrot, rising in its elongated waist;
the onion, sheet after sheet, curved inward to the
    pale green wand;
at the end of summer the brassy dust, the almost liquid
    beauty of the flowers;
then the ferns, scrawned black by the frost.
What astonished you?
The swallows making their dip and turn over the water.
What would you like to see again?
My dog: her energy and exuberance, her willingness,
    her language beyond all nimbleness of tongue, her
    recklessness, her loyalty, her sweetness, her
    sturdy legs, her curled black lip, her snap.
What was most tender?
Queen Anne’s lace, with its parsnip root;
the everlasting in its bonnets of wool;
the kinks and turns of the tupelo’s body;
the tall, blank banks of sand;
the clam, clamped down.
What was most wonderful?
The sea, and its wide shoulders;
the sea and its triangles;
the sea lying back on its long athlete’s spine.
What did you think was happening?
The green breast of the hummingbird;
the eye of the pond;
the wet face of the lily;
the bright, puckered knee of the broken oak;
the red tulip of the fox’s mouth;
the up-swing, the down-pour, the frayed sleeve
  of the first snow—
so the gods shake us from our sleep.



Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Monday, September 3, 2012

This Light, These Clouds

I have spent the day watching clouds, either from behind my window or out in the world with Duncan, where they are at their best. They have sped and lingered across my field of vision, occasionally obscuring the blue almost completely, especially to the south and west of here where they are known to amass in the late afternoon, their darkness threatening the calm of the day. But by the time the afternoon is done they have grown fat and lazy and seem to have reached some sort of agreement with the mountains and the sun in which they achieve the kind of magnificence known only to butterfly wings or hummingbird feathers.

Duncan's birthday is tomorrow but tonight, when he chose this moment to venture out, it felt as though he was giving me a much needed gift. Bless him. We lingered long in the grass, stopping every few feet to admire their ranges and valleys, to allow their radiance to pull the air from our lungs as we stood in awe. Others passed occasionally with their own dogs, but none looked up. Even when I greeted them and said, "Can you believe this light? Can you believe these clouds?" They only looked up, pausing but a moment before turning back to me to smile politely. I'm not sure what my neighbors think of me, with my dog and my camera and my perpetual astonishment at the world, but I'm grateful that I'm at least tolerated. As long as I can view the daily blessings of this small corner of the universe unhindered, with Duncan at my side, there is little else that matters.





Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, 
but to add color to my sunset sky.  (Rabindranath Tagore)

Saturday, September 1, 2012

A Waiting Glass of Water

I have taken you on many walks since last we visited, and although I have not spoken much since then there has been a great deal I've wanted to share with you.

Like the morning not too long ago, when the air was surprisingly cool, almost cold, and even though I wanted to wear a jacket I didn't because there was something invigorating about it, about how my skin puckered up and relaxed all at once, absorbed it and seemed to smile at the relief from the heat. And how on that very same morning, while enjoying the chikka-chikka-chikka of the big sprinklers at the park with Duncan, throwing the ball into their rainbow-colored arcs for him to chase after, a water main exploded, a strange pop-pop-pop, like champagne corks coming loose, and the ground beneath our feet seemed to tremble for a moment before an enormous jet of water broke loose from its containment and ignited the air above us with a brilliant rainbow. Roo danced on his hind legs and snapped at the cascade and didn't mind the wet one bit, while I smiled and laughed and felt my heart ease, if for only a moment.

I wanted to tell you about the lone balloon we saw moving slowly over the fields, low and bright in the evening light, its path seeming somehow careful and deliberate, and almost observant, but I kept trying to turn it into a metaphor that felt forced and grim and I didn't think you wanted to hear about that.

How some friends are not the kind of friends we need them to be and how it seems, especially in times of grief, that only our four-legged companions know what to give us and when to give it, which is what makes their love all the more precious and relevant.

Or the way the leaves are beginning to fall. They almost always begin in July when the Lindens are done perfuming the night air that wafts in through my windows while we sleep, coloring the mornings in my apartment with their honey-mint scent. The moment they are done and their blossoms turn to gold dust their leaves slip like husks from their trees, and even though we have been walking on them for months the appearance of the elms among them has been disquieting and upsetting. And because our nights have been occasionally cool enough to turn off the air and sleep with the windows open, the tips of the maple leaves have started to fray with red and delicate veins of gold. I have never been a fan of Autumn, but this year it seems an especially terrible change, like the passing of the summer means leaving someone behind, watching them fade away in the distance, wondering why you're going and not bringing them with you.

I wanted to tell you how especially handsome Pip looks sleeping on the window sill and in the patch of sunlight where his sister spent so many hours, how his little paws seem to clutch at the carpet as though he's dreaming of her and holding on as tightly as he can.

But then that makes me think of how he's suddenly learned to curl up on my hip exactly as Winnie used to do and how surprised I was when he first did it because he's never done it before and I wondered if she'd somehow told him, "Now Pip, this is very important so you must listen to me and do exactly as I say. Papa needs a soft weight on his hip when he lays down, to reassure him, even when he's fast asleep and it seems like nothing is important to him at all. Your weight will calm him and bring him sweet dreams. This has been my mission every night and now it must be yours. Do you understand?"

And that makes me think of the water glass, still sitting on the coffee table, the one Winnie drank out of, the soft pink of her tongue lapping at the edge of the glass and curling the cold water into her mouth. It is the same glass that was there the last time she drank from it and even though I know it should be washed I can't bring myself to do it because to do so would be like washing a part of her away and that thought frightens me terribly.

I am not a religious person. In fact I'm not sure I believe in God and Heaven the way most people do. But I'm not sure I don't believe either. I have always found comfort in the notion that death is a dream, the sort of place we invent ourselves and whatever we believe in life, whatever faith has shaped the roads and paths we have traveled, is there, waiting for us to make real. My childhood was a wonderful thing, something I miss often, and when I feel the fear of death creeping upon me I try to take comfort in imagining I'll be able to visit those days again, to walk through them and understand with the wisdom of an adult, how magnificent and precious those faces and voices and colors and fragrances were and are. I do not believe in God but in the power of The Universe and the life-force that resides in each of us, waiting to take us back to days when we were young and carefree, when our spirits were still gentle and not as fragile.

When Winnie left us it was difficult because even though I don't believe in Heaven I wanted––and still want––to believe in a Heaven for her. I want to believe there are sunny sills to sit on and delicious tuna to eat, and glasses of cold water waiting whenever she wants. Oh, how she loved cold water from my glass! I want to believe that there is a bridge and that someday, when I am dreaming the long dream, she will be there waiting, perhaps as a kitten, when she was all ears, or as the lean beauty she would grow into. She'll be there, ready to climb up on my hip to ensure all my dreams from that moment on are safe and happy and sweeter than the sweetest ones I've enjoyed on the wakeful side of my existence.

But until then I will keep a glass of cold water waiting for her. I will not wash her away.


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Farewell

 


“You know that place between sleep and awake, the place where you can still remember dreaming? That’s where I’ll always love you. That’s where I’ll be waiting.” 
 (J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan)




I love you, Winnie Bean. Find me again soon. I'll look for you among the stars, my sweet Mouse.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Comedy of Errors

It's astounding the number of things that can occur in a single moment, from the large events that shape the direction of our lives, to the minutiae of which I am so incredibly fond.

Our walk tonight started out as any other walk starts: I came home, changed out of my work clothes, fed Winnie some tuna from her fancy bowl atop our coffee table (she's been incredibly spoiled the last seven weeks), gave gargantuan Olive and precocious Pip their dinner of chicken kibble mixed with rabbit stew and blueberries (they eat better than Ken and I do, IsweartoGod!) and ventured down The Run with Duncan. It has been very hot the last few days (and tomorrow plans to be even hotter) so we were going slow and easy, enjoying the shade of the maples, birch and linden trees along the way, watching the succulent light from the low sun dance along the tips of the tall, wild grass, leaving golden footsteps on everything it touched, enjoying the rich scent of the freshly mowed grass (something that always brings me great pleasure, especially now that I don't have to mow myself and haven't done so for nearly seven years). It was shaping up to be a peaceful evening with Duncan plodding along beside me, head down, nose hunting out the peanuts Jeffrey scatters for the bluejays and squirrels. I was already envisioning making a spinach salad for dinner before settling down to read the latest John Irving novel which I have been enjoying very much.

And then all hell broke loose. In a single second I was ready to flee home, grab a bottle of Xanax (of which there are several) and spend the rest of the night trying to sort through the chain of events even as I convinced myself that such a thing was possible only in movies starring Steve Martin and produced by Nickelodeon.

A new dog has moved in next door to Jeffrey. She's a fat old Golden, nearly as wide as she is tall, with a white heart expanding across her face and down her chest. She's as loud as she is friendly and when she saw Duncan she announced it to everyone within earshot. Roo immediately forgot the foraging he'd been doing in the bushes outside Jeffrey's patio and launched (and I mean launched!) into the air toward her. He nearly cleared the shrubs, but not quite, which is what upset the rabbit who had been relaxing in the cool shade there. Duncan landed with a thud, which startled the rabbit, who darted out of the bushes right in front of me. I would have tripped over her if a wandering horsefly hadn't chose that moment to buzz by and lodge itself firmly between my eye and my glasses. I squeaked (which, admittedly, was not the most masculine of reactions) and reached for my face to free the bug which in its impatience had decided to bash itself between the softness of my fluttering and startled eyeball and the lens of my glasses (which is what I've observed countless flies do when confronted with an invisible barrier). The rabbit hurried toward the long grass on the other side of the fence and leapt right over the very long and very dark garter snake which, I presume, had also been enjoying the cool of the shade and the softness of the freshly mowed grass. It startled and slithered toward the shrubs where I was hobbling back and forth, my hands and glasses caught under the visor of my ball cap, the horsefly practically roaring at me in protest, while my feet danced back and forth, eventually coming down on the thickness of the snake, which coiled up around my ankle, its slimy skin all the warning I needed to determine that my situation had gone from bad to worse, which, of course, changed my less-than-masculine squeak into a full-throated and ├╝ber-feminine scream which I'm not even sure the most-feminine of women would admit to being capable of. Duncan, who never barks at other dogs, decided to test his voice out on Ginger,  who was barking back while her two-legged companions scurried to the patio door to see what all the commotion was about. I was still dancing, clutching my face to free the fly, bringing my knees and feet up high like a Cossack having a seizure in an attempt to avoid the snake, which had vanished as quickly as it appeared. After freeing the cap from my head and knocking my glasses to the newly trimmed grass, the fly finally dislodged itself and vanished into the melting sunlight. And while Duncan ceased his barking Ginger did not, which resulted in a stern scolding from her people, who could only stare at me as I flailed around manically.

"Are you okay?" the man asked, his wide-eyed wife standing behind him, clutching his shoulders.

I froze where I stood, looking not for my glasses but for the snake. "Yeah," I replied, out of breath. "I'm good. I'm Curt. You're new. Welcome to the neighborhood."

(Now tell me that wasn't worth the wait!)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Sprinkled

Despite being nearly four before Duncan learned he actually enjoyed swimming, he has not budged one inch on his distaste for sprinklers or the fountain at the park. He has gone well out of his way, even on the hottest, most brittle of summer days, to stay away from the tiniest bit of spray or mist from the big sprinklers that cast their rainbows in the mornings and evenings when the sun is low on the horizon. 

This morning, though, something changed. It was still cool and the shadows had only just begun to shorten when the sprinklers came on and caught us unaware. I expected Duncan to abandon his ball (and me) and run for cover as far away from moisture as possible, but instead he surprised me and sat right down in the middle of them, tilted his head back and smiled as he was soaked from nose to tail. After several minutes he managed to retrieve his ball only to want it thrown right back into the middle of the sprinklers. Surprised, I obliged and so we spent several long minutes enjoying the cool of the morning and the chik-chik-chik of the sprinklers washing back and forth over the grass, catching the sunlight and turning it silver as it rained down all around us.*




*Sadly, the video I have of Dunc running through the sprinklers would not load so you'll just have to use your imagination. It was wonderful. Maybe tomorrow...

Sunday, July 22, 2012

No Good Deed

The squirrel, like Jeffrey yesterday, did not know we were coming.

He was sitting on the patio picking at the last of the peanuts Jeffrey had tossed out that morning. He's a young thing, small and a bit wiry with a tail that hasn't quite bushed out yet and often gets chased away by the bigger squirrels and the bluejays who, judging by the cacophony of their calls, don't seem to like anyone, big or small. But Jeffrey, good-natured as he is, looks after him and always puts peanuts and corn out after the others have departed in the hopes of fattening him up before Fall arrives.

Duncan, who has learned that Jeffrey is the best sort of fellow (and by that I mean the kind of fellow who always has a store of treats on-hand), hurried ahead of me, darting into the low shrubs around Jeffrey's patio and waited for his newest best friend (read: treat dispenser) to appear. I paused a moment and waited but when Jeffrey didn't appear I stepped away and whistled for Roo to come along, which he didn't. He'd spotted the squirrel sitting on the rail and was waiting for it to make a move.

When it finally did, complete and utter pandemonium broke out. The squirrel jumped off the rail and ran back and forth across the patio just out of Duncan's reach. Dunc followed along, darting this way and that, refusing to to let the poor thing get by. So finally it did the only thing it could think of: it ran right through Jeffrey's open door and into the apartment.

Jeffrey, who had been sitting at his desk, jumped up and ran into the living room as the squirrel darted over his bare foot, leapt over the two cats and onto the kitchen counter where it knocked over a bowl, sent a jar of peanuts shattering to the floor, climbed atop the fridge where it knocked off a bag of cat food, then jumped down onto Jeffrey's desk. Papers flew, pens scattered, speakers were tipped over, chaos ensued. It finally settled on the window sill where it began to scratch helplessly against the glass, jumping up into the blinds, pulling them off the runner, then starting all over again. Duncan hurried to the window, barking and pawing to get in as the squirrel, inches away on the other side of the glass, tried to get out.

There was nothing I could do but watch (and yes, take a picture). I grabbed Duncan, put him on his leash and pulled him away while Jeffrey, laughing like a stoned Santa, tried to coax the squirrel out from behind his desk with a broom. The squirrel decided on one last course of action, which involved getting caught in all the computer wires and pulling them loose, then scampered back into the living room, out the door and up the closest tree where it immediately began screaming all sorts of unrepeatable obscenities at me. 

Jeffrey finally appeared, still laughing, out of breath and his face flushed red.

"That," he said, "was the best thing I've ever seen! You can't make this up!"

He's correct. Duncan's life writes itself.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

All Smiles

I can't say I blame Duncan one bit. After all, it is close to a hundred degrees and the air feels like hot sandpaper just opening the door and stepping out into it. The sidewalk is nearly impossible to stand on in my tennis shoes and poor Dunc does a little jogging dance from one foot back to the other whenever we hurry from the breezeway to the grass. 

The Run, with its maples and Lindens, is a blessedly shady spot, but relief from this heat is hard to find even there. It is the monsoon season in Denver, which means we get clouds and rain in the afternoons, which tends to cool things off a bit, and even though the clouds are already forming, Duncan was in no mood to wait. He hurried ahead of me to Jeffrey's patio where the squirrels and bluejays congregate for the ample food Jeffrey puts out for them. He's taken quite a fancy to Duncan and has started buying treats for Roo whenever we pass by. Duncan does his cute little dance. gives Jeffrey a high five, rolls over, does everything he know how to do to milk every last treat from the man.

This afternoon, though, Jeffrey wasn't expecting us. He was standing on his patio watching his two cats lurk their way through the long grass on the golf course side of the fence, a chocolate popsicle melting down his hand. Duncan appeared out of nowhere and didn't wait a moment for Jeffrey to offer a treat. He merely jumped up, latched onto the popsicle and bit it in half, his tongue lapping up the drippings as he went. Jeffrey didn't even have time to react and by the time I got there was laughing hysterically, a perfectly clean popsicle stick clutched in his hand.

"I am so sorry," I apologized.

"It's okay," he laughed and held out his hand for Dunc to clean up. "It's chocolate-flavored, but don't worry, there's not an ounce of chocolate in it. He should be just fine."

I could only shake my head at Dunc, who was all smiles for the rest of the walk.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Discovery

Duncan made a discovery in the bushes outside Jeffrey's apartment this morning.


And his discovery looks none too happy for it.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Murder and Mayhem

(AP, Littleton, Colorado)

Terror has returned to this small community once again.

Shortly after dawn this morning, Mayor Curt awoke to find one of its long term residents, Frog, brutally disfigured and disemboweled in the living room. Rogers alerted authorities but after viewing the crime scene, none seemed optimistic about solving the crime.


"It's no wonder," Rogers was quoted as saying. "Two years ago Percy the Penguin suffered a similar fate , being ripped limb from limb. The poor soul never recovered and has been in intensive care ever since." Bah-Bah, our pacifist sheep, was pushed from a balcony and found dead the next morning. Authorities have long suspected that Bah-Bah was pushed as a means of silencing him before he could reveal the identity of Percy's atacker.

Clues to these crimes have been scarce, as Officer Bobster the Lobster, chief detective on the scene reported. "Whoever is committing these atrocities is doing them under cover of darkness while the locals are asleep. No eyewitnesses, no fingerprints, no nuthin'."

The only link between the three victims is their good friend and trusted playmate, Duncan "Roo" Rogers, who claims to have been in bed asleep at the time of the murder. A source close to Mr. Roo says he is beside himself with grief and is too shocked to leave bed and make a statement at this time.


Whether or not Duncan "Roo" is a suspect, Officer Bobster will not say. Rather, he and other members of the police force urge anyone with any information to come forward.

Monday, July 16, 2012

A Fly in the Parlor

Two months ago, when Spring was new and each day felt like an unexpected gift, something to be explored and savored sweetly and with a lazy diligence, I didn't mind the spider webs. They were small things, trifles, barely perceptible as we passed under the budding trees. The spiders were tiny then, barely seen and their webs were little more than a breeze, catching on the scruff of my cheek or the point of my elbow, a tickle that could be brushed away with the back of my hand. But now, like the summer, they have grown bloated and thick, heavy as a thunder cloud, as troubling as lightning.

This morning near the end of our walk, after we'd circled the property, played a quick game of fetch in the park, Duncan and I were headed home when he led me through the wide, grassy area between several of the buildings, thick with trees and low shrubs, where the grass grows tall and squirrels and bunnies hide, leaving only the tips of their tails or translucent ears––golden in the sunlight––visible. He'd spotted a rabbit, small and new and quick to startle, and pulled hard on his leash as it darted under the low boughs of a tall spruce. Dunc followed, dragging me between the sharp needles and the soft leaves of a tall shrub growing next to it. I cried out as he pulled me forward where I could clearly see the thick silver threads of an enormous web, feet wide and as intricately built as lace, glistening with dew, shimmering in the early sun, waiting for me, everything that the playful strands of Spring were not.

There was little I could but close my eyes and mouth as it pulled taut across my nose, then my cheeks, wrapped around my head, catching on my shoulders and tearing––something I could actually hear!––as I passed through it. I felt it catch in my hair, its frayed ends alighting on my shoulders and back. I groaned loudly and pulled Dunc, who'd stepped under the thing, away from the bush he was frantically nosing his way into, across the parking lot toward home where I spent the next five minutes patting myself down, running my fingers through my hair, wiping my face, changing shirts and dancing the heebie jeebies while he watched and waited patiently for his breakfast to be served.