Monday, March 26, 2012

Fire on the Mountain

I could see and smell the smoke at work, a seventeen mile drive from where I live. There was a subtle haze on the horizon that smelled like the campfires I remember from my youth but I didn't give it much thought until I drove home and saw the tall billows rising up quite near where I live. The entire mountainside was shrouded in heavy smoke, gray and foul as it gusted eastward, but thick and white and red near the ground. The closer I drove the bigger it got until it took up my entire view, blocking out the sky and the mountains.

Duncan and I headed straight to the park and climbed Rebel Hill behind Columbine High School, a vantage that allows us to see all the Christmas lights in December and all the colors of the sunset over Johnson Reservoir on summer nights. Tonight, though, the view was remarkably different and terrifying. While the fire poses no threat to us there are homes in that area that have been evacuated and the smoke, billowing eastward on frighteningly strong winds, has filled my apartment and tainted everything I breath. From our vantage we watched it rise up and curl outward, fanning out over Littleton and Highlands Ranch, and when the wind turned in our direction I watched it sweep away my view of the grocery store where I shop not a mile away. It was when Duncan began to sneeze and duck his head low to the ground that we turned back home. There was no leisure to our walk as we hurried back across the fields and up the stairs to our sanctuary. And now, an hour later, sitting on my patio I have a clear view of the burn, the tallest plumes catching the last of the sun's rays while the base glows gold and red.

So I will close the windows and watch the night southwest of us burn and hope for the safety of others.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Couch Clemency

The morning the new furniture arrived was pandemonium. Ken and I got up early to pull the couch out and ready it for delivery to Good Will. Pip, who spends much of his day buddying up to the rough bunch of dust bunnies which congregate in the darkness beneath the couch, was quite frantic and didn't know what to make of the situation. He scampered, low and flat to the ground, around the periphery of the apartment, taking refuge where he could find it: with his hind end sticking out of the litter box or with his face stuffed into one of my slippers while the rest of him pushed and struggled to force itself the rest of the way. Winnie and Olive simply retreated to friendly patches of sunshine in the sills and watched with bemused grins as Pip made a fool of himself.

Duncan, though, was not happy with the decision at all. The couch has been his preferred spot for quite some time now. After we pulled it out and removed the wires and cable which ran beneath it he climbed right up onto his favorite spot, hunkered down, refused to move and gave us the saddest, most forlorn face he could muster. Even when I turned the vacuum on and began taking care of Pip's bunny gang Roo didn't move. He only watched, his paws hooked tightly into the cushion, his eyes focused entirely on Ken, pleading silently for couch clemency.

Being all too easily swayed by the appearance of pumpkin treat and a belly scritch his tactics did not work. Once he was down we worked quickly to take the couch downstairs and load it into the truck. And as we drove off I couldn't help but glance up at the bedroom window where he'd relocated to watch us take away his favorite thing in all the world.

The new furniture arrived later in the afternoon and almost immediately he attempted to climb up and test it out. Unfortunately, that's not in the cards and he was redirected to the comfort of the floor. The cats, even Pip, eventually came out to inspect it. And although I don't want them up there either, I'm not quite sure how to keep them away. Last night when I came back from checking the mail I discovered all three in places they shouldn't be, as though they'd waited for the door to close behind me and my steps to retreat down the stairs. Even Olive, who rarely comes out of the bedroom except to eat, had claimed her spot on the new recliner. Duncan met me at the door and led me right into the living room where I could see for myself how the cats were in flagrant violation of the new rules. I attempted to scatter them but after a few moments of humoring me all three returned to their favorite spots while Duncan sighed loudly into his paws from his new spot under the coffee table.

Sometimes life just isn't fair, but I have faith that with a few treats and lots of love everything will right itself once again.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Teachings of Spring

No one taught the sun to rise as bright and clear as it did this morning, in a sky not quite sweet-smelling, but rich and deep, as though the earth had been tilled and made ready for hands to be thrust deeply into it. No one taught the last patch of snow to hold on as long as it has, receding bit by bit each afternoon, the ice revealing the pebbles and once-leaves and children's toys like secrets it has clutched tightly since November when the snow decided to stay. Under today's warm, cloudless sky, it finally relented and retreated, the remaining bits, clutching the grass like discarded chunks of paper, finally seeping into the earth as silently and gracefully as last night's shadows.

No one taught the nimble ends of the branches to redden and swell and then burst suddenly but quietly into tufts of delicious, vibrant green, the likes of which only appear in the newness of the season, soft and moist and curled up on themselves like the silky wings of newly-hatched butterflies. Theirs is the color of winter dreams, forgotten but hoped for more than remembered, like a word sticking unspoken and stubborn to the end of your tongue, refusing to be uttered.

No one taught the reedy willows to puff and pop open and dazzle the world with the sparkle of their long winter slumber. They are delicate and tiny, smaller than my smallest fingernail, but catch the sun like shattered glass and reflect it back, dazzling the little brown birds hoping along the fence line, dancing back and forth and waiting for them to enbiggen and weigh down the erupting tendrils swaying above the enlivening green of the new grass.

No one taught the myriad little birds their songs or the magnificent sound the make as they burst all at once from the cover of a low shrub after you pass, the churning of their wings rising up in sync, a staccato whir that fades as they fan out over and around the path.

No one taught me to turn my face into the sunshine on days like this, to close my eyes and savor the flavor of the morning, as unique and distinct as the prints on my fingers. And no one taught my dog to dance at the joy of uncovering a thick, perfectly-weighted stick, balancing it between his teeth as he prances, head high and proud at his discovery.

No needs teach these things. They are a given, just a few of the miracles of Spring which are waiting to astound if we only open our eyes and open ourselves to their discovery.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Night Song

Another day is done,
Say good-bye to the setting sun,
See what I found, turn back to the ground just like before

And hey hey hey, hey hey hey

Hey Beautiful Day (hey! hey!)
Hey Beautiful Day

When the night feels my song,
I'll be home, I'll be home.
(When the Night Feels My Song, Bedouin Soundclash)

Thank The Universe for the gift of this night, for the melting sherbet orange of the sun dripping down the sky above the black silhouette of the mountains, vibrant enough that Duncan could reach out his face and eyes and tongue and lap at it, pulling it down from the fingerprint smears of the dusk-born clouds above and into a warm patch he could roll in on the dusty grass-strewn ground at our feet. Thank The Universe for the miracle sound of a thrown ball striking a wooden bat and echoing out over the hills, riding the crest of cheers and shouts from the spectators gathered to celebrate the night with beer and friends and games, and the exhilaration of the mounting spring. Thank The Universe for the smell of burgers and steaks and chicken drifting on the warm breeze from their grills to the place where we walked, slowly and without destination, perfect and pointless. Thank The Universe for the fingernail-clipping crescent of the moon, tumbling through the vastness of the night below Venus and Jupiter, bright as dreams from their tremendous distances.

And thank you Duncan for guiding me out, leading me nowhere, so slowly we could watch our shadows fade and tuck themselves back into the earth, pull the slowly greening grass over themselves and wait for us to find them in the newness of the morning.

Friday, March 16, 2012

All for Our Hero

Duncan and I helped out our good friend Chelsea at Hero's Pets last month with an promotional spot produced by KUSA, the local NBC affiliate here in Denver. Here's the final product.

Enjoy! And if you're in the area or contact Hero's over the phone or via email please tell them Duncan and Curt sent you.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Perpetual Astonishment

Every spring is the only spring - a perpetual astonishment. (Ellis Peters)

Ever so slowly, nearly imperceptibly, Spring is finding its way into our corner of the world. It is premature to say, I know, especially since March and April are typically the snowiest months in Denver, but I have walked these fields and the darkened paths for so long that my eyes are hungry for change.

It was another lovely day with temperatures hovering around 70˚, a warm breeze sifting through the last of the once-leaves, chasing them across the parking lot and scattering them down the wide avenues. The finches were singing in the trees outside the patio where Jeffrey's once-feral cat hunts, and a few golfers appeared on the yellow greens of the golf course. The park was blessedly empty but full of life, with flocks of heavy, black crows croaking from the naked tree limbs while squirrels ran erratic circles around their trunks.

Dunc jogged far ahead, his nose pulling him from one boggy patch of earth to the next, his tail propelling him forward as he went. I found him sitting in the center of the walk at the edge of the baseball diamonds, his back to me, his face turned rapturously into the sun. He barely noticed my arrival and it wasn't until I stepped beside him and rested my hand on his narrow shoulder that he turned, his tongue hanging out, a grin spread wide across his face. We stood a long moment together, not moving, looking up into the blue, the warmth of the sun kissing our faces, blessing and encouraging us for these last few difficult weeks of winter.

He led me to the baseball fields, which have been been cleaned and painted and then back out onto the wide soccer fields, where the posts have already been erected and the grounds marked for the hoards which will no doubt arrive this weekend. He galloped and rolled in the dry grass, the barren trees and stark color a backdrop to his glorious red. It would have been easy to feel discouraged by the weight of these too-short days and the early nights still creeping upon us, to sigh discontentedly at the dry yellow, if Duncan hadn't searched out and found a small, hardly visible patch of greening grass to roll in.

The world is changing and we are eager to change with it. There is hope and light and green to be found under the vast expanse of blue.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

With Eyes to the Skies

It was a lovely day, the loveliest in a long time, with bright clear skies, as blue as my dreams of June, with a breeze that, despite being a little strong, was warm and fresh. We walked the lake trail with Melissa and Kona, enjoyed the yellow of the grass and the dark of the mud, fragrant and heavy, stopped for ice cream and made promises to do it again soon.

But it was the night that was truly wonderful, nearly as warm as the day, with quiet, still air and a cloudless sky. We have been watching Jupiter hover over Venus, both of them impossibly bright despite their impossible distances. They rise in the west over the mountains just after the sun says his farewells, and stay just far enough away from Orion and his hounds so as to avoid suspicion. They are a welcome sight, warm and playful up there, a darling couple in the dark of March.

But Mars is where my passion has been as of late, as it moves into opposition, which is just a scientific way of saying that the earth has moved directly between it and the sun. It is small in the eastern sky, but you can't miss it. It is red––a deep red––as red as the eyes of the lion Leo, where it rises. It is a remarkable sight, that little cracked globe, and I could hardly tear my eyes away from it on our walk. Duncan does not know it, can't even conceive of it in the same way we do, but I wonder if he can sense its pull on me as he pulls on the leash that tethers us together.

Opposition. What a strange way to say that things are aligned. Duncan and I are aligned many times a day, pulling each other down the sidewalk, the gravity of our bond evident for all to see. Perhaps not as wondrous as the skies, but no less remarkable.

Mars, red and magnificent. As magnificent as my good, red dog. Only so much further away.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

More than Dogs Slide

We awoke to a find dusting of snow a few days ago. We'd been warned it could be much greater and were relieved to discover the error, unlike a few weeks ago when we were told to expect flurries and got ten inches instead. Duncan seemed content both ways and frolicked as he always does, galloping down The Run, pouncing through the shrubs with the hope of scattering the little birds from the snow caves which have formed beneath them. He loves the gentle slope of The Run, which is on the north side of the complex and thus protected from the sun and melt and is still covered in a thick layer of packed snow and ice. He throws himself onto his side, attempts to push his face into the crust and then rolls and rolls until he's slid a good way down the hill to the edge of the fence that divides us from the golf course. Many a morning he's slid, oblivious, right under it only to come up on the other side, where he jerks up, startled by his accidental progress and the wild, tall brown reeds and brittle thistle bones jutting up around him. He knows he's not allowed back there, not even when a tantalizing, stray golf ball beckons, and is usually quick to return, his head high, tail wagging happily as though to remind me what a good boy he is for coming right back to me without being told.

After he'd stirred up the little birds and tended to the morning's sliding, he got down to business, turning his back to me and looking up at the trees while he squatted at the top of the hill. I respect the awkwardness of the moment and turn my attention to the squirrels chittering profanities at us from their perches in the elms above while I ready the doggie bag for clean-up and the treat he gets for a job well done. After a few moments I turned back to him and noticed he was staring down at the ground in front of him, right between his front paws. Plink, a little bit of business fell and then slid down the ice right between his legs and out of reach under the fence where it settled in the newly fallen powder. Duncan glanced up at me as though to ask, "Well, how do we handle that???" Then plink! plink! plink! three more pieces fell, tumbling and bouncing on the ice, sliding between his legs and under the fence. He watched them spin away and vanish in the fluff, his ears and curious eyebrows raised high. When he was done he spun around to see if anything remained, perhaps confused by the physics and gravity of the situation, then hurried back to me to see if he still got his treat, which he did. And I got to save a bag.