Saturday, April 28, 2012

Rainbow Maker

On crisp Spring mornings––and this one was a very crisp, clear 29˚!––when the world is still very quiet except for the birds and soft footfalls of the occasional jogger, I love to take Duncan to the park to throw the ball. The sprinklers run early in the mornings and sometimes if we're very lucky ten or fifteen of them will be running at one of the park while we play at the other. At those times the entire western edge of the soccer field will be painted in rainbows that dance as the water chika-chika-chiks back and forth. Even when there are no sprinklers the grass is wet and sparkles like diamonds and when the ball slices through the air and comes down with a wet thud, spraying water up in a clean, shimmering arc it sometimes creates its own rainbow, which Roo is more than happy to chase after. It's never there for him when he arrives but there are countless more waiting each time the ball is thrown.

(Notice that when I ask Dunc if he's ready he nods and smiles. Few things make me happier than my dog.)

Friday, April 27, 2012

Playing Dead

There is not a moment I am outside with Duncan when I am not carrying a handful of treats, from the pumpkin or apple graham crackers that are quite popular––not just among the dogs we know, but with the humans as well, myself included––to the crunchy liver-flavored bones and the softer turkey ones with the jellied pumpkin stripes. My hands are treat-scented and flavored and Duncan and the cats are forever thrusting their noses into them in hopes of sneaking one. My friends have often joked that if I died alone in my apartment I'd be discovered with my fingers gnawed to the bone while the four-leggers looked on innocently but with full bellies.

Tonight on our walk Duncan plopped down in a sunny patch of grass while I hovered over him, impatient to get home and start dinner. I tugged on the leash once or twice but he wouldn't budge, so I did what anyone would do: I played dead. I fell beside him, eyes mostly closed, tongue lolling out of my mouth, arms and legs limp while I held my breath. He studied me a long moment then turned his attention to my cupped palm and the goodies hidden behind my fingers. Through half-closed eyes I watched him look first at me, then to my hand then back to me as though deciding what whether or not to rescue me or to go for the goods. I could see him weighing his options. After standing up and sniffing my face and nudging me with his paw to confirm my sudden demise he went straight for the hand, nudging it open to reveal the goodies for which he'd been hoping. He looked at me once more, turned to my hand and in one quick, fluid motion, dove for it, slurped up the treats, licked his lips then turned to the pocket where I keep a big fat bag of the things. He nosed it once or twice then laid down, curling himself around my head, licked my face, placed a paw on my chest and whined.

And that was it. I was up, kissing his face, hugging him, laughing and reaching into my pocket for more goodies. I got another lick and then he was up, running circles of delight around me.

He does care for me! Or maybe he cares that I'm still around to dispense even more treats. I'd like to believe it's the former option.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Color Purple

I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don't notice it. (Alice Walker)

There is a place in the corner of the park not far from where the bunnies roost. It rests against a tall but gentle hill on the back side, where a wide circle of crab apple trees grow, short and squat like pretty soldiers standing at ease. While most of the white blossoms have browned and curled and fallen away, littering the ground around the trunks of their trees like rusted snow, the purple blossoms have hung on, growing brighter and smelling sweeter each morning. It is a quiet spot, one Duncan and I have spent innumerable hours enjoying, laying in the tall grass watching the fluff drift from the cottonwoods on summer afternoons or basking in the glow of the lights above the baseball diamonds on hot nights when the sound of a ball striking a wooden bat is best enjoyed.

As happens so often, the moment we left the apartment Duncan had a destination in mind, a place to lead me to, a moment to share. He slowed as we approached the ring of crabs and I stopped to admire a clump of purple pansies growing in a line along the edge of the maintenance road. Clear drops of water clung to the wrinkled, lion-faced petals, which clutched them back as tenderly and protectively. The sun dipped behind a cloud and the water turned silver and reflected the sky above. It took my breath away but Roo, who grows restless when he's on a mission, pulled me away with one short, sharp bark. After a few moments I relented and followed him into the small grove of purple-flowered trees where he sat suddenly and with purpose among the clover.

And then it happened. The sun peeked out and a breeze spilled down over the top of the hill and rushed over us like the slow cascade of a warm waterfall. The trees stirred, the boughs and branches rang a wooden chime and the purple petals took flight, gusting first up and then sifting down over us, radiant in the burst of sunlight, twisting and spinning in the air, a violet shower of sweet smelling snow flakes that dotted our heads, alighted on our shoulders and backs, danced around our feet. Duncan looked up at them, rolled onto his back to show them the softness of his belly, his long, pink tongue lolling out of his mouth while I reached into the air and let them fall onto my open palms where they gathered like wishes waiting to be wished.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Overlooked

"Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies." (Mother Teresa)

It was a big, fat juicy thing, the lone dandelion lucky enough to survive the last visit of our landscaping crew, and for a good long while this morning it was all that mattered. Duncan and I strolled down to the Glen this morning, a place we pass through numerous times a day but haven't spent much time enjoying lately. Rather than make our usual rounds we decided to simply lay on the hill on our bellies and watch the shadows move through the cool mat of grass, delight in the paths of the ants as they struggled up one blade, down the other side only to stumble across a stick, bigger in their world than a fallen tree in ours. I wanted to pluck it as my grandmother taught me, and wipe its lustrous head across my nose until it turned yellow with its buttered powder, but I refrained. It was gorgeous and enormous, a whole world unto itself with its bright petals and curling stamens, and even though it is considered a weed I found it no less magical than the tips of the blossoms in the trees, which are inexplicably far more revered.
And so while Duncan licked the sticky seedlings from his feet I watched a dandelion be a dandelion and the blossoms be blossoms and reminded myself once again that there is beauty in everything, especially in those things most easily overlooked.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

No Small Thing

"The world will never starve for wonder, but only for want of wonder." (G.K. Chesterson)

I napped. A long one late in the afternoon, with lazy dreams that left my arms and legs sluggish and slow to move and my head clouded. But it was delicious and sweet and a sunset walk with Duncan in the park, nearly empty, was the perfect coda to this day. So he led me across the street to toss the ball and watch him gallop into the setting sun, vanishing from my vision into its honeyed glare, low and caught, as I prefer, between the silver-lined clouds and the hazy shadow of the mountains, painting the world in a golden brilliance for which words have yet to be written or uttered. The air was warm and the scent of the grass and blossoms lingered, unmoving and rich, as though waiting to be inhaled and savored.

And as we laid in the grass, my head resting against his belly, his tail draped across my shoulder, a most wonderful spring shower, hardly more than a trickle, seen more than felt, its gold streaks punctuation marks flashing in the softening light, dappled across the park. We turned our faces skyward, into the smear of a grey cloud wandering quietly past, our eyes closed but lit with the last light of the day, and just sat, not thinking, unmoving, bathing in the settling silence and glory of this blessed night.

"Is it so small a thing to have enjoyed the sun, to have lived light in the sky, 
to have loved, to have thought, to have done?" (Matthew Arnold)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Whale

Everything is blooming most recklessly; if it were voices instead of colors,
there would be an unbelievable shrieking into the heart of the night. (Rainer Maria Rilke)

It is a reckless and early Spring, the first we've had in a long time. It came on us a few weeks ago when a soft green halo appeared among the stark branches of the trees, little more than a smoky haze that simmered and grew into a fog as the days passed and lengthened. And then the explosion of color, first from the crab apple trees, then the lazy, drooping tulips, and the pansies with their stern, lion faces. And when the pressure from their peers was too great, everything else––from the red tentacles of the blooming cottonwoods to the winding tendrils of the willows–– joined in, the voice of their tenacious color rising up in an unruly chorus. Too often these last few years a spring snow with Autumn-like winds have killed the blossoms and swept their petals away before they could even open and perfume the world. This year, though, despite last week's brief snow, color and its sweet bouquet seemed to rise up in rebellion against the cold, stood its ground and held fast, refused to be stifled and has bathed us in the lilac, gardenia magic of its fragrance daily since.

Under a sky where a single enormous, white whale of a cloud swam, its head bowed and pointed into the lowering sun, its tail lost, miles back, amid the bubbling blue of the indigo east, Duncan and I walked through an ocean of color that splashed over us, waves of it dappling our faces and drifting on a cool breeze that stroked the points of the ripening, greened grass, sifting through them, its delicate caress rousing them to dance and bend in bold celebration of their newfound height. Everything seems to turn its face upward, toward the sky, where whales glide effortlessly and serenely past.

And Duncan, the darling of all seasons, has been there with me, a prince among the petals, my loyal companion and witness to all the glory this Spring has to offer.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Gratified Dogs

After nearly a week of being sick, staring up at the ceiling from my spot on the couch, wrapped in blankets, hardly able to speak or breath, Duncan finally coaxed me outside for an early afternoon stroll in the park. It was a magnificent day, sunny and bright and as fragrant as any Spring I can remember, and Dunc was content to walk slowly by my side, leading me from one brilliant blossoming tree to the next, and then finally, when I was winded and needed to sit in the shade, he hunkered down beside me, the baseball we'd found locked securely between his paws where he could find it and gnaw on it as it seemed to want him to do. He rested his weight against me and watched me carefully. And when I laid down beside him and smiled and thanked him for pulling me across the street to a place where the grass and sunshine and a cool breeze were waiting for us, he flipped onto his back, smiled a goofy smile and rolled until I joined him, rolling and huffing and wrapping the grass around us, unconcerned with the way it caught and stuck to us, happy, instead, to be together, to spin like gratified dogs under the clear April sky.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Green and White

A lot can happen in twenty-four hours.

It's a cliche, I know, but welcome to springtime in the Rockies.