Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Metaphor

Miraculous things are happening and as I walk with Duncan in our slowly melting snowscape, I'm finally able to enjoy one of my favorite parts of winter, that time when the snow recedes and melts and the running water carves out shelves in the ice that has long been hidden beneath. For as long as I can remember I have taken immense delight on stepping on the little frozen lips just to feel and hear the crack of ice beneath my feet, the pressure and seeming firmness of it before it shatters and gives out beneath me. When I was a child, and just learning about the slow shaping of the continents, I imagined that ice as huge masses of frozen land that bent to my will and weight and was forever shaped by my passing. It was a game I looked forward to playing on my walks to and from school and part of that still lingers all these years later.

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Miraculous things can happen when the ice breaks. And I get to share them with my good red dog at my side.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

This Low Vantage

It has been a long time since we ventured to the park. The snow has been deep and heavy and I have been lazy and slow-moving. But the morning was bright and clear and quiet, as I prefer, and Duncan, standing at my feet in the kitchen, watching me prepare his breakfast of salmon and blueberries, pumpkin and carrots, gave me that look, one eyebrow raised with just a hint of a tail wag and a bum wiggle, seemed to be asking for a good game of fetch out on the wide, empty fields. So I donned my jacket and gloves and boots and took him across the street where we can run and throw our arms out wide and laugh without care.

The snow has compacted and hardened and is no longer deep and difficult to navigate. It is hard, with a nice solid crust, a fine dusting resting on top, and we barely made tracks as we traveled across it. Duncan danced at my side, occasionally throwing himself into it for a good roll that left him nearly as dry at the end as he'd been at the beginning. We threw the ball a good long while, back and forth across the covered soccer field, squinting and smiling into the sun, enjoying the cool on our faces and the slim, naked spot between the end of my gloves and the start of my sleeve. The snow was covered with goose tracks and when fetch grew boring and we just wanted to move and listen to the rhythmic crunch of the snow underfoot, we walked and walked, following the erratic paths of the birds who had come and then gone, leaving nothing behind––not even the green slime of their Tootsie Roll droppings––except a record of their soft weight imprinted on the snow.

Their paths are funny things to follow as they have no direction but a simple line forward, a strange twist here and there that sometimes doubles back on itself, and then another odd plod forward. With Duncan at my side I picked a trail and we set off after it, moving forward a long distance, sometimes meeting up with and dancing around the prints of other geese, then moving away on its own, off toward a big elm, perhaps to search for seeds abandoned by the squirrels or the crows or the thick, tight fists of early buds pulled free by the wind. It made a lazy arc around the fenced edge of the baseball diamond then came back out into the wide open space under the sky where it joined up briefly with another. They walked awhile together, side by side but not too close, and perhaps together they were able to look up and see the pink and gold smear of the sunrise, or perhaps the sunset, and enjoy it as surely geese must, being as acquainted with it as they are. Eventually they moved on, my goose off on its own, the other, the stranger, back toward the large matted spot where the rest of the flock had gathered, their feet softening the snow while the warmth of their bodies melted it, exposing the yellow and brown tangled mash of frozen grass beneath.

In a wide clearing, free of tracks, the tracks became deeper and further apart and then stopped entirely. Except for a few scattered clumps of snow a few feet beyond, it ceased to exist and all I could do was turn my face up into the morning blue and wonder which direction it had gone. Was it now in the golf course across the street behind my apartment, or had it circled around and headed toward the lake to join up with the hundreds of others who gather there, mingling among the reeds with the ducks and the occasional pelican?

But it did not matter. Destination rarely does, really. Flight was what mattered and soon I was envisioning myself in its place, tethered to the ground by the weight of my body and the spinning of the earth beneath my booted feet and then suddenly not. With a scoff at gravity I leapt into the air, felt the rush of it against my face, the sucking rise of my belly, the warm pull of the sun and the freedom to spread myself out and go any direction I chose. Freedom like I have not experienced in a very long time.

There are many paths in this world. It's important for me to remember that not all of them are defined by dirt and grass and flowers blooming in the trees along the shore of the lakes. Some paths are carved among the clouds. Some paths follow the wind. Some cut high across the plains, so high they cast no shadows. Some are not as treacherous as they seem from this low vantage.

There is joy to be had among the clouds, where there is a whole new way of dancing to be rediscovered.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

King of the Mountain

It has been two weeks since our last major snowfall––the one that dumped over twenty-four inches onto our small corner of the world––and although the grounds are now walkable, and the trail Duncan and I have carved out isn't quite as treacherous, there are areas of the surrounding parking lot that are still quite challenging. The management of our apartment complex recently contracted with a new snow removal company, but they haven't proven as proficient as the previous removers. And so mountains of snow have been erected all over the place, which can make driving through it a problem. Some of these snow piles stretch far out into our parking spaces and rise six to eight feet above us. Trees have been practically buried up to their lowest boughs and the shrubs and low bushes where the small birds roost have all but vanished. Duncan, lover of all things snowy and wet, doesn't mind so much, and prefers to climb the highest of peaks, which can make walking him, especially at night, a bit awkward. I can't tell you the number of times I've dropped his leash and watched him scurry to the top only to slide on his back down the other side, a grin spread wide across his face, unmindful and uncaring of the ice that clings to his ears and back. His new preference is to get as high as he can and leave his mark, a frozen yellow flag that none of the other dogs can reach. Sometimes, though, he'll struggle up the crusted, pebbled side just to sit and gaze out over his kingdom, looking into the sun, watching the hawks circle overhead and the clouds moving across the cold, blue sky.



Sometimes I watch him, looking out and cocking his head this way and that, and wish he had command of words and could put his thoughts to paper. He studies this world, its moving and especially its stillness, like a poet and his thoughts must surely be profound.

His awe at the marvel of life is one of the blessings of mine.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Plodding Through

Although the weather has been much nicer the past few days, much of the snow we got last week is still here and still deep especially on the northward side of things. Duncan doesn't walk through it so much as swim in high, arching undulations that leave him exhausted. I tromp slowly behind, my boots heavy and awkward, trying to follow him as fast as I can. Sometimes all I can see of him over the drifts is the red flapping flag of his tail. So I whistle until a nose appears and settles in one place until I catch up.

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It is all I can do to keep up though, and despite his love of it, and my love of his love of it, we tire quickly and return home, me for a nice warm cup of tea and Dunc to curl up on the couch and cuddle with his pillows.


Winter ain't easy, but the downtime is quite nice.

Friday, February 3, 2012

"More?"

There are no finer words than "Snow Day" and this holds especially true for Duncan, who loves the stuff as much as I love just about everything else. It started last night and has been coming down in thick, heavy tufts ever since. Duncan was awake before anyone else––even fat Olive, who starts demanding breakfast early––poking his head through the blinds to peek out the window then stepping around the side of the bed to touch his nose to mine in an effort to wake me up. And when that didn't work he was back at the blinds, his head disrupting them like a soft clamor of bells. Finally he succeeded to rouse me and we were off.

It's slow going when the snow reaches over your boots and past your dog's shoulders, but he is tireless and stops often to urge me on, barking softly while his tail swats angel wing imprints behind him. And then as soon as I've caught up he's off again, forcing me to follow his erratic trail, around trees, through shrubs, then down into deep drifts. But this is what he loves and because I love him more I follow, a smile on my face as I go.
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When we're inside, after a nice foot-rinse in the tub, he stands on the patio, his head hanging between the bars, and looks down on the world, filling and rising up below us, the ground seeming closer and closer each hour. And he watches me, turning his head over his shoulder every now and then as though to ask, "More?"

More? I wonder. I appreciate not going in to the office today but do we really need more?


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Frenzy

What the heck??? It's my birthday. I should be the one waiting for someone to serve me dinner!


(Honestly, though, it was a little creepy to turn around and discover four sets of eyes focused on me. I was almost afraid to move for fear of inciting a feeding frenzy!)