Tuesday, May 13, 2014

One More Roll

The morning after what must certainly be the last snowfall of the season, there's only one thing to do, and Duncan did it every ten or so feet of our walk this morning.

If I didn't have to go to work, I would have joined him.

*Whatever you do, don't leave a comment. No matter how interested you are.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Fickle Spring

While many of you were walking the beaches near your homes, or ambling through green coastal trails, or even taking walks through warm and teeming city streets, Duncan and I had this to contend with this morning.

Denver and the Front Range were the lucky recipient of up to seven inches of thick, heavy, fickle Spring Love, the kind that takes down branches, requires the big boots that have been put into storage until November, and turns perfectly reasonable drivers into complete and utter idiots, even though they've been through this exact scenario countless times. But we didn't mind. We got up early to venture down to the park, which we had entirely to ourselves, for some good old-fashioned winter frolicking.

So while you had your warm, sunny mornings, your bright flowers, or for those folks who live on the under side of the planet, a serene Autumn afternoon, I had this face and all the joy that comes with it.

Eat your heart out!

*I'd live to hear what you think about this post. Please click the comment button and share your thoughts!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

A Shoulder to Land On

There was an afternoon, an Easter Sunday, I believe, when I was 20. I'd taken my bike out for a long ride around Pocatello, across her green foothills, pedaling through historic Old Town, around her winding and circuitous edges, to all the places I'd grown accustomed to seeing through the windshield of Cleo, my car rather than out in the open. I was pedaling up the long line of Pocatello Creek Road, through the neighborhood where I'd grown up. It was a lovely day. The Mormon churchgoers were out in their shiny new clothes, the heathens were mowing their lawns or washing their cars, and I had the street mostly to myself. There was no such thing as iPods and I didn't own a Walkman so I could hear the sounds of the world around me: the birds in the willows along the creek, the barking of the dogs, the laughter of children from their backyards, the rush of hose water and slop of soapy sponges on cars, the voice of a small boy telling his father, "Daddy, look at that bird attacking that man on the bike."

I'd been staring down at the road beneath my front tire, reveling in the feel of my legs working the hill, the crunch of the loose gravel under my tires, the sound of my heart in my ears. That's when I noticed the large bird-shaped shadow descend upon me, it's wings spread wide, it's body hovering directly over and behind mine. I turned just in time to hear it scream and rush at me, snagging my hat and tearing it from my head. I nearly lost control of the bike as I ducked and swerved out of the way. I watched the crow, a big one, shiny and black, turn effortlessly and come at me again, this time from the front, its body swooping straight toward my face, its eyes locked on mine, a scream rising from its throat. I swerved again, put my foot down, yanked hard on the handlebars and turned around. 

"Hurry!" the voice of a man called from his carport. "Get over here!" I pedaled across the street and skidded to a stop directly in front of he and his small son. "That was close," he marveled. "She nearly got you!"

"What the hell..." I stammered through my heavy breaths. "Why...."

"She's been doing it to people all morning. Even a couple of cars. We figure she's got a nest up there somewhere." His eyes scanned the line of trees across the street. "You want some water?"

I nodded as he hurried inside, got a glass of cold water, and returned. I guzzled it down, spilling half of it on my bare chest, barely able to hold the glass in my adrenaline-shaking hands. When I finished I handed it back to him.

"You can stay as long as you like, but I think she's gone. You could make a break for it."

And so I did, pedaling as fast as I could up into the mountains, my head turning this way and that as I kept a look-out for an attack that never came.

This morning I awoke early. There were errands to run and I needed to take my car in for a checkup. There wasn't time to take Duncan on our Saturday morning walk around the lake, so we crossed the street and strolled down the trail that winds through the prairie dog metropolis along the greenway. The birds were loud in the trees and the traffic hadn't picked up on Quincy where they're doing the roadwork, so everything was perfect. Despite tomorrow's imminent snow and days of cold weather ahead of us, the sun was bright and warm and I was enjoying sharing that moment with Roo.

And that's when I saw the shadow. I didn't have much time to react because no sooner had I seen it, and heard the rush of a body through the air, than I felt the soft weight strike my shoulder and stop. I'd ducked a little but when I turned my head I saw the grackle standing on my shoulder, perched as though I was the most natural place in the world to alight. Duncan, who'd also startled, turned and saw the bird, big and black, sitting inches from my face. His eyes widened and he moved toward me. The bird and I stared at one another for what felt like a very long time, me in what surely looked like shock and idiocy, it with what I can only describe as calm trust. It adjusted itself as I stood up, stepped back and forth, its soft nails clinging to my shirt tightly, but not enough to pinch. It was close enough that it could have plucked my eye out had it wanted. Instead, it screeched that rusty swing-set call, hopped forward, fluttered its wings very lightly, and touched down on Dunc's back. Roo jumped sideways, pulling the leash from my hand, and shook the bird loose. It hopped down in the long grass in front of him and allowed him to sniff its back. It screeched again, looked back at me, and then flew away as though there was nothing out of the ordinary, just another Saturday morning adventure. My heart was racing in my chest and Duncan was on full alert, his eyes alternately scanning the grass where it had landed and the trees above us where the grackle had vanished. After a few moments he barked and wagged his tail, I laughed, and we continued on our way, the soft weight of the grackle forever remembered by my shoulder.

*Please leave a comment. They're like lovely little morsels. Thanks!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Where We Belong

Ever wonder where you'd end up if you took your dog for a walk and never once pulled back on the leash? (Robert Brault)

I do not know our new neighborhood very well at all. I know the little green-way just west of us, the one that passes through the prairie dog metropolis and then forks north––toward the lake that sits adjacent to the prison where a former Illinois governor now resides––and west toward the sleepy little neighborhood where all the houses are variations of the same design, only the colors and yards are different.

Duncan had a purpose this afternoon, walking at a strong and steady pace, practically pulling me behind him as he trotted past the prairie dogs who he's only recently become enamored with, to the fork in the trail where we usually turn north. Today, though, north didn't even enter his mind. Without a second thought he headed west not bothering to glance over his shoulder at me to see if it was an acceptable choice. So west we went, the mountains and foothills vanishing behind the slowly greening trees that rose up before us, their shade nearly useless, but the grass beneath them tall and cool. Eventually the trail turned south, crossed a bridge and ended in a cul-de-sac. Duncan hardly noticed and kept moving, ignoring the barking dogs behind the fences and the joggers who hurried past, the sounds of this bright, delicious spring afternoon concealed behind their earbuds. He turned a corner, turned another, crossed the street, and didn't stop until he'd reached his destination, where he settled down in the grass, rolled over on his side and smiled up at the lilac bush hanging in our path. I plopped down next to him on the edge of someone's yard, pinched off a sprig to bring home, and held it to my face while Duncan watched me with what I know was affection and pride.

I have loved lilacs ever since I was young. I passed an enormous hedge of lilacs on my way to and from school each day as a child. There were nooks and crannies concealed among their leaves and delicate purple petals where I could hide from my friends and jump out at them as they passed. I never paid the scent much attention and only knew that their arrival––a huge explosion of purple and white––meant the end of the school year was drawing near. It wasn't until I was much older that they meant more: a fast journey back in time to walk the streets of my childhood and revisit the faces of long lost friends.

It seems that in my dedication to the Russian Olives and the Lindens I almost always forget the lilacs and lament my carelessness as Spring draws to an end and summer closes in on us. Just last night I mused aloud about the lilacs, wondering if I'd missed them again or if there was still time. So while it was a surprise that Duncan had somehow led me to them this afternoon, it wasn't really. He has a way of doing these things, taking me to the exact spot at the exact moment, where I'm supposed to be. He has done it a thousand times before, and if The Universe is willing, he'll do it a thousand times more.

In answer to the quote above, which I've posted before, I do know where my dog would take me. He takes me where my heart belongs.

*I'd love to hear where your dog has led you. Leave a comment and share it!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

A Passing Moment

The place we moved is new. Very new. The last of the sod was just put down yesterday, a relief considering that the sidewalks and parking lot have been nothing but mud since we moved in a month ago. I felt my spirit lighten as the dirt vanished, replaced by nice, clean strips of green grass, its lines as visible as the lines that I love in my carpet after I vacuum. But the trees are also new, some of them little more than awkward, gangly twigs protruding from the ground, and new trees mean no birds, no squirrels, and no bunnies. Dunc and the cats use to sit for hours in the window and watch all three, the bunnies scampering from one shrub to the next, the birds and squirrels staring back from the Linden that grew right outside my window. And because everything is so new and sterile, it's been difficult to notice spring, to throw myself into it as fully as I typically do.

But today, walking on the trail down by the lake we passed a flowering tree that had grown over someone's fence, reaching out almost frantically in the afternoon breeze, waving at Duncan and me as if to say, "Hey! I'm here! It's Spring! It's May! Rejoice!" So I did. We stopped under its branches for a long while, Duncan gnawing at a stick while I buried my face in the blossoms and breathed in deeply.

And as I did I remembered May Day last year, which was beautiful but in an entirely different way. The late snow and bitter cold killed the blossoms I cherish and was looking forward to each time I ventured out with Dunc. The park was covered in white and the only joy in trudging through the six inches we got that morning was watching Duncan dance and cavort as if this snow was the most precious thing in the universe. And then it was gone, melted away and replaced with an instant summer, dry and hot and bright, with dancing heat waves creating mirages of puddles and rivers in the roads.

This year is very different from last year, but despite that I am still grateful spring has been kinder to us this time around, even though it takes more work to enjoy the bountiful colors. And so, with my face pressed into those precious flowers, I promised Duncan we would seek it out, all of it, and do our damnedest not to miss a single precious moment. I have been reminded how quickly things change, and how suddenly a moment can pass.

*If you like this post, please leave a comment. Your words are as precious to me as the warming days and greening grass.