Friday, March 20, 2020

From my Journal The Book of Delights: Quiet


There was this moment this afternoon while walking Duncan, when even as the clouds seemed to lift a little, and the sun seemed a bit brighter, that the snow started to fall. Despite the parking lot being full of cars that belonged to people who, like myself should have been at work but have been quarantined inside for an unknowably long and uncertain time, we were the only ones out walking and it was another perfect moment shared between my dog and me.

When the snow first came, muscle memory seemed to kick in without my even being aware of it and I pulled my hood up over my head. We walked on, Duncan tripping in the slush and me drawing smily faces on the hoods of cars as I do after a good snowfall. I was listening to music on the Beats I wear around my neck when we walk. There came this moment between songs, this long silence when all I could hear was the world being the world in a way that I’m not sure I’ve experienced before. It was the middle of the day in a city covered with wet roads and I couldn’t hear a single car cutting its way through the streets. The only sound was that of the snow falling onto more snow, a soft rhythm that normally goes unnoticed, especially on what should be a busy Friday afternoon. A gentle weight alighting on another gentle weight, like a whisper or a kiss blown from one set of lips to another. Hardly a sound at all. But there it was, imperceptibly loud, cacophonously mute. I pulled my hood back, turned off the music, and just stood a long moment on the sidewalk, Dunc at my side, his nose nuzzling the treats in my left hand. I turned my face toward the brightest spot behind the clouds, closed my eyes, leaned back and let the snow fall all over my face as I just listened to the goddamn blessed quiet of it all. 

Yes, the world has been much quieter as of late, but you’d never know it through the fear and confusion, the anxiety and fist-clenching paranoia. But it was suddenly silent in an unexpected way. So I sat down, laid back in the snow, enjoying the cold of it as it crept up under my jacket and into the waist of my jeans, stinging the small of my back, biting my bare neck and naked ears. Dunc stood over me, looking down with that smile of his, as though basking in my moment of realization, of all the lessons he’s been teaching me these past fifteen and a half years. I laid in the snow and smiled and cried and laughed when he insisted on leaning down and kissing my face over and over and over again. And eventually he laid down beside me, if for only a moment, and we enjoyed the quiet together, a well-earned reprieve from the noise rest of the world.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

From My Journal: The Book of Delights

Walking Dunc.

And all the things I do on those walks. Even those things I dislike about them. Like in winter, when it takes much longer to don my jacket and coat, my boots and gloves and cap, to put the treats in one pocket and the bags in the other. And then there’s the leash and the slow, unsteady and unsure decent down the stairs, ever fearful of him slipping or just stopping. Those things are exhausting, but are outnumbered by our time together, mostly alone out in the world, but sometimes with others. It is through Roo that I have met all these people, that I have raised my army of dogs. It is through Roo that I have learned the intense joy of kicking a rock off the sidewalk and back into its rightful place in the beds that ring these barn-colored buildings. It is through Roo that I have spent hours stepping on the lip of an overhang of ice to delight in the joy of hearing it crack and give and break and settle. It is through Roo that the sun has warmed my face and blinded my eyes and browned my arms. It is through Roo that I have hurried to keep up with him, watcheing that rotor of a tail spin wildly as he runs ahead of me, and now, in his older years, to walk beside him as old friends do. It is through Roo that I have walked away my struggles and fears and anxiety, learning and being reminded that each step forward is exactly that--a step forward. It is through Roo that I remember I am still alive.

I have spent more hours than I will ever know describing our walks in print and conversation, reliving them, pondering them and their lessons, looking forward to them. But all that time pales in comparison to the time and miles spent out there in the world actually with him. He is my soulmate, my moonbeam sunshine best friend brother. I have been very very lost, and being with him is to forever be found. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2018


Happy 14th birthday, Duncan!

The good folks at Hero's Pets gave him plenty of treats and love. And he went crazy for this cod skin goody!

I love my boy!

Monday, September 4, 2017

Thirteen and Perfect

I have been blessed. In every single way imaginable.

Meet Boar!

Happy birthday to my new teenager. Papa loves you, Roo.

Monday, April 24, 2017


Last week I was in Buffalo with my cousin. I needed to get away from Denver and clear my head a little and spending time with Sarah and Jon and their daughter Allie was exactly what I was looking for.

One afternoon, on a Duncan-less walk with eight-year-old Allie, we crossed the street and meandered under the slowly greening trees, down the quiet street to the bridge that overlooked a small creek that cuts through their neighborhood in East Aurora. I'd been busy telling Allie the story of the Grasshopper and the Ants when we paused to look at some tiny purple flowers growing along the rocky bank of the creek.

"I love the flowers," she told me as enthusiastically as she'd proclaimed "I love to dance" a few days earlier. "They're my favorite color. I wish I was that color."

"You know what flowers I love?" I asked. "Dandelions. You know why?"

"No, why?"

"Because when you rub them on your nose, it turns yellow," I explained. "And when they grow old and lose their petals, you can pick them, make a wish and blow on the seeds until they fly away. And when you blow, those seeds carry your wish all around the world and if you really believe in it, it will come true."

Allie looked around and sighed. "I don't think we have dandelions here," she told me with sad resignation.

This morning, on First Walk, Dunc led me to a small patch of dandelions that had only recently sprung up. I could swear they weren't there yesterday, or if they were, they were still knotted up tightly, refusing to let their brilliant yellow ignite the world until they were perfectly ready. Duncan paused and sniffed them. I plucked one and rubbed it against my nose and thought of Allie and wished she were here, walking with Roo and me, so we could paint our faces with dandelion butter and laugh and maybe play with her bottle of bubbles again when we were done.

A friendly neighbor and her grunting pug approached and laughed at us.

"Those damn dandelions are back," she frowned.

"But they're beautiful," I told her.

"No, they're weeds."

"Only if you think they are," I replied.

The truth is, there is no such thing as a weed. It's all a matter of perspective. Nothing in this world is a weed until we label it one. If I wanted to grow a giant field with only sun-bright dandelions and a single Juliet rose sprung up, that rose would be the weed only because it was unwanted and not a dandelion.

Beauty and worth exist regardless of desire. Your perspective shapes everything. And knowing this, as Duncan does, will make the world glow around you. If all you see is beauty, how could it not?

Wednesday, December 7, 2016


I have kept all Duncan's toys, regardless of their condition. All of them reside in the small bureau where we keep his brushes and combs, the nail trimmers, the countless tennis and golf balls we've collected over the years, everything. Regardless of their condition, they are all there, from his Baby to his Beaker, his Bugsy and Bear, his Berry and Bobo, the Blue Buddha, his Bac-O (a pink fuzzy pig), Bah-Bah, Bash (his hammerhead shark), Bubbles (the bright orange catfish he never really took to) all of them, most of whom have now moved into a nameless haze of not-quite-memory. 

Tonight, after playing in the snow, after cuddling for a bit on the bed and playing with his Buzz (a now-wingless green dragonfly) and his Beluga (a green and orange salmon), I decided to pull out all the toys and toss them on the bed around Roo. I expected great rejoicing and frantic playing as many of them (mostly the legless or headless ones, the ones that are little more than scraps of fur or remnants of paws) haven't seen the light of day in well over a decade.

Instead I received a sort of stunned silence, the kind I remember from the moment I stepped foot inside the bar where my twenty-year high school reunion was held. It was a room filled people I remembered, many I didn't, faces and names that hadn't crossed my mind since the end of the 80s. It was overwhelming, exhilarating, and somewhat sad.

Dunc didn't know what to do. He just laid there and stared at them, occasionally leaning forward to sniff at them or nudge them with his nose. It was the first time they'd been assembled in a single place (not scattered among the three drawers of the bureau where they normally reside). I imagined he didn't know what to make of all those bits of his past, spanning his puppy days all the way to his most recent birthday when Beluga joined the family. It must've been awkward seeing Bunny cavorting with the Blue Buddha. That would've been like seeing Chris Krai, my childhood friend from my hardcore nerd days sitting at a table with the people I work with.

But mostly he just looked sad and as my brain tried to make sense of it, and my heart began reading things into it that it shouldn't, I decided we'd both had enough, scooped them up and put them all away.

As my friend April once said, "Sometimes it's best to just leave a good memory alone."

Tuesday, November 1, 2016


There's nothing quite as wonderful as rolling in the Autumn grass with a ball.

And a treat.

Friday, September 4, 2015


Today was Duncan's 11th birthday and once again we celebrated in the best possible way by paying a visit to our good friends at Hero's Pets. Trevor and I woke up early, took him on a long walk down past the pond and along the trail that winds through the prairie dog town Roo has come to love so much. Then, after a nice breakfast and a quiet morning we headed off to Hero's where his new best friend, Nicole, gave him usual birthday greeting by literally showering him with treats. Tess gave him a nice raw meat patty, and Trev and I helped Dunc pick out his newest pal, a fuzzy pink pig, which--in following with the tradition of naming them all with the letter B--we have dubbed Bacon. Dunc certainly loves his Bacon!

It was a perfect day in every way.

Happy 11th, Roo! Papa loves you more than you'll ever know. What a good boy and best friend! I love you, my brother.

Monday, June 29, 2015

In the Grass

It was one of those perfect summer days I've written about so many times before. The sky was bright and blue and all the clouds were relegated to standing guard on the periphery, rising above the mountains or far out over the eastern plains but well away from any place Duncan and I might venture on our afternoon walk. There was a breeze, warm, but pleasant on my arms and the back of my neck, carrying with it the last of the perfume from the Russian Olives. But even better, down by the small misplaced pond, shrouded in tall pussy willows and awkward, gangly cattails, a sandhill crane was wading through the murky shallows, its spindly legs thrusting in and out of the water as it's long beak darted in, poking for minnows and frogs among the moss and mud. The cottonwoods, standing their regal watch, have started doing that thing they do best: releasing clouds and clouds of downy snow that drift lazily in the golden afternoon among the gnats and other tiny flying things. It is my favorite time of year, before the sun has bleached the depth of color from the world and turned the earth to bone. So I stood a long moment on the path while Duncan sniffed the tall grass beside me, his head vanishing for minutes at a time among the thick, damp blades. He was in search of something, but then so was I.

On afternoons like this I think of Mary Oliver, my favorite poet, and all the words she has arranged that so perfectly capture the feelings these moments arouse in me. And that is what poetry is or should be--a snapshot of a moment, a thought, a feeling, something that can be expressed in no other worldly way outside of the experience.

I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?

And at that moment, when the trees were raining their cotton down so perfectly, the insects dancing around and among it, when the bird chorus fell into perfect syncopation, when the crane spread its wings and took to the air--perilously low at first, its breast cutting the tiniest of ripples along the surface of the pond before it gained its strength and launched heavenward over the willows--when Mary Oliver's words were lining up on my lips and tongue, Duncan lifted his head--his beautiful, red head, outlined in the loveliest of amber summer light--trotted out of the grass toward me, and dropped a thick, green, and very dead snake on my foot, the smile wide and glorious on his face.

Moments are precious to each of us, in their unique way. Right? That's what I tried to tell myself as I sucked all the air out of the known world into my lungs, did one of those allover body trembles, and danced away as quickly as I could.

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Friday, June 26, 2015


This is how it happened. This is how I found out.

It was a bright morning, cool considering the heat that has been setting in early the last week or so. We'd had a day of terrific storms, tornadoes touching down, rivers running through the streets, flooding no one saw coming, so this morning was a welcome relief, a perfect morning for strolling lazily around our neighborhood.

I rarely answer the phone when I'm walking Duncan. All too often I pass other walkers, oblivious to their dogs while they talk to someone, ignoring the sounds of the birds, the rich green scents of the tall grass, the Russian Olives, the moist earth, wafting around them. I pity them and wish they could see the world as Dunc and I do on our numerous walks every day. But this morning, when the phone rang it was my father and as he rarely calls, especially in the morning, I thought I should take it.

"Good morning," I said while Duncan stopped and sniffed a low shrub.

"Curt, it's yer dad!" he called in his traditional greeting.

"What's up?" I asked as Duncan started off down the sidewalk.

"The Supreme Court ruled just now," he said.

I froze. Dunc's leash went taut and he snuck an irritated look over his shoulder at me.

"What is it?" My heart began to race. Yesterday we'd won the Affordable Care Act, to my great relief; surely The Universe wouldn't give us another victory so soon. "What did they say?"

There was a long pause. A very long pause. My father cleared his voice and then I heard the soft, muffled sounds of his tears.

"You won," he whispered and then sobbed.

I was stunned. The blue sky turned bluer, the grass greener, and all the street noise around me seemed to fade away, leaving only the sounds of my father crying and Duncan sniffing the grass at my feet.

"We won?" I asked, not daring to believe it.

"Yes..." he whispered.

I laughed, loud and unconstrained. "Why are you crying?" I asked, feeling my own tears rising up.

"Because I've never been so happy for you," he said.

And then I cried, too. Cried and cried and laughed and laughed all at once. I couldn't help myself. And so my father and I cried together, hundreds of miles apart but suddenly very close.

And when we hung up, Dunc was sitting there waiting for me, his tail brushing back and forth in the grass, his tongue lolling out one side of his mouth.

I knelt down before him, wrapped my arms around him and wept into his shoulder while he leaned into me, gave my ear a quick, reassuring lick, and let me have my moment.

It was perfect. I left my home having lived my entire life in one world but returned later, led by my handsome, wonderful red dog, to an entirely new world where my opportunities had changed and my dreams were unlimited.

We won. Today we all won.

Thursday, September 4, 2014


Ten years ago today I had no idea that my life was about to change. I might've been home reliving another tedious and horrific week at work, dealing with the annoying and seemingly helpless students who buzzed around my desk like annoying gnats. Or maybe I was at the gym, running on the treadmill or going through the horrific squat routine that always rendered my legs nearly useless the next day. Or maybe Ken and I had gone to dinner as we often did on Saturdays back then. I'd just lost my grandmother seven weeks earlier and often spent those nights revisiting old letters from her while wishing she'd visit me in my dreams to tell me everything would be alright. Whatever I was doing, I had no idea that eight weeks later Ken would arrive with the little red dog who would become my best friend and brother.

Duncan has changed my life in ways I never imagined on that cold November evening, the first night I held him in my arms, asked him if his name was Duncan, and watched as he winked in reply. He saved my life in the darkest of moments, and when his own life was in danger, I did everything in my power to return the favor. We have walked thousands of miles together, cuddled and cried together, ran and played, shared moments no one else would understand. My dog quickly became the center of my life and I haven't regretted it, not for a single moment.

He turned ten years old today, and while he may not understand the significance, he has certainly reaped the rewards, and I hope that he is somehow able to understand my joy at witnessing his own. There is nothing I won't do for him and so I made today his.

It started early with a long walk and a Frisbee toss that made me late for work, a fact I didn't mind at all. And when I returned we had another long walk, both of us relishing the cool rain. We stopped by the leasing office where the staff has grown to love him. Melissa, the woman who prepared our lease and was there at our first moments in this new home, sang to him and gave him treats, not minding one bit that his wet paws were leaving little puddles on the edge of her desk.

And then, as always, it was off to Hero's where they sang to him and literally showered him with a bowl of treats.

And then it was home were he had a dinner of chicken and peanut butter, and then got his presents: a giant bumblebee to match Buzz, his dragonfly, a great big smoked bone, two bully sticks, a new penguin to replace Percy, and two big dog cookies shaped like birthday cakes. The good folks at the dog park wished him a happy birthday, he played Frisbee again, and is now curled up on my bed going to town on his bully stick. He is a happy dog and my heart is soaring just being near him.

Ten years ago everything changed. Grandma was gone and I was struggling to come to terms with that, but I've sometimes wondered if she didn't find Duncan out there and nudge him in my direction, giving me someone who would stand beside me and watch over me after she was no longer able to do so herself. It doesn't matter if that's true or not. What matters is that he has been there for me in more ways than I can count, taught me more than I thought I'd ever learn, and has been a better friend than I ever thought I deserved.

Happy birthday, Roo. Happy birthday, brother.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: Stop What You're Doing

I'd just settled down on my bed to write about Dunc's last day as a single digit (tomorrow is his birthday) when Roo climbed up, peeked his head over my monitor, dropped last year's birthday present (a green dragonfly that is now missing its legs and wings) and smiled big at me. That was all the message I needed. It's time to play.

Could you say no to a face like that?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Winnie Day

There are times when it seems like forever since Winnie Bean left us. And at other times the hurt of her departure feels just as fresh as it did on that afternoon two years ago. But it has been two years and even though we have moved and our family has undergone some changes, her little water glass still sits on the table, always full, always waiting. She may be gone, but I will never abandon her.

Last year I cried a bit and missed her, but today was a day of wonderful memories, and creating new ones. I called her out name while I made dinner for Pip and Olive, and held her urn close to my chest and rocked it back and forth, but I refused to cry. She's never far from me and if we both choose we can meet in my dreams. I will always wait for her.

“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)

Monday, July 28, 2014

Calm After the Storm

There was a tornado warning as I was leaving work today. We were told to seek shelter in the restrooms but of course, none of us did. My friend Sean and I stayed in my office and continued our conversation about Batman while many others milled around in the hallway watching the rain and clouds outside. While we were never in any real danger, a Facebook friend did snap a rather dramatic shot of a funnel cloud over Havana and Colfax, not too far from my office. The most difficult part of the entire experience, though, was the traffic on my drive home, which left me flustered and annoyed and eager to take Duncan for a walk.

For some reason we have been playing a game for the last month or so. Duncan has long since learned the sound of our cars beeping when we lock the cars with our remotes and is typically waiting at the door with Pip and Olive, who immediately begin yowling for dinner while Roo dances and chirps around me, his tail wagging while he grabs my wrist with his soft mouth and pulls me inside. But lately I've been waiting to activate the alarm until after I've slipped the key into the door and turned the knob. Occasionally he's there, full of smiles and wags, but sometimes, if I'm very quiet I can make it down the hallway before he's alerted to my presence. If he's waiting he gets a treat, but if if I'm able to make it into the kitchen without him crawling out from under Ken's bed he gets plenty of loves but has to wait for a goodie. 

Today, though, after a long drive through the rain and thunder among some of the worst drivers I've ever encountered, I wanted only to see him and kneel down on the floor and let him love me while I loved him back. The moment I opened the door he was there, ready for me, singing my name in that Golden way of his, dancing around me, and eager to play. I dropped my bag in the door and laid down. He chirped louder and plopped down next to me to lick my face while I wrapped my arms around him and laughed into his chest, the difficulties of the weather at work and the drivers on the way home melting away.

Some people drink wine or open a can of beer. I have a dog, and that's all the calm I need.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

A Morning Not Lost

The alarm did not go off this morning, but the woman walking her screaming baby back and forth in front of my aprtment at 6:30 did. Apparently she thought it a good idea to get the child some air, forgetting those of us still cuddled up in our beds. I was fortunate enough to have Duncan next to me, snoring soundly, his chin perched atop my calf. Pip was curled up between my chin and chest, but once the screaming infant roused him from sleep, he mewed and jumped away to seek shelter and silence under the chair in the living room. While I was tempted to shuffle to the window and remind her that hundreds of people around her didn't want to listen to her child, Duncan kept me where I was a bit longer, a comforting paw curling around my foot and a gentle thump of his tail more than enough to convince me.

Eventually though, as she futally wandered back and forth in front of the building, Dunc and I got up, had a drink of water and decided a morning walk would be better than a stranger's cantankerous child. We ventured down our forty steps, across the street and into the prairie dog village which we both love so much. As the baby's cries faded under the quiet song of the birds in the willows and the cranes paddling around the pond amid the choir of frogs, I knew that Out was a much wiser decision than In.

And when we suffered a doggy bag malfunction, a 'breach" I think one of my blogger friends calls it, and I found myself wiping my hand down in the wet grass and then holding it out before me while we continued our walk, the day was not lost. After the grocery shopping was done and the laundry was folded, Duncan stayed with me, never far from my side, occasionally licking my calf or cuddling up next to me while I read or napped on the bed. His soft head and gentle breathing are enough to rectify all the screaming infants and breached bags in the world, and I would gladly suffer them with and for him.

That's friendship. That's brotherhood.

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!

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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.