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Travels With Maggie: Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes!

Maggie don’t know a damned thing about monthly names. September don’t mean spit to my girl, the same with April or January, just human words, random sounds to her, heard and discarded like needles in a homeless encampment.

But she knows change. She senses seasons and their changes, and no one can convince me otherwise.

What say you? Are you up for a walk down a country road with a man and his dog? Multiple changes taking place this September; let’s see how many we can notice on our stroll.


We’ve Been Discovered

It was bound to happen. What was that Joni Mitchell once wrote: “They pave Paradise, put up a parking lot.” That’s what’s happening on our walking path. Two years ago, when Maggie and me began our daily walking ritual, there were six five-acre lots for sale along the road leading to our kids’ farm. That’s changing rapidly now. One house is nearly completed; another is framed; and the other four lots have money down on them.

I saw a hawk sitting on a truss yesterday. There’s some serious irony in that scene.

Six new families looking for their slice of Heaven, and I can’t say I blame them, no doubt it’s pretty out here, no doubt peaceful, the American Dream, that mythical quest, awaits anyone with an imagination, a quarter-million bucks, and a hankerin’, but still, it’s a whole lot of disruption to my tranquility.

Cause and effect . . . one man’s quest detracts from my serenity . . . and such is life. I now know what the Native Americans felt when the wagon trains began rolling across the landscape.

Maggie is curious, of course, running up to the construction sites, sniffing this, pawing that, occasionally barking at the unknown, probably wondering where the hell that hundred-foot maple went to so suddenly, and these are the strangest damned trees she’s ever seen, but for the most part Maggie adjusts to all that quicker than I do, no surprise there at all. The work crews know her by name, shout out greetings as we pass by, and that softens the disappointment a bit, as friendliness always will.


The Shadow Knows

Shadows lengthen this time of year, the sun lower on the horizon, something many people don’t notice, little changes and yet significant. It seems, to me, I’ve spent a good portion of my life chasing my shadow, but there were times it seemed the opposite, me being chased by it, and I’m not sure which is disconcerting and which comforting. Ask the Shadow, the Shadow knows, to borrow from an old radio program, but on this particular day the Shadow ain’t speaking any truths at all.

There are times when life seems so transparent, the secrets so easy to discern, but most of the time, for me, it’s like trying to make out specific details while looking into a dark forest. It’s damned near impossible to penetrate the darkness . . . or finding clarity in a Fun House mirror . . . a fool’s quest at best. So it is for me on this day. Questions of considerable bulk and substance, about existence and life and the meaning of it all, assail me as I walk, and I simply do not have any clarity about any of it. Seventy years of experiences and lessons, trials and tribulations, and none of it helps me to clean the lenses and allow for 20-20 vision.

Maggie, on the other hand, has no such concerns. She simply is. Her surroundings simply are. She responds to stimuli I can’t even sense or recognize. She is not encumbered by past experiences; she’s a cause and effect, spur-or-the-moment sort of girl, and at that moment my girl is wagging her tail wondering where the hell her treat is.

God I love this dog! Unconditional love and loyalty . . . where else are you going to find it? Perhaps, if you are truly lucky, you will have one or two friends during your lifetime who will stick with you no matter what. One would hope family would fit that description but I know from personal experience that isn’t always the case. But a dog . . . God bless them! I think dogs were put on this earth to teach us about the original hope for humans, and there’s some serious irony in that statement, that we needed teaching in being human.


Nature Is Wrapping It Up

The wild flowers are fading. Tree leaves have lost their vibrant green, and specks of brown and yellow can now be seen on the maples, oaks, and elms as I look upward. A breeze kicks up and I’ll be damned if some leaves don’t start falling from the trees. September, first week, seems a bit early to me, leaves falling, but what do I know about the natural order of things? I’m just a traveler on this path called life, here for a brief time, not long enough to learn it all, and my trip is slowly coming to an end. There’s nothing ominous about that statement, it’s happening to all of us, the blink of an eye and it’s all gone, and there are times I swear Maggie understands that fact as well.

Squirrels are doing some serious scurrying up above us, high-wire acts without a safety net, preparing for the long winter ahead. Maggie gives them a long look, sniffs the air, and looks at me in understanding. Yes, Maggie girl, it’s time we moved on. We have errands to run, chores to do, and quiet time later for petting and words of friendship. We turn for home to the smell of leaves burning not far away, a plume of smoke rising above the tree land, a sure sign of Fall, universal, understood by all.

Sweet melancholy sweeps over me on this day, Maggie noticing, more affectionate than normal, she is, and once again I’m grateful for my girl. A dog knows, don’t kid yourself, they are tuned into their owners and they just know when extra lovin’ is needed, and for about the thousandth time in two years I am incredibly grateful for this dog.

“There’s nothing to be done about it, Mags,” I say to her. “We can’t hold back the tide, and we can’t stop aging, so let’s just live the rest of our lives balls-to-the-wall and howl at the moon every chance we get,” and Maggie wags her tail, barks, and sprints for the truck.

Just a man and his dog, walking down a country road, but a whole lot more as well.

I am reminded of words once written by a man named Thoreau:

“As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness, weakness.”

Again, Maggie instinctively understands those words. Life is basically very simple at its core. Only man has managed to complicate it over the thousands of years.

Life is living. It is not profit statements, it is not jealousy nor is it greed. Life is not borders nor is it ultimatums. Life simply is, and the more we embrace the is-ness of it, the happier we will truly be. The more we accept the simplicity of it all, the more contentment we will experience. The more days of love we accumulate, the further away we will travel from discord.

Maggie agrees, and that’s good enough for me.

Just a man and his dog, out for a walk. Thanks for joining us!

© 2019 Bill Holland

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