It’s been a while, and I apologize for that. Summer is a busy time, and my normal schedule of walking the dogs, and writing about it, oftentimes gets pushed to the side as chores demand more attention. Not that the dogs aren’t walked; it’s just that, once I’m out of my normal schedule, I’m afraid everything is a crap shoot at best.
That’s a long-winded way of saying thank you for joining me and my dogs on a late-summer walk around the neighborhood. If you have walked with us before, you know that the journey begins where the pavement of the driveway ends and the wonders begin.
The Changing of the Guard
It happens in such small stages, one really must pay very close attention to notice the arrival of fall weather, and the slow disappearance of summer. The calendar may say August 20, 2021, the dog days of summer for sure, but in the Pacific Northwest, fall has begun to gently flex its muscles.
It happens by the smallest of degrees, literally and figuratively. The morning temperature is just a bit chillier. The evenings cool off an hour or two earlier. Those are the things you can easily notice, if you are paying attention, but there are subtler changes afoot as well, the vibrant greens softening, the appearance of dull yellows, gentle browns, the colorscape gently mellowing, reminding me of Donovan and his mellow yellow song of years passed.
By late August the plants are deadheading, seed pods are appearing, and others are simply giving up the ghost, exhausted from providing months of vibrant colors, feeding the pollinators, and painting the landscape with a dazzling treat for our eyes.
The dogs notice. I am convinced of that. They are observers of the highest order, my Maggie and Toby. What they lack in color-recognition they more than make up for with their sense of smell. There is a smell to Fall. Pay attention and you’ll notice the difference in the air, from July to August to September, the molecules moving at a different pace, the bouquet of scents different as healthy vegetation begins to slowly decay.
I wonder how many people take the time to notice this mystical, magical transformation?
Not Everyone Does
A microcosm of the population as a whole, these walks are. I pass by people who are texting and streaming on their phones as they walk by the cornucopia of nature. I saw it twice yesterday during a one-hour walk. During that same walk, though, I saw a young woman, laying on the grass under a weeping willow tree, smiling as she looked up through the branches, and a couple, shuffling along, mid-eighties my guess, animated as they pointed to the first red leaves in a maple.
The pace of our walks is quicker this time of year. The dogs are more lively, more eager, like little children faced with a new playground, temperatures much-more conducive to walking than the brutal heat we had in June, reminding me of a long-ago friend, living in Las Vegas, who said his walks start at six a.m., end at eight, and after that “it’s air-conditioning, baby, sweet air-conditioning until bedtime.”
I wonder what Fall looks like in Vegas? I’ll never know, not while I’m surrounded by the Pacific Northwest, my home for most of my life, never lacking in beauty, never lacking in eye-candy, never lacking in inspiration and exultations.
Our Kids Are Lively Today
That’s how we think of Maggie and Toby, our kids, our children, so important they are to our daily lives. Some might find that strange; dog-lovers will understand.
Maggie, more often than not, plays the role of the Grand Dame, the aristocrat, above it all, too cool to partake in childish pleasures, aloof and oftentimes appearing to be bored by it all. Toby, he is the court jester, always the eternal child, finding fun in every circumstance, his tail a constant blur of wagging and merriment. But on this walk, on this day, Maggie is every bit the rambunctious child that Toby is, nudging me with her nose, jumping up on me, I swear to God I can see her smile at me as if to say “come on, old man, let’s play,” and she has me laughing two blocks into the walk, her joy infectious, my heart swelling.
Toby, he wants to chase a squirrel on this day, then a rabbit, and an honest-to-the-heavens deer walks out of the woods in front of us, and Toby is so excited I think he’ll levitate with joy. He wouldn’t know what the hell to do with any of them if he actually caught them, but as it is with our lives, the joy is often simply in the journey, the chase, and not with the moment of catching whatever it is we are chasing.
Lieutenant Al Stephens
We pass by an assisted living home, two blocks from our property, and outside, walking with the aid of an aluminum walker, is Lieutenant Al Stephens, he of the Korean War, a veteran from Waco, Texas, and he says howdy to Maggie, howdy to Toby, and extends his hand to shake mine, a frail man now, once a ranch hand, once a mechanic, a humble man who thinks my dogs are handsome, a man milking the most out of what time he has left, greeting everyone who passes him with respect. Soon it will be time for Al to take a nap and dream of herding Longhorns onto the south forty, maybe a meeting up with a local beauty at the bar after the ranch chores are finished, or maybe walking point, long ago, in a war not of his making.
Maggie and Toby wag their tail and pass along positive vibes to the old soldier, letting him know he’s noticed, letting him know he matters, my two kids respectful of their elder, somehow knowing just how special that man is.
Not All That Uncommon a Meeting
We meet many people on these walks. Some are simply hellos in passing. Some become friends, information shared, real connections, like Katie, recovering from breast cancer, and Pete, the Aussie, a jogger, been in this country twenty years, still has the accent, friendly man with an Outback smile. These walks are a microcosm of life, one way to look at it, a handful of meaningful connections, a ton of surface connections, people moving through life, passing each other, lives pulling them this direction, that direction, seven billion in number, all meaningful, all brief glimpses through the eyes of others.
We don’t have time for them all. How could we? Mission Impossible on any given day, just enough time for ourselves, our meaningful others, our jobs, our passions, seven billion little universes revolving around each other, each and every one of them as important as the next, each as insignificant as the next, depends on your outlook, I guess.
For me, Maggie, and Toby, we meet as many as possible on these walks and, if we’re lucky, we actually connect with a few, and that adds spice to these journeys, spice added to wonder, and isn’t that grand?
Thanks so much for joining us today. You can find us most days, same time, same place, where the pavement ends and the wonders begin. You are welcome any old time. We would love to connect with you, really connect, you know?
2021 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)