No Hat Needed Today
It’s one of those day, folks, no rain in the forecast, a stunning blue sky greets us as we park the pickup truck and prepare for our walk. Put on some fleece, layer-up as we say in these parts, for the wind still nips at our heels on this fine fourteenth of February. Ten feet over yonder the pavement ends and the wonder begins.
A Slightly Different Locale
We’ve had to change our route a bit, not terribly important, but worth noting. People are building and moving in along our old route, and that means civilized laws, leash laws in particular, and I’m just too damned stubborn to leash my dogs up for a country romp, so we now walk along the farm Bev’s son and his wife own. Maggie and Toby, they don’t much care. During the winter months the farm has a natural wetlands on the lower acreage, with all manner of tall grasses and tadpoles and mice sprinting to and fro, the occasional duck, birds galore, certainly enough to keep my dogs busy on these walks.
The leash laws always remind me of a poem from long ago, one line in particular, “what more could please the soul than to walk free and know no superior?” and I understand the reason for the laws, and I agree with them, but still they sadden me. Dogs were meant to run, as were we, quite frankly, and not doddle along afraid of tripping and falling in a stately manner.
Stubborn raindrops cling to drab limbs, shimmering in the sunlight, quivering, as though afraid of the sudden invasion of brightness. The pasture grass is damp, of course, things do not dry out in Western Washington in February, despite the sunshine, and the dogs are damp within thirty seconds of our arrival.
And the Race Is On
Toby leading the way, a four-legged arrow released for flight, a cruise missile aimed for the wetlands, Maggie on his heels, and they leap from land to water, airborne both of them, landing with a splash, and I laugh as I have not laughed since the start of December, my personal black month, and God Almighty it feels good to do so. The splashing continues as I stroll along the withered firs, pines, maples, cedars, birches and alders, their grays stark against the blue sky and then, a slight shift of perspective, a tilt of the head, and small green buds appear, here and there, new growth reaching for the sun, such a small sign of incredible importance, the slow emerging from the depths of winter, a sign of hope, and I feel a smile spread across my cragged face.
Hopeful now, I look more closely at the ground and yes, right there, and there, tiny new shoots poking up, what they will be I do not know, but new life they are and in celebration I hear a bird chirp, then another, and I am reminded of ashes to ashes, from the fallen logs and winter’s mantel new life springs forth.
Let’s Play, Bill
Maggie races towards me, nuzzles me, implores me, for my girl is obsessed with the treats in my pocket. Toby, on the other hand, is all about playing, so I toss a stick thirty feet north, and my boy sprints hellbent, retrieves, and full-speed heads for me, water flying from his back, happiness and pride and recklessness rolled into one sixty-pound ball of fur as he drops the stick at my feet and barks loud enough for the next county’s residents to hear, and the game is on, stick after stick after stick. Maggie sits this exercise out; she has found, by nose, a mole or rat or some other manner of creature, and is frantically digging at a hole, dirt exploding, paws working furiously, her nose buried in the expanding tunnel, and I travel back in time, little boys playing with plastic toys in the dirt, our imaginations a fine substitute for today’s video games, hours spent with imagined scenarios, and my faithful terrier Pixie always close.
It’s pretty amazing, really, a dog smelling a mouse from ten, twenty feet away. What does a mouse even smell like? I cannot fathom how acute their senses are, and I’m oddly jealous of that ability but then, they don’t have thumbs, so I’ll always have one thing they don’t have, and my smugness returns.
Toby sprints for the fence bordering the goat pasture, four pistons working in unison, and comes to a screeching halt in front of the llama, the guardian of the pasture, a docile figure unless she senses danger. The llama bends down, sniffs Toby, and Toby returns the gesture. Trust is quickly established, a tail wags, no spit from the long-necked creature, and a bond is formed. Oh how I wish it were that easy for us humans in this world dominated by distrust. Will we ever be able to trust again, the nightly news making it damned near impossible to do so, drive-by shootings, muggings, kidnappings, on and on we go, a species hell-bent on exhibiting its darker side.
That’s what these walks are for, or at least partially so. My dogs think we are out there to exercise, and that is partially true, but we are also here for me to learn to navigate life. I am the student, the dogs the teachers. They help me to decompress. They help me to see the good around me and to give that priority, a priceless gift I receive daily. For thirteen years now I have been emerging, like that crocus over there, straining upwards towards the sunshine of life, rejecting the darkness, the sadness, and the clouds of melancholy which have been my companion for far too long.
Today, and every day lately, the first thing I do in the morning is throw open the curtains and let the light in and that, my friends, is progress.
Turn the Page
The calendar turns to February, and soon March, and with it the sun climbs higher, and the warmth returns. Billions of flowers and plants will rise from the dust, trees will bud, and the bleakness of winter will give way to a cornucopia of color, Nature’s laser light show dazzling us daily, free admission, all that’s necessary is a willingness to see.
Toby and Maggie slow their pace, a sign of weariness. They play hard and they rest hard, and now is a time to rest. The truck awaits us on this fine February afternoon. Chores and errands are calling to me, and a well-earned nap is calling my companions. They have done their duty once more. They have educated me, once again, on the majesty of life, and I am grateful beyond words for the lesson.
A treat for each, a rub on the head, and we all climb into the truck for the ride home. We greatly appreciate you walking with us today. Please, rest assured, you are always welcome to join us. You don’t need Google maps or a GPS. Simply drive until the pavement ends and the wonder begins. There you will find us waiting for you. Just bring your waterproof clothes and some waders. We don’t want you catching cold on a glorious day like today.
2020 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)