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Travels With Maggie: Stepping Back in Time

The air is crisp this afternoon, slowly rising from an early morning reading of thirty-four, so I hope you’ve bundled up for the walk. Maggie girl doesn’t seem to get cold no matter the temperature, but us humans have to take care, so consider yourself properly warned.

The sky is robin-egg blue, the wind is still, and it’s a good day to be alive.

Shall we begin our walk?

Is it time for our walk, Bill?

Is it time for our walk, Bill?

The Time Machine

Walking with Maggie is, for me, like entering a time machine and transporting back to the 1950’s. When I was five my parents bought me a terrier mix puppy, sort of a peace offering for moving us away from my friends into a new neighborhood. As a shy five-year old n 1953 I was not too happy about the move, as I recall, and I remember spending the first few days sitting on the back porch thinking my life had been ruined.

Pixie changed all that. My Toy/Fox Terrier mix was a bundle of puppy energy and love, and we became instant best friends. She lived eighteen years, so Pixie was a constant companion during those formative years, through childhood, adolescence, teen years, and into early adulthood. This was all before leash laws, of course, so any excursions I took with friends around the neighborhood included Pixie keeping pace at my heels, her tiny legs churning to keep up, always inquisitive, always happy to visit anyone, and always eager to lick my face whenever the opportunity arose.

Fast forward almost fifty years and I have once again bonded with a dog, Maggie is her name, and I’m not ashamed to say I adore her. I love her brother Toby, of course, but it is Maggie who reminds me so much of those days long ago when a quiet kid desperately needed the companionship and love only a puppy can provide. Maggie and I will grow old together, and I find great comfort in that fact.

Stop and Pay Attention

Geese flying overhead . . . squirrels playing tag twenty feet above ground, no safety net . . . hawks circling . . . rabbits ducking for cover . . . deer running in that hip-hop way of theirs . . . men in the distance hammering . . . somewhere a young child squeals in delight . . . a diesel engine comes to life . . . a chainsaw signals death in the forest . . . the country symphony continues, day in, day out, its notes available for all with a willingness to hear, and Maggie doesn’t miss a note. From her first step to her last, on each of our walks, Maggie Girl is on alert, hearing, categorizing, and reacting, and doing so instantaneously. If there is a sound, or a smell, she does not recognize, she runs off to investigate. There is no “fake news” for Maggie. There are only experiences verified.

But there are also times when Maggie and me, we’ll come across something Maggie has not experienced, or we will hear a sound she has no recollection of, and she will look at me to gauge my reaction. If I act in fright she knows. If I am calm she assumes there is no danger. She is somehow connected to my emotional wiring and will react according to how I react, which at first seems remarkable until we think of our own childhood, and isn’t that pretty much how we did it when we were toddlers and adolescents, experiencing for ourselves and relying on parents and extended family to transmit messages to us about the strange and the unknown? I clearly remember turning to my dad and gauging his reaction on a number of occasions, and I suspect it isn’t that much different for others as well.

The neighbors come out to welcome us

The neighbors come out to welcome us

Pay Attention to the Shadows

They are longer in October than they were in July, the sun lower in the sky, the lower angle spreading my shadow a good thirty feet in front of me, thirty instead of five, scientifically explainable but I prefer the mystery of it all, and really that’s what life has always been for me, a mystery, mystical, magical, wondrous in so many ways, as long as I have been receptive to it all, receptive like Maggie has been, is, and always will be.

Oh, there have been times when I was much too busy to appreciate it all. I suspect we all get that way, from time to time, burdened with worry or anticipation or guilt, unable to truly absorb all that surrounds us, and hopefully those “cluttered” times are few and far between in your life. They are now in my life, all but eliminated, as I’m now embracing a simpler life, a less-cluttered life, a life much like Maggie’s.

Toby, on the other hand, he chased his shadow the other day, and his tail, and I didn’t have the heart to point out the futility of it all. He’ll learn, as we all must, hopefully sooner rather than later. Until that time comes, though, Maggie and I will enjoy watching the wild one unleashed as he bounds and rolls and splashes his way through life, the proverbial “bull in a china closet,” Hercules unchained in a world designated as his own personal playground.

Fluffy love

Fluffy love

What’s That You Say?

I would love it if my dogs could talk. I imagine, at times, that they do, Maggie the wise one, liberally sharing her Buddha quotes, explaining it all to her brother, he laughing at Big Sis, telling her she is foolish, and me sitting back and reveling in their sibling banter. In a way they do, you know . . . talk that is . . . but you have to pay close attention. Maggie does communicate with me. Toby is learning how to do so, just as all creatures on this planet communicate, in their own way, teaching us if we are willing to tune in to their frequencies, and wouldn’t that be grand if we were able, and willing, to do so. We might not be so eager to cut down more forests, pave over more fields, or spew poisons in the air if we heard their words to us, their screams to us, and felt the pain in their sounds.

But that’s probably just a silly old man imagining that which doesn’t exist . . .

Probably . . .

A Shift

Clouds rolling in, the wind shifting, and the air feels different, all signs of the season, a potpourri of meteorological interactions as cold fronts and warm fronts collide, jet streams guide, and fall establishes her hold on the landscape. It’s time to turn for home before the rains begin. Maggie and Toby race ahead, fully aware that we are leaving, barking their way to the truck, standing there, tongues lagging, looking at me for a well-deserved treat. I pat them on their heads, reach into my pocket, and reward them for another perfect walk in a near-perfect life, just a man and his dogs, walking down a country road, remembering a five-year old boy and times gone by.

Maggie and Toby wave goodbye to you with their paws, and we all thank you for tagging along on our walk. You are always welcome, you know. No need to call and ask if you can join us. Just meet us at noon where the pavement ends and the wonders begin.


© 2019 Bill Holland

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