I haven’t seen hide nor hair of you guys lately, partly my fault, been busy with this or that, no time in my mind for a stroll into the Land of Wonder. But that way of thinking comes to an end today. Won’t you join us, at the edge of the pavement, where the driveway ends and the wonders begin?
Pay Close Attention
Such a subtle change, two or three minutes per day, the Winter Solstice behind us, longer days ahead, hardly noticed if you aren’t paying attention, but there’s something about it, you know, those couple minutes mean hope, hope that the rains will end and the warmth of spring will spread over us like Grandma’s loving comforter.
The sun, when we see it hereabouts, is slightly higher in the sky, maybe a degree or two, don’t seem worth mentioning but damn, there’s something about it, a quickening of steps on our walk, a lighter spirit, hard to find the words but real nonetheless. And the rains, damn those rains, their severity lessens as January heads towards February, again subtle, but appreciated for sure by those of us who believe the Ark most likely had its origins here in the Pacific Northwest.
During the deep darkness of December and January, Winter holds its icy breath, but as January slowly transitions to February, an exhale can be detected, a slight warmth expelled, and there is hope.
The dogs, they don’t mind the rain, most times, Toby looks for puddles to lay in, Maggie soldiering on, her thick fur a natural insulator, and I find myself jealous at times, wishing I was young again, not caring, running and splashing and shrieking with joy, coming home as a kid, soaking wet, mud-splattered, Mom taking one look at me and telling me to “strip at the door, young man, don’t you be tracking that mess in this house,” but laughing when she said it, and holy damn I miss that woman, love personified she was.
Fellow Walkers Sense It as Well
You can see it in the people we pass. Heads are no longer bowed in misery but held higher, a sign of positivity if I ever saw it, and smiles are genuine, not guarded. People take the time to move beyond small talk, the fear of drowning behind them, a willingness to actually converse emerges, and it is welcomed by extroverts and introverts, for there are only so many times you can talk to yourself, in January, before you begin to worry about your sanity.
Their steps are slower-paced, no concerns about the weather, taking their time as they walk their dogs, or just walk themselves, enjoying the scenery, looking closer at the wonder of it all, as though seeing it for the first time.
Social distancing is ever-present, the new normal no longer new, but the fear has subsided ten months into it, wary glances have become friendlier, survivors one and all, sharing in the glory of facing our worst fears, facing the unknown and living to talk about it. Stories will be shared for years to come, grandkids on knees, or sitting around campfires, stories of the invisible monster, no bigger than a pinhead, and a community that learned to adjust and eventually thrive.
Nature’s Subtle Signs
You have to look closely, squint actually, to see them, but they are there, buds on trees, buds on shrubbery, here a bud, there a bud, everywhere a bud, bud, and squint a bit harder and you’ll see green, the color of revitalization, the color of growth, yes, the color of life.
A young crocus raises its head above the compost and mulch, a lone sentinel, or a scout perhaps, his job (her job, their job) to alert the others, yes it’s safe, no it’s not, come follow me if you dare, and two doors down we see another.
Robins are out in full force, a lovely sight, a lovely sound, and the squirrels, chattering away, sprinting from limb to limb, did they winter, seems I’ve seen them every single day of December and January, evidently gathering nuts and supplies for the winter that never arrived, a stockpile for next year, perhaps, and I’m reminded whenever I see them of “whistle while you work,” the old Disney song/movie, those damned squirrels always happy doing their chores, we should bottle that enthusiasm up and inject it into every American worker, me thinks, eternal happiness in the workplace, a nation of Stepford Clones, and my mind is on overdrive as the walk continues.
Anyway, squirrels drive Toby nuts but Maggie is nonplussed, what a wondrous word that is, nonplussed, a magical mystery tour of etymology if you ask me but then, no one has.
My Walking Partners Have Changed
Maggie is now three-and-a-half, Toby eighteen months younger, but Toby is noticeably bigger, sleeker, more muscular, Maggie sporting a matronly spread, a softness. Maggie with the lovely face, the human eyes, a gentle kindness in her appearance; Toby with the elongated snout, inquisitive eyes, barely-restrained energy crackling just beneath his surface. Oddly, if I were going into battle, which I’m not and most likely never will be, it would be Maggie I would want by my side. There is a she-wolf inside of her, seen her chase a coyote, I did, no fear in my girl when it comes to threats, so beware anyone who thinks that gentle face reflects her inner fire, for it does not. Toby, he’s more likely to lick you to death, for he’s never met a human he didn’t instantly like.
Almost daily I will hear, on these walks, “what lovely dogs you have,” or “my goodness, they’re adorable,” which just goes to show the good taste of those living around us, and they are good-looking for sure, always reminding me of Tramp in “Lady and the Tramp,” another shout out to Disney, their thick fur coarse to the touch, their appearance more mid-sized Airedale than anything else, herders by breeding, working dogs, and they need a substantial amount of exercise, keeping Bev and I quite busy during the week, happy work, no obligations, work we willingly do, for they give us more joy than we could have imagined, and my mind goes back, so many years now, to a little kid, desperately in need of a friend, and a little puppy, Pixie, my friend for twenty years, a bond so strong it has lasted half a century.
I am grateful for that little puppy, and I am grateful for these two now, my friends, my companions, who look at me, daily, as though I walk on water, my eyes fill up, thinking about their loyalty and love for me. Maggie always close by when I work, laying down at my feet, looking up at me, letting me know she’s there, always will be; Toby, he’ll come into my office, put his head in my lap, leave it there until I rub behind his ear, tell him he’s a good boy, Toby the one always looking for reassurance, always needing his human to exhibit love for him.
The Turn for Home
We take a right on Fir Street, off of Miller Avenue, and we are four houses away from our home. We pass new neighbors, young couple, moved in the first of the year, a new beginning, seem like nice kids, me laughing, referencing them as kids, a sure sign I’m older than dirt. Maggie hasn’t given them her approval yet, they will have to earn it, but Toby has the tail wagging as I say hello from the street, welcoming them to the neighborhood, telling them we are glad they are here, and we are for sure. It’s nice to see new beginnings, a young couple, their lives spread out before them, decades together, working towards common goals, their love the glue that holds it all together.
And then we are home, the woodstove providing comfort, the dogs head for the couch, tuckered out, time for a nap, and me chores, always chores, waiting for Bev to come home, Bev, the glue that holds it all together for me, for the dogs.
Thanks so much for joining us on our walk today. I hope this finds you well as January turns into February, and the days gain in length. You are welcome any old time you feel like stretching out those limbs and pumping some blood through your veins. You can find us where the pavement ends and the wonders begin, Olympia, Washington, in the gold old U.S. of A!
2021 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)