Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Dog Counts

Shadow counts. Not like a clever horse pawing the ground, but as nature. And she connects me to nature in different ways. When we walk she is scent oriented, sometimes overlooking a deer that is observing us because she is so focused on her nose-to-the-ground. She has an insatiable desire to hunt. She must not be very good at it because she has never brought me any prey, though clearly she is doing her best. When she has escaped the yard she invariably returns covered in poop, which I'm pretty sure instinct tells her to roll in so as to disguise her own scent as she's hunting. In any case, her few escapes have brought her home empty-mouthed. All the time she spent in the backyard before the fence came down surely might have netted her a bunny or a squirrel, but no. Still, at 8 years old and coming up on three full years with me she has, to my knowledge, failed as a huntress. Yet she persists in her vigilance. As a vegetarian who never wanted a dog and only brought her home from the shelter to keep her from being euthanized, I find it a little hard to be linked so closely with this enthusiastic carnivore. Yet I am completely in love with her.

So I have been feeling guilty about not walking with her since Wednesday. A series of events, one involving Shadow (see Woman of a Certain Age blog) left me limping. But our walks have been so wonderful lately that I miss them terribly and I feel awful for her not having the exercise she needs. So yesterday, after finishing up two volunteer projects, I took Shadow to the beach and threw a stick for her. The waves were high and constant and she was in doggy disneyworld. She leapt and frolicked and swam like a dolphin, carried the sticks to shore, ready to do it again and again. She has been so unbelievably patient with me, only occasionally vocalizing her despair at being cooped up, that it was thrilling to see her let loose and fly through the water and over the sand. This is a dog with arthritis in her rear legs but daily walks have apparently made her capable of occasionally frolicking. This morning-after she is showing no signs of ill effects from the romp/swim.

Again, she got me to the beach, to breathe deeply of the good sea air and let any tensions wash out of me. Outtings like this with Shadow are another way in, another way of getting out of my small self and into the larger world. I am so fortunate to be linked to her.

Friday, June 19, 2009

No more vacation blues

Okay, the truth: I wish I had money to travel. But right now I don't. I might not ever, who knows? And at 61 the idea of waiting to see is not very appealing. But I'm not going to go into (further) debt over it. So, here's the great news - I had a little epiphany the other day. I wasn't worrying over the lack of vacations, or funds, but was engaged in my daily practice of walking. After being very sick a year ago I have built up my walking distance. The first mile was tough, and painful, and slow. Building up to two miles was just as tough. But now I find I can easily enjoy a three or four mile walk and it's not taking any longer to walk three miles than two miles took. Four is a luxury and I'm beginning to crave it. The day of the epiphany I was on a three mile, by the clock, hike at the fort. I say by the clock because I've timed myself on flat land and can walk a mile in between 16 and 22 minutes. I tell myself I need a minimum of 20 minutes walking to count a mile, and that should be pretty brisk.

So during this recent three mile walk I had a three minute revelation. We'd climbed to the field at the top of the hill at Fort Worden and Shadow was straining her leash to peer over the edge of the bluff, stretching longingly towards the water, far below us. Seeing her among wild roses and waving grasses, the green translucent water below and the hush hush hush of the waves, the little boats out sailing, Mount Baker in the distance, the San Juans in the mist, I realized that I live in a place similar to the lovely Block Island where I twice vacationed and imagined how sweet it would be to live somewhere that beautiful. I say I realized it. Of course I already knew. I'm not dense or unaware. I knew. But at that moment I took it all in and it seemed real to me, at last. I imagined what it could be like if I allow time and bring a blanket and a book in a backpack and lay in this meadow once a week, or more, to read - at least on these glorious summer days.

As we walked away from the meadow and bluff, along a narrower path crowded with wild roses I thought about the fact that I did not bring my camera this day. Sometimes I do, but there are times we need to let our eyes and mind be the camera...we take in so much more, naked, than we do with that box between us and the view. Some days are for saving, some are for savoring. Besides if my eye is the camera first, the moving camera, taking in the greater views, the depth, the breadth of it, and melding that with the scent of wild roses layered on the breeze, how much sweeter the stills will be this winter when I look at them and remember.