Sunday, May 23, 2010

A place for Max

I took Murdoch for a walk the day after Max died. I awoke that morning with my heart torn into a million ragged pieces. The hole in my chest where it used to sit, ached against a flood of sorrow. Max’s spot in the entryway was so empty and huge it dwarfed everything. Bear and Murdoch seemed smaller somehow, I felt tiny. The entire house was engulfed by his absence.

I didn’t quite know what to do with myself. For the last year Max filled a huge portion of my time. His morning routine alone took half an hour. It was usually a good 40 minutes before I could even start thinking about breakfast for myself. That first morning the dogs were taken care of in less than ten minutes. It felt weird.

Everything felt weird, like I was moving through a dream. When Murdoch and I headed down the road that day, even the outside world seemed removed from reality. We plodded along as though encased in a bubble to the walking trail at the end of our road.

It had been a long time since Max walked the trail. Over the past year he had started slowing down. At first he would go to where the trail began to track slightly uphill before stopping and giving me a pointed look that he was ready to turn around. For a while he walked to the end of the road, turning back just where the trail began, but in the past four months, Max spent most of his time wandering between our house and the neighbours’ before tiring and returning home for a nap.

Murdoch and I continued up the trail, heading for the clear, open space where the ticks are less prevalent and he can run free and chase a stick. When we reach the spot. I pause to look for a stick and am about to unhook Murdoch from his leash when I feel a surge to keep going.

I veer to the left of the fork in the trail and continue walking over flattened yellow grasses that have spent the winter dried out and crushed beneath a blanket of snow. Murdoch happily bounces along beside me. In the distance I can hear a chorus of chirping frogs which gets louder as the trail winds its way closer to the swampy area in the midst of this re-growing forest.

The sky overhead is a brilliant silver, light and dark hues give the clouds a rich texture, like ripples in the sand beneath the edge of a lapping lake. It is as though the clouds are alive and teasing the wind that flows playfully over the ground and through the trees.

I pick my way around the edge of a patch of rich, black mud. The tangle of bleached grasses I step on give way a bit as the soft mud shifts underfoot. Murdoch tromps through the middle of the swath of muck where puddles gather in deep grooves left behind by the fat tires of ATVs. I can hear the schloomp of the mud as it releases each of his feet in turn and the squelch as it oozes between his toes again.

The land is open here. The swamp is just thirty feet away behind a field of flattened, dried out white grasses and reeds, it is more a pond in the early spring than a thick swamp. I am compelled to stop. A couple of pine trees grow from the middle of the water at strange angles. One looks like it almost fell over at one time, then managed to stop itself and continue growing straight up towards the sky. Its spine curves precariously out over the tiny patch of ground it has claimed in the middle of the pond, and looks like it’s stuck in a permanent wind storm.

Through the grasses that stand tall near the swamp I catch glimpses of the water, it sparkles silver-black beneath the overcast sky and ripples with the wind. The peeping of the frogs fills the air. I can hear the quack and splash of ducks. Mountains etched out in a semi-circle against the sky in the near distance make this place feel cozy and familiar, like home. A warmish spring breeze swirls lazily around me and sets the still standing reeds swaying. Murdoch sits beside me and we are quiet together, watching and listening.

A feeling of peace wells up inside me as I picture Max here. I can see him in the grasses, running free, I can feel him riding the swirling wind. This is his spot, I am sure of it. It’s a place he would have loved.

The bubble that encased me all morning is dissolving, my heart slowly begins to stitch itself back together, and I breathe deeply of the wind that carries the sounds and smells of life, it fills me right to my toes. I can feel Max here, he’s free and happy. It makes me smile, a genuine smile.

This is the spot I think about now when I miss Max. I see it as it was on that day, vibrant with awakening life after a winter slumber; the cheery symphony of the frogs, the richness of the silver clouds, the friendly hug of the swirling wind, the stark whiteness of the dried grasses, the ripple of the water, the splashing of the ducks and the determination of that tree. Life. It was as though that moment, that place, was created just for Max.

1 comment:

  1. It must be said again: you have a fierce passion for your dogs and a wondrous gift for communicating that passion. This is one of the best articles you have written: sharply focused, fluid, lyrical, engagingly true. It rings loudly not only with emotional honesty but also with concrete images that land solidly in the reader's mind. Yes, it is indeed impressive. In this piece of open land, most beautifully described, you, in the company of a silent Murdoch,find meaning in the life of Max and a physical place to locate him. Your heart finds peace and your writing, full of soaring poetry, seems to flow effortlessly through these reflections. The image of that lone and stooped pine tree overcoming the crippling pull of gravity to reach upwards is a fitting metaphor for your lost Max. No falseness here, no artificial or forced striving for literary effectiveness. Plant a pine tree over Max's grave site.Let's give you the Nobel Peace Prize for magical blogging.