Tuesday, January 3, 2012
A stick in time
A glowing butter cream sky, lit by the late afternoon sun settling low above the mountains, peeks through the spindly canopy of bare branches and frazzled pines.
Murdoch and I play in the woods, sheltered from the slowly calming wind that shook our house the night before and whistled an angry gale all day. Above I can hear it carving gentle currents through the treetops.
Flat light illuminates the forest, defines tree trunks at a distance as clearly as those towering right beside me. I turn at the sound of voices, but it is the trees themselves, carrying on a conversation with the wind. There is the expected creaking of pliable fibers twisting in the wind and the snap of sterner wood cracking in the cold, but there is more, and I listen for a moment to the quiet babble and whispered laughter before throwing the stick again for Murdoch.
He chases it through the bluing shadows of the forest floor, leaping over snow-softened shapes of downed trees and tangled brush. The snow swallows the stick whole, leaving just a small dimple on the surface where it slipped beneath the thick blanket.
Murdoch snorfles around the spot where it vanished, his face buried in snow up to his ears, his tail pinwheels behind him as he frantically searches in widening circles. I imagine great waves of icy water rushing into his nose.
“Find it!” I say. He is getting better at this, sniffing out lost sticks. But we have been playing for a while and the stick that once stood as tall as my leg now stretches the length of my hand and is so caked with frozen slobber, it is the same colour as the snow.
In the deepening shadows Murdoch criss-crosses the same patch of ground again and again. He smells the stick, but can’t pin point it. I move to help, but the dimple where it went in is trampled away and I start digging tentatively in spots with the toe of my boot. “It’s here somewhere,” I say and we both kick up sprays of snow.
“Maybe we should find a bigger stick,” I finally say knowing that sometimes these sticks just can’t be found; sometimes they really do vanish. But then he pounces, digs frantically, his nose disappears in a mound of snow we already searched and he comes up with a face of white and the splinter of a stick clenched in his teeth.