Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Just another day, but not really

I come home tired and ready for tea.

Another night of broken sleep, lying in the dark listening for Bear, the clippety clop of toenails in a panicked march across the wooden floor after drinking too much water before bed, or the throaty roar and scuffled flailing of limbs as she disappears into another seizure. But there are cats too and I stare, bleary-eyed into the incomplete dark of the bedroom and try to decode the sounds; cat’s wrestling on a chair or sharpening claws on the carpeted scratching post, tiny cat feet thumping hungrily down the stairs, rattle of dishes in the kitchen.

There is not much sleep to be had after 3 o’clock in the morning.

So, home from work, tired, needing food and tea and some quiet. But the sun is shining and it is a beautiful day. At the door, two black dogs tap dance a greeting, tails sweeping large arcs through the air, great excitement to finally be able to go out and play after sleeping all morning.

I eat a late lunch, pour steaming tea from the pot into my mug with a sigh of complete contentment, and I endure the stares with my first sip, and the second, and then the moment has passed and the pressure mounts.

I try not to make eye contact, but I can’t help it. I see Bear’s shape from the corner of my eye lying on her bed, her neck stretching longer and longer, her ears perked forward, her white chin thrust out in anticipation. I glance her way and she stomps her front feet as she lies on her bed, thumps her tail.

“Just a few minutes Beary,” I say and then turn and glance towards where Murdoch sits, just to my right, all prim and proper as though he is the perfect dog and he stands to attention, his tail poised for action and stares into my eyes with the one all important question, “Now?”

I try to finish my mug of tea, but it is no use. The dogs drag me outside and I clomp up the trail behind them in my giant winter boots, my snowpants swishing and my breath billowing out in clouds of steam and I think of the warm house left behind, and I move through the trees slowly without saying a word.

But the dogs leap and skip and tumble up the trail we walk every single day as though they have never been there before, as though it is all brand new, and somehow their enthusiasm rubs off on me.

The sun slants through the trees casting long blue shadows across the snow that, beneath the sun's gaze, has turned golden and sparkly. The trees glow with golden-pink light and the mountains east of us too, every tree and rocky cliff picked out clearly in relief.

We follow the trail up to the back of our property and turn right. Murdoch heads into the new growth forest of spindly gray saplings and I watch his black shape move like a shadow between the growing trees. I call to him before he gets too far, breaking my silence.

“I can see you,” I say, stopping on the trail to watch him move amongst the clamour of trees. I see his shape more than I really see him and it is as though I am squinting through a rain storm. He turns on his heel and comes flying back through the gray haze of tiny tree trunks.

“Look out Bear,” I call ahead where she tromps confidently along the trail and she stops and waits for Murdoch to blur past. He leaps over downed trees, kicks up sprays of snow.

The three of us move towards the western mountains, silhouetted behind the trees by the sun as it skims along the rocky crests. I throw sticks for the dogs to chase as we walk the ever-changing familiar path beneath the deep blue sky and we stay outside until the sun slips behind the mountains and the light in the woods turns flat and cold.


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  2. But Bear is still with us, and that's no small thing. Monday was the first anniversary of Boscoe's death. Oh, a year, what a year.

    1. Yes, she is still with us and we are so grateful for that, to have celebrated her 12th birthday and Christmas and welcomed the new year with her.

      I think about Boscoe quite a bit. I can't believe it has been a year. To me he is one of those grand old dogs of legend (right up there with my Max). I feel like I knew him, and I feel his absence, even though we never met in person.

    2. he had an enormous personality. on the other hand, next week Rosie turns one. the great wheel of life....

  3. Beautifully written article - you start out "tired and ready for tea" and as you end up, clearly infected by the dogs' innocent and curious buoyancy, your prose becomes poetry, your language becomes wondrously lyrical: "The trees glow with golden-pink light". The common scene becomes uncommon. In the photo prologue, Murdoch is actually winking and smiling; I can hear his deep laugh.
    An interesting urban photographer, cognitive psychologist Horowitz, writes that, like you, she,too, was reborn through her dog as she walked the all-too-familiar streets of her city [New York?]. Her lab, as he sniffed and prowled through a mundane, urban avenue, brought her senses to life. She started to "see" as he did, to "feel" as he did. As she puts it, "I was knocked awake to life." She woke up and her photos were forever transformed. She now experiences the ordinary as extraordinary. Sounds exactly like you and your dogs, does it not? In a very real way, they give you life and vision.