Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Ah, summer

There’s nothing like a bug in the eye to ruin a perfectly good evening stroll. Not that it was an idyllic evening anyway, as I stood amidst a cloud of blackfly, the hood of my shirt pulled up over my head to dissuade the circling deerfly from landing and taking out a chunk of my scalp. My one solace was the dragonflies that hovered around me, little helicopters, their wings whirring a papery flutter, like dried leaves. They zipped about busily eating every tiny thing that moved.

With the dragonflies there, my protectors, I imagined taking a deep breath - not really doing it of course in case I inhaled a bug, or ten - and tried to be Zen about the haze of biting insects. “Really,” I thought. “At some point you must become oblivious to the constant flick of blackfly bouncing off your face. I can do this. Just look at Murds, he is completely un-deterred by his own cloud of bugs.” And so I picked up the Frisbee again and hurled it out over the short-cropped grass that somehow housed this swarm of blackfly and focused my attention on the dog.

And for a moment I did it, I ignored the patter of bugs against my skin, the circling deerfly with their deep-pitched drone bouncing off my hood, I watched Murdoch run and catch the Frisbee mid-flight, I noticed the lupins starting to grow at the edge of the ditch, I appreciated the different shades of green on the distant mountain even as the grey clouds thickened overhead, I listened to the quiet beyond the buzz, thought how beautiful it all is, and then there was that unmistakable plink of a bug flying in to my eye.

I am no stranger to that sensation, kind of like a tiny smooth pebble has landed on the edge of your eyelid, flicked there somehow from the middle of a cool river. Bugs are inexplicably drawn to my eyes, this happens all the time. When I ride my bike, bug in the eye; when I walk the dog, bug in the eye; when I am standing still, bug in the eye.

There was a moment that evening at the end of the road as my brain caught up to the unfolding drama that had caused my eyelid to leap into action, clamping shut the instant that bug made a move to careen into my eye, when I thought perhaps the situation could be salvaged. The bug was trapped, still alive, I could feel it at the base of my eyelashes and I imagined it entangled there, caught as though in a Venus flytrap. “Perhaps I could just sweep it away,” I thought. But in an involuntary panic of having a live bug trapped on the brink, my eyelid fluttered madly and the bug was in.

It is amazing how big a tiny blackfly can feel when it is in your eye. I let out a frustrated yell and crouched down on the gravel road, head bowed as if this would help, and blinked furiously, running my finger along the edge of my eyelid.

Murdoch’s feet appeared then in my line of vision, followed by the Frisbee dropped on the ground in front of me. I looked up to meet his gaze, “I got a bug in my eye Murd,” I said, still trying to peel my eyelid away from the eyeball in hopes the insect might just fall out.

Murdoch stared back, “So?” he seemed to say, “What’s the problem?”

Right. What’s the problem? How does this prevent me from throwing a Frisbee? It doesn’t.

We played for a little longer as I continued to rub at my eye, but my state of Zen was gone, if it had ever really been there at all. The buzzing filled my ears, the dragonflies were nowhere to be seen, the constant flick of bugs against my face was torturous, each making my skin maddeningly itchy; I felt like I was breathing them in. Even the sight of the chaotic cloud around Murdoch was too much.

“Okay,” I said. “We’re done.” And I quick-marched home, dragging an incredulous Murdoch with me and pulling my hood tighter around my head.

Bugs, 1. Me, 0.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Greatest game ever

Murdoch stands tense and ready on the shorn grass of the meadow at the end of our road, a strip of green, vibrant and fresh after all the rain and then days of warmth and sun. It is hemmed in by a field of marsh grasses, all flattened and bleached after the snow, and a stand of spruce trees, towering to our right and marching away in straight dark lines. Both havens for ticks, and so we stay on the short grass, where ants are visible on a hill nearby and the blackfly, not yet biting, bounce up out of the ground around our faces.

There is a concentrated stillness in Murdoch’s body even as it trembles minutely, like a spring under pressure. Behind him, the stretch of open green grass rolls invitingly towards the mountain where poplar trees stand guard, white stripes topped with spring green of new growth.

Murdoch’s eyes are glued to the Frisbee in my hand as I wind up, turning my shoulder to him. “Ready?” I say, drawing out the y. His eyes widen, his stance drops, he holds his breath for just a moment, and then I hurl the Frisbee away over the field, snap my wrist to let it fly fast and far. Murdoch is already gone, turning a fraction of a second before I release the disc, tearing at the ground with his claws, sending clods of dirt flying behind him as he speeds away.

The Frisbee, angled slightly, curves off to the left and Murdoch scans the sky above his head while he runs faster, then turns abruptly, suddenly as though he has hit a barrier and follows the Frisbee, pouncing on it as it lands with a rustle amongst the long grasses. “Damn it,” I say out loud to the clouds passing overhead. I imagine a herd of ticks stampeding up the thick white blades, leaping from their broken tips to cling to Murdoch’s fur as he charges by.
Murdoch scoops up the Frisbee in his mouth and pounds back to where I stand near the road. He
hands it to me then backs up, tense and ready as I step in closer to scrutinize his fur, see if I can spot any ticks crawling on him. I can’t.

So we play Frisbee, this new game he just learned even though he is five years old, and he runs and runs, snatching it out of the air, chasing it across the ground, leaping through the long grasses again and again until he sprawls at my feet in the green meadow to catch his breath. And his tongue is a million miles long.