Thursday, March 16, 2017

A very Bear memory

It was almost 13 years ago now when Morgan, Bear and I left our respective homes in southern Ontario and hit the road; wanderers with no real destination in mind. We piled our camping things into my car, strapped two canoes to the roof, stuffed Bear in the back seat and took off.

It was a summer full of adventure that tumbled into fall, right to the edge of winter. Back roads traveled, rivers paddled, lakes explored. Beaches became home for days, sometimes weeks, at a time. There were campfires and dark night skies with endless stars, there were raging storms and misread maps, there were fascinating people and interesting places.

So many moments define that summer, each a vivid memory that could have happened yesterday, but there is one that I remember as the moment when I felt like we had made it. It’s kind of plain, nothing flashy about it; there were no beaches or sunsets or northern lights. It was an early overcast summer morning and we sat in a park in the middle of a town I forget the name of and cooked breakfast on our camping stove while the world came to life around us.

To say “we had made it” is probably not the right sentiment. We were essentially homeless, living out of my car, finding quiet places along the road to pitch our tent each night, starting our days with giant bowls of oatmeal to last through until late afternoon when we would awkwardly make peanut butter and jam sandwiches for lunch with a Swiss Army Knife. But in that moment, in the park with our oatmeal and tea I remember being filled with a sense of peace and clarity.

We sat on a stone wall in the early morning mist and late-summer damp and watched cars rush past on the road that arced around the edge of the park, a good-sized green space in the middle of town with a creek running through it. There was a nervous energy to the hustle and bustle of the morning unfolding as people sped into their day, to work, a million things to do, slurping coffee on the run. And here was Morgan and Bear and I together in this bubble that encompassed the park, as though we had stepped out of time, sipping tea and enjoying our breakfast. We were invisible sitting there in the middle of this organized chaos, observers, completely unaffected by all of it. It was the greatest moment.

The moment was short lived. It was quickly shattered when Bear reappeared after a wander down to the creek. She skipped back to our sides with a new light in her eye, an extra spring in her step. “Hi Beary!” we said before the smell hit us and we swung quickly into, “Oh gawd!”, “What the!?” and leapt away from her as she pranced closer.

After Bear had inhaled her breakfast, snarfing it down as though she had not seen food in days, she followed her nose off across the grass to investigate some trees and rocks and more grass in the oblong-shaped park that stretched away from the road. We let her go on her own because she was a good dog. She was three and a half and she listened well. We weren’t worried about her taking off. What we hadn’t counted on was that she would decide in the spur of the moment to roll in a pile of some other dog’s crap.

She hadn’t just rolled in it though, she had basked in it, gloried in it. It was so ground into her fur it looked like someone had not only spackled the side of her neck with brown paste, but had massaged it into her fur. Her bright blue collar with the silver reflective strip was ruined. The once-gleaming fabric was so defiled we decided to throw it out right there, removing it carefully from her neck and, between pinched fingers and a lot of “eww, eww, eww”s, dropped it in the garbage can.

“Why, Bear?” we asked as she beamed back at us. “What were you thinking?” we wanted to know as we marched her back to the creek with a bar of soap and washcloth rummaged from the car.

She was so happy, so proud of herself  “Look what I found!” It was almost heartbreaking to see how crestfallen she became when she realized what was happening, an impromptu bath in the cold water.

“But I did that for you guys,” she seemed to say, a look of mortification sliding on to her face.

The washcloth ended up in the garbage too and as Bear shook off the water, along with her indignation, we packed our breakfast things in silence and loaded everything into the car.

“Did you really think we were going to let you back in the car like that?” we asked Bear as we held the door and invited her in. She leapt into the back seat as though the last fifteen minutes had never happened, disappointment gone, hard feelings discarded, because this next moment was going to be even better as we set our sights on the horizon.

How could it not be?

“Where to next?”

November 29, 2000 - March 16, 2013
 We miss you Bear xo

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