On this day, the sun hovers low in the northeastern morning sky: the first time it has appeared in five days. In the last two weeks we have endured over eight inches of rain. This is a measurement that my rain gauge has not registered in quite some time. Although most feel blessed to be in a water rich area, these times when unusual precipitation drowns our gardens, turns our lawns into rice paddies, and turns our driveways into mud ways the excess water can be slightly discouraging. Still, when we witness the media focus on the hot southwest where fire is consuming both wild and culture we understand we have little to complain about. We also realize that our brief disdain with water pales in comparison to those in Minot, North Dakota who presently endure unprecedented flooding along the Souris River.
Yes, on this day, the sun evaporates the excess water left on the surface of our region. A thick haze forms despite the cool weather as the moisture rises into the air. We rejoice this day simply because life is grand, we are lucky, and that this single day is bound to be good. We know not what tomorrow may bring. It doesn’t matter. Carpe Diem, seize the day, when there are good moments there is too little time to not hold them precious.
My hounds, restless from all the rainy weather and too little exercise, are happy when I retrieve their leashes off of the hooks in the mud room. They hop up and down, as only bloodhounds can do. As if in slow motion their long smooth ears flap in the air. The deep wrinkles on their faces follow the motions of their ears. The facial furrows lag slightly behind, moving upward with each leap and falling with gravity as the hound’s body comes back to earth making them look sad despite their extreme joy. Adia, the female hound, drools excessively and with a sideways whip of the head sends a long stream of saliva careening into the kitchen where it gracefully lands on an overhead light. Cooper, our powerful male, begins crooning in a deep bay as I attach the leash and open the door to our back yard. On this day the hounds are happy, in fact, ecstatic at the prospect of even a short adventure in the woods. And so am I.
On this day I am looking forward to a walk in the woods. And despite the sciatic pain in my left leg and hip, I am more than willing to cover the distance to a look-out spot to the south where the views are long, the memories wonderful, and the scenery is exhilarating. As I climb the long path in the woods, trailing behind 250 pounds of tethered hounds, I revel in every step forward. Each moment is somehow made more precious by the presence of the our nearest star. I am reminded that the sun is much like love. When it is not to be found we pine for its existence. When it hides we want it more than ever. And when it finds us, for we hardly ever find it, the sky opens up to the great blue wild yonder like it was the first time you ever opened your eyes.
The dogs walk along in a lively fashion. Their step is high and spirited. Their noses hug the ground and their necks sweep back and forth along the trail as they savor every scent left behind over the past week. I know they are happy because their tails are curled up, almost into a perfect “C” where the tip of their tail nearly touches the spine. An occasional strong pull to the left or right indicates a recent track of some wild critter. The dogs know the identity of the animal whether it be if a deer, possum, fox, fisher, bear, moose, or bobcat. They just don’t bother telling me. My job is to keep them on the straight and narrow. This walk has a purpose. There is a view waiting for me on top of this hill. It will fill my palette with colors as these tracks fills the hound’s palette with fresh scents.
The dogs move my forward progress along quickly as the taught leashes attached to powerful beasts pull me up this mountain. As I briskly ascend the trail I think of yesterday when I attended the graduation of my graduate students. I celebrated their success but was sad to see them go. Some I will likely never see again. They were a most wonderful group of students; curious, intelligent, generous, and most of all compassionate. The are leaving with me feeling like each and everyone of them is destined to make a significant mark in this world. I am full of hope, and yet sad to let them go.
We briefly encounter a white tail doe. She scampers off along a moss covered stone wall to the north. The dogs want to give chase but I hold them and ask them to calm down. They bark and whine but within a few moments refocus their attention to the trail ahead. The deer likely watches us move on from the high ground to the north and west.
We pass through an area of open forest where the rainy month has made the hayscented ferns lush. They are so green and thick they look like they were growing in a rain forest. Nearby I notice that the partridge berry is flowering. This woody stem ground cover produces a red berry that is nutritious and savored by partridge, white footed mice, voles, and turkeys.
As we near a ridge, and the trail levels out, the sun is covered with large gray clouds but it is still brighter than any of the five previous days. In not too far a distance a trail joins and old logging road that is wide and well worn. The dogs have picked up a strong scent and are baying as we travel along. As the scent trail veers to the west the dogs want to be released so they can chase the animal against the wind. There is no chance for this as I do not want to spend the rest of the weekend looking for them so I redirect them with some voice commands and gentle persuasion to stay on the established trail. With regret they refocus their energy on new scents and head south with me in tow. They are exuberant and I am not far behind.
The heavy rains of the last two weeks have left running water, contained in channels, on the steep slopes of the trail. In level area the runoff bleeds into knee deep puddles where erosion and machinery may have left ruts behind. The dogs wade in up to their chests and lay down. They then begin to wrestle tangling leashes and nearly pulling me face down into the water. I pull them through the mud puddle onto drier parts of the path and then march south towards our look-out.
Along this old logging road I notice the melodies of at least a half dozen different song birds. Unintentionally they create a symphony. They celebrate the end of rain. They celebrate their territories. And they celebrate the simple and unparalleled gift of life. Adia stops as if she is listening. She cocks her head and then looks at me. I’m sure she is aware of their song.
We arrive at the rocky ledges where there is a look-out spot that has wide open views to the east. As far as one can see there is nothing but forested hills, wooded valleys, and a mostly clouded sky dashed with random blue openings where the massive clouds have separated creating a blue, gray, and white tapestry that seems to have been sewn by the Gods. The dogs stick their wet black noses into the gentle breeze and take in the scents. I sit on the craggy rocks, my legs overhanging a long drop below. Cooper puts his massive muzzle on my left shoulder and Adia leans her heavy chest against my right side. That we can all enjoy this together makes me happy. We let some time pass just taking it all in.
On this day everything seems good. The rain and dreary days are behind us. The sun is trying to break back through the fair weather clouds. A fresh wind blows new life into this “older” body. And I can’t wipe this smile off my face as I take in the eastern horizon.
And on the way home there is more pep in my step. The hounds are delighted to smell their own trail as we head back to the homestead. There is no doubt about it, on this day life is grand.
Written for www.wildramblings.com in June 2010.