On This Day

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.

  • Montucky

    Thanks for taking me along, Bill! I could almost smell the woods after the rain!

  • Emma Springfield

    The ferns look so lush and inviting.

  • http://www.wildramblings.com Wild_Bill

    Thanks for coming along!  Don’t you just love the pungent smell of the forest after heavy rains?

  • http://www.wildramblings.com Wild_Bill

    Thanks Emma.  The forest is always inviting after a couple weeks of dreary rain, but these areas dominated by ferns call to those of us who love green forests.

  • Anonymous

    Such a perfect day.
    Deserved a good wind down with an ice cold beer or at least mine would on occasions. lol

  • http://www.wildramblings.com Wild_Bill

    Yes, especially after the great amounts of rain it really was a perfect day.  Yes, a nice ice cold beer would have been good, but it was still too early in the day!

  • http://www.landingoncloudywater.blogspot.com Emily

    The ferns are regal here, too. What a great walk! I especially loved the section about the sun. This line–”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”–struck me in my all my poetry sensors. :)

  • http://fourwindshaiga.wordpress.com/ sandy

    Did I ever enjoy this post! You described exactly how I feel when I get out after an spell of confinement. Too bad I don’t have the dogs for company.  Our woods has place of ferns like yours. I call it the theatre, as it is a raised area with a great view into the deepest woods.  This was one of your yours most sensory pieces, Bill.

  • http://www.wildramblings.com Wild_Bill

    Thanks Sandy.  I enjoyed writing this piece.  Did it pretty quickly while the mind was working on overdrive.  I love the idea of theatre in the woods!  A showplace for all of us to view!

  • http://www.wildramblings.com Wild_Bill

    I really like it when you find me poetic.  I really was never very good at writing poetry so when it comes out in my prose it makes me really happy!  Thank you very much.

  • Barbara

    Oh Bill – you bring tears to my eyes – of joy – how I LOVE this piece – it is so you – so full of your enthusiasm for life in all it’s glory and for the sudden break for the freedom of the outdoors after so many long rainy days… I too was pulled along by Cooper and Aida – could feel them straining at their leashes, and could smell that wonderful earthy aroma of wet forest after a rain. This essay is a gift – many thanks.

  • http://alsphotographyblog.blogspot.com/ Al

    Eight inches of rain is more than we’ve seen in the last six months, and about half our typical annual precipitation! It does make everything look so beautiful and green – I really enjoyed the difference in scenery when we were in Seattle and Vancouver a few weeks ago, despite the lack of sunshine.

  • https://writingsfromwildsoul.wordpress.com/ Wendy

    What a marvelous neighborhood you live in, Bill. Adia and Cooper are lucky dogs. I love the image of the three of you sitting on the ridge leaning into each other enjoying the view and the day. Thanks for taking me for a walk with you

  • Find an Outlet

    So that’s your special lookout spot, you’ve mentioned it before. Gorgeous. And that is the most beautiful picture of ferns I’ve ever seen (she said wistfully).
    I’m curious about your bloodhounds and why you chose them…did you rescue them and they just happened to be hounds, or did you specifically seek out hounds? It seems as if they just want to run—your comment about not wanting to spend the rest of the weekend chasing them down if they got loose was funny. Do they help you hunt? When they use bloodhounds to find people, do they keep them on leashes? I love to walk with my dogs but I confess I usually take the dogs who don’t need leashes.
    Bewitching tribute Wild Bill, to fresh breezes, sweet dog muzzles, and the start of a new season.

  • http://www.wildramblings.com Wild_Bill

    Thank you very much.  I’m super happy that you enjoyed this writing.  Interesting that while I was writing it I felt enthusiastic and I am glad that this was conveyed through my words.  More rain expected tonight, but that’s OK because it is surrounded by sunny days. 

    And yes, there is nothing like the smell of pungent forest after heavy rains.

  • http://www.wildramblings.com Wild_Bill

    Yes, Al, we are water rich in most of New England.  Here in the mountains we get about 54 in. of rain, whereas in the Connecticut River valley they get about 40 inches of rain.  This year, thus far, has been far beyond average rainfall.  Theoretically we are getting the rain that other folks want and need. Thank you for reading.

  • http://www.wildramblings.com Wild_Bill

    The specific reason I chose this location 36 years ago because my backyard is about twenty thousand acres of forest without an intersecting road (although there are a couple of abandoned roads that make for wonderful hiking).  Nice neighborhood, indeed.  And that it is so rugged really peaks my interest in that it holds so much natural history. 

    And thank you for coming along with me on this jaunt. 

  • http://www.wildramblings.com Wild_Bill

    Ah, bloodhounds, a topic that I could write books about.

    Since 1971 I have always had a dog that was at least part hound, typically bloodhound or black and tan hound.  Bloodhounds have many traits that blend with my set of skills forest and field.  Their keen scent ability works in perfect tandem to my visual skills and makes me, many times, more aware in natural settings.  I can’t tell you how many times these wonderful friends have found things via their unbelievable noses that would have passed me by.  They have become, in many ways, my right arm in the woods.

    Cooper, the male, can go unleashed.  He comes from different stock that was bred for man-trailing (and yes they do keep the hounds tethered when they are looking fore lost people so that they don’t get too far ahead).  He will occasionally give short chase to a fox or coyote but returns within five minutes.  Adia comes from stock that was bred to tree mountain lions.  She both ground scents and air scents (did you know bloodhounds can smell things ten miles away?) and so takes off when something peaks her interest.  We let her run free in our yard when both Maureen and I are focused on her, and she gets quite a bit of exercise via walking.  Because bloodhounds are so focused on the task-at-hand while trailing they are totally unaware of critical items like roads.  Many hounds have been flattened by cars when following a scent, a thought that I cannot think about, so I don’t let her run intentionally (every once in a while she gets loose and I do spend the weekend looking for her!).

    These dogs suit me perfectly.  They are free thinking, fiercely intelligent, unbelievably gentle, and powerful, physically, almost beyond belief.  They are my pals (and Maureen’s too) and I couldn’t be without them.  I’m sure you know how I feel.

    I have had many rescue dogs in the past, but these two are not.

    I love that you found this piece bewitching.  I really, really like that description “bewitching”.  Thank you very much.

  • http://www.DancesOfDreams.com/

    Beautifully written! All of senses are in tune with your words, and the photos feed my mind..

  • http://www.wildramblings.com Wild_Bill

    Thank you.  Nature is, perhaps, the most sensory experience we can enjoy.  The more aligned we are with the natural world the better we will harmonize with it. 

  • http://everyday-adventurer.blogspot.com/ Ratty

    I miss the days when I had a dog. I was just discovering nature when my dog got old. She had some of the best times of her life right at the end. Every dog should be able to get out and explore around in places like this. It makes me happy just thinking about it.

  • http://www.wildramblings.com Wild_Bill

    Canines can show us so many things in the outdoors that would otherwise go unnoticed.  Plus having a close buddy to share these good times with is also wonderful.  Ever think about finding another dog partner?

  • http://nature-drunk.com Nature-Drunk

    Oh Bill, your story makes me miss and appreciate my dog and little Garden of Eden. I am in Italy now and have not seen him, my chickens, or plants in nearly two weeks. First thing I will do when I get home is take Max out for a little stroll around the garden, visiting with the chickies as we go. I can see their beauty now. Thanks for the post! 

  • http://www.wildramblings.com Wild_Bill

    They’ll all be there when you get back, and this type of adventure doesn’t happen every day, so enjoy yourself.  I used to have a dog named Max, a wonderful dog!

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