Monday, March 28, 2011

Lessons from a (Mostly) Black Lab

I have always preferred the company of cats to the rambunctious, slobbery affection of dogs, but there is something about a dog that lifts your spirits in a way that no cat can.

Of course cats know when you are upset and offer their support as lap warmer, gentle conversationalist, or sometimes just sitting close by and keeping a watchful eye on you. All that is much appreciated, but for sheer escapism there is something about a dog and a ball that is unrivaled.

I am back in Indiana. I left hastily on a day when the sweet soft air made it that much harder to leave home. I came back quickly because my small beleaguered family had suffered a loss. I am back here trying to fit in and do whatever I can to help the ragged edges of that emptiness where a person used to be heal as easily as possible.

Rescue, a (mostly) black Labrador, was grieving along with the rest of us. I thought I'd help cheer him up by playing with him and one of his brand new tennis balls. As often happens, I got at least as much from Rescue as he got from me. Rescue in his unfathomable doggie wisdom had managed to do more than my old friend J Alfred Prufrock could do. J Alfred bathed in his existential anguish while Rescue just got on with it and did in fact "squeeze the universe into a ball."

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Climbing Snowdrop Hill

I have been at a loss for words many times in my life. I have also had panic attacks at a keyboard or typewriter that froze my fingers or curdled my prose, but the past month I have had the place that words come from stuck tighter than an accordion with its leather strap firmly in place and stowed in its carrying case.

I am not altogether certain what caused that clamping down, but fortunately it has eased a bit.

Lately more often than walking down to the moss, I head up the hill. Without my noticing it, the colour has started coming back into the world. And while I was trudging up the hill trying to outrun my own wordlessness, the snowdrops were getting on with their own work as well.

Yesterday I walked out in a perfect spring day-- soft golden light, occasional whisper-breezes, and a discernible rhythm of resurgence. The cattle at the edge of the road did no more than lift their eyes as I passed by. The gorse were giggling with their little yellow tips just waiting to burst out into uproarious hilarity.

At the top of the hill I was gifted with one of the quirks of a quiet day--from the distant lochan I head the hard working downbeat of a swan's wing. Having been alerted by a sound like a sheet flapping on the clothesline, I paused to watch a pair of swans descending to the loch. The quirk of wind that sent the sound had shifted, so I watched in silence as the swans circled gracefully and then came flapping onto the surface--wide feet outstretched to brake their descent with all the grace of school boys careening down a well polished corridor. In a moment, they were down and folding their wings into the model of aquatic grace for which they are noted and admired, but I had caught them in that unguarded awkwardness suspended between two worlds.