We head out onto the road late in the afternoon, my dog and I. Recently he drags me along as he looks for the perfect place to pee and then the perfect place, right across the road from the lone house on the cross road, where a big female rottweiler lives, to poo. He likes to mark his territory right there. There is so little on the road at this time of day, and year, but my eye and my dog’s nose are trained for the tell tale signs of earlier traffic. Trails into the woods mark the frequent use of coyotes and fishers, turkeys and deer. There is rarely a feeling of solitude, just tranquility. As we round the corner and the trees give way to a broad meadow, the sinking late day sun greets us, the horizon so low that I swear I can see the warm sunny west coast sky somewhere over the Pacific. I think of a friend who lives out there, in LA, surrounded by the busyness, the activity, looking at the burning orange of the California sun. I button my jacket against the chill and fantasize climbing on a big warm plane and arriving out on the coast in time for dinner on a terrace while the warm breezes blow in from the sea.
But I wouldn’t trade this out-of-the-way-ness. Most of my mind is wrapped around what I see on our walk: the stain where the mouse was squashed, where I peeled it off the road and tossed into the ditch, where others could take care of it. The place where a feral cat met its end. The curve in the road that looks like Brigadoon, but is a hazard in the summer when the grass is tall and drivers go fast. The huge tree where someone has carefully arranged three piles of nuts. The poop from an animal that is not domestic by any means, judging from the amount and variety of roughage. The old fence that looks like a magic portal to another dimension. The place where the pheasants startled me one day, a deer the next and turkeys the next.
It would be a waste –– and perhaps I’ve learned the hard way –– not to stay present on this walk. Eternity doesn’t seem long enough to enjoy it, so it is worth experiencing every footstep. We turn back now, I say “crossing” and poodle dutifully obeys. We cross the road and the wind that was at our back, now weaves into my jacket, my face, my fingers. It is getting darker, the walk home seems longer than our outward journey, now, with my shoulders raised and my back tight.