I have a little routine on Saturday mornings, some of it evolved organically, thankfully out of the desire to do what I damn well please and not because I have to surrender to a schedule. The other days are for those duties one must perform to earn money to pay for well, everything. Saturday morning I usually wake as early as the other days, but end up in the kitchen over a bowl of some kind of flour––oat, spelt––and some kind of liquid––apple sauce or mushed bananas––spooning goop into muffin tins or a loaf pan. I would probably never buy muffins or corn bread for breakfast but if I’ve made them then I feel I have somehow earned them.
This isn’t about muffins. I mention them because I think my best buddy might take his cue from my Saturday morning baking. On other mornings our walks happen between rising and before coffee and treats. Saturday the walk happens after coffee and whatever thing I have managed to bake, never with a recipe.
So on Saturday mornings we head down the driveway with our water and usually a camera. This is where things get interesting. Hugo knows that we turn right on Saturdays. Does he equate the baking with the right turn? My mind is small in trying to figure out a pattern. Let it be. He just knows.
Anyway, we head towards the escarpment, down through the woods, and through a grove of baby maple trees, okay, saplings. Depending on the season there is lots of chatter between the two of us from “slow down or I’m going to fall on my ass and freeze to death,” to “hurry up I’m getting eaten alive.” I stop for pictures, he stops for particular smells that fill out a world as deep as the universe that is happening right there, inside his head. I’m sure it is filled with colours and vivid images of who and what has been in the woods since our last walk. It is a vast story, dependent on scent and sound, to which I am not privy. I’m still at the “oh look deer hoof marks” stage, while he’s doing advanced quantum physics as to whether the wild turkeys are too far away now to pursue and whether it is worth nosing out a rabbit’s nest in the overgrowth, which I heartily discourage. “No da bunny” means only one thing.
We are always alone as far as humans go. There might be signs of life in a recently plowed field, or a pile of wood from a downed tree. We make our way along a tree’d lane between two fields, occasionally seeing squirrel traffic in the distance, being surprised by a bursting of partridge or turkey activity; they always wait until we are too close and then scare the bejaysus out of us. Not sure who is more surprised but my heart comes out of the encounter at a higher tempo than it went in.
And we soldier on. There has been no significant movement of bowels usually at this point regardless of sniffing, because our Saturday walk opens onto the destination for such things: a lovely country lane, rich with old tall trees, stone fences, a little shack with local produce for sale on the honour system, and occasionally somebody on a bike or walking a dog. It is here, on this road that it is important to leave evidence of our Saturday visit, same telephone pole for pee, same wild lilies to poop in. There are different dogs and smells down here below the escarpment.
From this lane we turn onto a busier––well, busy is relative––road and wave or nod at each passing car or truck. The folks from here respond, the ones from away stare, sun-glassy eyed, at the bumpkin and his poodle, wondering why the guy just waved, and why that country poodle is so poised.
We pass some horses, call to them, I say “look at the horses.” We usually have our drink just before the little church. He’ll drink his water and I’ll try to steady the camera to take a picture of the rolling fields beyond. Soon we head back up the escarpment but further along, and this path will take us past some humming bee hives in the woods, and through our local farmer’s organic fields, rye grass, and who knows what else under a big sky. There is what I call a wildlife highway just before we get to these open fields, where deer, coyote, turkeys and likely some fishers and other furry things travel. This is an important part of our walk. The draw to the woods is strong, but the woods are thick here, beside the fields and we’d likely emerge somewhat shredded. I have to negotiate us to forge on.
We have a history in these fields. In the winter we’ve been caught by deep snow and I’ve had to carry him almost all the way home. The both of us. Me walking through the deep snow, sweating, holding a fairly large poodle in my arms. I can laugh about it now. Other times we’ve been surprised by a quick thunderstorm, or found ourselves with mud thick on our boots or toes.
Many times he’s off-leash for this and other stretches of the walk. He would never run away, but he will run to, and on one particular day, birds had nested in tall grass and were luring him away from their nest, all I kept seeing was a black fluffy head emerging and disappearing into the grass, again and again, traveling at the same speed as the birds who were swooping low.
There is a heron too, who passes by once in the morning going west and once in the evening, going east. He’s known as “your friend,” as in “there’s your friend,” which always gets a friendly bark and a long moment of mesmerized stare shared by the two of us. I tell Hugo that if he were a bird he would be a heron, he is handsome, poised, majestic, proud. Surely he would be a heron.
And finally there is the lane taking us home. I call it our cathedral, the trees rise up and meet above our heads, and we trace paths we made over the years, even if new ways have opened up, we still follow our path, it is our path.
Saturday mornings have been a privilege. In the past they have been filled with obligation, schedules, shifts, and may very well be again, but for now I will relish them, and write about them so I don’t forget the magic, the wonder, and how full they have been, of shared discovery, give and take, understanding, love, friendship and our own special language.