A Tale of Two Doggies

Melly is a tiny white bundle of energy, maybe two years old. Ember is a black Cocker Spaniel who’s a lot slower, no doubt due to her nine years on the planet. They’re quite a pair. It looks like Melly rules the roost, what with her yappy barking, but Ember has a quiet dignity that isn’t shaken by the young pup.

Years ago, Ember and I had an extended conversation under a Montana tree while the rest of the family were hiking up to Hidden Lake. Doggie and I wanted it slow and easy. We had lots of time to talk about life.

Although I met Melody when I was in Alberta two years ago, she treated me like a stranger when I showed up for Jaxon’s high school grad a month ago. Just to be clear, strangers are to be yelled at and bitten. It took four days for Melly to calm down and start treating me like a decent human being.

This morning, I had spread out my yoga mat in the living room and was spreading out my body in various contortions. As I leaned forward in an attempt to kiss my knee, a tongue brushed the back of my ear. I was pretty sure it wasn’t Lance. Instead it was my newfound friend Melly, seeking contact. Twenty minutes later, a larger being, this time black, took up residence at the back end of the mat. Ember rubbed up against me. Doggie affection times two.

My canine companions sometimes loll around on the living room floor. Occasionally they come over for a pet. Mostly though, they wander over to Lance or Nona for loves. Such an ultimate letting go for me. Come close when you want to. Stay away when that feels right. I’ll be fine either way.

Goodnight, my dear four-legged ones.

Day Four: In the Woods

“Who will show up in my life today?”

It was a good morning question. The answer came in the form of Pil, a well-bearded family friend who waltzed into Jo and Lydia’s kitchen shortly after noon. As we sat in the dining room over lunch, I learned that he was a retired surgeon who was in hospital last week as a patient, with an arterial thrombosis. We had a good conversation about blood clots and then he and Lydia started talking about something.

My plan was to head off to the shower but before I could make a move in that direction, here was Pil again, inviting me to spend the afternoon with him in the woods. I went small inside my head, wondering if my injured knee could handle a lot of rough ground. Seconds later, though, I smiled a “yes” at him.

“Do you have rubber boots?”

Oops. What was I getting myself into? Soon Pil was helping me get into a pair that Jo had. I didn’t know that the idea was to roll your socks down under the soles of your feet, wrap the cuffs of your pants around your ankles and pull the socks over them. Then shove your feet into the boots. The things you learn from a Belgian outdoorsman.

Next, Pil helped me get into coverings for my legs. He was so patient. I was just wondering how wet we were going to get! No matter … it was time for an adventure.

We stopped at Pil’s house in Roonse to pick up an important addition – his dog Chip, a black lab. He came right up to me in the hall and let me pet him. So cool. Soon the three of us were off to a world of narrow, twisting streets and long views across farm fields to tall stands of trees. Pil pointed out the hospital where he used to work and got me close to a stunning 1000-year-old church which just last week was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

After a couple of gate openings, we were rolling through groves of trees, some ancient and some planted within the last four years. Then it was a transfer to a 4×4 for some rough trail riding. Yee haw! Pil’s first job was to refill about fifteen seed containers with corn for the pheasants. And we saw lots of them – scurrying along the paths with their red-ringed necks, and taking flight if Chip got too close, which he was good at.

Mr. Chip is a hunting dog and Pil came fully equipped with a squeaky orange ball. Many, many times I threw it in the air and watched as Chip leapt up to catch it in his mouth, usually on the first bounce. Once I tossed the ball into the bush and saw Chip dive in after it. He kept emerging without the ball, and when I investigated, I saw that the target was a thick bramble of raspberry bushes, armed effectively with thorns. Not to be deterred, Pil whipped out a machete and started whacking away. Maybe three minutes later, an orange globe revealed itself on the ground.

Pil loves his land and the beings who inhabit it. The pigeons overhead, the roe deer, the young deciduous trees, the pheasants, the ducks – but probably not the rats. He is a steward of at least 100 acres and he wants life to thrive there. For part of our time, he wrapped saplings with plastic shields that prevents animals from damaging the young ones.

At one point, we stopped beside a small pond. I launched the orange missile again and again, and each time Chip burst into the water and swam like an Olympian towards the floating ball. Back onshore, he shook for all he was worth and ran to me for some roughhousing. Hence the protective wear over my pants.

Almost two months ago, I was bitten by a tiny dog in Cincinnati, Ohio. And here I was today, virtually pummeling Chip and being well pummeled back, and reaching in to get the ball out of his mouth. I smiled at my rediscovered courage.

Pil, Chip and me: what a happy threesome. The generous man asked the adventurous man to join him and his bouncing dog for an afternoon of fun and frolic. And it happened. Yay! Thank you, dear universe.

Day Thirty-Three … Out And About, In And Within

Scarlet was calling to me yesterday morning: “Fix me.  Fix me please.”  And who am I to resist the urgings of a red Toyota Corolla?  A few weeks ago, I hit a curb in Vancouver.  As well as an oil change, my car needed a wheel alignment.  So off I went to High River Toyota, with the sparkling Rockies behind.  Fresh snow on the mountains.

After dropping off my four-wheeled wonder at the dealership, I followed the rep’s directions towards Smitty’s, with breakfast on my mind.  I kept walking along the highway … McDonald’s, Tim Hortons, A&W, but no Smitty’s.  I stood at an intersection, spinning around inside and out.  A woman stopped, rolled down her window and said “Can I help you?”  And so the location of the breakie locale was revealed.  It was behind a hotel that I had walked by.  On my return trip, I did visual research.  I’m usually good at spotting landmarks but I missed the Smitty’s sign.  I discovered that it was only visible for a distance of 40 metres along the sidewalk.  How strange.  I felt there was a life lesson here but I just couldn’t put my finger on it.  I know … go to Tim’s for breakfast!

As I munched on my lettuce and tofu, the Calgary Sun magically appeared before me, somehow open to the sports section.  Seven pages of football … and I don’t even like all those huge men hitting each other.  But I got to read about Brooke Henderson, the 17-year-old Canadian golfer who won her first LPGA tournament last week.  I wouldn’t say I’m obsessed with her.  Or would I?  She’s pretty, hits the ball 280 yards, and is a nice person.  She smiles.  I’m all for those upward bendings of the mouth.

After bugging my waitress sufficiently, I lined up at the cash.  Ahead of me was another fellow who likes playing with servers.  And the woman receiving his money clearly was enjoying the moment as well.  We got talking.  He’s 94 and still driving.  Oh, I want to be like him when I grow up!  He offered me a ride back to Toyota but I wanted to walk.  I suggested to him, however, that if he sees me on the highway, he should come close and nudge me with his right front fender.  He decided not to.

As I pointed Scarlet westward, the full glory of fresh snow on the Rockies lay before me.  Words just don’t do it.  A few days ago, Lance took us to a high point on a foothills road, one that gave us an enormous vista of this good earth.  I sallied forth to find the spot.  With Scarlet leading the way, happy with her straight wheel, we arrived.  Photos were good but standing there in silence was better.  Just because happiness comes from within is no reason not to revel in nature’s glory.  And glorious it was.

Back home again, I got to spend some time with Ember on my lap.  She stilled and sunk into my legs.  Oh my.  If only we human beings would touch like this.  Sometimes we do.  I stroked Ember’s head and back.  I scratched her ears.  I enjoyed her company.  There was nothing to add.  Being with a touch of doing.

Today, we family of seven are launching ourselves towards Waterton Lakes National Park for four days of exploring.  Waterton is where I became a person.  I worked at the Prince of Wales Hotel there in 1969, 1970, 1974, 1975 and 1976.  I became friends with fellow employees who came from nearly all the provinces.  Waterton is home.  The PW is tied for my favourite building in the world, alongside my home in Union, Ontario.  And we get to go there.  We get to climb Bear’s Hump, a shoulder of Mount Crandall.  Fifty-six years ago, I climbed that trail on my hands and knees.  I’m going to try feet this time.

I don’t think I’ll have any Internet in Waterton, so there won’t be a peep from me till Thursday.  I’m going to write a post each day in Microsoft Word and send them all on Thursday evening.  I’ll miss you.

It’s time to get high on mountains.