I don’t wake up for the alarm, which is a light that gets progressively brighter instead of a sound, but rather my sleep is interrupted when Sam jumps up and over me. With a single sloppy kiss, I am all the rest of the way awake.
The moon is so bright it’s like someone left a light on. Long black shadows flood through the back windows the whole length of the house, making it look like I’m walking through a forest, but it’s really my kitchen. I go outside and try to take a picture of the moon, but I can’t capture it, not even close. Either the flash goes off and flattens everything, or it doesn’t and it’s all a blur.
As I’m getting dressed, ready to go on our walk, Sam is on the bed watching me, touching his nose to each item of clothing I put on, lying on the rest, both hurrying me and slowing me down.
As Sam waits for me to finish getting ready, he hears the rattle of tinfoil from the kitchen. He cocks his head to one side then the other, raises his ears, trying to decide if there might be food involved, if he should leave me in favor of a possible treat.
As we cross the river for the first time, a group of Forest Service workers train on the cold, dark, hard ground that’s part baseball field, part empty space. The sky over their heads is starting to change colors, shift to soft pink, bluish lavender, and deep fired orange. I almost trip over the dogs staring up at it. The sky will shift its pattern so many more times before it’s done that every time I look up, it’s a whole new sky. I don’t have my camera, so I know that later when I tell you about it, you’ll just have to trust me, and that there won’t be words to explain how truly glorious, how brilliant, amazing it is. And the dogs don’t care, or don’t understand, so they won’t back me up on this.
On our walk, Dexter decides we should go around the ponds backwards. All the way around, he tracks Friendly Fire (a small man with two huge Huskies, when they run at us he yells “it’s okay, they are friendly” and the resulting situation is never friendly, so we have nicknamed him “Friendly Fire”), whose car I’d noticed earlier in the parking lot so I’d been watching for them too. Dexter keeps his nose to the ground, and marks all the spots that need marking, every once in a while stopping to look up, around, ahead because he’s sure we are getting close.
“Can we go to the little dog park, Mom?” is the translation of the pause and look Dexter gives me when we get to the other side of the east pond, a place where a shorter trail breaks off and banks up a small hill into the trees. I say what I say most days (and especially this morning, because he had a bloody snot when we played last night and that makes me cautious), “not today, let’s go this way.” And as always, even though he knows what I’m saying (at 9.5, he understands many, many words and phrases for a language he will never be able to speak), I have to repeat it three more times, “not today,” until we are all the way past where we could turn and he gives up.
On a spot of trail where we can’t really turn around or get out of the way, a man with two dogs who we haven’t yet nicknamed gets too close to us. I am straining to keep the dogs as far from him as I can, walking as close to the edge of the trail as possible, holding the dogs both on one side, the one farthest away from him, but he doesn’t get it, doesn’t move or give us enough space, and Sam lunges and barks, Dexter strains at his harness as a deep quiet growl starts low in his belly and the hair on the back of his shoulders stands up.
The baby cow at The Farm is almost as big as his mama now. He sees us, bucks and runs. Sam is on his hind legs barking, but it’s because of a squirrel. He hasn’t even noticed the cow, and Dexter ignores him, more curious about Shambhala Jim (my friend Jim who I first met at the Shambhala Meditation Center, who walks the park and the ponds some mornings too), who we’ve been following ever since we came out of the trees. Dexter knows who he is, recognizes his hat and his walk from far away, sometimes before I even see him, and this morning he wants to catch up with him, keep track of where he’s going.
We cross Shields and return to Hanna Farm, our neighborhood. As soon as we do, I feel myself relax, not having realized I wasn’t already. And yet, I hold some tension, some anxiety until we got closer to home, until I know we are going to safely make it back. Every walk, especially those that start in the dark, are a trip into the wilderness, into the unknown.