Out on errands, I missed walking in the snow squall this morning. Inside the gym I watched the wind push the snow sideways, and I wished I were out in it, walking with Wolfie.
I’ve spent more time in woods and fields, in rain and snow, under blue skies and under scudding clouds this past eight months than I have in combined years of walks. Almost every day sees me out of doors on four or five treks of anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour and a half. Wolfie demands it. His Border Collie genes will not let him rest for very long.
Sometimes I have to fight my impatience and grumbling — Wolfie scratching at the door, silent, utterly resolute. Me saying, “What? You want to go out again?” Sometimes I want to finish a paragraph I’m writing or a chapter I’m reading or a cup of coffee that is just the right temperature, but I get up, slug on my coat and go. You have to take care of someone or something besides yourself I think. Otherwise, you dry up.
Two nights ago I helped MC a Fashion Show at my old High School; a good friend and I had fun together. During the two practices we watched the kids, junior and senior boys and girls, dance, sashay, clown, elegantly balance and awkwardly stalk across the stage and down the catwalk. They laughed often. They were joyfully unselfconscious and wholly alive in their innocence and movements. I had forgotten how being immersed in their presence made me feel buoyant, happy to just be around them.
That constant exposure to such volumes of high spiritedness is over now. Part of what has happened this year is an adaptation to quieter modes of joy.
Yesterday afternoon the wind was ripping out of the west, the upper levels of the tallest trees bending and shaking. Wolfie and I had circled a large meadow, then climbed a hill road past two farms and marched along its crest and spiraled down to a stream and then along its edges, climbing over rock ledges and once sitting on a dead-fall in the sun. We were out again, that’s all.
Walking back to the car along the verge of the road next to a pasture and grazing ponies, I saw something brown weaving in and out of the brush along the base of a fence. I thought it was a small cat. It had no place to go except the cover under the fence. It kept fifteen feet ahead of us. Then it stopped, maybe out of curiosity, and its fur was a mixture of auburn and brown and black and its length signalled not-a-cat, but a weasel — only the third time I’ve seen one. It looked up at us for a second, maybe two, Wolfie not straining, just intensely watching, and it broke for the woods and shelter a few feet away. It was within my gaze for not more then twenty seconds and yet those seconds gave this walk and the day a kind of climax. This wasn’t a transcendent moment, or any kind of a transfiguration, but a concentrated urgent phase spent outside my self, in the presence of living creatures to which I was responding. These walks help me separate from the muck and detritus of what slides around in my head and instead open up to other lives and their brisk, cheery energies. It is a short enough life and there is much to see.