It’s precisely at 7.30 in the morning that we make our way out. Every morning that is. Routines can come close to boring at times but not this one. Poppy and I take to the trails, each curious to see what’s changed since the day before. Yes, nighttime is a time of secrets and small miracles happening in the tall grasses that sing ever so softly as we walk along, parting them with each step.
I keep my eyes open for flowers – new ones are always a treat. Puppy looks for… well, signs of other dogs. Reminders of time passing from different kinds of clues if you will… Each relevant. I claim no superior knowledge just because I have been assigned to the human category. Every day starts anew in a way that can only be felt as you make your way down the path.
Today I pick but a few Saskatoon berries. They’re getting dry and seedy by now. So many left on bushes, a hint to people being removed from what’s being given to them for free… gifts of sweetness, with a price that is unmatched: gratefulness. An ant climbs on a wrinkled berry and takes the smallest bite you can imagine. It makes no difference to our world but it keeps theirs alive.
There’s scattered berries on the ground, some embedded in tell-tale deer prints. A few steps down the path pup and I stop by a purplish mound of digested berry seeds. Bear? It would not be surprising, but sad in the same way that seeing the occasional deer walking along a sidewalk is.
The trails pup and I find tranquility on are but islands of wilderness in the midst of residential propriety, shaggy grasses and tall bushes attracting wildlife that used to call it home before any of us did. It is all different now but perhaps this is the compromise that can keep things in balance. For now.
The wild flax flowers are rarer these days as it gets hotter. Along wild-growing poppies, their blue is as convincing as the sky itself and just as addictive. My two most favourite. A few middle-aged red-eyed Susan flowers are staring into the morning sun, feeding on its brightness not realizing it will become the heat punishment of later.
There are countless fluffy heads of Tragopogons (meadow’s goats beard as I learned the other day), some seeds so determined to leave their birth place they jump onto pup and I as we brush by. Hidden in tall graceful grasses I see daisies and red clover, a poppy that shines red ever so shyly from behind long thin blades.
There are purple daisy look-alikes that are part of a big family of wildflowers called asters. Shooting stars (also purple, as if that is the choice colour for the wildflowers here) and dandelions, and then, the surprise of a new apparition (yes, purple) delicate looking and of a kind I have yet to learn about.
We stop by the creek where the other day I stumbled upon a raspberry patch loaded with red globes, some drooping heavily in the gurgling water stream. Fragrant and speaking of summer and forgotten worries. A place to steal sweetness from in a most innocent way possible.
We follow the path up into the forest patch. Bugs tasting pollen and sliding on grass stalks, a balancing worth stopping for, there is so much life to see other than where I step next… Mushrooms push out of the dirt in shady areas, making themselves visible to us and the occasional slug sliding its sticky way across the path looking for supper. The very definition of slow food.
We stop at the top to look around. Clouds gather over one side of the sky, hinting at the promised last night’s rain that never came close enough to here. We saw it in the distance, a drape of white steam covering part of the northern landscape, making its way across hills of brown and tired green… a big tease in all…
Poppy runs up and down the slopes, picking up sticks and pine cones and chewing them with the careless hurry of someone who knows there’s more to be found. She returns to check on me every now and then before tumbling down a sandy slope chasing rolling pebbles and asking in a way that I’ve learned to know that more rolling pebbles would be greatly appreciated… I oblige. If dogs could laugh, you could hear her every morning. She does. The boys would attest.
We turn to the paved sidewalks and the leash comes on. A herding dog like her might never take well to moving cars. I keep hoping that maybe one day. Meanwhile, we practice civilized walking, turning around in a circle for a reset every few steps. I am patient and she is too. Love makes it so. I speak softly, except for when I say no. Like a kid wanting to please, the pup correct herself but there’s no telling what she’ll do when the next jumping opportunity comes.
We stop to say hello to the traffic ladies, our friends on the road. They see Poppy grow, admire her foxy looks and laugh when I tell them that someone thought her a wolf the other day… We talk about the unfairness of killing wolves to rectify our wilderness-invading wrongs, about the absurdity of grizzly bear trophy hunts and there’s mentioning of bees and pesticides. How refreshing to not have political correctness stop relevant topics from unfolding.
Pup sits and gets gentle petting and sweet words, and I am grateful for being in the middle of the road chatting with people I should only barely know yet somehow I know better than many other I’ve known for a while as acquaintances. I am grateful for smiles and for the bits we share as the days go by. We’re a friendly team, pup and I.
We get home and it’s quiet. In a few days the boys will be back home and wild ways will remind me again of how lucky I am to be humbled by love, laughter and all the slices of life that come in colours ranging from purple to humbling and everything in between. All the things I try to remember as I walk and listen and see. Life to wonder at, sip after sip, step after step…