I think Faith, the late-blooming Australian pumpkin, is going into autumn with the best possible attitude. She isn’t paying any attention. Her growth outward might have slowed a bit, but she’s busy building actual pumpkins now, not just solar collectors. As of now, she has four pumpkins and a few little girls hoping to be fertilized. I won’t be helping her out anymore. I know what’s ahead and I think she’s going to need all her energy for the pumpkins that are already growing. Nonetheless, hopeful bachelors continue reaching for the sky and opening their golden blossoms to the bees.
Since I’m in one of those “What’s going on?” life moments, I’m scrutinizing everything and every moment for clues. Yesterday in the late afternoon Bear, Teddy and I headed out to the Wildlife Area for a walk. When we arrived, there was a man, a car and a dog. I recognize the dog. He lives two doors down and has for the past three or four years. I’ve wanted to meet him, but never could because, out on walks with Dusty, it was just too difficult.
I sat in Bella for a few minutes pondering what to do. Finally I jumped out and went over to ask the man if I could meet his dog.
“This is Roscoe,” said the man, introducing himself. But, of course, I forgot his name instantly. “You’re my neighbor, right? Two doors down?” Then, as is normal for this place, I learned his life story. Roscoe came from a shelter, already 4 years old. “That was four years ago,” said the man, “so he’s getting up there.” I think an 8 year old dog is in its prime, but that’s OK. “My wife brought him home, and she died a few months later. Then, last year, I had a stroke. I’m starting to do OK now, but I just want to be alone.” I said I understood that. I told him how when I retired from teaching and moved back here, I didn’t talk to anyone for five months. “Those big life changes,” he said, a comment that somehow made perfect sense. We made a few more remarks that were definitely deep clichés about being older, how when we were young we wanted to change the world and didn’t understand that the world would change us, first.
I wanted to get on the trail because the dogs were closed in my car. “Hey, Bear isn’t really dog friendly, so I…”
“Your black dog?”
“No, he died this year. My white dog, the livestock guardian dog. I have her and an Aussie puppy. He’s a year old. Bear was attacked by a dog on one of our walks and it changed her.”
“You know those apartments that look like motels? That little pit bull has attacked Roscoe twice. He bit me, too. And you know what? The people call the cops on ME.”
I shrugged. I never go that way because of that. I didn’t even utter the appropriate and expected remark. I just said, “I know. I’m sorry about Bear. She used to love every dog and every person, but she feels she has to protect me and…”
“Go get your dogs. I’ll leash Roscoe.”
“Great. Thank you. Which way are you going to go?”
“Tell me which way you’re going and I’ll go the other way.” The wildlife area is immense so we could still both have good walks.
I got the dogs and we hit the trail. It was a windy, crystalline early fall day in the wetlands. The light was incredible. It looked like we were going to go all the way to the river, maybe do the loop, when I stepped wrong on uneven ground and felt my foot go, “HFS!!!!” and that was that. It hurt like the furies of hell had pounded hot nails into the outer edge. I had to turn around. I had nearly a mile to walk to the car.
Bear got it that we were going to go very, very slowly. She immediately slowed down and began paying rapt attention to me. It was like the old days when my hip hurt so badly that a mile walk took at least an hour. This was the pace at which she’d learned to walk with me. Teddy, though. Oh the smells that this lingering pace brought to his canine radar — including a skunk who was most probably in the reeds beside the trail. “I don’t think so, Teddy. That’s not an experience you want to have.” I remembered when Lily and Dusty got skunked in my yard in California and all that followed from THAT.
On we went at the pace I could manage, being careful not to bend my foot.
I remembered all I learned about looking at the world while in pain and going slowly. I saw so much more. I quickly returned to the discipline I’d learned during the year or more of my bad hip, and took in the analgesic beauty of the light on the blue water of the slough and the gold of the changing cattails.
My foot hurts today, but it’s not broken, not very swollen, and it’s wrapped and I am icing it. I still don’t know what’s going on but looking at life, it seems like a lot of the time I haven’t known what’s going on. So what else is new, right?