The Beast Beyond Our Fires

I used to wonder how anyone could “like” sleeping. I never liked or disliked it, but now I like it. For those few hours there is no virus, no impossibly stupid news, none of this exists. Last night (in an effort to keep me asleep) my imagination sent me two Siberian Huskies who, on their own, moved into my house with Bear and Teddy. They were beautiful gray and white ones like Cody O’Dog. They had the intelligence and independence of every Siberian Husky I’ve known who had a half-way decent puppy-hood and love from a knowledgeable and experienced human.

Obviously, I didn’t want to wake up. Huskies are wonder-dogs in themselves, but they also represent a time in my life when I could run in the mountains. That’s really the ONLY thing for which I would turn back the clock and I wouldn’t even care that it was running in the hills that brought to my current walking limit (for now? forever?) of 2 miles and (because that’s not enough) my ride the bike-to-nowhere reality.

For those of you who have never been trapped at home before, I’m an expert having been stuck here twice in the last year due to injuries. I’m happy with it, but that took a little stragetizing. A routine helps. Exercise is necessary. The bike-to-nowhere is not boring if you get in the habit of riding it — and watch a movie or a bike riding video. My favorites are “Bike the World” which are free on Youtube (uninterrupted, too) and silent so you can listen to whatever you want. The routes are great, many crossing mountain passes such as the Gottard or the Furkha. My favorite at the moment is “Crossing the Picos Europa.”


Extroverted people have a bigger adjustment than I have. I wouldn’t be hanging out with people much under normal circumstances, but shopping would not be the sketchy thing it is now.

Last night I was thinking about a lecture given by Michael J. Preston in my very first class in college. It was Middle English Verse Romances, an upper division class that he’d given me permission to take. I won’t say I “got it.” I didn’t, but in the fullness of time I became a Swiss Medievalist Historian.

Life is weird.

On that day Mike Preston said, “You have to understand what life was like for people in the Middle Ages. Night was DARK. Dark like none of you have ever experienced. I have experienced it. I grew up on a farm in Eastern Washington.” We were to hear about that farm a LOT. He then went on to say something more (I paraphrase because it’s been 50 years), “Outside their houses, away from their fires, were brigands and thieves. But that wasn’t all. There were beasts – wolves and bears — and some that lived in their imaginations. Beasts and demons waiting, waiting, to prey on them. They knew nothing about disease or its causes; it was just another one of the faceless monsters lurking beyond their fires, blood-thirsty, unpredictable, diabolical, invincible”

Artist’s conception of Grendel

Last night, as I read the order finally passed down by our Governor, Jared Polis, telling us to stay home except for the usual, uh, exceptions, I thought of that lecture. I’m not living in Western Washington on a farm, and we have street lights, but it’s dark in the San Luis Valley. We’ve even been named — or parts of us have been named — National Dark Sky Areas. Out there in the Big Empty, where I walk so happily and peacefully with Bear, night is very dark. Then I thought of all of us hunkered down in our homes, and the scary beast beyond our windows.

13 thoughts on “The Beast Beyond Our Fires

  1. It’s weird and getting weirder. I love the bike-riding video idea, Martha! I have also been enjoying sleep a great deal, lately, and had trouble dragging myself out of a dream this morning…

    • Me too. My dogs let me know they’re hungry, though. ❤ My bike-to-nowhere helped me rehab my hip after surgery, rebuild my abilities and strength, helps me relieve stress (including fear like now), I could even ride it last fall when my foot was broken. I never imagined "loving" a stationary bike. At first I bought DVDs but then realized I could stream from my laptop and already had the cable. Duh! 🙂

  2. yep on the scary dark. What interesting dream companions.
    I like your comment on the scheduling. I can tell it may be useful when I have less scheduled time. Its easy to get into doldrums, watching stupid tv, or playing games. One of the challenges of these strange times. Stay well. Have fun with you canine duo!

    • Except for emotions, this is all pretty much life as usual for me. Today they closed the golf course so we have gotten our proximal happy place back. Not the best circumstances, but definitely something we will appreciate. Stay safe, Steph! ❤

  3. I’m back up to 9 hours a night and I’m happy.

    It has been too cold and wet for a lot of outdoor activities. Quite a contrast to our winter which was so dry. Perhaps that will suppress interaction and slow the pestilence.

    I have never been able to get into stationary riding. Or eliptical trainers or treadmills. I just get bored, even when watching a video.

    • It takes necessity, I think. No one chooses a stationary bike or an elliptical, but after my first hip surgery, I began to appreciate my stationary bike and understand why it would be good for me. You’re still able to hike long distances. I’m not and will never be, but I can do this and I do it. I’ve learned to like it very much. I get the same endorphin rush I did on the trails and that has made the shorter hikes I’m capable of beautiful and satisfying. I never imagined this outcome, but I’m grateful for it. If I go fast enough on the bike, I can close my eyes and feel like I’m running. ❤

  4. Huskies are smart pranksters. I think their appearance in your dream means you could use a dose of their silliness as an antidote to current harsh realities.

    My first big purchase after college and employment in a real job was a Tunturi stationary bike. I still have it, still ride it regularly, these 36 years later. (Talk about a well-built product. I’ve put thousands of miles on it by now.) Sometimes I watch video. I rode through a few episodes of dreck like The Bachelor and Love is Blind recently, I’m chagrined to admit. Mostly I read. I especially appreciate my subscription to The Sun, as it provides lots of enjoyment on the stat bike. I’ll give your Bike the World videos a try. As our current world shrinks, it’s nice to have these options at home because I, for one, get really cranky when I haven’t been exercising 😉

    As for dark/night skies, it’s one of the things I love about country living. Stars so close you could touch them. And last night, in the quiet, wee hours, I heard a sound in the nearby forest that made me wonder if a wolf pack had returned. I hope so. Been too long since I’ve enjoyed their lovely howl floating on the night air.

    • I think you’re right. Bear is a very earnest creature who takes her job seriously. Since all this started she knows I’m sad and she’s become a concerned velcro dog as if it’s her job to fix it. Teddy is an Aussie, so not independent, but incredibly sweet. Huskies are their own beings and they are silly. Maybe tomorrow I’ll write about my huskies and put up their photos. ❤

      I ride an Airdyne from the 70's. It's my second one. My first remained in California. When I moved here, I bought a new one and it broke after 3 years. I went on Craigslist and found an old one, complete with racing stripes. I like it because it gives me a good upper body workout as well.

      I wrote an ode to it last fall when I broke my foot. https://marthakennedy.blog/2019/10/05/be-true-to-your-sport-even-if-its-lame/

  5. Talking about dark skies, have a look at Spaceweather.com it’s mostly about aurora and asteroids, but there is a comet up near the plough at the moment, called atlas. It’s green, not visible to the naked eye, but might get brighter. X

  6. As a vet tech I can attest to the husky persona! If they are given a good upbringing they are smart and energetic and lovable. When they aren’t socialized and trained they are devil dogs! We had one that would shriek like a leg was being amputated if you attempted to trim his nails – and they were white!! Of course after you were done he wanted to sit on your lap and lick your face… We are in a routine here but need to do more exercise – with the gym closed and the weather rainy it is hard to get our steps in… Sparky has been doing stair laps which is causing me to have to straighten all the pictures when he’s through!! (yesterday he did 53 stairs)

    • Sparky is an inspiration!

      Huskies hate anything that feels to them like confinement — like grabbing their foot to clip their nails! It’s crazy. Other dogs I’ve had I was able to train to let me do anything with their feet, but not the huskies.

      I had six huskies over the years — one a low-content wolf hybrid. Two of them I adopted and they had been professionally trained. Another I adopted and ended up having HER professionally trained. The wolf-hybrid was unlike any other dog and an amazing companion but not “normal.” I loved her. I loved hiking with her, loved her personality — she was company, not a pet at all. But had some serious “faults”. I adopted her from a shelter and I think she’d either been feral for a while or used as a breeding bitch. I couldn’t even tell her breed when she was lying there at the pound. She was emaciated, big teats, poor coat. She grew into a beautiful wild thing who ended up more than a little domesticated because she wanted to be with me. After living with her I’m very opposed to wolf-dog hybridization. I should write about her.

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