Saturday, July 12, 2008

Get Lost

Spending time with dogs turns me into a nosy snuffling creature susceptible to everything around me. Sugar Ray the lopsided boxer and I went for an early morning walk in a half wild area near home. The place makes no sense. You can't get from one part to another efficiently, it's a lousy shortcut, has no paving or signs or even places to sit dryly. No swings, no slides. The paths are narrow and twisting, worn into existence by whoever has walked through. It has woods, pond, brook, fields, lawns, and boggy areas. There's nothing to do there.

We went early to have the place to ourselves and avoid the day's heat, but even so we met half a dozen others, not all of them with dogs. And redwing blackbirds in full voice happily challenged the tensile strength of reeds at the pond's edge. Bullfrogs made their rubberband thwipping sound. Herons galumphed through mud seeking breakfast. A circling of hawks overhead floated in air currents.

We walked for an hour, then stopped under a willow for awhile. Moths and butterflies fluttered aimlessly, flies and grasshoppers zipped past now and then. Someone walking through grass close by skush skush skushed into a distant whisper. I let go of the leash and the dog sloped off down toward the pond. With a two-part sigh he dropped into the shade of a grove of maples, his nose an inch from my foot. The air hissed, moisture molecules swirled before my eyes, intensifying the smell of dirt, stone, leaf mold. Quiet set in, and I lolled, blinded by green.

Eighty degrees already at 7:00 a.m. and moisture rising out of the ground saturated clothes, skin, hair. The place was full of green blood. My belly rumbled emptily, and I put my face in the grass, sniffing, wallowing, licking at rough edges. Plaintain, chicory, gentians of several shades and sizes, cattail grass and white sweet clover all giving off dew. In this part of the country grapevines take over in the summer, blanketing everything in their path, making it look like the cover of R.E.M.'s "Murmur" album. I savored the smell of broken grass blades, stems leaking into mashed-down fern, spores puffing up the air, a glassed-in heat saturated with chlorophyll, bug iridescence, pollen, I succumbed.

I lay there so long I felt leaves begin to grow inside my mouth, a net of silver fret my vision. The dog scooched over, touched his wet nose to my bare thigh. I hummed low in my throat, moving in a face-down shimmy as sweat got the better of cloth in the rising heat. The buzzing over the pond grew louder as we sank lower, lazing in a green light reverie. Then I rolled over and looked up through veins and spines of maple, knew the deep awful peacefulness of nothing, and nowhere to go. No clocks or maps, no mealtimes, entertainments, or love affairs. Nobody could possibly come up to how those oaks and locusts in the wet yellow air spread me out and buttered the landscape with my waning powers of volition. The day inched forward busily, but Sugar Ray and I stayed still until the keys of stone underfoot that seem to turn up wherever I lie on the ground to do anything roused me from oblivion.

Afterwards, sipping coffee in the sunny kitchen, still in the nowhere fugue I walked back in, I wished that I could fly, and live in ponds, make a whole day of flitting gracefully between trees in a clump, with rabbits and ground hogs deep in, the sounds a loon makes over water, far from other humans, deep down where darkness thickens as it sinks, in the mysterious passages and uneven ground of the place I long for day and night, the quiet heartbreaking sense of belonging that I seek everywhere always. Always.