With approximately ten weeks left to our time in Norfolk (we’ve been given an April/May departure from our long-term housesitting job), I’ve been savoring some of my favorite activities. At the top of my list of favorites is walking Annie.
I especially enjoy walking Annie in the wintertime. Cold feels exhilarating to me and the Barbour Woods look especially magical when covered in snow. Add in a blue sky and you’ve got a winter wonderland that’s perfect for romping.
On our usual walk this past Tuesday, I didn’t want the experience to end. Annie was having a great time zooming around and I was enjoying the extra solitude that snow brings to the woods.
But, I also had other places to be that afternoon and other things to do.
So the question became: should we take a second trail for a longer walk or should we head home after our usual romp around the Swamp Trail?
Friends, we took a second trail. Annie and I headed to the Beechwood Loop for an extra romp.
I’m so glad we did.
The number of romps we have left together is finite. Even if we came back to Norfolk in January to visit, who’s to say Annie or I would be healthy enough to take a longer walk. Or maybe the ground would be too icy. Or maybe there wouldn’t be any snow.
Should I take the longer walk with Annie?
These 10 weeks are going to go by way too quickly.
Both Dodger and Annie run with abandon through the woods, stopping to poke their noses in snow drifts, and ever so often chomping up a mouthful of snow when the mood strikes. One of the differences between them is Annie usually brings a ball on her walk while Dodger does not. I suspect it’s the retriever in her versus Dodger who just wants to show off his border collie agility skills.
Both dogs, in my humble opinion, are super-duper smart. Sometimes when I get lost in my imagination and debate who would be valedictorian in Kelly’s World of Dogs, it’s a tough choice. For example, look at how Dodger sits and stays in the car until I tell him to go:
I know the picture isn’t that impressive, so you can watch the video of Dodger showing off his “stay” skills here.
But in one way Annie has outshone my other beloved canine buddies simply because of how she approaches her ball on our walks.
Annie has a bazillion balls to choose from when we start. Usually, there’s already a few out in the yard, and she’ll scoop one up and bring it to me. I throw it, she chases, and then we continue our walk until the process repeats itself.
Sometimes, I’m not fun enough for Annie and her ball. When that happens, she’ll set her ball on the ground, push it beneath a log, under an upturned tree, off the creek bank, etc., and then work like Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel trying to get it back.
You can watch Annie show off her digging skills here.
Most of the time, she’s successful. She’ll scoop up the ball again and be on her merry way.
Every so often, though, the ball is lost. It gets taken upstream, it gets pushed into a deeper hole, or sometimes a mole absconds with it. The last one is pure speculation, but it’s the only reason I can come up with for why sometimes her ball vanishes.
I also think it’s hilarious to imagine that a gang of moles have an underground network of tunnels in the Barbour Woods waiting to steal Annie’s ball.
Nevertheless, Annie tries to get her ball back. But after a few minutes, she decides, no, that’s okay. I’ll continue on without it. And then she does! Tail wagging, happy smile, Annie takes off into the woods, leaving the lost ball behind. I don’t think she actually misses it for even one second.
Here’s the weirdest part about Annie and her ball – nine times out of ten, she’ll find another ball somewhere in the woods! We’ll be walking along, me marveling at the beauty of the Barbour Woods, Annie zooming down hills, over tree stumps, and tackling over-sized sticks, and before I know it, she returns to me with another ball in her mouth.
Is it the same ball as before? Nope! Does it matter to Annie? Not at all.
We continue our walk, she occasionally lets me throw the ball for her to chase, and eventually we return to where we started.
Annie and her ball are an excellent primer for learning how to let go: Leaving something behind can be so hard, yet Annie does it with aplomb. She never knows where that next ball is going to show up, yet she almost always finds it.
What are we unable to let go of?
What could be waiting for us up ahead when we do?
A life lesson for us all, I think.
Looks like Dodger is going to have to up his game!
This past week, I had to cover the Circulation Desk for the afternoon hours at the library. So, I didn’t get my usual dog/nature fix with Annie on our bi-weekly afternoon romps in the woods.
Thank Dogness, I also have this guy in my life:
Just like Annie, Dodger is a spirited dog with lots of heart and personality. His sassiness level is several notches above Annie, whom I’m convinced is an actual angel in a dog costume. As such, instead of nicknames like Annie Banannie, Dodger gets nicknames like Bossy Britches and Sassafrass.
Nevertheless, I LOVE him. I’m also grateful I had an excuse to be out in the woods this last week as fall lives up to its name and our trees are starting to get a little bare.
That’s not the case everywhere here, as evidenced by this glorious tree I came upon on Saturday while driving back from Oblong Books in Millerton, New York.
When I see this kind of overwhelming beauty these days, a sense of sadness wells up in my heart and spills out as tears. It’s the same sadness that takes over me when I watch leaves swirl through the air, then tumble to the ground for their final resting place.
I can’t help but think about how last fall, my dad didn’t know that would be the last time in his life that he would get to see the leaves change to their ultimate glory. He didn’t know it would be his last Halloween. No more eating the stash of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups my mom started buying in September, just to make sure she had enough. He would never again get to wish my niece or mom a happy birthday.
He didn’t know.
Most of us don’t.
So on this cold and chilly fall day in Norfolk, I take a few moments to Thank God that I’m still here. I Thank God that I get to watch the leaves light up my drive to and from work and brighten my already delightful time in the woods with Annie and Dodger. I Thank God for my loving and supportive husband and my family and friends.
I recently contributed to an article “18 Expert Tips on Living a Simple Life” on the UPJOURNEY website. You can read the article here.
Anyone who reads this blog won’t be surprised that my expert tips include an example of a dog licking my elbow. Fun fact: Smudge did actually lick my elbow as I was writing those tips. I think he was trying to help. Smudge likes to “help” with just about anything.
Smudge “helping” with my yoga
Smudge “helping” Heath practice the guitar
That moment brought me a lot of joy. I know not everyone will share the same positive feelings about getting licked by a dog, particularly on your elbow. For me it’s a moment of pure love.
And I am so grateful to know what brings me the most joy in this world.
This sort of information is useful for when things don’t go they way you want them to. For example, two weeks ago, I found out about a small writing contest for Valentine’s Day. The contest was for a children’s story (214-word limit) with the theme of guilt. The contest was posted on February 13th and entries were due by 11:59pm on February 14th. So, not a lot of time to write something.
I set my alarm for 5:00am on February 14th. I wanted to make sure I had enough time to work on my story before my busy Valentine’s Day, which included my regular Thursday morning volunteering at Botelle Elementary School and a Pink Tea that afternoon sponsored by the Congregational Church in town in celebration of Valentine’s Day.
As I fell asleep on the night of the 13th, an idea came to me: I’ll write a story about a kid who eats all his mom’s valentine’s day candy. It will be hilarious!
My alarm clock went off the following morning and I immediately started working on my story. A few hours later I had what I thought was a great story, A Valentine’s Gift for Daddy. I went to the contest website to upload my entry. Before I did, I thought I would take a peek at a few of the entries.
I noticed one had a similar title to mine. I clicked on the story, read it, and my heart sank. It was pretty much the same story I had written, even down to the kid hating coconut!
To demoralize me even more, I scrolled through all the entries so far posted and discovered quite a few featured a kid eating all their parents’ valentine’s candy.
Yikes! Looks like I’d written a cliché.
I wasn’t sure what to do at that point, since I had to be at Botelle soon. I decided to think about it later, and I spent the next few hours celebrating valentine’s day. Activities included delivering valentines to all the students I work with at Botelle and enjoying all manner of baked goods at the Pink Tea.
Valentine Cards for Botelle Students
Goodies at the Pink Tea, Photo courtesy of Heath Hughes
Feeling like my day wouldn’t be complete without wishing Cecily and Dodger a happy valentine’s day, I walked over to their house after the tea. I wasn’t planning on taking Dodger for a walk that day, but one look at his little face and I succumbed to his charms.
I’m so glad I did. The afternoon sunlight streamed into every nook and cranny of the Barbour Woods. It was now approaching five o’clock and although I felt a moment of panic that I still didn’t know what to do about the valentine’s writing contest, I couldn’t help but marvel at how beautiful the day had turned out.
Dodger in Botelle Woods on Valentine’s Day
As Dodger and I walked out of the woods and headed back to his home, a little idea popped into my head.
There is a place outside of town
Where trees grow up and leaves fall down ….
I immediately pulled out my phone to write this idea down in my notes app, lest I forget it by the time I walked home.
About an hour later, I finally sat down at my computer and started writing. Three hours after that, I finished my story.
Of course, if I had won the contest this blog post would have an even better ending. But I didn’t. I did get a shout-out for “lovely writing,” though.
What I did manage to do was spend time in my favorite place, with one of my favorite dogs, and then do one of the things that I enjoy in the most – write. And that, right there, is me living my simple life.
Just for fun, I’m going to include the first story I wrote for the contest. The second story ended up being something I’d like to work on later for a possible submission elsewhere. So, unfortunately I can’t share it here.
A Valentine’s Gift for Daddy
Mommy and I went shopping today. She said Valentine’s Day is in tomorrow and we have to get Daddy a present.
Have you ever seen anything so perfect? We hid the chocolates in the laundry room so Daddy wouldn’t find it.
When I got home from school the next day, I went to check on his gift.
Maybe I’ll just take a peek inside.
Maybe I’ll just try one.
Coconut. I hate coconut.
Before I knew what I was doing, I ate another one.
Oh my goodness!
Peanut butter – did anything more tasty ever exist?
I went to practice the trumpet.
But I couldn’t stop thinking about Daddy’s Valentine’s Day present.
Okay, fine. Just one more.
I mean two more.
How did I eat three, five?
Don’t do it, I told myself. There’s only two pieces left.
Uh-oh. I ate all of Daddy’s Valentine’s Day present.
Maybe if I put the box back no one will notice.
But Mommy noticed. “Do you know what happened to Daddy’s chocolates?”
I couldn’t look at her when I said, “I ate them.”
To my surprise, Mommy started laughing.
“You’re just like me,” she said. She pulled out a second box of chocolates. “These were for you and I ate them all!”
I wanted to be mad, but how could I?
“Come on,” she said. “Let’s go make Daddy a card.”