And the day came when the risk it took to remain tightly closed in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to bloom. Anais Nin


West Of Town

It’s above fifty degrees and bright outside, not at all the November of last year. I still wear mittens, a cap, and oversized turtleneck sweatshirt, but leave my jacket in the car. The dog can’t contain his excitement after traveling with the back window halfway down and his nose savoring every smell along the five-mile drive. Now he paws at the door, he would yell, “let me out” if he could talk. Some days I think he does talk, but I keep this to myself, mostly. We cross the parking lot, already three-quarters full on our way to the river view. I must see the water before doing anything else. He pulls me along, forgetting to heel, forgetting to sit. I almost don’t care, then remember what I paid for obedience training and feign interest in keeping him alert to my commands. Today, commands seem outlandish. It’s much too nice outside to care about rules. Swallowing up as much blue sky as I can and watching the sun dry out dozens of giant, soggy leaves is enough. I’m content with this moment of me, dog, sky, sun, and crisp freshness all around.

Today I came out of the cave for this. Left the fire and my blanket, my satellite movies and microwave popcorn. Today I don’t worry about the cost of gas for an afternoon drive. I don’t hear the cars race by, or little kids tell parents to pedal faster on the bike trail. I don’t hear the young freckled girl cry into her cell phone, or the big trucks cough up fumes. I don’t hear any of it, not today. Today I can see Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens, and a tiny bit of Mt. Adams. I can smell the pavement warming and imagine dime-size rain puddles receding under fallen leaves.

At first I hear them far away, then closer, and then I see them, hundreds of geese like dots of peppercorns in the western sky. They are all heading my way, all honking and flying in my direction. My heart speeds up, I’m excited and thrilled, I’m ecstatic. I sigh and coo, caught up in this magnificent sight. Then, I’m crying. Full, I feel full. What a glorious event overhead, free and unexpected. Loud. Alive. Mine.

The dog sits, looks up, too. We wait for the last formations to pass and turn toward the parking lot. I don’t want to go because I don’t want the full feeling to leave. As we walk slowly toward the car the dog automatically heels - without a command. I know how much he wants to please me. He can’t possibly know that positioning his small, furry self right next to my left leg makes the full feeling last much longer. Sometimes the beauty of things is simple. This simple.

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