Dog Days of Autumn

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Walking to my cabin today, appropriately on the first day of autumn, I picked up the first fallen leaf of the season: my favorite, a sugar maple gone golden, with bursts of red fire pulsing up the veins. If I hadn’t stooped to retrieve it, I would have been passing up a gift at my feet, just that close and that important. The trees in the woods have not yet turned, none of them, so this stray present is especially a surprise. Neither has the weather yet turned–summer is still here, though mornings are cooler, and the forecast is for more heat, so the necessary snap that will freeze the chlorophyll into its vivid hues will not come soon. I am trying to relish the seasons, both of the year and of my life, as they come instead of always wishing for the next.

I am not in the woods for even five minutes before I realize, five minutes too late, that it was more than unwise of me to allow Snickers, my dog, to range ahead of me. She pads over to my plaid blanket with her cocker spaniel ears matted with green beggar lice, even her snout and eyebrows fuzzy with a collection gleaned from forging ahead. She shakes, and her body flings a shower of them onto my blanket, one more surface to pick clean. Undeterred, she trots off through the undergrowth in aimless meanderings to collect more, her steps creating small crashes in the dried leaf cover, the sound harmonizing with the jingle of her collar’s tags. When she returns and flops onto the blanket beside me, I see she’s also managed to find the one wet spot in the creek bed, because her feet are muddied to her first leg joint.

It’s hard to be annoyed, though; she is launching into the day, exploring with an abandon tat I avoided in my careful steps down the ravine, walking parallel to the creek bed to find a crossing, the burs slipping off my nearly hairless legs. Like a kid, Snickers is in the woods, becoming part of it, taking on its green, its soil, its texture. I’m not willing to absorb it to that degree–I’m in but not of it, I lie in the middle of it. Yet Snickers’ panting expresses what I feel inside.

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