I had just planned to walk the two big hounds down the street, knowing they hate being cooped up in the garage. City workers are dismantling our back yard – something about sewers and drains and pipes leaking.
I walked out in my socking feet and that in itself tells you just how different this day is because I can’t remember the last time I put socks on my feet unless they were stuffed into my tennis shoes. The morning is cool and it’s what I call a California day here in this bayou city. We are the city that’s always got a veil of humidity holding everything down. But today, well everything feels crisp. It was that Canadian front that blew in last night.
About halfway to the stop sign, I made the decision: I would take Mose and Ellie to the woods. It’d been a while since the three of us had visited the little patch of bottom land bordered by Cypress creek and civilization.
The only way to do this is barefooted, I think to myself and I pull at my socks, stuffing them in my pocket as I set first foot into the tall pines, sweet gum and cottonwoods. If the air around me in the bright sunshine felt cool, the dappled light filtering through the tree tops and dense undergrowth feels even cooler. My feet are cold. The ground is surprisingly so and I feel all the gumballs along the path.
Did I really go all summer long barefooted during childhood days? As much as I might like to relive a few of those childhood memories, I’m wishing I had my flipflops on.
The path is still here, that for almost 20 years I took three little boys down. Memories of their words, the laughter that echo in my mind as I pass the place I made them dig wheelbarrows of sand for my flowerbeds. I guess there aren’t as many children in our neighborhood or maybe kids don’t visit ‘the woods’ anymore, the first 100 yards in, the place seems to be used more for dumping then formulating club house construction. The peace that nature gives settles on me. The air around me is filled with the sweet smell of honeysuckle, as the oil on their blossoms and leaves evaporate and waft through the woods. If those little molecules were colored purple, I’d be walking through a haze. There’s just that much in the air. The bees are working. I hear them, their wings buzzing.
Moses has kept up with me and even if he is almost 80, as dogs might count age, he remembers this place too. I know I’ll only take him and Ellie as far as the natural overflow ponds that serve to stem the tide of flooding waters on Cypress Creek in the years that Houston sees too much rain. While Mose is happy to be here, his heart would push him farther than his legs would be able to go.
The small white flowers on dewberry bushes remind me of Silent Bob. He and I have both used this place for refuge. He’s spent hours down here harvesting from these vines. We’ve made jelly together. I’m grateful.
Up and over the small little drainage ditch and I can see the smallest of the two ponds, lower than I have seen them. We are in the la Nina cycle here on the Gulf Coast and it’s bound to be a droughty spring and summer. My hounds find their little path down to water.
For a minute my heart skips a beat because I remember, before there was an Ellie and it was just me and Mose, we had a little run-in with might only be described as quick sand. Something in just a few places here in this boggy, clay wetland had created perfect conditions for sucking sand and Mose had wander in. He had been young then, with muscled back hips, his powerful haunches serving him well, as I on the bank, had wrung my hands and screamed encouragement.
As he slid down the embankment, his back legs flailing helpless behind him on the incline, he looked at the water in the way he always has. Between him and it was half wet sand and clay. He wasn’t going to stop or drink quietly at the shore.
My mind racing, formulating some kind of plan, I am thinking in desperation and doubt. Moses is not the only one who has aged in physical ability and I am not sure there was ever a time I could have rescured a 100 pound dog.
He sniffed around and I watched as his giant front paw made contact and with little preamble he moved on in, deeper and deeper, until I saw the moment his feet left water logged soil. He was swimming, his breath huffing out of his mouth and if he is ungainly on land, those webbed paws of his, his aging hips, serving him well, as he circled the pond. It wouldn’t even have taken a dog lover to recognize canine joy. Moses, my water dog, he was reliving his childhood here.
Ellie, my bi-polar dog, ever attuned to my apprehension and yet torn with her own sense of adventurous need, must have decided that following Moses in was the best call on both counts.
He got a little lost as he came back up the bank when he was finished. He was tired and as he sat for a moment to rest, Ellie bounding about in nervous bipolar activity, I stood close to the two old wet dogs and closed my eyes.
With memories flooding, I took pleasure in them. With the sun beating on my freckled and now a bit wrinkled face, my barefeet aching for their crocs, I took pleasure in what breathed and grew and greened around me. With my hands outstretched, up to Heaven, which only God could see, I thanked Him.