An Afternoon with The Boy and His Dog
March 10, 2011
Life screeched to a halt today and it actually felt really good.
After a morning speaking engagement, I surveyed my desk. The client project list is robust, tomorrow is the last Master Gardener class and I’m (as usual) behind on my bookkeeping. But Dominic is home for spring break and all his plans of seeing friends, of spending the day with Danny, have been ruined by a raging case of pinkeye. Today he is in quarantine. It is grey, it is cold; he is feeling rather pitiful.
So I close the door to my office, we throw on hats and gloves, snap a leash on Griffey (who, after his Monday experience with the grinder, got a haircut on Tuesday – he is terrified of the groomer – and now seems to share the pinkeye with Dominic – poor dog) and drive to Lake Katherine.
We pull in and I pester Dominic because he didn’t bring gloves. He is already out of the car and climbing the waterfall by the time I get my belongings stowed in the car trunk.
Lake Katherine is an ironic nature center. The land has been reclaimed; the lake is lined in concrete. Most of the boulders are hollow concrete bubbles, like giant cups in a massive shell game. The waterfall originates not from a natural spring, but a powerful pump. Tony and I began coming here decades ago, before the gardens went in, before the nature center. Dominic and Eliza have always enjoyed it here, splashing in the stream, watching the geese, lunching near the waterfall. Over the years, it has evolved into a more and more natural environment, covered with algae and flowers and grasses, attracting butterflies, birds, coyotes and deer. Isn’t it amazing how nature just takes over when given the chance?
Griffey is full of enthusiasm. He hasn’t really given his head a good doggie shake since The Blades of Death Encounter; his neck is sore. Griffey recognizes this place I think, we have walked here before with Tony. He pulls up the path and Dominic scoops him up for a photograph. That boy just loves that dog.
We follow the path back down the other side of the falls and start to walk past the herb garden. I tell Dominic to wait a minute, to go inside the raised beds. He rolls his eyes and says, “everything is dead in there.” I take him in the square and show him how wrong he is, how much is starting to green. I think he rolled his eyes again.
We walk past the Beaver House and see a swan floating effortlessly towards the shore. We leave the path and head to the water as I make photographs along the way.
For as elegant and fluid as a swan is, most of the illustrations are quite fanciful, showing a delicate, flute-like neck. In reality, a swan’s neck is as thick as your arm, muscled and substantial. You could not put your hand around it; you would need two. If you could get even get two hands around it because that swan would probably poke you bloody before you got a chance.
Dominic and I talk about nothing, just silliness and college stories. Dominic notices that the Children’s Forest was planted and dedicated just weeks after he was born. He notes that the trees are a lot taller than he is – even though they are all the same age.
We break from the main path and take the sheltered, kinda-creepy path that passes under the railroad tracks. The trees here are old, positively ancient. Gnarled and twisted, huge and dark overhead. Even in their leafless state, they cast deep shadows across the path. Here is the only snow we see today, a 24″ by 10-12 feet slick of ice that, with this shelter, may be here until June. We come to a meadow of sorts, lined with piles of brush. Dominic runs across the open space and begins to run up the railroad embankment. Griffey pulls and whines to follow him. It makes me a little nervous. I call him back and he keeps going, shouting back “why?”
Nature apparently makes him revert back to a stubborn 8-year-old.
I pull out the big guns and let Griffey go. He tears off after Dominic and immediately Dominic turns around and heads down the hill to get to Griffey. The boy laughs at me, laughs at Griffey, now stumped by a puddle of water (“oh god! Not WATER!” he agonizes) and laughs at himself running down the hill.
We head back to the main path and see several big dogs being walked behind us on the path. Those dogs whine and yap and pull. Griffey hustles up the path; he is afraid of those guys. Dominic talks about looking forward to lacrosse games starting, how he can hardly believe his semester is halfway through.
We pass a pair of geese and the larger one turns to Griffey, opens his mouth and hisses loudly. This dog cannot catch a single break this week.
The fresh, cold air and the vigorous walk has cleared both of our heads. While the sky is still grey, we are no longer. Being outside has done us both so much good.
At the end of the pond, there is a sludge of foam and bubbles. It makes a repetitive pattern, swirls and dips, striations of white, tan and brown. I stop to make images; Dominic runs to the car and hops up and down, shouting for me to open the door.
I told him to bring his gloves.