Wednesday, September 28, 2011

No Dead Dogs Today

I work hard. Long hours and intense effort define my work style. My To-Do list is separated into multiple columns and pages. My desk is covered in paper and books and folders and "tasks". I sit for long periods of time, doing this hard work, week after week.

Unless of course, it is a near perfect day outside. Then I play hooky.

This particular afternoon, the mountains are covered in foliage, close to peak, and the clear blue sky holds a bright autumn sun. It is futile to resist and easy to rationalize my afternoon escape. So, I decide to take a hike - specifically to the top of Mt. Pisgah.

Mt Pisgah and her sister Mt Hor, flank Lake Willoughby, a deep, blue water lake hugged by near vertical cliffs. The effect is nothing short of stunning; a beautiful calling card left behind by an ancient glacier. Not even the motley collection of summer camps ringing the shoreline can mar the beauty.

The tiny lot holds four other cars, so I park at the end and with enthusiasm, walk briskly toward the mountain. Blowing past the shrubby parking lot and stepping lightly over the buckled walkways bridging the small wetland at the base, I set out to summit in less than an hour. As I approach the trailhead, a large yellow sign with faded lettering reads, "Please Keep Your Dog Leashed. Numerous Dogs Have Died". I pause for a breath, taking in the weight of the warning.

The summit of Mt. Pisgah is 2751' up a well marked trail that saunters and ascends at a pleasant angle. On occasion, the trail opens up for a view of the lake and across to Mt. Hor. The canopy covering the trail provides ample shelter to aggressive, frantic mosquitoes. I pick up my pace, if only to outrun the hungry,  buzzing bugs.

As I move upwards, my breath becomes shorter and the sweat begins to drip. My mind begins to clear and open up as I focus on my feet, the path and my breathing. It feels good to think of nothing. Yet, eventually "nothing" turns into something as stories begin to form in my head and I notice the color, texture and sound around me. It's a pleasant way to pass the time as I continue to climb toward the top.

Halfway up, an outcrop of rock opens up through the trees. It's an invitation to stop and peek. I walk cautiously to the edge, shifting my feet and resisting the urge to take a running leap towards the blue lake in the far distance. I am reminded of the sign below and imagine more than one dog running mindlessly over that edge, too excited to realize the trail gave way to nothing more than air - and a 500 plus foot drop to the road below. I take a picture.

After 40 minutes, I hit the peak. It's a bit anti-climatic after the climbing, sweating and views, but I am pleased. I head back down, intent on food and the promise of a hot shower. I stop to click a photo of the sky and some trees, but the lens cannot do justice, so I delete the images.

At the base again, a young man with a dog that looks like my own dog, but with a red bandanna and a decidedly nervous disposition, jogs toward me and stops to say hello. As I chat with the man and scratch Chuck's doppelganger behind the ears, noting the leather leash, I gently probe to check the latch is secure and the collar isn't too loose.

With a smile from the man and some whining from the dog, the two head up. I wave good-bye, glad to know there will be no dead dogs today.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Turn, turn, turn

Yellow buses rumble down the road, carrying the neighbor kids who have traded in their bare feet and shorts for sneakers and back packs. Twice now, I've heard the geese call as they fly south and the maple in our front yard, once full of green leaves with spreading branches, has taken on a distinct hue of golden red. As our pumpkins grow ever larger, becoming heavy and orange, they can no longer be camouflaged by their green vines and the golden rod, once glorious in August, is bent over, making way for the deepening pink of the sedum and the pretty blue rays of petals that cheerfully announce the asters. Autumn is here.

All summer long, I have bathed in the heat, relishing the humidity and green. I hung my laundry on a line, swam in cool waters and enjoyed coffee on the lawn. I've relished the frogs and fireflies, herbs in full bloom, black compost, cut grass, ripe tomatoes and bitter greens. This change of season, from hot and sticky to cool and damp, makes me a little bit nostalgic for days not yet gone by.

Yet, tonight the house, full of friends and family, was warm and loud while the rain fell soft and steady outside. My counter was covered with dishes of meat, vegetables, pickles, cheese and bread. We ate with plates balanced on our knees, wiping fingers on our shirts for lack of napkins, talking over the din of laughing kids about alligators, surgeries, bike rides, leaving home and coming back again. Windows flung open all day, were pushed shut against the newly familiar bite of cold that caused us to pull our sweaters across our bodies and leave the socks on our feet. All the while, the sun set, invisible behind the gray clouds, a backdrop to clinking glasses of wine while we settled into the comfort of friends and conversations.

Now, with children in bed, the dishwasher running and a full glass of wine to end the night, I'm looking forward to long bike rides along foliage lined back roads, homemade applesauce, raking leaves and the warmth of the woodstove. I'll admit, I'm not ready for the inevitable snow or the bitter cold, but I have time still, to relish the turn of the seasons in this pretty little State I call home.

And my apologies to the Byrds...