I am discovering that mountain people don't walk their dogs. What a silly thing to do, walk a dog. These animals walk themselves, don't you know, if only let free to roam. Like a daily spring break, they disappear to god knows where. But you don't really care, do you, Mountain Owner? You are the equivalent to parents who stick their kids in front of the TV. No interaction required. Phew. Close one, there...having to actually do something.
My family seems to hold a curse on unleashed animals. And I respect The Curse. I fear it. Other people let their dog off-leash, let them roam free, unattended, and they are safe and sound. But my family? We've had numerous dogs and cats hit by cars...the one time they were loose...while the neighbor dog, who is perpetually un-fenced, un-leashed, and un-loved, has a long loosely lived life.
Thus, I am careful.
Every morning and evening cars drive past me walking in the darkness; and they slow down. Waaay down. It is obvious that they are assessing the situation; their brake foot responding until their unstated question is answered.
What the hell is she doing? Stranded? Car broke down? Flat tire? Hitch-hiker?
What is even weirder, is that I have a fence. And still, I walk...
The walk, I am realizing, is much more for me than my dog. Yes, if not walked, he may get to be more tightly wound than the circles he spins when he sees me put on my hat and grab the leash; but in equal part, while his legs move, so do my thoughts...digesting the day.
On the black as pitch mountain roads, my personal space is lost; I give it up...even, ask for it to be taken. My mom always told me, "let the darkness be your friend." Let your eyes acclimate, pupils dilate, and world widen to what is outside the light...
I feel like an animal on these walks. An outsider. Houses and their souls are windowed; and I see into light with uninvited eyes, remaining cloaked by my friend, darkness.
I walk the way my mother taught me, heel-toe...heel-toe...quietly.
I remember being a shirtless hooligan of a child, running down forested trails. Stopping for a string cheese snack out of my mom's backpack, she would say to my sister and I, "you guys are scaring away all the deer...being too noisy...walk quieter, like the Native Americans...heel to toe...like this." She demonstrated, as we strung along with our cheese.
And in that manner, heel-toe, I walked in the snow tonight. I heard flakes land on an electric fence to my left, and fry at their fall...an unexpected landing as they were eaten by evaporation.
On these walks, I circle and smell like an animal, learning the land and who lives and lays there. Sometimes, it's the smell of heating wood, breakfast bacon, or around the next corner green peppers and onions sautéing silently. In a low-lie of the road, in cooler air, I smell a fox's musk. He's been here recently.
I took no pictures of my dinner tonight. I was still thinking about last night's...