Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Feeding at Nature's Trough

I just took the dog for a walk.

Homer's epic, The Odyssey, portrayed mythical Sirens, whose songs beckoned seafaring men such as his protagonist, Odysseus. If sailors succumbed to the bird-womens' cries, they would never see hearth and home again. If they resisted temptation, the men would live to tell the tale. Such fictional tales of seduction are present in all cultures around the world. At first, the analytical mind might suppose this is true because of such scenarios being passed from traveler to traveler, ever-changing as the stories are told, yet the basis of each tale remains the same.

Today, I think the Siren is present in all written and oral folklore because it is something that is common to mankind. That seductive call that lures us beyond what common sense whispers into our deaf ears. I know why the sailors of old gave in to reckless abandon and thus ended up with ships battered against rocky shoals. I've known it all of my life. And for the most part, I have also given in to that alluring cry.

I've written about it in poems titled, "Lure of the Leather" and "Seduced by the Hunt." And for me, this seduction is almost always about "what lies around the next bend or over that hill."
This is the very same spirit, I'm sure, that dwelled in all explorers' psyches. Lewis and Clark, Coronado, John Glenn, Dr. Christiaan Barnard, and old cowgirls all must wear a cloak of "seeking the unknown, the new trail." It's a cape marred by ragged holes, however, for though it brightly adorns the appearance of each searcher, it doesn't give protection or warmth. In fact, it often causes harm.

So, back to walking the dog. Yesterday, I took him on a short walk in "my" woods across the road and all went well. He's a wonderful companion. And what fills my mind is how he is learning just like a horse.

The little wire-haired Dachshund (with a drop of some sort of mutt-seed thrown in) tugs up ahead of me, and I have to keep after him just a bit so that he doesn't go a different way than I want to go. He's restricted by a 15 foot leash that retracts as he comes back to me. He loves the game of figuring out which deer trail I intend to take.He sweeps back and forth and if he chooses the wrong one, I tug just a tiny bit (like my outside finger on the reins leading to a snaffle bit) and say softly, "Back this way," and little Quincy returns and his little hound-nose heads down another trail hoping it's the one I intend to choose. I just marvel that a dog can learn like this. Another example of making "the right things easy and the wrong things difficult."

All day, I've felt the thing with my diaphragm going on, heavy in my chest. I figured being out in the fresh air would do me good. I was right.

Today, we walked slowly down the deer trail that weaves through the Ponderosa forest, needles carpeting the ground and muffling my tread. Stepping over the 4 strands of old barbed-wire fence that lies a foot off the ground, we gingerly picked our way down to the dry creek bottom, filled with scattered snowberry bushes. I looked across the creekbed to the hill on the other side.

The Greek author, Homer, never penned of a stronger Siren than I felt at that moment. My gaze lingered on the basalt outcroppings above me and I thought, "I can do this. I may pay for it later. No, I will pay for it later. I'll be getting out my wallet and using all my credit cards and all my spare change, you BET I'll be paying for it later, but right now, I'm okay. Come on, Quincy, let's go."

Slowly plodding like an old "been there, done that" trail horse, I made my way up, asking Quincy to wait up for me every five feet. My heart pumped hard and I thought happily, "There's nothing wrong with the ol' ticker! It's out of shape is all." It wasn't THAT steep or that far, but it was further than I've been lately, a lot lately, and it's steeper.

At the top, oh glory! I could see an outcropping that, with a spark of unoriginality, I named Rocky Point. I stepped over to it and looked out over the creek bottom, be-gifted at that moment with a slight gust of wind that tossed golden leaves and whistled through the pine needles, all with a background of our colorful "Observatory Hill" that climbs behind our house, and further, storm clouds racing in from the coast. Now, THIS is feeding at Nature's Trough. This is the nourishment I live for. And I couldn't help feeling like this was almost exactly like being in my beloved high country: rocky outcroppings, threatening storm clouds in the north over the mountains, tall pines and no sound but my own heart drumming in my ears. Talk about a gift! And all right across the road from my house and I can walk to it in 15 minutes in my own painful hobble? Oh yeah alright, God IS good!

Quincy and I stopped to rest on a boulder, then wended our way down quickly back to the creek bottom, caught another deer trail with my little scruffy dog out ahead of me scouting trails. I had to hike the hill back out of the canyon, of course, and by then, my hips burned and I was beginning to notice the foreboding "rocks" along the coast that the Sirens had lured me into, but was it worth it? I'll let you know tomorrow.

How can I complain of my troubles when I can walk like this? So many cannot and even I could not do it, in my mind, until today. And I know I can't do it every day, and I might be so nerve-injured from the hike today that I won't be able to go back out there for weeks. But I went. I am happy.

I used to have to load up my horse in the trailer and drive 20 miles to a trail-head in the mountains in order to get the "high" I achieved today. Yet, somehow, this time last year as we searched for an affordable property to buy and retire to, we were led here. Not even our first or second or third choice. Those all fell through and we "settled" for this place which we thought was too near town. It's amazing, really. In just a few minutes, I'm right where I need to be and I have hundreds of acres to be alone in.

When I die, may I sit perched up on Rocky Point and sing the seductive call of the Siren to other sojourners through this life. It's really not a bad thing to be.

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