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Windy and Warm

Friday, March 10, 2006

T-shirt weather at long last. Phoebe gambols and frisks like a spring lamb; she jumps from place to place. Woodcocks are going full bore; I couldn't count higher than six last night, but I'm sure I heard more than that from our backyard. It was intoxicating. The spring peepers started last night; I walked out, feeling that something must be going down in the woods, and there they were, calling merrily deep in the holler. Though we've had not enough rain to dampen the leaves for a couple of weeks, and we're running a terrible deficit of moisture, with only a couple of measurable snows the entire winter, they've found a damp spot and they're singing about it. When I was a kid my blessed dad used to pile us all in the car and take us to the nearest place he knew that had peepers. It was Midway Road, and it was where all the black kids from my elementary school lived. One boy I knew used to ride his bay pony to school from Midway Road, which was the height of coolness as far as I was concerned. Oh, how I wanted to live on Midway Road. There were peepers and ponies and chickens and old houses with porches and swings, all of this buried in deep woods, and such a contrast to our mannered brick/lawn suburban street. To this day I never play Monopoly without remembering Midway Road. I won't try to find it the next time I'm in Richmond. I've gotten burned so many times trying to find beloved places in Richmond. There's usually a Circuit City atop them, if I can even navigate to the former location.
E.L. Doctorow is smiling; I'm driving in the fog here.
I've been taking walks with Chet, and Liam when he's not in school. I'm always amazed how the woods works on Liam's mood, how he just comes to life when he goes outside.
I have to cajole him out the door but once he gets a deep breath he's off and running. It's lovely to see. Of course, dog medicine helps, too. Liam and I both need to take a hit of Chet every hour or two. There's something about the way he smells that sets us right.

Chet has turned a corner with the leash. I leash him at the same points in the trail (as we near cattle and other dogs) and now he stops and waits for me to attach it. For as long as I've walked him on a leash, I've asked him not to pull on it, with very uneven results. Yesterday, he started to pull, then slowed down, without being asked, to leave slack in the leash. Of course, I praised him. And he remembered every time. Today was no different. I read somewhere that it takes an average of 1,000 repetitions to teach a dog something moderately difficult. I'm pretty sure we were approaching 1,000--and finally it just sank in and he keeps slack in the leash. Divine. He doubtless would have learned faster had I used a choke collar and jerked on it, but I won't do that to my buddy's soft throat. I have always envied people who can walk their dogs with slack in the lead, instead of being pulled along as if by a sled dog. We'll see how he does the next time we go into town, where the temptations are many.
Chet watches cattle on the far hill, wistful but obedient. These are the ones he chased when he was wearing his blue shirt and got busted by the farmer.
Chet's reward for being good on the lead is to be let off it, and he exults in his freedom. I carry acorn caps in my pocket to whistle him back should he get too far ahead.
I found some massive acorn caps in a cloud forest in Guatemala that make an incredibly loud, hoarse whistle when you blow into them (you partially cover the cap with both thumbs, and make a slot at the top to blow into). The Guatemalans were fascinated by my acorn cap whistles; I couldn't believe they didn't know about this trick. I salt acorn caps in the pockets of every coat I own so I'm never without them. It's handy to be able to make a far-carrying noise when you're alone in the woods.
The young beeches are about to lose their leaves at long last.
They start out the loveliest shade of fawn in late fall, and slowly fade to white, just before they fall. They're like girls who don't want to take off their confirmation dresses.
Back home, Chet and Charlie played peekaboo around the antique flat file that stores all my paintings and drawings. Charlie has Chet totally bamboozled, and he has only to feint in the dog's direction to send Chet skittering backward, yodeling.

They both enjoy it immensely, but not half as much as I do. I laugh like a pirate.


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