Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Homeward Path

It's early, and a thin layer of ice covers the pond.  Before breakfast, a crow tests it cautiously. I bundle up for a walk with Barley and we are off for the hollow, the sun illuminating our breath and bringing out the highlights in Barley's golden coat.

We follow our familiar trail at first, but where it forks, we head down a path I haven't been on much since the ice storm of January, 2009.  I used to walk this way a lot, with other dogs. Our 2 Yellow Labs knew our trails well.  In fact, Baxter had a tremendous instinct for finding her way around the woods.  Whenever I got off the path, all I had to say was, "Baxter, we're going home", and she'd take me right back to the trail.  It's good to follow a dog who knows the way home. Barley is new to this route, but he is imprinting all this information, and soon will know his way around the woods better than Don and I do.

We wind our way through trees and deadfall, only guessing where the path used to be, until we get to the winterberry trees, which still stand just south and west of the spot where the path used to slope down sharply into the hollow.  Deer had bedded under those trees recently, and a well worn deer path follows our old trail from the trees to the hollow.

In the hollow, we stand and listen to the quiet.  Barley's breathing is the only sound at first, then there's the beat of wings, and soon songbirds rise from the undergrowth, flying away as we advance. Cardinals flash their crimson feathers, and juncos flare their black and white tails like pleated skirts.

We head for home, Barley running ahead.  When I get back to the yard, he's already there waiting for me.  At my approach, he stands up, wagging his tail in welcome.  It reminds me of another homecoming.

My mother died 3 years ago, and the memory is still fresh, of Mom, in her bed, looking small and frail, her family gathered around her.  We held her hands and talked about treasured memories, and sang her favorite hymns.  When we got to "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms", she flew away to heaven, following the One who knows the way home.  And when she got there, I like to think He stood up.


Janet said...

Lots of beauty in this, from the photo of Barley to the description of the juncos pleated skirts to the image of your dear mother flying away home. Some memories remain clear and crisp as long as we live, while others fade and recede...we hold on to what is important. Thankfully, your final time with your mother was comforted by the thought of her home-going.

I love the picture of Barley--how old is he??? We had a golden once but he was simply too Rowdy (that was his name and he lived up to it!) to live on a heavily-traveled road. We gave him to a family that lived where it was safer. Then we got Chip, our springer, who is now approaching 12, and is deaf and nearly blind. I treasure each day we still have him and am thankful he still enjoys life, limited as it is for him.

After Christmas, I would like to find a time to meet you, Connie--perhaps lunch somewhere?

Anonymous said...

This story helps me remember our walks with your dogs and mine. I will never forget the time when Baxter reminded us, as we returned from our hike, a hat you left hanging on that old fence post. Those were wonderful times we had and I cherish them. Merry Christmas dear friend. Ginni

Lutiemom said...

The Life and Times of Barley! If he could write a book, the adventures it would tell....