Barley is ten now, and this summer he retired from our walks through the neighborhood, preferring to lay inside in the air conditioning. But recently, the edges of the pond have frozen, and his old nickname, Lightfoot, fits him again. Today, he's on his feet as soon as he hears the front closet door open, and before my jacket is on, he's prancing at the door.
The sun is just up, and we head to the hollow, our favorite spot, about a half mile down the hill from our house. A side trail gives us an overlook before we get there. The broad valley of government land, about 160 acres, is still in the shadows; the sun hasn't made it to the hollow yet, but the frost has. Patches of standing timber and bushes and tall grass are all covered with white, dressed for the season. Recent rains have left a little water in the nearby creek, which joins another, out of our view, and flows across the valley to the lake.
As we leave the woods, we pause and listen.
No roads access this hollow, and there are no sounds in this private place this morning;
even the birds are hushed. Then a slight breeze rustles the trees and sends it's whisper through the valley.
Deer trails criss cross the flat ground...
...and we follow one to the creek on the other side of the hollow.
To our left, the lake is covered with steam, and sun gilds the distant hills. We head to our right, up the creek bed, walking over the rocks, where water is confined to small pools. A little fish flops in the receding water, and I imagine he will make a good meal for a raccoon before long. We move on, then, deciding that wasn't going to be a happy ending, I turn back and scoop the fish from his prison. Holding him carefully, I hurry back to the lake, willing him to live. When I lower him into the water, he darts away, out of sight behind a rock.
Barley runs ahead, and wades into the frigid creek, waiting eagerly for a stick to be thrown. When I comply, he swims after it, then scrambles up the bank and past me toward home, head held high. He stops to shake, and then he's off again, prancing like a puppy.
He pauses briefly before he reaches the woods, glancing back at me, and then he's gone. He'll be waiting for me when I get back home. By now the sun is up, and I hate to leave this place, which seems frozen in time. But the hands on my watch are still moving, and there’s a full day ahead, so I follow Barley back up the trail.
I could have walked somewhere else today, but I'm glad I didn't, and there's at least one fish, and one wet dog, who are glad, too.
Linking with Saturday's Critters