I live in a small town on the eastern edge of New Hampshire in a long valley under the supervision and protection of the White Mountains, Mount Washington in particular. It’s rural, woodsy, sparsely populated, full of hills and winding gravel roads, dotted with the iconic white Sir Christopher Wren steeples. There are streams, lakes, ponds, mountains, pine, birch, oak, maple, cedar – evergreens and deciduous. I share my house with fox, deer, moose, beaver, hummingbirds, a black wolf is somewhere about, bobcat, stink bugs, blue jay, bear, bats, bees, hornets, yellow jackets, duck, mosquitoes, loon, raccoon, crow, woodpecker, eagle, hawk, cardinal, thrush-like birds and birds I can’t name yet. There are blueberry, blackberry, ladies slipper, vines, grasses and I suspect some nice mushrooms if I could only identify them. In the summer there are water lilies that would make Matisse proud, water grasses, mud, snake, frogs, peepers, trout, bass, and teeny tiny fish, tadpole, pollen, seeds, pinecone. Would that I knew the hunter-gatherer skills of the Abenaki or Algonquin. Storms come our way with ice and deep snow. Nor’easters are the most feared if you fear storms. In the Spring thunder rolls down the rivers and everything stops and listens. Outside on a cloudless night, the stars are frighteningly beautiful. The blackish sky holds stars of various dimensions and brightness, in shapes discernable enough to be known by names – the big dipper, orion, the little dipper – those are the most discernable by a relocated suburban boy, and the omnivorous band of scientific mystery, the milky way. This place is palpably full of the power and energy of influence for anyone wanting to be open to it. I have an energy tree at the end of the driveway. I also share my house with the cat, Memphis, my pup, Woody, who passed several years ago but still is about, and our newest pup, Meg. Meg is a 27″ tall beagle/hound who, for good reason, doesn’t trust humans, though she seems to have a soft spot for females. She’s a rescue. I lifted the hatch of the car to leash her and she bolted like a racehorse. She’s only been with us for ten weeks.
Past the snowfield, over the pond, up the hill
Meg’s been lost a little over two weeks now. She’s been sighted a lot, almost daily, and she’s circling and spiraling around the house in a radius of about a mile. She’s made it through some cold temperatures and a snow storm or two. She’s from Georgia. This is her first winter. Today I was out looking for her and I walked a trail where she’s been tracked. Every so often I took my hand out of my glove and rubbed it on a birch tree so the oils on my hand might be sensed by Meg and keep her close. I’ve never rubbed a tree like that. But it was quite nice and I asked the tree to help guide Meg where it was safe and warm. Home, for instance. Occasionally I stopped and took some breaths and when I did always notice that my shoulders relaxed and dropped about an inch or two, held up there like invisible cables on a tension bridge. I walked on frozen snow, packed down by a snowmobile. I tried to be as quiet as I could. Woods are very womb-like, they hold you in. It’s not a vertical place, it’s horizontal. Streams run through the woods, everything meanders – streams, runoff, stands of trees, the wind, all on the path of least resistance. When I got close enough to a stream I stopped and listened. It’s one of the most beautiful sounds in the universe. Simple water running over rocks, making the sound of gurgling, of flowing without a distinct metronome rhythm, but a rhythm nonetheless. The only solace I can find in having Meg lost is knowing she is lost in this beautiful lay of land being watched over by the wood sprites and being watched and cared for by dozens of neighbors who care for dogs at least as much as people and recognize them as the small gods that they are. When they see the wanted posters Sue and I stapled to every available telephone pole, these neighbors know what that loss means and the struggle and panic the lost dog is experiencing. This is how the census becomes the neighbors becomes the tribe. People, critters, plants, trees, birds, insects, fungi, clouds, wind, compass, seasons. It’s a lot of data, n est ce pas?
Meg on the bed! December 2016
I learned a new word from Beth, who has been helping to track Meg. “Puckerbush.” She said she saw Meg but she couldn’t follow her because Meg ran into the puckerbush. One of those unheard of words that you instantly understand the meaning simply by the context but also of the context of where you’re standing. The patches of bush, undergrowth, the twiggy stuff you can’t walk through that spreads sunless under the tall protection of the trees around them – briar without the thorns. I thought, what a wonderful word . . . “puckerbush”. I’d bet money that puckerbush was a word invented by a child. I knew I was going to save that word and use it. And now I have.
A month or so ago I brought a stick inside the studio to make into a walking stick. I don’t know what kind of tree it broke loose of but it was in the yard. Probably oak. Or maple. Given my feet are fighting a war with the rest of me, my oilless old knee joints, my ebbing muscles and then seeing Prince walk around with a walking stick, I decided I’d try one out. I cut it to length and started to decorate it next to Meg on the ugly orange bath mat Sue put on the floor for her along with a bowl of water, next to my studio table. I painted stripes around the top of the stick. Blue, green, purple, yellow and red. And I laced a dangling strand of rawhide around it to give it some extra Ju Ju. I took that on my walk today to help steady me on the icy travel, including traveling from the door up the tilted ice rink of a driveway to the Forrester. I was glad I brought the stick and when I got back home, without our Meg, I wanted to continue to decorate it. I suspect it’s a coping mechanism. What isn’t? It’s a little Native American looking, though I know nothing about the Abenaki and Algonquin. I hope their gods and ancestors take my decoration as an offering and will help protect and guide Meg back home, where she can feel safe and loved.