After reading the article "A Daily Walking Practice" by Shari Altman in the amazing magazine Taproot I decided to find a route to walk if not daily, at least often. Altman says "I know of no better way of connecting with the seasons than by walking the same path on a regular basis."...So today the dogs and I went out into the cool, gray morning, heading north along the dirt road that borders my little pasture in search of our own path.
Before I tell the tale of the walk, however, I should give you some background. I have two house cats, both gray, both named for famous authors, both full of big ideas and secret plans. One is very skinny and has long hair that looks somewhat mangy. He is too busy napping or hunting in the yard to keep up with appearances. His name is Charles Dickens. The other cat is short-haired and silky, very dapper, and quite fat. He is affectionate to the point of being annoying. I've told him more than once that we are just friends, but he will not take the hint. Sometimes at gatherings I try to ignore him or he will absolutely dominate all conversations. I worry our unrequited love affair will leave his little spirit broken, but so far he is undaunted. His name is Robert Frost.
Now because I let them do as they please, they spend most of their nights out prowling the prairie, and most of their days sprawled like teenage boys across the couch. I often feel I am living in some sort of frat house for cats, where a moon drunk night of revelry ends in cotton headed slumber, and the dogs have learned to steer clear of the marathon nappers and thus avoid swipes to the jowls.
So it was a surprise when a quarter mile into our walk there came a sad, desperate cry from the high weeds in the windbreak. It was Robert Frost, pulling the furry roll of his body through the reedy greens. He had decided to join us.
Now, I am sure it is obvious to you, dear reader, that taking a fat cat on a long walk is a terrible idea. His pink tongue was hanging out before we’d scaled the very first hill. But trying to tell a cat what to do is also a terrible idea, and he would not be dissuaded -- not even when we came to a muddy, green creek in the winding lowland draw. I probably would have taken pity on him and carried him across, but he chose the high road instead -- making balletic leaps across fallen cottonwood branches. He was channeling his panther forefathers I suppose. Even the dogs were impressed having never attempted to climb a tree themselves.
Up the dry side of the draw and onto a grassy plateau, our odd quartet wove west towards the dam. The tin top of the long calving barn peaked above the far bank like a mirage. Light tucking through the pearly clouds set it shining like a lighthouse. Robert flopped down in the damp dirt path, ready now to be carried.
The dogs, on the other hand, flew ahead of us. With wide gapped cattle fence, and no leashes, they take walks when and where they please, while I hang around the garden or the chicken coop, so they knew the way better than I. They dove down to the dam’s edge, chasing killdeer from the sandy shore. The water glittered and they both stood lapping, so pleased with the water and the day and the sun. Robert let out a stifled yawn, he stretched in my arms, still playing the panther, only now I was the tree. We continued up the last hill, curving around again to the edge of my little pasture where the flock grazed, surprised to see the entourage arriving from this new direction.
Robert insisted on walking the last quarter mile, still panting, but trying to keep up with the dogs, not wanting to be seen returning at the back of the pack with a two legged. So like a cat! I didn't mind -- how annoyed could anyone be with the sun blooming like a daisy overheard and the puddles on the path shining like minute oceans, the curves and ruts of the dirt road tiny mountains.
We are at the house now, everyone snoozing peacefully. Robert is still outside. He dropped off to sleep on the cool cement of the patio before he even made it to the door. I think tomorrow the dogs and I will try to sneak away without him. The whispering wind in the tall grass punctuated by loud cat calls was not exactly what I had in mind when I envisioned a morning sojourn through the countryside, though, as usual, it was not a dull day in the little pasture.