Monday’s Meander: Yes to Dahlias, Darling!

For the second year Marc and I headed out to Swan Island Dahlias farm in Canby, Oregon to see what there was to see. A gorgeous sunny afternoon also seemed perfect to take my new compact SUV (replacing the sedan totaled in the accident a month ago) for a drive through undulating hills and fields. It was a relaxing, satisfying outing. (I do like the car pretty well, also–a Hyundai Kona in a cheery metallic red).

I love the big fluffy or intricate or delicate petal designs of the showy, hardy dahlia. And it’s a late summer/early fall flower, a change. Upon arrival, the farm overflowed with strolling folks. We noticed some areas were less burgeoning with dahlias where we walked (out of 40 acres, all open to the public). It seems likely the drought has impacted flower growers as well as other farmers. A great many also are cut for selling to businesses and visitors. But the fields were still striated with beautiful shapes and colors.

We whiled away more than an hour, though we sure got sweaty in the strong August sunshine. Some of the finest things in life are simplest pleasures, filling one with appreciation and peace. Flowering fields are one of those, to us.

This prolific business has been operating for 93 years, though it was bought in 1963 by the current successful farmers, the Gitts family. They grow over 370 varieties and introduce 5-15 new ones yearly.

Enjoy the shots taken as we moseyed about–may you, too, find flowers of joy.

I think my shirt has some dahlias on it…

We looked around the gift shop’s goods set up outdoors and people watched before buying three bunches of dahlias to take home.

Crazy Legs? Why not?–love it.

I got four bouquets from my three bunches and gave one to our youngest daughter, whose birthday was today. Altogether, a terrific day at the Swan Island Dahlias. They create the largest full color dahlia catalog in the US–and are proud to be family-owned after all this time. Give them a try!

Friday’s Poem: House Dreaming

I am dreaming of houses again.

Last night another maze of rooms led me to

each of you occupying lives shining, meticulous or

in stages of brave disarray, voices streaming

with passion in opalescent air:

you quivered with life, it’s many purposes.

I was like a ghost or an essence of motherhood

that oversees but is unseen slipping about,

with tender sighs and wide open eyes,

with hands and spirit readied.

It was not a sad dream

but dream houses are never

what is expected or imagined,

ceilings unfinished with endless floors above,

doors opened to odd places I still must wander

(if there are doors, at all),

and then sometimes a stranger

takes ownership or tells me:

It was never empty and not for sale.

I have searched (more than I care to think)

for a house that can attend well to us all,

one that is made of peace and old wood,

surprising, fecund gardens and music,

forgiveness and effervescence,

and windows that open to everything,

even aquamarine drape of sky.

But now you have your own homes.

I have mine. And it is some days not tall,

or deep or wide enough to fully wrap around

this festival of family with its lightning strikes of loss,

pulling closer then separating, each needing

respite from the blood deep sweetness and

searing pain of love that does not end.

But we call out and answer with a chorus

of true voices, as before, never mind the house.

Wednesday’s Word/Short Story: The Benefits of Malaise

Chris couldn’t quite tell the difference between day and night. He knew if he said that aloud, Lana would stop in her tracks, eyes big as pie pans. At work he said only what was required. Oh no, that wasn’t right. He no longer reported to a job. He was a homebody now; he tinkered every now and then, he sat and sat. He wandered in his mind.

Day melted into evening into night into another dawn. The shadows on walls or floors lightened and darkened, lengthened and shortened. He watched them move about and thought how mysterious they were. Sheer ivory curtains swayed and fluttered when a breeze visited. But the light itself? It only seemed to dim and then dim more in waking hours, then disappear as time wore on. Once Chris pulled apart the curtains to peek out at midday and the sun was a spotlight that blinded him. He closed his eyes, turned back to his interior darkness, and the greyness of the room. It might make some difference if he moved about the house, just got up and left their bedroom for more than a few minutes, Lana had said.

Maybe; likely not.

In their room, he’d placed the antique wingback chair just so, then he could rest and fiddle with the radio on the little side table, punch the buttons of the TV remote–though TV didn’t much interest him. He had books, and every day picked one from the teetering stack. Flipped the pages as if he thought it engrossing when, in fact, he lost his place every other paragraph. If all else failed, he’d take five medium steps to the bed and flop down, stare at the squiggly lines in the ceiling until he grew drowsy.

Lana said it was almost like his room now, in the same way the far end of the sagging mauve velvet sofa was their cat’s: Captain’s spot. No one thought it wise to move him, especially after his eyes closed. Chris agreed it might not be wise to move himself, either. But Lana came to bed around ten-thirty, as always. Gave him a kiss on his cheek, smoothed the damp T-shirt against his back. He couldn’t bear to face her much of the time, those eyes that saw him. He squeezed his more tightly closed.

At least she had become more silent like he was, as there wasn’t much more to add to it. The facts: hiding out in the room, his too long pause. Languishing in your bitter disappointment, she said once, tears held at bay as she turned from him. He could not argue with it.

******

Lana carried on. For her, life went on if edited to feel differently. There was still cleaning and cooking–tidiness helped with her feelings of misalignment, the stress of his distress, and he still liked good meals though he ate half the amount now–and errands and bill paying and calls to family to try to reassure. But even if she had expected Chris would get a hobby or become a bona fide handyman when he retired–granted, it was a very early and forced retirement, as he said–she was so in error. At least at this point. Not that this bothered her. He read; did crosswords (just easy ones, she noted); he took out his ancient ukulele a couple times and attempted to strum a tune. And he slept. How he slept.

What wore on her was that he had made their bedroom his cave of isolation. It was their bedroom, not just his only she only needed it at night, she supposed. But if she stepped in during daytime, she felt a temperature change. Coolish when it should have been warmer up there–they’d never gotten the planned central air–what with summer going heat-wild but no, it was a strange well of shadows, and it seemed the walls insulated Chris like protection of earth about a real and deep well. She’d open up a window to air things out and he’d half-shut it, as if too much oxygen might be harmful. He kept a fan going all the time, facing outward so stray warmth and breath was sucked right out.

He is trying to live in a vacuum, she thought and it made her shiver.

After breakfast, while he leaned back in the ancient wingback (she’d spent too much money to re-upholster it in a fine wisteria print–how was she to know he’d be let go?) and stared at things she’d not ever see, Lana went to the market. Up by seven, put the kettle on, take Chris his breakfast on a tray, eat her own thick slice of bread with a nut butter and jam, then off she’d go. It was a sure thing to keep her better afloat. And a break from his melancholy.

The colors! The mix of voices, casual elbowing. The foods displayed in an artistic way–she’d gawk while fingering things. In her hands, tomatoes were smooth as silk, plump with juice; potatoes with their earthiness were weighty and consoling. Herbs were held to her nose; the aromas carried her away. The onions were pretty with papery skins and friendly, unlike when she chopped them for stews or tacos– in seeming punitive response they made her cry a bit. Then strawberries, black raspberries, raspberries and figs, peaches and apples–all called to her as if she was exactly who they were waiting for, and she was delighted to carry them home.

Sometimes she’d sit with her bag full of sustenance and watch others come and go. Mothers wheeling newborns about, older men with sunglasses perched atop balding heads, little children stopping play to blissfully bite into ripe nectarines, juices dribbling down their perfect small chins. Women with eyes bright with relief and happiness like hers.

And my, those astonishing flower stalls.

Lana was not that talented in their yard–mostly, she weeded and beat back bugs that nibbled away, trying to keep things going. So she bought flowers at the market in armfuls. Chris tended to complain that they’d wilt and be done so what was the point? But she had a collection of odd and lovely vases, even a few antiques scrounged over decades from flea markets and garage sales. She loved the act of preparing bouquets, the gentle separation of stems and trimming, arranging this way and that, in just the right vase. They were placed on tables throughout the house, each room they graced sparking with beauty. She smiled as she entered and exited and grazed their bold or pale, tender blooms with her fingertips. Their unique fragrances followed her from task to task. She sometimes thought she’d like to take a class on flower arranging, make it more than an amateur attempt. She thought, too, she’d like to wear them in her hair.

It was an hour or so that Lana spent at the market. She was lightened by it, always looked forward to chatting with neighbors and vendors. It assured her she held a welcomed place in the world, as did they. But then she had to go home.

Not that she didn’t have a place there. It had just shifted as their foundation trembled; big parts of their life were no longer settled.

Chris had fallen away. And she was taking care of him, trying to keep him from tumbling further. And if that meant bringing him meals and seeing that he got a good shower every couple days, she’d do it.

******

He might have done something different, he thought many times a day, so that he’d have been kept on as supervisor at the plant. Eighteen years there, unheard of these days, and yet he was one of the first to go when the pandemic stopped the world. But it was done, he reminded himself, and that was how it was–why wear out the simple truth of it with all his self-doubts? He was getting older, business was poor, they could do fine without him, it turned out so fare thee well old man.

Why it mattered so much he didn’t know. The job wasn’t something to brag abut, it was good work fairly well paid. He and Lana were not going to go hungry or lose their bungalow bought thirty-some years ago. So they wouldn’t likely redo the two bathrooms. They might not eat as well as they liked and no longer eat out, of course. Captain, their fat grey tabby, might have to endure nail cutting from him as all that cat upkeep business got pricey. Vacations might have to be cut the next few years, maybe forever, he wasn’t even sure yet.

They’d be okay. Still, it felt like a punch in the gut.

And what came next?

These thoughts coiled and uncoiled in his brain as he half-dozed, so that when he awoke with a start as a truck rumbled by he wasn’t sure if he had just dreamed of Angus burgers burning on the grill or Captain racing away as he wielded nail clippers or Lana catching him off guard as she waltzed right past him in a beautiful green dress, her dazzling smile with tears falling. Maybe he was recalling the past in altered form. There certainly wasn’t much going on in his present life. The future? Anybody’s guess. Chris could be nostalgic as much as he chose. It didn’t change a thing.

The life beyond the windows on their second story room barely pulled at him. He knew the Carters were jamming as many suitcases and bags as possible into the back of their camper van. To the Southwest in August, they’d informed him a couple months ago. Tom Hannelly had broken a leg when he fell from his cycle racing down country hills; he hobbled about in an unwieldy cast, swearing a bit. Tina and her three dogs were out three times a day; she now worked from home. And Margo and Danny were maybe still getting a divorce after the pandemic but for now they were a team trying to make it work, their two teenagers in need of cohesion.

The last bit he knew because Lana had updated him. He hadn’t asked, he never did; he counted on her to be the bearer of news. And most else. And like before, she was there with what he needed, even though he had been in an unfamiliar survival mode. She was his safety net.

Chris heard her come in and shut the door, jabber to Captain. He wondered what she’d bring him from the market for a snack. Then felt the guilt wash over him. He was stuck in this room–and didn’t care that much. He put his feet on the footstool, settled into the wingback and felt the tide of sleep lap at his mind, threatening to take him again. But he was sorry he made things harder for her. It’s just that the most pressing thing was how many lines were creeping across the ceiling he had almost memorized. And if he was ever going to look further into it. Beyond that, the room was getting stuffy despite the fan on high all the time–but there was enough good air, he presumed, to keep sitting there indefinitely. It just took too much effort to face what lay outside these walls, beyond the tiny corner of his life. Discomfort nagged at him and he shifted. There came a niggling restlessness that he ignored. He dozed once more.

Then her footsteps, steady but light, the only footsteps he loved to hear. Did she ever miss hearing his on the stairs or running down four steps into the breezeway and across to the garage with its apartment built on top (that had been empty since Teddy had left for post-grad work six years years ago, good for him) or grilling on the deck he had built last year? Did she wait to hear those steps as he waited to hear hers?

He felt the slip of breeze with a touch of cool sail over his eyelids, neck, hair. He stretched, got up, went the distance to the hall, then the bathroom–the farthest he had walked in some time.

*******

She spent a long time sorting and preparing bouquets of multi-hued dahlias and roses with sprays of greenery for three rooms. Then several minutes fixing the zinnias so they fit a smaller orange and white swirled glass vase with fluted mouth. She picked the freshest, brightest blooms, placed them in the water, patting them when done. She also nestled a mix of berries in a well used white ceramic bowl and brewed tea, Lady Grey, for his mug with its red-winged blackbirds motif. It didn’t much matter that he might not notice these things. She wanted to do it for him.

When she knocked softly, then entered their bedroom, she was surprised to see Chris showered and dressed in shirts and a fresh T-shirt. It had been almost four days since that had happened and it had almost scared her.

“Here you go, tea and berries, and my, you look nice, fresh.”

He gave her a weak grin, let his eyes roam over her; they landed on her hips a moment, then her shoulders and neck, her face. Remarkable, really; she always looked good to him. It had been awhile since he had really looked at much less seen her and her trim form and bright expression stirred a light flutter in his chest.

“I needed it, I suppose.”

She set down the tray after he put the radio on the floor. That old thing, a cumbersome black radio that he’d kept for twenty years and repaired twice. She heard him fiddling with stations sometimes, until he settled on local news or programs with old standards, as ever. She hoped it never broke down for good.

“Berries again,” he murmured, and pinched one between thumb and index finger, popped it into his mouth, groaned in appreciation.

She knew he enjoyed them, as much as he could. She watched him test the tea, blowing across the top of the mug first, then nod. Smoothing her chinos with damp hands, she said, “I’ll leave you to it, then,” and turned to go.

At the door, she heard him stir, then say her name. She turned and saw him sitting forward, mug set back on the table.

“I’m sorry, Lana,” he said.

He had said this often enough that she was sure he was, and she knew he meant it to bridge the narrow but obvious gaps between them. She had tried for two months months to be patient, to let him work it out, to be positive with fewer words and yet she hovered at the edges of his malaise, waiting, tending, praying, just trying hard to accept. The bee sting with the honey, she recalled her mother telling her of the flux of things in marriage.

“Drink your tea, it’s good tea, eat the berries, you’ll feel better. I’ll make a peach pie later.”

She smiled, started through the doorway but looked back a last time. He was hunched over bowl and mug, head in hands. So she went to him but sat on the bed a few feet away.

To speak or wait and listen.

His head felt thick as pudding but the promise of peach pie was so good gratitude welled up. Could a pie do that to his impoverished soul? How long was he going to let her carry the load while he suffered hurt pride and a loss of direction, still as a sloth in the heat of summer days and nights? She was near him and he ought to speak to her but Chris noticed an ant cross over the worn wood floor boards, then another and another, an orderly line in and out of shadows. Ants had purpose, they got so much accomplished, putting him to shame. And when had they started back in? Was it about fall already?

Lana lay back on the unmade bed and the feather pillow, long gray hair (no more beauty salon visits lately) strewn about it. She took a quavering breath in, let it out. Touched the silky sheets. It was a good bed; it had served them well, had been a nest and a briar patch and a chalice of sorts. As she closed her eyes, weariness engulfed her. Was she really that tired out? She never felt it when on her feet, moving and doing and looking forward. But here, in the middle of day, after flowers and berries and hearing his deep regret again, she felt nearly overwhelmed by the weight of their most ordinary lives. Her broad palmed, practical hands were crossed over her chest; the heat of them and the oppressive room pressed upon her. And she understood the need to sleep more.

And then he was beside her, a zinnia in hand. He touched it to her rosy cheek, traced her firm jaw, lips soft as dandelion fluff. She opened her eyes and what she saw was a small relief, and an offering, a remembrance of love. She took the flower, lay it aside as he lay down. And then he held one of her hands in his and they closed their eyes, midday sunlight peeling away bits of slinking shadow. Captain pounced, then lay at their feet, and a trickle of incoming breeze from a slightly ajar window felt like a spell or a blessing rich with jasmine. It was daytime but it might have been night, as the room felt so much more theirs as they settled close to each other, and it was not a fortress nor a place of doom. It was only a room of comfort.

Monday’s Meander: Chinook Landing Marine Park

Just a turn off winding NW Marine Drive, close to the suburb of Fairview, you will find Chinook Landing, one of the largest boating facilities in Oregon. It is a 67 acre marine park with six boat launching lanes into the muscular Columbia River, which rushes and skims by Portland on the way to the Pacific Ocean. Besides boating and fishing this is a good park for picnics, wildlife viewing and archery, and there is also river patrol station here. I came across these photos taken in 2015 that encourage me to return… while the sun beams down and river breezes are cool but dry. What a sweet place to sit and watch the boats go by, to walk and daydream.

The houses seen to the west in foothills of the Cascades are on the Washington side (likely Camas), a short drive over the Interstate Bridge.

Because I live among so many rivers and not far from the sea, I am constantly enlivened and delighted by the varied bodies’ daily changes and a plethora of water activities. It makes a difference, as I grew up surrounded by the Great Lakes in Michigan (and over 62,000 inland lakes, as well!), so would feel forlorn without water near by. In my hometown, I also played by the pretty tinkling Snake Creek and the swift Tittabawassee River (prone to flooding).

I stood on the long, usually rocky shores of Lake Michigan and never saw the other shore, it was/is that gigantic. As a youngster I’d stare toward the horizon and think: this is just like an ocean but fresh water, how amazing is that! In the Pacific Northwest we are lucky enough to enjoy both fresh (but only about 1400 lakes here–but there are 110, 994 miles of rivers) and saltwater of the Pacific Ocean. (I need to rent a kayak and get out there before winter rains arrive!)

I hope you enjoyed the photos. Chinook Landing at the Columbia River is a good spot for river lovers.

Wednesday’s Word/Nonfiction: An Unexpected Summer Crush

I fell in love today with a stranger. I don’t have a clue where this one came from or the life history. I’m not sure why I looked over my balcony railing and there appeared a gorgeous vision that captivated me at once. But sometimes these things happen even to me, an older woman well over the rocky pinnacles and swampy lows of random, entrancing romance quite some time ago. I don’t go looking about. But this experience occurred, anyway. That is, the creature looked up when I let a sigh escape. The noble head raised and ice-water blue eyes flicked to mine–then resumed studying the treed, ivy-strewn slope, engaged by more interesting happenings than a human gazing downward. I was more than happily surprised by my new neighbor, a Siberian husky. My favorite dog in the world, more or less.

There is at least one human who moved in with the dog. In fact, she strode out once to check on him/her and then disappeared. And when I got my camera out–I had to shoot a quick one for my kids, who understand these things about their mother. But I forgot that it was still on the timer mode, so it beeped and beeped then took multiple pictures, beep beep beep beep click click click click. ( I must turn off that shutter noise, too!) Of course, the dog finally looked up again and I heard the woman come out. A bit panicked, I stepped back from my balcony’s edge. I didn’t know if I should give a shout out or not… This will likely not endear me to the new woman–somebody taking furtive pictures of her canine companion.

I wasn’t even wondering about a new resident this morning. I was reading, then looking about the trees, sitting at the table. Then got up, stood at the balcony railing and had a casual glance downward.

Now I really only think of her dog. It was taken inside or it was hungry or bored. When will it be let out again?

The small apartment below us has been empty a couple of weeks. I have heard the trucks and the hammering and whirring, sometimes smelled their supplies’ signature odors (one of which about knocked us over as they repainted a tub just below our first floor bathroom). The workers have about renovated the entire thing but I half-expected it to go on, like blurred background noise on the radio or television of an old neighbor to the north of us. I didn’t give one thought to a new neighbor. The last tenant lived there a couple of years, recently moved to Arizona, per another neighbor. She was very young and usually gone; I waved if we crossed paths. (As it is with most people here: we’re at work indoors or went back to the office or are again avoiding contact due to the pandemic’s unpredictable, unsafe trajectory.) I live in my own world, I suppose, too–frequent family engagements, I write or read a great deal, take daily hikes or walks, make a bit of art and do lots of photography, listen to music, do random things like a crossword puzzle or writing real letters. And always the usual tedious household business. Oh, I have a husband. So I am fairly busy.

Others appear to be, as well. But I do see them get out with their dogs, some urging them to finish their business, some leisurely walking and enjoying their company. Oregon is a big dog place and Portland may have more dogs than people, a joke but perhaps not really. To know your neighbors is to know their dogs–sometimes the latter first and better. One of the few people I know by name (besides one across the front entryway who sneaks in and out with few words; another who never acknowledges people and walks his dog like they’re both training for a marathon) is quite a bit older and very interesting. She has given me glimpses of her smart, energetic personality topped by a good if subdued sense of humor, talk laced with a slightly cynical view. She has had several different professional lives that intrigue, moved from California (as many do). She has marvelous skin and gleaming white hair. That’s it-what I know now. She’s not very open so we briefly catch up–though I shared that our granddaughter passed away as she happened to catch me in shock and tearful; a few weeks later she told me she was looking forward to sharing old photos with her own granddaughter when she visited and that was okay– when she walks her Pomeranian, Cocoa. Cocoa likes me fine and vice versa. The way they are together, I suspect they will be warmly connected until the end.

Anyway, here we are generally congenial, sociable strangers. A wave and a smile, an inquiry occasionally. So–another person gone, another moving in, that’s all. It’s not cheap to live here and people leave in summer; some of us stay a long while. And some have dogs that I hear and pleasantly note as I live my life amid mountains, hills, trees and water; stories; Stravinsky with dashes of Marian McPartland and her jazz piano. FedEx deliveries too often for my own good. Just lessen that hammering and shut off the leaf blowers, it’s summer! Then the movers come and it’s a new person with another dog below. Will it bark or be cool and calm as when it glanced up at me, unperturbed by a lowly human being?

I just got up to look over the balcony edge once more. The gorgeous animal is still not laying there. Maybe tonight we’ll both be listening to crickets in twilight. Will he/she know I am up here? Will I peek down to seek at its furry outline? Will it be agitated if I make noise? I often sit outside at night, listening, watching, smelling the night air. Marc is to bed early as a working man still, so it is moon and stars and me and any “singers” beyond.

It might help to explain my fascination with dogs if I tell you I didn’t grow up around them or other animals. Well, the cats. My older sister had a penchant for cats, had a small number. I was under age ten and had only the right to watch her play with them and occasionally pet them. I was surprised we had any. My mother didn’t like animals in the house–she grew up on a farm so four legged and other nonhuman creatures belonged outdoors, perfectly fine in the wilds of nature–otherwise, they had to work for their food. (She was interested in insects and birds, however– outside.)

Cats lived outside and were great mousers, was what she said. Thus, when the first ones arrived I knew my sister Allanya was the favored one, as she got what was forbidden.–I mainly recall her cats died a lot–we lived on a busy street–but she’d get another one until it was hit on the road, too.. Her abundantly loud weeping got me; I couldn’t comfort her adequately. I liked her cats but they were hers so did not cry much. When she left for Michigan State University, no more cats. But I must have pleaded for my turn as I got two goldfish; they swam happily but too briefly in a bowl with a floor of colored stones, a perfect tiny castle and a couple of seashells. I loved decorating but overfed them. I got two blue bright parakeets who likely didn’t like being in a cage–they died in a couple months. I didn’t appreciate cleaning the cage so was not that dismayed. After that, I was done. I left the care of animals to others.

But what of dogs? It wasn’t even a topic that came up. No one secretly professed a desire for a dog. My father certainly never had interest in pets, and no time. He was home an hour or two, then gone most days of his long and productive career. Mom simply created time for things other than daily work, in or out of the house. But she decreed there would be no more pets, not even one camping in the back yard (a turtle, it died, too). As she noted, we had a yard full of nature’s critters. I loved the ants that had little sandy hill homes; they scurried back and forth along our walkway out back. I studied their industrious goings-on for long periods. The slinky worms that magically rose from the ground when it rained hard. Graceful butterflies and chorusing, chattering birds that alighted all around. But as for pets–I had access to various sorts at friends’ houses, and was fascinated by the dogs and cats, hamsters, a horse, a couple of canaries, a snake, an iguana and salamander and so on. Those dogs would often be in the middle of the fray, racing, leaping, romping along with us, and also interfering.

But my favorites were at Julie’s house: huskies.

Julie was one of my best friends and lived on my street several blocks down; she went to Eastlawn Elementary as did I. I believe she also went to the Methodist Chinch and it would be natural we’d become friendly there, too. We didn’t share studying classical music but she liked to read as much as I did. We didn’t have in common a passion for ice skating, swimming or foot races; she had polio as a baby so walked rather slowly with crutches that clamped around her forearms. I found it curious, perhaps sad but irrelevant to our easy play and good talks. No doubt we enjoyed playing with dolls, made up scenarios for them, and played board games and hung out on the front and back porches. She was a smart one, warm hearted, readily amused. I can still see her standing in her yard, crutches just an extension of her arms and legs in a way, very useful–short strawberry blond hair tossed back as she laughed at something silly.

But perhaps another reason we got on was that her parents had huskies. And I came to adore them. I believe they bred, trained and sold them; there were always a couple around and new puppies from time to time. The house was big but every room seemed defined by the presence of a big dog, its fur and toys.

They were playful, yes, but seriously trained in obedient behaviors. If one jumped up on me–and I felt it like a wooly body slam with often muddy paws–there was a strict command and correction issued by Julie or her parents. But I was not fearful of them, and they were not suspicious of me. Their dogs sat with big feet planted and head at ease as I petted and hugged them a bit, and got a drippy lick on the chin in response, those blue eyes bright and perceptive. Their size and the dense coats and captivating eyes and intelligence–everything about them grabbed my attention. I had never been around dogs so big, fast and agile, smart and good natured–yet also capable of peacefulness. I knew they got out of hand, at times and witnessed antics wherein objects, especially shoes and purses, were but sad, chewed remains. And I heard they loved to chase down cats…not good.

It was efficacious that Julie’s house was large, the yards larger and fenced. And that they were gentle with her, as she moved with an awkward gait, clutching her crutches, from space to space. A few times I watched a husky pull Julie in a wagon or on a sled in winter–they were sure footed, enthusiastic, strong.

When they moved to another city, huskies and all, I felt the losses keenly. Whenever I thought of Julie, I thought of her warmth, good cheer, our easy friendship. And those luxurious Siberian huskies that could knock me over–did a few times–but always welcomed me. I wondered if they had been meant to protect her, too. Because they did, being always at her side or nearby, ready to come to her.

It occurs for the first time as I write that this may be when I fell in love with huskies. As a kid on Ashman Street, playing at Julie’s house. How could I not have seen it?

I always stop when I see one, openly stare. Pat and talk to one if allowed. Their power and grace in motion, peaceful alertness at rest: these are premium four-legged creatures. Proud, dignified and very playful. They work hard, especially in North country in winter as they pull their massive sleds with cargo and driver across frozen land for many miles. Heroic, that’s how they seem to me. Maybe, too, because they likely did look after Julie and she did, them, in all the ways she could.

Since I do admire dogs, in general, I think of getting one, but there are reasons why I have not for many years invited any to stay forever. It has to do with loss, in part, and also with practical circumstances. I feel dogs are healthier and happier in roomy houses and outdoors, in yards, like children–and I don’t know that I’ll ever have a house again. But maybe that is not altogether true; perhaps they can be happy in smaller spaces and on leashed walks, after all. Still, I worry that as I get older my health matters may someday interfere with caring well for a beloved dog. I read about the different breeds. recall ones met and liked out there. I enjoy them from afar–and can play with a friend’s dog when I see them.

In the meantime, there is the new four-legged neighbor. I wonder if it is a male of female, what the name is, how it behaves, who takes care of its needs and wants. I will have to content myself with a small yearning to know this new creature from my balcony. It will be hard to not give it a shout out and a big wave, or to go knock on the new person’s door so I can get a closer look.

“Welcome to our lovely neighborhood–and, oh my, you have a husky!”

She might hopefully offer a smile–but then step back and say,”Hey, wait–were you taking pictures of my dog when I moved in?”

“Ah…guilty, so sorry…You see, I had a special friend as a kid and she had beautiful huskies…”

I need to be patient, time things right so she knows I am friendly toward dogs and also decidedly not a dog nabber. A distant adoration of her Siberian husky will just have to do for now. Then I might suggest she walk the area’s miles of trails with me sometimes–with her dog, of course. My secret doggy crush will come to light soon.