January 7, 2020

Where did all the snow go?

The fire is winter’s fruit.

-Arabian proverb


In just a few days, more than a foot of powdery white precipitation disappeared, except in the deepest piles. Temperatures went from a high in the upper twenties to the upper fifties. These warmer days, along with a light rain, washed away all the snow and ice left by the unseasonable storm of a few days before. Crunchy ice under foot-mottled packed snow, slippery to the incautious, one day magically morphed into bare dry solid ground the next. My Waldo-walking attire changed from a down parka, gloves and gaiters to a light jacket. Our pace on the rail-trail went from thirty-minute to slightly more than twenty-minute miles. My hunched, braced-for-the-elements posture straightened to something more erect and I’m able to appreciate more of my surroundings than what is just at my feet.

Waldo, I think, is a bit disappointed. Although still very eager to jog along and explore every interesting piece of the natural world he comes across, and although he is now able to find sticks without effort, he has lost that joyous, bounding gazelle-like leap that carried him from footfall to footfall in the deep snow. Even so, he is still very much in his element out here on the rail-trail. He lives for these walks. They’ve come to structure my day as well.

We pass more people and dogs than when it was colder. We always meet a few people and a dog or two on the trail. Even on the worst-of-the-weather days, there are two or three others out here, something that reassures me that I’m not totally crazy to be out in the cold and wet. Some are frequent flyers like ourselves and some are newbies I don’t remember seeing before.

Today, we meet an elderly couple who we’ve seen before. The man is clearly demented and doesn’t say much, he just laughs and makes gleeful sounds as Waldo wag-waddles up to him to say hello. The woman holds onto his hand as if to make sure he doesn’t wander off and smiles at us. I’ve exchanged a few words with her and she seems to be a kind caring person willing to share her warmth with others as well as her husband. I wonder if she realizes how much seeing her care for him brightens my day.

We pass a group of three women walking and chatting together. They seem to be as eager to meet and pat Waldo as he is to meet them and lick them. This is the usual scenario, but his attentions are not always so welcome – a few people are afraid of dogs and we’re careful to give them a wide berth. There are also those who, for whatever reason, ignore a friendly “Hello” from both Waldo and me. One man in particular tickles my ER-spidey sense into believing he has some psychiatric issue. He always carries a backpack and I’m guessing he’s homeless. We’ve passed him several times and the best response I get from him is a cursory, but pleasant, mumbled “Hi,” always avoiding eye contact. Some we pass wear Airpods or earphones – talking on their phones or just listening to audio of some kind. They, too, ignore our greetings. There are those who are jogging or riding bicycles that give no more than a quick panting “Hello” as they race past. By and large, however, the people we pass are friendly, warm and happy to be out here in nature.

The dogs we meet are a bit different. I don’t think we’ve ever passed a dog who ignored Waldo. Usually, they are excited, pulling at the leash, trying to get close to Waldo. Waldo always approaches with his submissive, head low, ears back, waddling butt gait. I haven’t seen any of the other dogs try to appear so submissive. When close, they do the doggy sniffing thing and then either growl or try to initiate a playful interaction. Waldo, in all of his border-collie exuberance and hyper-energy, can be overpowering for some dogs, leading them to bark and tell Waldo to back off. Whatever the case, the meet-and-greet lasts for only a few moments and Waldo continues on down the trail with a been-there-done-that refocus onto what’s in front of him.

Whatever the case, that’s not why we’re out here. We’re not here to socialize with people or dogs.

We’re here to enjoy a walk in nature and each other.

Come on, old man.

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