May 14, 2019

“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:

Look on my works, ye Mighty and despair!”

-words engraved on the pedestal of an ancient statue, destroyed long ago,

amidst an empty sandy expanse.


Incoming! A puppy-grenade of fur, tooth and claw streaks across the room and explodes in my lap. Paws scratch desperately across my legs and chest as the throes of boredom are loosed over me in a tsunami of pent-up doggy-energy. A long, pink, slimy tongue slurps over my cheek and forearms – raised in defense of my face. Waldo doesn’t whine, except in dire emergencies, and isn’t a barker, but, boy, can he make his needs known! And he’s right. It is time for a walk.

Today, we go on the nature trails of nearby Ghiloni Park. Ghiloni is next to the Marlborough Country Club and has some large grassy fields where you’ll find soccer and baseball games and a lot of kids. There is a playground for the younger ones and short paved paths. Beyond these are “unimproved” nature trails (not sure just how one can “improve” on them), a couple of miles long, that wind their way through the woods bordering the park. That’s where we’re headed – a ways from the madding crowd.

The day is warm, in the low seventies, partly cloudy, with only a tendril of a breeze – just enough to lick at and cool the sweat-sheen on my brow and forearms. Deciduous leaves of various species, including maple, oak and maybe some sumac, ground-up by previous hikers, cover the path, softening my footfalls. Birdsong of several species lilt the woods with “sooweet, sooweet,” “cree-cree, cree-cree,” and “weeoo, weeoo.” I look, but can’t see the serenading sources. It’s still too early in the season for the buzzing, chattering of insects, for which I’m thankful. The air carries the hint of a lingering scent of dust and decay intermingled with a messy mix of odors my poor schnoz can’t distinguish into constituent parts, but which remind me of spring. Waldo and I meet no one and other than the trail beneath my feet, there’s nothing else that can be seen telling that man is near – the thick skeletal foliage of budding trees and bushes block the vision of what I know is not very far away.

Waldo is in his element. He doesn’t wander far (which I really appreciate because if he did, his leash would get impossibly entangled in the undergrowth) as he trots along, head low, nose just above the ground, in a frenetic search for the ultimate snort, first on one side, then the other, of the path. Every once in a while, he’ll stop dead and give something (that doesn’t seem remarkable at all to me) a microscopic olfactory perusal that suggests that he’s found something so subtle and so nuanced that it takes minutes to smell out. And then he steps away and continues with his nose-scan as if he didn’t come across anything interesting at all. It makes me wonder what it is he’s smelling. I close my eyes and focus on the sensations passing through my nose as I take a deep draught of air. I shrug. Smells like spring air in the woods to me. I could bend down and put my nose less than an inch from the ground and try again, but, nah, I’m not that curious.

It occurs to me that I spent decades building a career, more decades going to school and getting trained, put out an inhuman amount of effort and used up a hell-of-a-lot of time and money to get to where I was, professionally, when I retired. I’m proud of the fact that I made a huge positive difference in others’ lives, saved some and cured others. But now, all that’s behind me and it’s as if it was just a dream, a story inscribed on a plaque beneath a broken statue in the middle of a desert. And, you know, during all that time, now forever gone, I didn’t make enough effort to stop and smell the roses and I sense there’s a meaty part of life that I haven’t yet adequately explored, something valuable and meaningful. What that is, I’m not exactly sure.

Walking with Waldo in the woods is helping me search for it.

“Look Waldo, an outdoor doggy bathroom!”

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