I stepped out into the dark with Gandalf this morning, took a breath and my nose slammed shut.
I expected cold but not like this and nasal malfunction is a pretty reliable indicator that it’s somewhere close to zero. Gandalf thought this was *perfect* weather and he bounced off to roll in the snow. Watching him reminded me that it was a new day (with new smells!) and right now we were safe and happy and life was good. I love that dog.
There was the barest hint of light on the eastern horizon and Orion had traveled west; my constant winter companion would soon be out of sight. It gets so cold here on clear winter nights; I imagine all the frigid air of space falling on us when our cloud-quilt has been pulled back.
We set out on our walk, Gandalf padding over the frozen earth and my boots crunching the exposed ground. My headlight made the grass sparkle with frost-stars; little sisters of the celestial bodies and they twinkled delightfully with the slightest movement of my head. I actually tried to take a photo of them to show you but of course the flash went off, obliterating the tiny lights because it was dark outside. Duh. Didn’t think that one through.
The slightest wisp of my breath became instant thick fog that was illuminated by my light and made it hard to see where I was going. Just for fun, for a few breaths I huffed and puffed, surrounding my head in a glowing mist. I think I might have looked something like Madam Leota on the Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyland; a disembodied fog bank bobbing along in the pre-dawn darkness.
Then my lungs froze up so I had to stop.
The sky was less dark when we turned to go back home and the moon was spectacular; hanging there in all her cold glory. No warm harvest orb this dawn; she was frost princess white reflecting the snow on the mountains. After the previous photo debacle on this walk I tried again and finally got a pic that almost did the morning justice.
As beautiful as it was, the cold was too intense and I didn’t like the feeling of my eyeballs trying to freeze so we packed it up and went in. I peeled off layers of clothes and thought of ninth grade English and Robert Frost’s poem “Fire and Ice”:
“Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice….”
I checked the thermometer….yep….one below. The nose never lies.
I am privileged to share my home with Pippintook, the cat and Gandalf the Grey, the Norwegian Elkhound. Gandalf is my boon companion; he is dignified yet playful, smart without being cocky, and gorgeous. He loves the snow (that must be the Norwegian part) and watching him roll and snuffle and luxuriate in it always makes me chuckle and Rebecca positively cracks up.
Gandalf and I have been close since his arrival many years ago and have bonded even more over the last year and a half. He has a knack for being that I came to appreciate soon after separating from my then-spouse. It was one of the first nights in my new apartment; I was grieving mightily and hanging on only by my toenails when I awoke to find him snuggled up beside me. I rested my hand on his soft fur and he laid there for a bit until I calmed down and went back to sleep. He was on his own bed as usual the next morning and has not slept on my bed before or since. Without a word he gave me immense comfort and I owe him big time for that one.
He is a hound and it is a wonder to watch him checking out all the smells when we are outside. I guess all that sniffing and information gathering about who has been where doing what is comparable to me reading the paper or standing in line at the grocery store catching up on Brad and Angie. Not that they live in my neighborhood but you get the idea.
His nose is also his only fault. He can get so involved with tracking a fox or cat or whatever that he completely forgets himself along with everything else. When he is in “the zone” commands don’t register and I really think that he is not “not minding”, he is just oblivious. When my voice finally penetrates his consciousness he pops up happy and grinning as if to say “Wow! Did you smell THAT?”
The days I work we walk early. In the winter it is still deeply dark and very quiet and whatever light there is comes from the porch and street lights. With snow on the ground it is a bit surreal, and peaceful, too; the calm before the bustle of the day sets in and people are catching that last warm snooze before the alarm goes off in earnest. Gandalf usually waits for me on the front walk while I shut the door then I clip him into his extendable leash and off we go.
The other morning, however, I turned from the door and no Gandalf. Gone. Not a tinkle of dog tags or a “whuff” from him as he checked for scent under the snow. Nada.
I walked up the street in both directions doing the “whisper yell”. Anyone who has done that raise your hand…..an oxymoron for sure and I don’t think it actually works but what are you going to do if you can’t really holler? No sign of him. Great…..I’ve lost my dog…..
I wandered the area for another five minutes and was trying not to think of my morning dissolving into search and rescue mode when he materialized as a silhouette against the snow. Ears perky, tail wagging…..he had been on a field trip without a chaperone and had the smile to prove it. I never did figure out exactly where he went but I have a pretty good idea and he’s not going there again without me!
Note to self: longer walks would be good for both of us. Outside is a bonny place to be.