Sunday, March 14, 2010


With all my responsibilities here, I don't get very far from home these days, but that doesn't mean I don't travel. The other day I set my timer and went for a walk.

I saw an overweight man on a too-small bike, dressed in floral shorts and a tank top. He looked at me darkly as he passed. Did he know it was forty degrees outside? Did he know I was wondering if he might be dangerous? Feeling ashamed, I looked away.

I saw the white faced golden retriever who always stumbles off her stoop to warn us off when we pass. This time the owner came out to apologize. “No, no!” I said, stopping her. “I love that dog! He reminds me of the old dogs who have passed through my life, proud protectors to the end." Then I told her about Jade who protected us until she couldn't walk. No, longer. By the time I walked away, we both had tears in our eyes--me for what was, her for what was to come.

I saw the tallest pine tree in the neighborhood standing against a grey sky, and I heard Sebastian’s voice. “Big tree!” he says and points when he rolls by it in his stroller. Before Sebastian, I passed that tree hundreds of times but never really looked at it. Now I marvel. Big tree!

I saw empty houses, dressed up to create the impression they were still occupied. Shades closed, a telltale light in the window that never goes out. I wonder if they’re foreclosures; I wonder where the occupants went; and I wonder who will come to live in them.

I saw a cool pattern made by pine cones and needles and curly beach grass on the gournd. I studied it for a while until I spotted someone behind the shades watching me. She was looking at me the way I looked at the heavy man on the little bike. I waved and moved along.

I passed the house where a man committed suicide a decade ago. Though I don’t know the family, we heard that he hung himself in the garden shed when his wife filed for divorce. As I passed, I looked at the shed--an innocuous structure like so many in the neibhorhood. Like my own. There was a man raking leaves in the front yard. He smiled and said hello, And then a woman called out to him from the side porch where she was smoking a cigarette. She greeted me, too, though somewhat warily.

I saw a teenaged boy in a Volkswagen who waved and gave me a smile that can only be described as sweet. Repaying the debt, I waved enthusiastically at the next two cars that passed. One waved back--returning my ebullience in kind. The other driver looked as if I’d caught him off guard. Maybe he waved at the next person.

I thought about not taking the wooded path Star loves on the way home. Maybe I’d encounter the man on the bike again. I wondered how loud I’d have to scream to be heard. I took the path anyway, silently apologizing to the man in the floral shorts for my assumptions.

Emerging from the woods, I passed the house where a good friend once lived. Several years before he developed pancreatic cancer, I saw an ambulance approaching his house, and I raced down the street, heart thumping. A moment later, my friend emerged to redirect the ambulance and to reassure me. Wrong address! We both laughed as if it were a great joke. As if it would always be so.

The school bus pulled and a girl who used to stop to talk and pet the dog when she was younger decamped. I remembered the time she came to the door and asked if she could make a chalk hopscotch in front of our house. I went outside and played with her, recovering my old joy in the game. Now fourteen, weighed down with her heavy backpack and the even more burdensome weight of the self in adolescence, she looked down when she passed me and Star. We did not intrude on her private brooding.

I came home and checked my timer: All that in twenty-six minutes and 29 seconds.


Laura J. Wellner (author pseudonym Laura J. W. Ryan) said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your loss of Jade. Good old dog. Max is getting gray around the muzzle now, I hope we have many years left with our perky little good boy. He's tipped over at my feet... I think he'd like to have a 'little brother' to play with some day soon. My Fred and I are keeping our feelers out for some little pup who needs a home...chances are, one will wander in looking for one, that's how we wind up with most of them.


Always good to read you!

Best wishes,


Patry Francis said...

Laura: I hope you have many years with Max, too. She always reminded me of Jade! Most--no all of our dogs have wandered in at the right time, too. After we lost Jade, we thought of opening ourselves up to finding another large dog. But the house is quite full these days, and our Jack Russell seems to enjoy being an Only. In time, perhaps....

rdl said...

Wow! my short walk with Jackson are nowhere so eventful. tho the last time i walked him, an older neighbor told me that he dog had died and i felt bad cause i knew her husband had died about a year ago. just one event, but then i'm not in a neighborhood.

Becca said...

Reading this reminded me of the walks I take here in my old neighborhood. I'm on my third set of doggies to walk these streets, and there is much history here. I recall pushing my boy in his stroller (he's 30 this year) and so many of of our old neighbors are gone now.

I'm so looking forward to spring, when we can walk everyday again.

Tinker said...

Jade looks so sweet. She reminds me of one of our 'grand dogs' (our kids' dogs). We used to have four dogs of our own (I know that sounds like a lot - but that's what happens when two dog owners get together - they end up forming a pack), but since they've all gone on, now we just enjoy visiting our kids' dogs. Maybe some day...

For one thing, dogs give you a good reason to go walking. Though I think you saw more in 29 minutes, than most people see in a day. You're inspiring me to get out of this chair, again, even without a dog to walk. Thanks for that!

Tinker said...

Patry, I'm so sorry for your loss. I came back to look at Jade's picture one more time and that's when I saw the caption I'd somehow missed. On guard duty, no matter what - dogs are such true friends. Hugs to you!

robin andrea said...

I'm glad you went for this walk, Patry. On every street, in every house... a story. Our walks in the woods tell different stories, of other beating hearts and nest builders. All the dreams and dramas, ordinary and profound.

About the man in floral shorts and tank top on a too small bike in 40 degree temps-- I say trust your instincts.

Jade was very beautiful.

leslee said...

Wonderful, Patry. Amazing how much of life can be found in a short distance.

My walks where I used to live were more full of memories from the years lived there. I guess I'm filling a fresh bucket these days.

Beryl Singleton Bissell said...

How I love traveling with you Patry. No matter the place, whether on foot or in mind, you take us to places we'd have missed without your warmth.
Thank you, as always, for your presence in our lives.

Patry Francis said...

R: One of these days you'll have to bring Jackson down and we'll walk the dogs together. If we don't discover any "events," we'll create some!

Becca: Yes to spring! Usually it skips us on Cape Cod, but rumor has it, warmth and sun are heading our way later this week.

Tinker: Thank you for your kind thoughts. Fortunately, Jade had a long and lucky life. Lots of play, a family who adored her and a bowl of kibble every night. What more can a creature ask for? P.S. We have a couple of grand dogs, too. Aren't they wonderful?

Robin: Yes! The stories are everywhere; and even if we're paying attention, we only can only read a small portion of them. I often wonder at the information my dog gathers as she sniffs the ground during our walks.

leslee: A fresh bucket is a beautiful thing!

Beryl: Thank you for such a lovely comment. It's always good to see you here.

Lorna said...

My profound thanks for that walk.

Anonymous said...

I'm so pleased you are feeling well enough to write more blogs these days.In thinking of the companions of the furry, four-legged kind, both cats and dogs, I am recalling all their sweet unconditional love for our family. What a blessing that God allows us to have that kind of love for a while so that we can learn from it and become more loving and forgiving of those who don't quite live up to our expectations. A dog is there for you and waits patiently when you forget to let him back in on a chilly, rainy day, and just wriggles all over in the pleasure of seeing you again. And then we must say goodbye.

Ancient Reader

Susan Woodring said...

What a gorgeous post! You have such a wonderfully diverse and interactive neighborhood.

Ric said...

Always wonderful to have Patry posting. This is my first stop every morning and makes the day if there is something new here.

And, of course, there is the wonder and magic of seeing the world through your eyes, with your singular voice showing us what you see.

Enjoy this wonderful spring.

Patry Francis said...

Lorna: Thanks for walking with me!

Ancient Reader: Your words remind me of one of my favorite poems by Mary Oliver. It's called I ASK PERCY (her dog) HOW TO LIVE MY LIFE, and if memory serves, it begins: Love, love love/and run as fast as you can...

Susan: Thank you so much, though I think all neighborhoods are extraordinary in their own way.

Ric: Thank you, my good friend. Knowing that you're here and reading your comments means a lot.

Anonymous said...

It is amazing what one can see in their own neighborhood if they are interested in looking!

Lindsey Petersen

Sky said...

such a perfect example of how the inner and outer lives we live weave themselves, moment by moment, into an interesting story. you can take a short walk and draw us in to tag along with that rich attention to detail and keen observation. yours is the gift of a good writer. thanks, patry. :)

Kay Cooke said...

How I love your writing dear Patry! Thank you. I am now inspired to go for my own neighbourhood walk ... but not being as nice a person (or neighbour) as you are, I'm sure it will be a let-down!

Maryanne Stahl said...

rest in peace , jade. walk in peace and love and health, patry.

Anonymous said...

Patry, I thought of your post the other day when I was out for an early morning walk. An elderly Chinese woman was rooting around in the overgrown weeds along the creek bank. I stopped and asked what she was looking for. She held up a plant I'd never seen before. The only English word she had for me was "medication" but by the way she rubbed her stomach as she said it, I understood. So your walk last week stretched all the way to a Sonoma County creek!

Annie said...

Bittersweet and lovely. Glad to see you are posting more often!

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Patry,
A walk in which you SEE. All these moments and changes, and timeless happenings that connect us all. I usually find myself in the mountains along a ridge or on a river when SEEING with such clarity. I sometimes forget I can out here as well. Kia kaha.

Patry Francis said...

Lindsey: In one's neighborhood, in one's house, and in one's heart... Thanks for stopping by.

sky: Thank you. Still longing for the day when you and I will take one of those walks in will come!

Kay: I find you to be an incredibly nice neighbor here in blogville. Wish you could come by for a cup of tea, though it would be quite a trek.

Maryanne: So happy to see you here. Yes, to peace and health!

Mary: Thank you for making me realize that my real walk across the world happens HERE. Now I'm wondering what the herb was and what else the woman from the Sonoma County Creek might teach me.

Annie: The deeper we walk into our life, the more bittersweet the path. And yes, the more lovely, too. At least, that's how it seems to me.

Ruahines: We all need the unique clarity that wild places bring us. Thanks for the many times you've reminded me of that.

Taradharma said...

the world in microcosm. I love to walk and wonder what goes on behind those walls. beautiful post.

i beati said...

I must walk more..sandy

floots said...

i was both gladdened and saddened as i read this
my thanks to you - and "all the old dogs who have passed through my life"
i've not been "visiting" for a while - i hope all is well and send you my best wishes

Misty Hill said...

This is lovely and the remarks about the old dog,I relate.
Thanks for posting.

Anonymous said...

I came to visit.

I actually dropped out of blogging for a spell, but couldn't stand it.

And I missed some folks.

Including you. You used to see me as Twoblueday.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Patry,
I have read this post many times, but have waited to comment until I undertook my own convalescence from the hip surgery. I am home now and over the past few days have begun outdoor excursions to relearn how to walk, and build strenght in my legs. So i am walking far less than 26 minutes yet now fully understand your words. Just to feel the wind on my face, the sun warm me, and obseve this small world feels like a gift. And I dream of the mountains. Kia kaha.

Mary Sheehan Winn said...

You know how people in New England are if it gets over 35. Shorts and tee shirts and convertible roofs lowered!!
Good for you walking with your pedometer!

Speaking senior citizen pets, my Wendell just turned 14. I sure hope he's a long live-r.

Tinker said...

Wishing you a happy Mother's Day, Patry!~Hugs

Minnie said...

So sorry to hear of your loss, Patry: a much-loved pet is ... well, almost family. I know I still miss mine.
Lovely post, though - and so glad to see you back blogging again. Long may it last! Bon courage & amitiƩs from France.

deb said...

I haven't been by for a visit in a long time. This post reminds me that I should not stay away long. Damn, woman, you sure have a way of making meaning from the briefest of moments. (that's one of my favorite things, by the way) Thanks again for your deliciousness. (thanks again for you) xo

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Roberta said...

Firstly, this is my first visit to you blog and I like it very much and that is after reading only two posts. Secondly, Ten Rules For Writing Fiction - I just want to thank you very much for the link and lastly, this post reminds me of one of my favorite books, A Journey Around My Room by de Maistre. You might enjoy it.

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Patry Francis said...

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