Oh, the outside world is so lovely! Under the ancient maple trees that line Sixth Street, Bryn and I scrunch through zillions of flame-colored, drying leaves. This is one of several long daily outings. She’s sprained her ankle, and so must be kept from running flat out and wrestling other dogs, so we walk to keep her limber, yet curb vigorous movement. Another week ought to do the trick.
Today, I’ve carefully selected about fifteen particularly gorgeous leaves to set down on my big kitchen butcher-block table, to bring autumn inside, as it were. My mother showed me how to iron these beauties using waxed paper: make a ‘sandwich’ under and above them, and press the wax into the leaves’ bodies, and especially the edges, while keeping the iron’s temperature exactly right. The result: semi-glossed leaves, whose tips don’t curl. Their colors last much longer. They look splendid scattered untidily over the kitchen’s flat surfaces.
Bryn loves to trot up the hill at the Silver Lake Recreational Park, carefully lower herself and roll down to the bottom. So I do, too, laughing as I bump downward, a clumsy seal in a sea of grass, my dark coat collecting nature’s decoration. Her soft, fleecy white fur coat snares countless bright leaves. When she stands up she’s a living, breathing, flame-colored Picasso-like collage. This wild art lasts only an instant before she shakes vigorously, making their fire fly everywhere.
We two enjoy walking along the Boardman Lake. A generous, paved path wears a riot of colored leaves that swirl to their own music and the whims of capricious breezes. White swans dot the lake: some float closer to the shore, parting more bright leaves lying quietly atop the opaque water. It’s a stunning, movable feast.
I occasionally catch the scent of a barbeque in progress somewhere; that aroma is spiced with pine, dried vegetation and moist earth. I need only my sweater to feel comfortable, though it’s well into the second week of November! Mother Nature cares not a whit about schedules. She’s in a self-induced autumn trance, reluctant to break it off to blast the landscape with icy rain and snow.
Soon, She yawns lazily; soon enough...but for now, stasis....
Bryn vacuums up a myriad of delectable perfumes- doggy droppings, a discarded Halloween wrapping that had hugged a Snickers Bar, a low branch where yellow leaves have been blessed by canine waterings- and- there is even a decent tuft of dark fur caught in a small twig that dangles, broken, on that same bush. Bryn takes her time sniffing its story.
A bit of raccoon fuzz, perhaps?
“Pick a place, Bryn, and I’ll brush you...” Ah, loving this ritual, she chooses a sunny spot in the lush park grass and lies down with a sigh. I bring out her brush and begin, going against the grain, making sure there are no fur mats, moving slowly up and down her long body, always leading with my free hand so as not to startle her. The goal: to do the job without her moving, or startling even once. Sometimes I can.
Half through, I tell her its time to turn over. Grasping a front and back paw I say, “Oooover we go...” and turn her over. Her eyes remain shut as she allows this. Then, the brush gently begins again, always following my open, smoothing hand.
The only tricky part is combing her legs. I must brush each one in such a way as to keep her from tickle-jerking, a challenge I enjoy. Her leg fur feathers out, making each appear twice as large. After a minute she lies on her back, helping, as I address her belly.
Finally, about ten minutes later, I’m done, and signal this by saying, “ All done, Bryn: bye-bye.” She immediately rises, shakes vigorously, and looks at me, posing expectantly.
“Yeah, you’re a stunner.”
She sneezes, pleased, and trots off to inspect another shrub. I remove white fur caught in the brush’s teeth, pocket the fluff and stuff the little tool into my backpack.
Bryn gleams after grooming, but it never lasts, as she tends to collect burrs, some quarter-sized, that are the devil to remove. They’re everywhere, especially right now. Sometimes she’ll trot back to me with an odd gait and stand absolutely still at my feet, signaling that a bur is wedged between a paw-toe. I’ll feel around, and sure enough, a nasty one is revealed and dislodged. She’ll bound off, relieved.
I’m her ‘fix-it’ chappie.
The sun is playful, peeking between fat clouds, and the vivid blue sky serves as a spectacular backdrop to all this stunning color and motion.
Northern Michigan autumns can leave a poet mute, I think...