My dog and I are rediscovering water.
When I moved here in mid-June this meant walking each morning and evening down to our community dock to watch the creek and the birds that lived there and—for my dog Tessa—to “manage” the fish that jumped when the evenings were flat and still and lovely. It meant seeing the crowds of frogs that came out after dark and hopped in the grass near the warm pavement. It meant throwing open my bedroom windows on the cool nights to hear these frogs calling through the darkness, five or seven or ten different voices and the deep lunk-lunk of the bullfrog behind them, lulling me to sleep.
Now it’s August. Cicadas droning in the trees by day have replaced the night frogs. We’ve a serious drought and the frog marsh is almost dry—apart from an occasional nocturnal or early morning toad, I don’t see frogs anymore. We still walk to the creek, Tessa and I, which has a sort of floating scum on it on calm days—most days now are calm—and all the water seems to reside in the air itself, as temperatures race headlong into the high 90s and the humidity follows close behind. Our walks pull the water out of the air into my tee shirt, and pull some kind of restlessness out from inside my belly. It’s hard to find equanimity, much less serenity—it is hard to be outside at all.
And yet, if one has a dog, one must venture out. And so we do, several times a day. We try to get out early in the morning, and we try to get to the creek, though the walk takes us through the most humid piece of land around, the mulch path to and through the woods. (Mornings, something like a hundred thousand spiders drape their webs across the path. I tell myself that, surely, spiderweb is good for one's complexion…?)
This afternoon the skies got dark and the wind came up and we had a few minutes of light rain. When the dog and I went to the creek the path through the woods was cool and watersplashed and lovely. Diana butterflies floated in the aisles and speckled sunlight. We walked out of the coolness and down the dock to sit on the bench there, back in the baking sun, in the dazzling late afternoon glare of August. In my head were emails I had to write and copy that was overdue and new clients I had to manage. But I sat on that creek and I closed my eyes and I let the sun beat down on me and some of that clamor faded. And as the clamor fades the birdsong comes up, two separate volume controls going in different directions. I thought suddenly about angels and about how nice it’d be to share this particular piece of afternoon.
The man walked out of the woods then and down the dock and sat on the end of it, swinging his legs over the water. He wore green nylon running shorts and hiking boots—that’s all—black hair, light eyes, a smile. I’ve seen him before, twice, both times by water. Once he was sitting, weaving something out of grass, and once he was coming out of the weeds by the water's edge, perhaps out of the creek itself. Perhaps, I thought, he is an angel. My dog went over to lie next to him. The sun kept beating and the tide kept turning and we watched four ospreys for a while, circling way up in the sky and calling to one another in their high, sweet, wild voices. “Can you feel it?” the angel-man asked me then. “Can you just feel the energy coming up off this water?” He held his palms out over it. I looked away from him, downstream. I looked at the flow of the water down and out to the bay and sea, at the flow of the tide coming up toward us, at the ripples of wind across the skin of the creek. I felt as if the entire earth was shifting and the creek was the only solid piece of ground. I felt the heaviness of the day fall apart and the energy of the water come up to meet me in a volume of birdsong and wind, trees creaking and fish splashing, throwing themselves in the air like silver medallions, flashing in the sun.
Tessa and I walked back slowly through the cool trees and along the hot path where the trumpet vine blooms orange-red and blue and black dragonflies dart and hover. Somewhere behind us the creek rests in its shifting impermanence—and I realize I have anchored myself to this water as firmly as I’ve attached myself to anything on this earth.