Drop the Leash
The actual experience, the walk, is consistent, predictable. And yet my feelings and reactions to that walk can land anywhere on a spectrum that I am relatively familiar with, but not really. (Like saying, that acre of land is mine, but knowing full well I'll be upending rocks and testing creek water and studying animal scat from that land—my land— until the day I die, in the humble (feeble?) attempt to understand how it all fits together.)
Ruth meanders. She ambles and pauses as I attempt to carry on—not at a trot, nor even a confident stroll, just a simple request for my tiny pack to keep moving forward in some capacity. I’d be happy with a semi-consistent slog.
But she will stop to eyeball something on the ground. A shiny bit of whatever comprises sidewalks. Or a smooshed leaf. All good stuff—periodically. But, lord, many days feel like a sentence with a period. Between. Every. Goddam. Word.
When she pauses, I continue to plod along, glancing over my shoulder as if to say yoo-hoo! Trying to keep it light without breaking my very-gentle stride. Her radar must go off when I'm about 10 paces ahead, because it’s at that point when she screams like a kid who’s been blatantly abandoned by her mother. Left in the dust to wither alone. Panic fills her words as if with gasoline, MOM WAIT!!!
But none of that matters because our yellow lab, Elvis—who is nearing 10-years-old and beginning to show his geriatric-ness—will likely soon need to veer off the path to pee a drop, a tiny smattering. Not enough to cover a blade of grass. And he’ll do this a ridiculous-many-times throughout the walk, as if he were set to intermittent mode.
Between the two of them, it can easily take a solid ten minutes to travel a stone’s throw.
There are days when I want to drop the fucking leash and run as fast as my body will go.
Thudding on the pavement, splattering through the curb-puddles, until I have no choice but to hinge at the waist, hands on knees, a hypotenuse gasping for air. (I can only imagine the caliber of MOMMY WAIT!! that would stir up from Ruth in the distance.)
Like anything, even the most glorious of moments feel less thrilling when it seems someone or something else has made the choice for you. It's been a year since I've made a decision that doesn't somehow have COVID factored into it.
But things are definitely looking up. Both sets of grandparents are fully vaccinated (YAY) and the violet crocuses did break though the earth before being pummeled by snow last weekend. There will be a day (soon?) when Ruth is back in school playing with other young people and I'm back at work, massaging my old people. And the endless, timeless feel of so many of these COVID days will be a thing of the past.
There are days when I am OVER it, deeply, like a toe scraping the corroded bottom of the pool. When, while on a walk, Elvis decides to stop and poop while at the same time Ruth shoves her dolly stroller off the muddy side of a ridge. For example. And people are approaching with a dog, all in masks, so I am trying to get my mask from my pocket while gathering Ruth to the side while she hollers that HER DOLL IS MUDDY. And Elvis is done pooping so I attempt to bribe him with a biscuit—because he can be a real ass towards other dogs while on a leash—while also making it obvious that I plan to pick up the dog poop and my sunglasses are totally fogged and the leash gets wrapped around my legs.
And I think to myself, this finite moment in time was one I could have surely avoided simply by staying home.
But, of course, staying home is not an option.
And there are days when much of it feels deeply hilarious. Where I’m able to switch a lever in my brain that allows me to chill out with my own agenda and wholly observe the delight and theatrics of an average moment with Ruth. Where I can actually, miraculously, enjoy the cards I Been Dealt.
Those days feel like we have traveled forward for long enough, and I am ready to join Ruthy's CuriousLand, holding that piece of mulch up to the light. Yes, it does look a little like a beard without a face. An audible slowing down, a medicinal supplement setting things to half-speed. Voices seem to sound deeper, more resonant. Breathing has a roomier hallway.
And I hope not to forget this moment, later, when my breathing is back to a tight little coffee straw. Even if I can’t force a state of mind, a particular feeling of space and gratitude, here’s to hoping I'll remember it was there, only a moment ago, and somewhere in the grooves of muscle memory, it will surely find me again.