Rambling Man (And Dog)
June 25, 2015
I’ve often believed that there are currents and waves that flow through and connect certain spirits. It would explain why occasional moods seem to take some of us at the same time, despite geographic separation. Case in point, Chad Love’s recent rumination on his peregrination. Even as he must have been drafting this beautiful piece of work, I was struggling with some ideas of my own in regards to rambling in my temporary, suburban environs. His is better, by the way.
I like rambling… the word and the activity itself.
There’s a difference between walking and rambling. Most people around here walk. They stroll along the white path of the concrete sidewalk, seldom straying to set foot on the grass or to wander into the trees. Nevermind that the trees are mostly planted stands of whispy decorative plants, carefully selected and placed by landscapers not so much to provide native cover or wildlife habitat as to create a pleasant view for all the residents who look but don’t touch.
I’ll be honest. Most of the time, I set out to simply walk, and it’s from necessity… duty… taking Iggy out to stretch his legs and satisfy his excretory needs. Since he can’t hop up and go to the bathroom on his own, and cutting him loose to roam the neighborhood is neither socially acceptable nor safe (for him), I have to go out with him.
Sometimes, the neighbors are out walking their own dogs… pets on leashes, led from sidewalk to sidewalk to pee on trees, signposts, and fire hydrants. They crap on the manicured sod, and the owners (who’s the master here?) are right behind them with little plastic bags to pick it up and carry it home. All around the complex, there are still undeveloped woods, a couple of big fields, and even vacant lots, but the dogs stay within the length of the leash, just off the sidewalk, leading the people along the concrete trail.
I watch the spectacle, and I can’t really decipher my feelings… humor? Disdain? Disgust? Pity? I’m not even sure to whom I’d direct this response… the dogs or the people? Myself?
Iggy and I set off with a specific objective. We follow the sidewalk, and I keep him close at heel to keep him from going in the neighbor’s little patches of “yard”. There’s a fire hydrant on the corner, and he can lift his leg there. Anything else, though, will wait until we’re out of the complex and into the woods across the street. He knows the routine, and sets the pace according to the urgency of his needs.
Once we’re there, though, the rambling begins in earnest. Iggy runs ahead, eager to just be a dog for a while, and I follow aimlessly, eager to just be out there.
Sometimes we wander into the patch of trees (designated with a sign that says, “Tree Sanctuary,” and breaks my heart). There are rabbits there, quick little cottontails, and Iggy encountered his first soft-shelled armadillo (‘possum) under a patch of wild grapes. The trails, such as they are, wind between tree trunks, vines, and briars. An old tree house, falling to pieces, and a few rusted cans and old bottles belie the fact that, not so long ago, this place was still country. The city only came here recently.
The spider webs between the trees usually get the better of my mild arachnophobia, and I’ll lead us out into the big, flood control field. Iggy roams wide, smelling smells and running along with his nose to the ground. A little group of deer have acclimated to the rapidly growing housing development, and we see them often when we’re out in the early morning or late at night. Iggy looks at the deer and looks back to me, waiting for a command I won’t give, and we continue along. There’s no sidewalk, not even a trail, and not another single footprint or dog track.
Sometimes, we’ll cross over to an old logging road that leads into the unruly, briar choked thicket that was once a pine forest. This section was logged a few years back, and so far the developers haven’t bothered to roll in with the dozers and graders. We can only go a couple hundred yards down the trail before it is swallowed in a dense tangle of blackberries, catclaws, scrub oak, and sapling pines. In shorts and Tevas, this is as far as I’ll go, but I let Iggy bound through the thickets for a bit before I call him back.
On the way back, there’s a mound made of the spoils from grading the road bed. The little hill is covered with planted trees and mulch, and Iggy and I will trace the back of the hill, just out of sight of the passing traffic, pretending or dreaming that we’re still out in the country, and not a short hop from the grime of Durham and Raleigh.
The fantasy is best later at night, after the airport (RDU) has slowed down and the busy worker bees have all gone back to their hives. It’s never quiet, but it’s quieter, and on a decent night I can even watch the stars as we roam. The oppressive heat and humidity of the day recedes, and sometimes there’s even a little breeze. It’s almost pleasant for a while.
And then we’re back. Sooner or later, no matter how wide we range, we always come back to the concrete and asphalt.
I keep thinking that someone is going to see us rambling and decide that they should do it too. I don’t understand how Iggy and I can have this all to ourselves in this crowded little place, but a part of me selfishly hopes no one else gets the idea. I don’t how I’d feel if I had to share it.