"If you are bored, strained, lacerated, enervated by the way we live now, I suggest a night walk as far as you can get from a trace of civilization. This form of walking is a dance, and the ghost that follows you, your moon-cast shadow, is your true, androgynous parent, bearing within its distinct outline the child who has always directed your every move."
- Jim Harrison, Just Before Dark
I'm somewhat of a night walker these days. Our recent acquisition of a Beagle has precipitated this newfound facet of my nature. About 7:30 or so, I'll say, "Jack, wanna go for a walk?" Those six simple words kick off a metronomic joy in the tail-end of our dog that I'm quite sure the angels revel in. Just last night, while standing in front of our glass front door looking out at the night, Jack the Beagle reaches down and grabs his leash and begins walking it toward me. I swear I heard him say, "John, wanna go for a walk?" I felt a strange sensation in my tail.
We see much, this dog and I and our moon-cast shadows, on our night walks. The other night we passed a house with the den curtains pulled back like it was middle of the day. I'm sorry, but if you've got your curtains pulled back, I'm looking in. There on a couch sat three adults and two children, all in a row in descending order of size so that they strangely resembled those cell phone commercials. Their faces were illuminated by the hypnotic glow of the tv. They looked like mindless zombies, waiting for their master to issue a command. It was a little unsettling.
As we round the northern arc of our walk, we always see the livid nose-light of the incoming train. The train is always on time. If you're not too busy looking in your neighbor's den, you can hear the track's breath, readying itself for the approaching weight, almost exhaling, preparing to hold until the iron horse passes. There's something extremely satisfying about standing in the night air with your Beagle while a train passes. Hard to know just exactly why that is, but some things you just know in your tail.
Jack easily marks ten to fifteen spots on our walks. I'm not sure where this little dog is storing his stuff, but mine is not to reason why, mine is but to walk...Each of these breaks allow me the opportunity to mark a spot as well. Not literally, mind you; it's too cold in Colorado at night for that. Just last night I heard geese as Jack yellowed the snow. I never saw them; we are in the fingernail stage of old Luna, but I did hear them. The reassuring honk of things unseen, the essence of things hoped for...
My coat pocket always contains a poop bag; don't leave home without it. Jack'll sniff out the appropriate coordinates and hunch his back into a "C" and go #2. And just like a good owner, I say, "Nice job, son" and then I stoop to bag the goods. I then complete the walk with a leashed Beagle in one hand and a small bag of poop in the other. Neighbors sitting on the couch watching The Office may glance outside, see me, and be quite unsettled at the sight, taking me for some child getting ready to run away. That's fine by me. The poop-stoop reminds me that a part of being a father, or a human for that matter, is cleaning up the messes of the day and making sure they're properly disposed of. If you don't want to do that, please don't father a child. You'll screw up generations to come by refusing to humbly bow.