Sunday, February 14, 2010

In Which I Pause

It's a beautiful day. The sun is shining bright, heralding spring. The air is crisp, with just a hint of the early morning cold lingering behind as the sun rises higher and higher over the bare trees. It's spring early in the desert this year. We've had quite a bit of rain the past month, so in another month, the desert will be bursting with wildflowers. The desert is almost quivering with anticipation of life gurgling just below the brown, dusty surface. Springtime is when Mother Nature explodes out here, with growth so rapid that plants really do grow amazingly overnight. She has to take advantage of that brief moment when everything is just perfect, when everything lines up just so, allowing life to spring forward, push through the hardpan desert surface, and briefly shine before most of life hibernates through the long, hot summer.

So why do I feel that, instead of taking advantage of all this sunlight and fresh air and invigorating spirit, I want to just laze about? Maybe it's latent memories of February winters back East, when this month was one of gloom and drear and ice. Gray days, gray snow, gray faces on weary passersby. When all you wanted to do was curl up next to the fire and read a book which took place somewhere in the tropics.

I really should start on my spring cleaning. I really should finish Anna Karenina for my book group. I really should clean the bathroom, and change the sheets on the bed, and vacuum under all the cushions. Will I? We'll see. I usually have great willpower, but when I feel like indulging myself, I do. Even if it's indulging my laziness.

And may I recommend today's opinion column by Verlyn Klinkenborg in the New York Times? He's one of my favorite contributors because he writes about nature and man's amazement at her intricacies and his humbleness when contemplating his place in it. Today he talks about snow dogs. (See photos of my snow dogs sprinkled through this blog--insert happy smiling face here.) Why do snow dogs run, he asks?

Well, Mr. Klinkenborg, may I humbly suggest, with just my own anecdotal evidence to support me, that snow dogs run simply because they can. Because they love that feeling of freedom. Gentle Reader, you may remember that feeling--of the wind slapping against your face when you were a kid, and ran for the sheer fun of it. For that feeling of escape, for that feeling of being the only person feeling exactly what you were feeling as you raced against time, against nature, against yourself. For that feeling of being alive and in the moment, with your feet pounding and the sweat trickling down your back. For that feeling of if you just ran a little further, a little faster, a little longer, you'd get there, wherever there was, and that what you wanted would be there, whatever that was.

Dogs feel that, too. But unlike humans, they never outgrow that joy of just running for fun till they collapse, panting, filled with triumph and excitement and pleasure. I don't know if their cheeks get cold and their knees ache or even if they really feel joy. But the smiles (and yes, dogs do smile) and the excitement that sparks from their eyes seem to me to convey that yes, they feel joy, and yes, they like fun, and that they don't run just because thousands of years of human tinkering in their DNA has produced an animal designed to run (and willing to pull us along with them) but, because unlike humans, they live in the day, racing their hearts out as fast as they can, as long as they can, so they can feel the wind ripple through their fur, and feel one with Mother Nature, and just because it's fun.

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