Budlore Amadeus, the Dog of the Amadai, wanted to go out after breakfast. It’s not that he wanted to, or needed to, go out, no not at all, he wanted me to go with him. It was wet, foggy, and damp outside, and going out into the woods with Bud meant my shoes would be wet, and I might pick up a tick or two. But when a dog wants to go into the woods with you, there’s an unspoken agreement that going out into the woods is the best thing ever, so out we go.
I called Wrex Wyatt to go with us, and he hesitated, and once outside, he quickly doubled back and waited on the porch for us to return. Wrex is aging, and this is the first time I’ve noticed he didn’t join us.
Both Jessica Elizabeth and Bud hit the trails at speed, and disappear. They’ll wend their way back and forth, closer then further away, no scent unsmelled, no trace of an interloper left uninvestigated, and in Bud’s case, no tree left dry. But Budlore comes in, staying just ahead of me on the trail, tail up, nose to the ground, and he steps over a small rat snake, as do I. There’s no reason to get excited, and the snake freezes, allowing us to go our way, as he will, too.
Spiders have cast webs, trapping tiny drops of water, magnolia leaves have ponds on them, and the whole world seems soaked with dampness. High above, there’s some clearing, but close to the ground the air is a semiliquid that delays the dawn, and mixes shadows with darkness and gray.
The overstory of the giant oaks acts as an umbrella, blocks direct rain, but leaking fog through. It’s a surreal and magical feeling, to be embraced within the atmosphere of such ancient and powerful creatures, who stand without effort or strain, reaching towards the nearest star, and the center of the earth, for every moment of their lives.
I stop to take a photo of the trees, but the light isn’t right. Budlore comes in at speed, as fast as he can run, and I know to stand still, and he will pass. Bud zooms by, barely grazing me, his body a rocket with four legs. He makes the circuit before I can go fifty feet, and comes back again, this time to check in, to show me how happy and excited he is, too. Jessica, on the other paw, is somewhere in the woods, likely digging, but she’s getting to be more solitary now. Jess may, or she may not, follow us in, or she may decide to stay in the woods, and do whatever it is that Jessica does when no one else is with her. She’s becoming an adult, forming into who she wants to be, more and more each day. She likes the solitude of the woods, off the path, alone with the scents that draw her attention. I feel this, and understand it, too.
Lilith Anne doesn’t go with us anymore. At ten years old, she’s no longer interested in leaf collecting, or whatever creatures are passing through the woods. She slowly chases spots of sunlight, finding a nice place to nap and be warm. This morning is not her type of day, and so the bed will have to suffice.
Half the pack is inside, not motivated to go out. I’ve seen this before, many times, where a puppy is suddenly gimpy, ten years after arriving here. The very young become more independent, the old dogs become increasingly slow, and the cycle repeats with each new dog.
But Jess comes with us, following Bud, and as we head inside, I wonder why I never grow tired of walking in the same woods every day, sometimes more than once. The dogs never tire of it either, Bud running like he’s chasing the wind, and Jessica investigating the earth Herself. Light or dark, wet or dry, cold or hot, the woods are always the same, and never the woods they were an hour ago. Every space within gives life, feeds life, is everything there is in life, and that is why I am drawn to the trees and the undergrowth, the mushrooms and the snakes. Here in the woods is where we were always supposed to be, even if we never learn it as a whole, there are those of us who will always call this home.