Yet.

Imbolc                                                                   Bloodroot Moon

Snow came in the night.  Maybe 2 inches.  Freshened up the landscape, pushed back the melting time.  Last year today it was 73, ruining my vision of the north, turning it into a slushy Indiana/Ohio/Illinois.  Climate change stealing my home.  It disoriented me, made me feel like a stranger in a strange, yet strangely familiar, land.  Now.  30 degrees.  8 inches of snow.  Home again.

A book on my shelf, important to me:  Becoming Native to This Place.  The idea so powerful.  One so necessary for this nature starved moment, as the pace of the city as refuge lopes toward its own four minute mile.  Cities are energy, buzz, imagination criss-crossing, humans indulging, amplifying, renewing humanness but.  But.

All good.  Yes.  Yet.

That stream you used to walk along.  The meadow where the deer stood.  You remember.  The night the snow came down and you put on your snowshoes and you walked out the backdoor into the woods and walked quietly among the trees, listening to the great horned owl and the wind.  The great dog bounding behind you in the snow, standing on your snowshoes, making you fall over and laugh.  Remember that?

There was, too, that New Year’s Day.  Early morning with the temperature in the 20s below zero and another dog, the feral one, black and sleek, slung low to the ground, went with you on the frozen lake, investigating the ice-fishing shacks, all alone, everyone still in bed from the party the night before but you two walked, just you two and the cold.

Before I go, I also have to mention those potatoes.  The first year.  Reaching underneath the earth, scrabbling around with gloved fingers.  Finding a lump.  There.  Another.  And another.  And another.  The taste.  Straight from the soil.  With leeks and garlic.  Tomatoes, too, and beets.  Red fingers.  The collard greens.  Biscuits spread with honey from the hive.

Untamed and Primal

Fall                                                Waxing Autumn Moon

Warning:  weak stomachs should not read further.

Kate yelled, but I didn’t hear.  Rigel, let inside after breakfast and a morning’s romp in the woods, came in, lay down on our small oriental rug, and, as dogs sometimes do, threw up.  Gross, I know, but after a while with dogs, many dogs as we have had, this becomes part of the experience.

In this particular case however, it was not eaten grass or clumps of cloth (some dogs love to shred and eat cloth), but most of a recently ingested rabbit:  the head, a hind quarter and much of the softer parts.  Since none of breakfast came up with it, this was a post-breakfast hunt, likely followed by bolting because three other dogs Vega, Kona and Gertie wanted some, too.

Since we have about an acre and a half of woods with many brush piles, which we create intentionally for the purpose of harboring wildlife, our dogs always have hunting options, but we’ve not seem many offerings brought up on the deck in recent times.

Since our dogs are all sight hounds, or at least half sight hound coupled with half coon hound, they come equipped at birth with the instinct to hunt and kill on their own.  We’ve had various levels of skill among our dogs, but some have been exceptional.

Rigel is one.  Sortia, our Russian witch, a female Irish Wolfhound who weighed around 180 and was never fat, was and remains the champ.  She took down a deer by herself during an interlude at the breeders.  She brought us raccoon, ground hog, many rabbits and, to our chagrin, the occasional neighborhood cat who strayed foolishly over our fence.

The whippets are no slouches either.  Kona has killed many a rabbit, one time bringing a very fresh head and dropping it at the kitchen door.

Long ago I slipped over to the Farmer McGregor attitude toward rabbits so I have no problem with our dogs keeping the rabbit supply on the thin side.  They’re protecting our vegetable garden.  I imagine their presence also keeps out deer.

It’s not why we keep dogs, but it is a good side benefit.

All this hunting reminds us, too, that beneath the cheerful, loving persona our beloved dogs show to us, there is still within them an untamed and primal beast, a carnivore not really so far removed from the wolf.

Sortia and Me

Winter                                                             Waning Moon of the Winter Solstice

Dogs we have loved still live in my memories.  Today while the shoveling the walk I thought of Sortia, our Russian witch, a big Irish Wolfhound bitch, black with white socks, incredibly strong and a hunter of legend.  Before our breeders gave Sortia to us, her first placement hadn’t worked out, she took down a deer all by herself and guarded it with that combination of pride and territoriality only those who have an animal who kills will understand.  She brought back woodchucks, raccoons, squirrels, rabbits, mice, anything that moved on four legs.  Including, unfortunately, the occasional neighborhood cat that strayed inside our fences.

One New Year’s, maybe the second or third after we moved up here to Andover, I put Sortia in the Four-Runner and drove up to Lake George, about 15 miles north of us on Round Lake Blvd, the highway that runs north and south about a block from our house.  With an acre and a half of fenced yard and woods we don’t take our dogs for walks very often, but this morning I felt drawn to take Sortia out on the frozen lake.

We drove in, parked in the lot  and I hopped out, Sortia’s leash in my hand.  She jumped down and her nose began quivering.  New scents.  New place.  Pretty exciting.  We walked out onto the lake and made a tour of the many ice-fishing houses, all abandoned at 8 AM on January 1st, 10 degrees below zero.  We walked a half an hour, this elegant huntress and me, alone on a large body of ice.  I felt close to her then, closer than I had before.  We shared something that morning and it was a good way to start the year, just Sortia and me.