Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The lake, the night

Every so often, our household goes through greater and greater intolerance of city noise. It usually coincides with summer and my neighbors: car stereo baselines, motorcycle engines, fireworks, verbal escalations in the street, and the overhead flight landing pattern three blocks away.

We have an escape valve, though, for which I am forever grateful. My father has a cabin six hours away, and we packed the dogs in the car with food and fall gear, and we drove north.

Two of the four pups got wound up: why are we not stopping this car to explore? The constant whining, winding up to barking and pacing, was hard to deal with. I am a vet and used the tools I had: I gave them meds to calm them down. They slept, and we did not poke our eyes out.

Once arrived, the lake was its usual blue and huge self, calming us, but it turned out the neighbors were building a large house and the workman had the stereo on to terrible, cliché and loud rock.

Go over there, you say, and ask them to turn it down. I, though, hate conflict, hate confrontation, so I did what many Midwesterners would do, I went inside and read a book. I had to pull Sue, a Texan, back from the brink. But we both agreed—it would be soon the weekend, and they would be gone.

And gone indeed. It got so quiet in the house when the refridgerator motor switched off that you could hear your ears ringing. On Sunday the wind picked up and the house pulsed with a slight thrum of the waves hitting the rocks, sound traveling through the soil. The water was red from the rainy runoff of clay mud and the white chop picked up, spraying the beach, soaking you if you stood too close to the edge.

It's a moody one, the lake.

It only takes a day to wear the dogs out up there. We’re mostly off leash, unless a neighbor has a dog out as well. The three run down the dead end dirt road and I carry Tiny Dog. She insists—the gravel is too much for her pretty small feet.

I unwound, in my usual pattern: eat, read, walk, nap, eat. Then a cocktail to watch the sunset over the Minnesota coast 20 miles away, ridge of red over ridge of black hills.

The night before we had to leave, life started to spill back in. I lay in bed, eyes open, my pulse and breath starting to rev. My mind tumbled with the encroaching: the return to work, my lists of procrastinations, an eat-better to-do list. But this outwardly quiet place is also teeming inside with nebulous worries and terrors, things that creep and grow and fester and rise, so that it is impossible to sleep. And I start to get scared, right there, in the dark, next to Sue and my four dogs, all the doors locked, my health intact, a belly full of a good supper.

What the mind does to create its own monsters.

Wren came in from the living room couch, and like always, to my side of the bed, standing on her hind legs so that I would lean over and pick her up. She has preferred from the start to sleep on the pillow next to your head, and I oblige. My heart cannot fully calculate or contemplate her years of suffering in a puppy mill, so plush bed it is, all night in the crook of my arm, m’dear.

I picked her up and she curled in, and my heart settled, my breath slowed and the world pushed back a little. Wren pushed it back. 

Wren's first fall season in our house, new sweater. Let the smitten fest begin!

When I was home for five months in 2009 for breast cancer treatment, Wren was my raft. She was the first small dog in the house, the only at the time, and she held me here, so my thoughts were less likely to go to that dark island of fear and disappearance. One can get very lost in her own mind. One needs a dog to help her back. With my doctors and my dogs, and the love of those around me, I came back. I’m back. Here we go, Wren, my hero of the black night.

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