Two Dogs In The Woods

Jack was a well-known dog in a small community and one of those dogs who could smile. He spent a lot of time out on trails with his family.

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Wild forest creatures

Almost ten years ago my son and his friend went hiking and asked if they could take our young dog, Arwen. Most of you know this story so I won’t go into detail. The boys went bushwhacking off trail and Arwen ended up stuck on a boulder on the Index Town Wall. Luckily she was smart enough (or scared enough) to stay put on her boulder until help came.

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Morning Star climbing route on the Wall

But back to Jack. The search started late so it was getting dark. And it was raining. At one point I was waiting for Jack’s mom, who was coming with a backpack loaded with ropes and gear.

I sat in the middle of the narrow trail in the woods. The rain fell steadily, pattering on leaves and ferns, on raincoat, and dog. The light was that misty twilight where you can still see, but not that well. And being in the woods, it was that special shade of shadowy green that you only get in the rain. The woods stretched out above and below me as we were in a steep area. Everything around me was wet and lush as only a temperate rainforest can be.

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Jack pressed up against my side and I had my arm around him. I was worried and scared for our dog, and getting a bit scared for those out looking for her. Eventually we agreed it wasn’t safe to go further in the coming dark, especially when we didn’t know exactly where she was and the terrain was steep. But at that particular moment, there Jack and I sat.

Every so often Jack would let loose with a single bark that would echo away from us. And off in the distance I would hear a plaintive little bark echo in return. Arwen was out there somewhere alone. Except that Jack was talking to her. I wondered at the time what he told her.

‘Stay put, we’re coming for you.’

‘What kind of idiot dog gets stuck on a rock?’

What makes that particular moment such a vivid memory is that in spite of being almost sick with fear for our dog, it was oddly peaceful. I could have sat out there forever, with the sounds of water and the smells of wet forest and wet dog. I remember shivering, and feeling Jack occasionally shiver, but there was a stretch of warmth between us where we sat against each other. There was the sound and scents of rain and earth. And the quiet peace of being alone in the woods.

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Well, except for the barking conversation going on.

When I was in Denmark in July it was dry and hot. Record-breaking heat, relentless sun beating down on my head, unending crowds of people. I craved rain and rushing rivers and water.

And I remembered that twilight with Jack. Fear and worry and stress aside, it was a perfect moment.

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Getting old, sometimes not too bright, but still a sweetheart

Bigfoot

I’m sure you’ve all heard stories about Bigfoot. Also known as Sasquatch here in the Pacific Northwest.

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Good friends of ours have an espresso stand called the Espresso Chalet, that stands on the site where the sweet movie about Bigfoot, Harry and the Henderson’s, was filmed. There are wonderful mountain views from their place and amazing Bigfoot totems.

There is a fascinating book called Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science, by Jeff Meldrum, a professor of anatomy and anthropology at the University of Idaho who looks at the legends from a scientific analysis viewpoint to question whether such a creature could, or might have, existed.

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Who knows what walks those hills…besides kids?

There is a lot of stuff on the internet about supposed sightings, some even with video and recordings.

An elderly man who was a very pragmatic sort once told me a story that left me wondering.

But I’m about to confess something here.

I actually saw Bigfoot once.

Many years ago we were visiting a great-uncle at his farm in eastern Washington. And one day he and my dad decided to go for a drive along old logging roads out in the woods, which was a favorite pastime of our family. So off we went in our 1960s baby-blue Corvair station wagon. The great-uncle, dad, a couple siblings, and myself.

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There we were, taking our time driving switchbacks through the forest, climbing into the mountains. The logging road was a narrow, rocky washboard and in this one particular spot, the trees crowded right up to the edge of the road. Can you picture it? No room to turn, to get out of the way if there had been another car on the road.

Or to get out of the way if something came charging through that shadowed forest.

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And that’s exactly what happened.

We saw movement, brown fur, something big coming fast through the trees.

But before we could even think ‘bear!!!’ it was there, right in front of the car.

Bigfoot.

Dad slammed on the brakes throwing all of us forward. This was, after all, back in the 1960s when you were lucky if your car even had seatbelts.

And before we could even think ‘Bigfoot!!!’ it leaped onto the hood of the car.

And started spraying our front windshield with soapy water.

Out there in the middle of the woods and here was this crazy mythical beast with a squirt bottle. It sprayed the windshield so heavily that we couldn’t see. Windshield wipers didn’t help because all they did was smear the soap and make more bubbles.

My dad was furious. He leaped out and confronted Bigfoot. There was a lot of yelling, and then a lot of apologizing.

It turns out the same weekend we were there, a car rally was going on. The idea was you signed up and then drove a mapped route through logging roads in the mountains. Whoever made it to the final checkpoint with the best time, won something (never did hear what). But to make the rally more interesting, there were obstacles set up along the way to slow participants down.

Like Bigfoot with a squirt bottle.

So after poor Bigfoot realized we weren’t part of the rally, after all the yelling and apologizing, and after watching Bigfoot trying to clean off the windshield with his hairy arm, we headed on down the logging road.

Slowly.

Very slowly.

My dad exacted his revenge on the whole rally by becoming an obstacle.

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Dad in his crowded cabin with a duckling keeping it warm

That story probably explains why I still like to drive old logging roads and why I peer out the windows so intently. Because I know, without a doubt, that somewhere out there is a real Bigfoot.

And one of these days I’m going to see him (or her) in the trees.

Hopefully this time without a squirt bottle.

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To Read Or Read Again

Our bookshelves are sagging. One of these days they are going to fall forward, brackets pulled out of the wall by the weight of all the words.

We’ve taken lots of books to the thrift shop over the years. Some were awful, some were good, but not so good they became best friends. Those are on the shelves.

I know there are people who never re-read a book once it’s finished. But my family isn’t like that. When we find books that we love, we treasure them and read them over and over.

It’s like having a visit with a best friend you haven’t seen in a long time. They may tell you a story that you’ve heard many times over the years. But you want to sit with them, treasuring being in their presence again, even if you know how the story ends.

So which valued friends are weighing down my shelves?

Elizabeth Peters (and in her persona of Barbara Michaels). Mary Norton. Stephen King. Robert A. Heinlein. P.J. Parrish. L. Ron Hubbard. Agatha Christy. James Heriot. John Sandford. Victoria Holt. Elly Griffiths. James S. A. Corey. J.K. Rowlands. Winston Graham. Ann McCaffrey. David Weber. JRR Tolkien. Meg Gardiner. C. J. Box. Barry Lopez.

And on and on and on. I just pulled out a Harry Potter this morning. The book has been read by all three of us so many times that the binding is separating from the pages. Same with some of my Elizabeth Peters books that are almost thirty years old. Same with one book Brite and Fair by Henry Shute, which is almost a hundred years old and still makes me laugh out loud when I carefully turn the fragile pages.

A couple of the Elizabeth Peters books I’ve replaced with newer copies that are sturdier. But I still reach for the well-read ones. Because when I open the old ones, it’s not just the story. It’s the memories of all those who borrowed the book. It’s the finger smudges from all who have read it. It’s the treasures you find inside from dried flowers to breadcrumbs.

All things that show me the story is loved and part of a larger family.

So do you re-read books or are you unable to return to them after finishing?

And what old friends are on your shelves?