The House That Wandered

Our house was built in 1928. At some point in the 1930s, it went for a stroll and never came back. It also took a few other houses with it.

They originally were beside a whitewater river but they got tired of floodwaters seeping under their foundations and inside their walls. So off they went, on the hunt for a drier location.

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They ended up on the other side of the highway, where they still sit to this day.

I like to cross the highway and wander down to the river, where the forest is slowly reclaiming those places. In some areas, it’s obvious, but in other areas you have to know what you’re looking for, to find the spots where the houses used to be.

For instance, a row of young trees that is just a little too straight for nature.

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That reminds me of when we had a parking area installed. Our friend wouldn’t put in a square area, saying all landscaping should be about moving people away from the straight lines we live in. That nature doesn’t like squares.

But anyway, some areas over there in the woods are more subtle. There is a plant blooming right now. More of a twig, actually. It only catches the eye because of the cluster of little purple flowers. The plant is non-native and is left over from the days when someone planted the shrub in their yard. The yard is long gone. The house is long gone. But children of that shrub have spread and occasionally a tiny one pops up where it shouldn’t be, and happily blooms.

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There are old railroad tracks, half-buried in moss and forest floor. Glimpses can be caught of the rails as they peter out in the woods. It gives a sense of mystery. Where did they go? Where did they come from? What was it like when they were in use? They weren’t used by full-size trains, but for smaller units carrying supplies. But it stirs the curiosity when you stumble across a section of rails seemingly not connected to anything, out in the woods.

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It’s interesting to me how your eye can be drawn to those straight lines, even if you don’t know that a community used to thrive there. Those lines don’t belong along the river, between the trees, among the rocks, under the moss. And so you see them, almost like a haunting, or a shadow of what once was.

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Maple tree, moss, and a nice crop of licorice root

I wonder sometimes what memories get absorbed into the walls of an old home. What voices the wood might remember, what stories, or what dramas. Do they remember the feel of roots reaching down and branches reaching up, when the boards were trees?

And I wonder sometimes if the house remembers the rush of water, the sounds of it, the feel of cold snow-melt flowing around its frame.

Or if it just sits on its foundation, quietly hibernating, maybe dreaming of the next walk it will take, and where it might go.

Who knows where I might wake up one morning.

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Update On The Barks

My last post was about our tough Rottweiler growling (from the safety of behind her window) at a coyote in our yard. Here’s an update that might make you laugh.

Yesterday morning I let her out into the back yard and she disappeared. Our backyard is small and fenced, but she was gone. I looked everywhere using the flashlight, but no dog. I checked the house multiple times. I finally woke the husband. He started searching and I got in the truck to drive the area.

As I came around the backside of the fence, I saw a dark shape go into the bushes. I told my husband to check back there because she’d obviously got out somehow. A few minutes later he called and said she was in the house.

I’d checked the house. Thoroughly. He said her fur was cold like she’d just come in (our snow isn’t that long gone so it’s still chilly).

In daylight, he looked around but found no spot where she could have escaped the fence.

Mystery unsolved.

This morning I had to go out to our shop. The dog went with me. But she acted strangely. She stayed glued to my side and at the shop she raced ahead of me to get inside, and then didn’t want to come out. When I finally got her to come out, she walked glued to me again.

My husband said maybe she was smelling the coyote and was scared.

So when she was missing she could very well have just been hiding. Four in the morning, no ambient light, a black dog…she could have been under the deck with her eyes screwed shut and no flashlight beam would have found her.

And then driving to work afterwards, some pieces fell together.

It’s spring. Bears are coming out of hibernation but no berries are out yet.

Last year we had a bear come over the fence into the back yard.

There was that black shadow I saw outside the fence going into the bushes.

If the dog was hiding, what did I send my husband into the bushes to find?

And maybe…just maybe…we should pay more attention when our dog is scared outside.

The Language of Barks

When we moved to our current home, it was the first time my husband’s princess, Vala, had a view other than woods. There was a road that an occasional car went by. Once in a while an elderly lady walked her dog by. Occasionally ‘Santa’ would go past on a bicycle. Supposedly to lose weight but his pace is so sedate his bushy white beard barely stirs.

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That whole new world became hers to give loud commentary on. Squirrel? Bird? Her own cat sitting on his own porch? Everything was announced. And not only did she bark, she also body-slammed the huge picture window. One day I watched her hit the window so hard she actually did a backflip off the window onto the floor. Obviously that was a serious safety issue that couldn’t continue.

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And of course that barking infuriated me. She wouldn’t listen, she wouldn’t stop, the more I yelled the worse she got…until a friend explained how a dog’s brain worked. That she didn’t equate my yelling with her barking. That in her mind there was this horrible thing in the yard that she told me about and then I got upset so that must be a REALLY HORRIBLE thing that needed more announcing.

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Needless to say it took a bit to retrain both of us. My husband also built a big sturdy gate to keep her away from the window. The fact that she quickly learned to open the gate is another story.

At this point, she knows to bark and tell us something is going on, but she’s much better at stopping when told. She only body-slams the window when her arch nemesis goes by, but that’s also another story.

And I have learned to interpret her many barks so I also no longer need to rush to the window to see what is going on. Remember, we live in a community of maybe twenty-five people. Not a lot goes on even on a busy day. But when she barked, I had to run. Like I said, we’ve both needed training.

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Our ‘back yard’

There is a rather sedate bark that says somebody is going for a walk. There’s a more high-pitched bark that says ‘Zoe is out again!’ That’s come in handy because Zoe is the neighbor’s dog who isn’t supposed to be out again.

And there’s the frantic OH MY GOD IT’S THE UPS MAN!!! bark followed by the OH MY GOD HE’S COMING TO THE DOOR!!! extremely more frantic bark.

The UPS driver is terrified of her. She’s a Rottweiler and she’s barking madly at the window. I keep telling him to trust me enough to allow me to open the door. Because once the door is open, her job of alerting us is done and she loves everyone. Seriously. She’s a sweet girl. She is most emphatically not the guard dog in our family. That job belongs to our old lumpy girl, Arwen.

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Caught in the act

Matter of fact, the one and only time in Vala’s life when she actually listened to me and came immediately when I called was when she was running from a bear. She flew right inside the cabin then turned as if to say ‘hope you’ll be okay out there’.

But anyway, the UPS guy doesn’t trust me. He now stands out near the street and waits for me to come to him. I hate it when my husband orders something heavy.

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So for the past week we’ve been down with the flu, which triggers latent asthma so I end up sleeping sitting up. A couple nights ago I was out in the living room sleeping in the recliner, when I woke up about three a.m. to an odd sound.

Vala was growling.

No barking, no dramatic body-slamming. Just this actually quite sinister sounding growl. I’d never heard her do that before. So, a bit nervously, I peeked out the curtain. And saw nothing. But she was on her perch, staring out the window, and still growling. I waited and watched. And here, coming through the trees and into the front yard was a lone coyote. I hit the porch light and it took off, and all was fine.

I realized two things from that odd little moment.

  1. When Vala is barking her fool head off and body-slamming the windows, it’s all for show. Maybe even just a show for us so we believe she’s doing her job.
  2. Or maybe there is a little guard dog inside her and maybe when she’s being quiet is when we need to pay attention.

Or more likely, she was being so quiet because that was the one thing she didn’t want noticing her.

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