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Sunday, October 20, 2013

inspired by Carolyn... for Barney

Since we moved to our little log house by the woods, we have always had two cats in residence. At first it was Cloe and Satchmo, then it was Cloe alone but with visits from Office Kitty. Later it was Office Kitty and Ginko and now it's Ginko and Gooey.

When we first moved here we also had Barney, the loving old doggie Bill Fritchey rescued in the borough when Barney was smart enough to find Bill and Bill was smart enough to notice the melty spot in his snowy yard and look further to find the starving good hearted dog who had sought refuge there at that tiny house filled with 4 dogs and a man named Bill.

Barney, Cloe, Satchmo and I would walk in the woods following the paths made by the previous resident whose little children had played back there. We found all sort of wonderful spots in which to sit and ponder. One I called the witches hut. It was a cherry tree that had died and fallen over and the branches had formed a dome-like hut. It looked curiously like a cage that might have held tiny unfortunate children, like Hansel and Gretel - children who had the silly idea that they could pass through a witch's wood without peril. Barney and I of course crawled right in.

When we tromped past the May apple patches you couldn't help but get down and look at the fairyland beneath. There under the green canopy we'd find masses full of purple and white violets and you just knew there were tiny creatures hiding and waiting for us to leave so they could resume their dance.

The secret garden lay at the bottom of a hill full of jagger bushes. On the left side of the hill was a spot we called the groundhog condo. It was a multi-level residence built on a steep mound surrounding a tree that rose above a trickling stream. It seemed like a royal place. Perhaps this was where the local groundhog squire lived. Far to the right was a barbed wire fence separating this section of the woods from a field owned by Fagan. Once while we were making our way down the hill through the jagger bushes a big blue heron arose from the field taking flight into the woods. It was huge and as it flapped its wings it rose like a giant pterodactyl and gave me one of those glorious moments life gifts to you so unexpectedly.

The secret garden is a flat area by a tributary that feeds into Mill Creek- a tiny spot that gets good sun and for one short period of the year it blazes orange with a mass of wild lilies. But the really special time in the secret garden happens a bit earlier in the spring. It's when the apple tree by the stream is in bloom and you get to sit and listen to the water gently flowing while delicate white apple blossoms quietly fall around you. This was the time Barney and I liked most. This was our place and our time.

It was in the winter of 2001 that my father died. He died on the morning that they imploded the Three Rivers Stadium - not far from there- just across the river. He died in the rooms of Mercy.

Barney was also dying. Barney knew it and I knew it and so we made a pact. Hold on until spring and let's sit under the apple blossoms just one more time. Wouldn't that be fun? He did and we did.

After Barney had to die, I didn't go into the woods so much. I started finding ways to bring the woods home and so this is what we do. We add more room for the woods and we walk every night surveying the daily progress. 

I come home from work. Ginko waits by the garage door. I open the door, strike the wooden match and the evening begins. Ginko acts like a loon jumping on my leg and trying his best to trip me or if it's raining to walk under me to stay dry. While the cigar smoke rises like a prayer, we stroll along the gardens looking to see what might have changed since the day before and just enjoy our time together while Gooey slinks along in our general direction cautiously seeking constant cover.

This is what defines home now. This joyous time. Just a bit of every day. Just a bit of real life. Unplugged.