I’m sorry to be a complainer but I hit the wall today. Not once but twice I walked with Ella in the pouring rain. This was no pitter patter, it was a steady downpour. The ground was already waterlogged so there were rivulets and puddles in the mud. Even the birds took most of today off, not chirping their usual spring notes. My gumboots worked overtime. In short, it was a miserable day.
Ella is the best companion in the rain. With a fur coat like that, she doesn’t care if it’s wet. The rain really does run off her coat like water off a duck’s back (they don’t call Labradors water dogs for nothing). Not only that, but the wet weather seems to make all the smells in the field even stronger. She trots around our usual route with an extra skip in her step, like someone turned up the volume. She was definitely soggy by the time we got home, though.
Simon, our other dog, is not so keen to be in the rain, especially at the grand old age of 14. His hair is shorter than Ella’s so he gets cold, but he has never been keen to listen to me. As a result, he’s torn between just going out for a moment and wandering off into the field alone. His compromise is usually to dash out and wander back at a good pace, but not before finding a really mucky spot.Usually Ella’s good temperament can win me over, but a second soaking in the afternoon was past my limit. As I muttered my way along the only thing that kept me going was the thought of spending the evening with another liquid. I can highly recommend this remedy. An evening with neighbours having a couple of glasses of wine and sharing homemade pizza was just what the doctor ordered. By the time I got home a couple of hours later, the rain had stopped and the skies had cleared, and not just in my head. There were even stars in the sky as I let the dogs out for an evening stretch.
Forget the fact that most of the neighbours were too young to know what I meant by “pizza wine” when I brought what I thought was a ubiquitous bottle. They were intrigued when I told them it would look great with a candle burning in it. We all toasted to everyone’s good health, and I felt not nearly so soggy.
Tomorrow will be a new day.
I am just back from a vacation to a sunny clime, and I am now home to mud and mostly grey skies.In this environment I look for every scrap of inspiration I can find. Today was my lucky day.
It started out as another grey day.Ella and I walked through the remaining snowy patches amidst the mud and other slippery bits in the orchard (those Canada Geese can be messy creatures). We slipped around as we worked our way home; I endured what I call the swampy smell of pre-spring and Ella revelled in the many earth-borne smells, her nose on overdrive.
The clouds broke this afternoon and the sun proceeded to warm everything, including my sense of gratitude. I wandered out with the dogs to let them get some fresh air and I breathed deep, too. In the brighter afternoon light I could see the new shoots all around…
It felt easier to breathe, with the sun and the greenery. The dogs lifted their noses and seemed to fill them up with scents. Usually we walk later in the afternoon but today I decided to seize the moment. I put on my brand-new muck boots and grabbed Ella’s collar and leash. I figured we would see just how spring was advancing.
Ella is a great companion any time of year, but when I am in my winter doldrums she is a wonderful boost to my soul. Her enthusiasm with fresh smells and small puddles is completely infectious. She searches out every new shoot to sniff it out, and every little puddle is worth at least a step – usually more of a splash. The way she bounces into the mud and smiles back at me makes me smile – how can I get mad at such boundless joy?
It was in watching Ella one day on our expedition up the road that I first discovered the wild watercress in the ditch. Now it’s a race for us both to find our spots in the spring – her to splash in the mud, and me to harvest. It takes triple washing at home to make it ready to use, but the peppery flavour and fresh juicy crunch is worth the work. Long before I can harvest any wild lettuce, these leaves are ready to enjoy.
Today the leaves were just barely above the ground, but that’s okay. Every leaf gave me hope. On the way back home I tried to limit the muck damage – I said to Ella, “Try to stay out of the muck”; she trotted squarely through a tire rut full of muddy water and gave me a big grin. All I could do was chuckle.
My thanks go out to Diana Gabaldon and her character Claire Randall Fraser, who prompted me to look for wild herbs and plants. (All those Outlander books are sexy but also informative.) Props also to L.L. Bean, who make the best muck boots ever. My last pair held on for 10 years of our daily walks, and I’m excited to rack up the miles on my new ones. But most of all my gratitude is for my Brown Girl, Ella. You can say what you want about having four-legged friends – quality time with a creature so intent on loving life is good for the soul.