Walking in the West Oak Cemetery Our path is well worn with quiet company and silent memories. We walk this way nearly every day, an adventure of sorts for me and my dog, Nugget, a big brown bear of a dog, ever curious, even as his hearing dissipates like summer rain on a sidewalk. He’s blind now, but that seems to have only heightened his courage, not stopped him at all from looking at everything with fresh young eyes. He shows me the meaning of beginner’s mind, slow strides shape a sense of optimism, intrigue, and mystery. The air is crisp, one of those days when birdsong sounds clearer, with the fall breeze rolling in as if the sea were near. Just a month ago the sun was bright in the sky and the air was warm as a winter’s fire in the den. The light around us has a smoky orange glow, the last of the sun squeezing her light through the old oaks that border the west perimeter of this graveyard that is our walking world. Nuggie leads me along at a gentle pace, not the hurried rush of his youth, or mine. Sniffing every tree along the gravel path that meanders through this little spirit village – as if he’s never been here before. What is it that makes him linger? The sweet scent of a comrade he’d like to meet one day, nose-to-nose, I suspect. Sometimes he paws at a patch of grass, like there’s an answer to a question he’s been asking his entire life. I confess, I tend to lose my patience after he’s done this 3 times, so I give a little tug on his leash and he reluctantly lifts his gray old face offering the most pathetic of expressions, as if to say “Really? This is my joy!” Nug disappointed with me, and me disappointed with me, we amble along. I lose myself in the crunch of my boots on the pebbled path, the swish of my sweater as my arms move to the rhythm of our walk. As the first fall leaves drip from the sky, my little Nugget lifts his moist dark nose as if he can smell the passage of the season, and understand how dying makes compost for the living.
This poem is also part of a collection I put together called Little Morsels of Delight.