Vacation Pandemic – Day uh…?

It is quiet.

Quieter than it’s been in a while. Not a creepy, killer waiting around the next corner quiet, but a natural quiet. It reminds me of early mornings Out the Road. The very, very end of it, where we would park our cars, then trek around the cove by foot. I remember the smell of low tide, that deep scent of brine, of salt, but such a richer and more flavorful salt. I remember the rocks slippery with sheets of wet seaweed, maroon red clumps of sea hair caught upon the rocks. I remember the laughter, because we were young, and full of life. And I remember the moment we rounded that last corner and the ranch finally came into sight. I remember the early mornings. Only the sound of birds filled the air. Small birds singing in the trees. The sort of song you only hear in the early mornings, or if you’re very quiet, and very lucky.

The birds are singing now. My head still hurts, and the world still spins underfoot, but the air is brisk and fresh now the rain has stopped. After nearly being run over by a black Dodge Charger, the dog and I set off in earnest. Which involves much sniffing on her part, deep breaths on mine, and the slow tempo of my foot falls. Everything is green. The tall reaching evergreen trees with their low sweeping branches. I reach out and stroke the lowest of them, bringing their piney scent towards me. The other trees, the ones who have shed their leaves for the Winter, are now beginning to show new leaves. Baby buds of green tip each skinny branch.

We slowly pass a thick bunching of low, lush trees into an opening of a driveway, and there, in the yard, a single, large cherry blossom tree. Snowy white blossoms in full bloom. Stark white against the verdant trees all around it. My steps actually falter and I take one step back, to stop in the moment.

(It was at that particular moment that the dog had decided to also stop. And drop a load. I quickly wrestle a small plastic bag from my pocket and scoop up the mess from the lawn like it is some prized treasure. In this quiet and pristine neighborhood, they are strict, and I am not entirely convinced that there are not cameras hidden in the trees.)

We walk on. Dog sniffing, me breathing, footsteps falling. Birds singing. Leaves rustling. I never walked an area like this in Alaska. Though indeed, surrounded by evergreen trees and birds. It was different. Larger, wilder. The trees heavy with mosses. Old Man’s Beard, or that’s what we used to call it. Pale green and draping off of branches, catching any gentle breeze. The ground underfoot, dirt, and moss, and twigs. Every step clearly made with snaps and crunches. Foot falls were so audible we once scared ourselves as children. Imagining into reality that we were surrounded by ghosts, their foot steps so real in our ears, but our eyes saw nothing. And when you truly did hear the snap of a twig, not brought on by your own feet, you did not stick around. For wilder and meaner things resided within the thick forests of Alaska than neighborhood watchmen.

By the time we turn back, the sun is starting to kiss the horizon. The trees are bathed in a different sort of light. Above me, a tree, naked save for a few brown and dead leaves still hanging on, bursts golden in the last love of the day’s sun.

The house comes into view and the dog becomes excited. She no longer needs to sniff. She turns her head towards me, excitement in her eyes and a smile only a Golden can wear. I know she wants to run. I give her the end of the leash, but it is too heavy and she drops it, which scares her and causes her to bounce away into the ditch. I pick up the stupid leash and apologize. She picks up a stick, renewed excitement. Her ears flop. The flop of a happy dog. She will walk that stick home in victory. But the stick is a little too big and it breaks as she drops it. She picks up the smaller piece, no one needs to know it used to be bigger. She could still walk this stick home in victory. But she eventually drops it too. So I unhook the leash and she bounds the last few steps to the front door. Happiest that the walk is finally over.