Monday morning, 7am.
January is shivering and no birds are singing in this apocalyptic sky, like we’re in an upside-down bottle of darkest navy ink, only the ink is on the outside.
So dark you cannot imagine the sun coming out again. Ever.
It’s the first walk of the day for Bella and Lily. The first walk of the working week.
And it feels like both a tyranny and a release.
It’s a tyranny because it has to be done and it’s a release because I soon find myself enjoying it, and them.
A new world awaits them each time, as they whimper and twitch at the door as I fetch their harnesses.
We shoot off down the path, breaking our momentum dead every so often for them to plunge into yet another thicket or tuft, if allowed.
There are these trails and scents, see, that just have to be sniffed and investigated. Right now!
Every sinew strains at the harness and very sense is on full alert as they venture down this scrubby pathway with the pioneering fervour of a Christopher Columbus or Marco Polo.
We have finally cracked the toilet training thing with Lily, it seems, and the positive aspects of this bounding, bumbling, joyous creature can now be enjoyed properly.
Discovering large lakes of pee or vast tracts of poo would hardly have done it for Columbus or Polo, and encountering these first thing every morning on the kitchen floor had strained the bond between this man and his best friend.
Bella and Lily have developed as a double act.
Bella is the older, cranky one, who growls if Lily encroaches on her territory.
Which big-hearted, live-for-the-moment Lily does with glorious abandon.
They are annoying, the pair of them, if we leave them in the front room. Bella takes up a position on the arm of the couch in the corner, beside the window, from where she scans everything going down in the hood.
She growls, actually more of a low buzz, like a lawnmower starting up, when anyone comes within about 50 metres of the house, but if they come to the door, or she spots a dog, or, Jesus wept, a cat out there, she stands and yelps herself into a frenzy, and long-bodied, short-pawed Lily comes galumphing over to join in.
Bella’s yapping and Lily’s baritone bellow at top volume cannot go unchecked.
They stop, but we forget, of course, and Bella is soon back again, and off they will go again …
They’re a regular Statler and Waldorf (look them up, kids), commenting on everyone going by.
Lily is so delighted when any of us walks into the room she trundles over, all wagging buttocks, thumping tail, and slavering tongue.
And will be just as enthusiastic the next time. Whether it’s in 10 seconds or 10 hours.
What an attitude Lily has, this constant expectation of delight and affection.
I’m thinking how great it would be to go at life with that kind of zest.
Okay, a bit more discernment might be advised, since rancid chip bags or fresh cat pee can send this pair into paroxysms of rapt intent.
I’d wish some of it, though, for myself, of course, but more immediately for my daughter.
The worries and stresses of the world are on her uniformed shoulders as she grabs her lunch and growls her way towards the front door.
If I engage, there will be words to regret, and if I don’t she will have charged the air with tension anyway – and gotten away with this rudeness. A special rudeness reserved for those closest to her.
She has been called gosh knows how many times for her lift to school, and her exasperated Mom is about to take off, as K slams the door behind her, muttering and cursing as she goes.
It would be so much better for her — and us — if she could learn to appreciate the many positive things that are in her life, instead of dismissing them, or taking them as read, and then railing at all the perceived negatives stacking up against her.
But I turn and Lily’s fervent brown-eyed gaze locks on to mine, and I smile as I bend to rub her wiry black head, and my thoughts turn to that coffee cup filling, some buttery toast, and then tackling my blog.
There’s both tyranny and release in that, and plenty to think about later … like a dinner to prepare that will please everyone.
And thinking that part of that enjoyment is an expectation of delight.
In both the writing and the cooking.
It’s as much cultivating an attitude of appreciation as it is the routine sorcery of words bubbling and stirring, or vegetables, condiments and the rest blending and simmering in the pan.
It has to be done, and pleasing all palettes isn’t always easy, but there is also the release in getting those words down, and later laying out the chopping board out and putting together something I hope we will all enjoy.
Dinner will be at 7pm.
After Christopher Statler and Marco Waldorf have come back from their second-last exploration of the remains of the day.
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