The Shortest Day, Longest Night

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The winter solstice approaches. The shortest day of the year arrives on Saturday, followed by the longest night. Forecasters predict severe thunderstorms and lots of rain that day as a cold front moves through, and winter returns after a slow warming trend. Last weekend we had a fire blazing nearly nonstop, our family gathered around it. This morning I worked up a slight sweat while walking Sam the Dog along the Boorman Trail.

The trail has taken a beating this fall, flooding  leaving a layer of mud left splayed on the concrete during the autumn gullywashers. City workers do a good job getting out there as quickly as practicable to scrape it to the sides. Sam appreciates their diligence. The mud makes him nervous, because it is a different surface. I usually pick him up and walk across it with him. That makes him nervous as well. I don’t often pick Sam up since he is a stout little poodle-mix, who is heavier than he looks.

Many things make Sam jumpy. A genial fellow we see often bounces and catches a golf ball as he walks. Sam is scared silly of that ball. Once, several months ago, the man got close enough to ask why Sam was asking so skittish. “He is scared of that golf ball,” I said. The man apologized and quit bouncing it any time we were within eyesight. But the other day, he didn’t notice us and was bouncing the ball. Sam promptly started straining at the leash and whimpering. I wish Sam could tell me what happened in his previous life to make him so jumpy, so I could fix it.

The trees along the trail are nearly stripped of their leaves, the fall colors nearly gone. Sam and I often see the deer that live in the woods here. He never barks, just stands at point and stares, tail wagging. The other day, the deer stood still long enough for me to snap a cell phone photo, the oil-pump jack in the background. A week later, my Beautiful Mystery Companion and I were walking and spotted the same trio of deer a few blocks way in our subdivision, nosing around a backyard. They appear to be well-fed and have figured out this is a haven from both hunters and highway traffic.


Since it was warm and windy, it seemed like a good day to haul out the blower and get all the leaves and pine needles off the roof and gutters. I always try to do this when my BMC is not at home, so she won’t worry about me falling off the roof. Our roof rises fairly high, requiring a stepladder be placed on the first level of roof to reach the next level. But it is not steep-pitched, so I don’t feel at risk. But I made the mistake of once telling her my maternal grandfather dropped dead of a heart attack four decades ago while shoveling snow on the roof. So now she worries every time I climb up on the roof, even though he could have easily enough had the Big One driving down the road. Or while reading the newspaper. And I feel fine, physically.

Anyway, this house is covered by a lot of roof, so clearing the leaves takes about an hour. Even though I have contracted out the lawn maintenance, that doesn’t include risking the liability of allowing folks I don’t know clambering about our roof. Besides, I enjoy being up there, looking around the neighborhood from that vantage point. After finishing, I take a break and sit high on the peak, looking around into my neighbors’ backyards, watching birds flitting in the branches, those infernal squirrels chasing each other.

I keep hoping the red-tailed hawk will swoop by, looking for lunch. We see him on occasion, diving through the trees — no doubt on the hunt for a slow-moving tree rat. Story goes, this hawk or one of its cousins tried to pick up a fluffy dog on the trail some time back, and the owner had to intercede. Sam is too stout to become hawk bait, thank goodness. He wouldn’t stand a chance. Any dog that is scared of a golf ball doesn’t stand a chance against a hawk. And our other dog, Rosie, isn’t willing to get off the couch most mornings and even venture for a walk.


Short days and long nights. Winter beckons, with gray skies, a monochrome landscape. I’ll keep trudging along as weather permits, my buddy Sam at my side, waiting out the gloom of the season.

The gloom will lift, eventually. It always does.

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