Even the dogs dislike walking through blackberries. You can’t really walk through them; it’s more of a stumble-and-try-not-to-use-your-hands-to-steady-yourself gait as layers of dead canes crosshatch the ground beneath and tender green daggers grow up in between. Uneven, stabby, treacherous travel… people do this for fun, right?
Peeka bore the brunt of foster Tonshi’s ire. Peeka has forgiven and moved on like a Christian, but the scars show themselves in a limp and a slow pace. I worry about all of them, as mothers do, but I worry about Peeka the most. I poke fun at her relentlessly, cherrypicking her quirks and lampooning her at every turn… but underneath all that ribbing is a bond and a commitment and a fierce love that breaks my heart wide open.
Peeka took off with Hawkitt and Cinder, the mountainside steep and their quarry anything but obvious. If it’s a bear, porcupine or human, they bark. If it’s a deer, they whine. If it’s a coyote, only Hawk goes. If it’s anything else, they are back at my side before I can yell Hawk-HAWK a second time. Sometimes I think they just go to go, to feel the exhilaration of speed. To be away from me and feel that separation as well as the rush of wind in their fur, the onslaught of scent in their brains is a thrill for them. It must be; they certainly indulge in that particular behavior often enough.
We reconnected at the coyote junction, the rendez-vous spot where coyote family groups reconvene when the young are old enough to hunt independently but young enough to need those check-ins with Mama. My dogs read their pee-mail and roll in the long wet grass. Once we all but stepped on a porcupine passing through this open meadow. Good brakes, even better obedience, and a lot of nervous laughter but no quills shed. The dogs know we’re almost home when we get to this spot. They linger, panting, while I pick berries or take photos. It’s a good spot.
We have Brody now. Peeka’s littermate, I finally relented and took him from his beloved foster mom. The move upset his apple cart and he is responding by baring his teeth all too often – at me, Tom, and all the dogs. We all ignore as much as we can and gently rebuke the rest. He backs down, apologizes, but remains tense. We go slowly with him. We have faith that he will relax. We see glimmers – he grumbled but snuggled with the dog pile last night, Hawk’s feet resting upon his back legs. He is having a bad morning this morning, and after the third attempt to bully Hawkitt (who has not so much as raised his head in response), Peeka came in and herded him onto the rug, then lay down next to him. He softened. She slept.
It’s blackberry season. I have made jam, crumbles, and stains on my fingers and t shirts. I see seed-filled scat in the woods – from my dogs and other wild creatures feasting on these lemony-when-underripe, appley-when-overripe treats. I remember my first summer here, weighing the bags and stacking them in the freezer: 2 pounds per day for weeks. This year it was the golden chanterelles that blessed me with abundance. My freezer is full of neatly stacked Ziploc bags looking nasty, but promising mushroom sauces and soups all winter long.
I take photos, pick berries, and yell for errant and absent dogs. They are lost; they are found. A colleague from another life stopped in during Open Studio Day, and the memories hit me like a hard shove off that particular cliff. Once upon a time I had a profession and a full time job. Now I play hide and seek with five dogs on a pricker-filled mountainside. Lost and found, but not always where you expected to wind up. It’s ok. I’d rather be lost or found here with them than anywhere else.