Enough snow covers the Keweenaw Peninsula in Upper Michigan to hear the occasional whine of snow machines blasting through town on a trail 100 yards from our house. We’ve had more thaw and freeze cycles than we’ve had snow. Last year by this time we had 215 inches. The normal snowpack is 184 inches. We have barely 50 inches of snow. Vessels continue to ply the shipping lanes that ice usually shuts down in Lake Superior. Lady Lake has no taste for winter following a year that has disrupted the world.
And I have a puppy.
This is no COVID puppy. She’s a mock-therapy dog, not the real deal as far as a certificate is concerned, but a calming presence for a veteran suffering neurological impairment. She’s also a healing balm for my heart. The downside — besides trips outside every two hours to potty train and the wincing pain of puppy teeth — is that when I rest with this warm, pulsating bundle of pure love and trust, I feel all the emotions I’ve set aside to plow ahead with my MFA.
No one escapes grief or death in this life. We don’t linger on this reality because each day is too precious to waste on worry. However, a snuggling puppy melts my defenses leaving me bare like ground accustomed to the protective blanket of snow. I don’t remember what used to be normal. Does it matter? And then the warmth spreads, the puppy breath hovers, and I witness the perfection of life measured in a moment.
When she wakes, my laughter rises. Her eyes are deep and mesmerizing. So much soul in one so tiny. So much spunk. He round rump and stubby legs romp the hardwood floors. Her ears perk into a determined flop when she pounces on a toy. At first it was only a leather squirrel and a brightly colored canvas duck. Today, Amazon delivered her puppy chew-toy kit, including an orange rope carrot with green threads for a top. It’s her favorite.
This was not my preferred time to get a puppy. But the Hub was missing dogs in his life and struggling to find purpose. The pup has restored confidence — dogs are familiar territory for him. She’s a German Short-haired Pointer (GSP) which is his favorite breed. While she has his full attention and love, she also challenges his focus. It knocks him out most days. That leaves me puppy-parenting when I know he needs to reset and recharge. I’m not complaining. She’s amazing grace with paws.
If you want a proper introduction to the puppy, be sure to read Kid and Pal’s exclusive over at D. Avery’s Saddle Up Saloon.
My looming thesis deadline, capstone projects, graduate certification for teaching creative writing, and application to graduate with an MFA in May have me spread thinner than that snow we don’t have right now. I need someone to cook, brew coffee, and puppy sit for me until February 7. Even if that happened, I have serious doubts about finishing my thesis. I know I will pull through and get it completed but my brain continues to feel like mush.
During these unsettled times I want to be here with you all, believing in better days, writing into the stories we want to tell, the wordcraft we want to master, and the connections we want to make. I look forward to sharing what I’ve learned in my MFA program through different avenues. Let’s keep writing through it all. Be gentle and generous in these times. Everyone is struggling.
And let’s have some fun! Anne Goodwin asks readers in her recent newsletter if they enjoyed dressing up as children. It made me recall how much my own kids loved to play dress-up. We often looked for hats and high heels at garage sales to add to their costume box. In fact, my eldest has never fully grown out of dressing up because she gets to design and wear costumes for her dance troupe. I think a part of what my son and DIL enjoyed about their wedding was the chance to dress up, too.
Get out your costume box, put on your whimsy. We can rise above the doom and gloom and play like pampered puppies or imaginative children.
Thank you for your patience at the Ranch! It’s important we stay connected and keep writing each week.I may not be on target with my timing but I’m here with you!
January 14, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about dressing up. It can be a child or another character. Be playful or go where the prompt leads!
Respond by January 19, 2020. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form. Rules & Guidelines.
High-Desert Princesses by Charli Mills
Maggie stood patiently for the braiding, imagining how she’d look with ribbons of pink and sea-foam green. Jayda wore the same braids and ribbons, which made Maggie snort to think they’d be matchy-matchy. She cherished the days they played dress-up together in the barn. They’d go outside and parade up and down the dirt lane, the ranch hands pausing their dusty work to cheer like the two of them really were high-desert princesses. The magnificent act of play lingered. Later, after Jayda removed the ribbons and satin, Maggie tried to tell the other horses about the magic of make-believe.