I’ve taken to walking every morning, as far as I have to, across the island, past The Rectory Café, out to the end of the boardwalk. That’s where I’d usually turn back, but these days I keep going.
I can’t find the words to describe the many shades of grey and brown I see as I walk along the beach towards Gibraltar Point. The snow fences, or rather the sand fences, are the only splashes of colour in an otherwise muted landscape. I pass a section of fence that has fallen over, the sand gradually eroded from beneath it, then finally a gust of wind takes it down. Even a snow fence can only take so much.
Mine are the only footprints along the beach. No-one walks here at this time of year. The point is exposed to winter storms from the east, and the prevailing westerly winds wrap around the end of the island, scouring the beach away. My boots hardly make an impression on the hard-packed sand. One set of prints. Just one set of prints.
I miss her funny lame paw prints in the sand, the arc she scribed with her back foot. I can’t remember the last time she walked on the beach with me. Not last summer. The summer before, I guess. She would bark hopefully at me as I put on my shoes. You stay, I’d tell her. I’ll be right back.
I miss her sharp little bark when she heard me come through the door, the jingle of the bell. Here I am. I’m back. But it’s silent now. The house is silent.
I look for her everywhere. On the love seat in the sun porch. She could see out the front door from there, watch people walk by. She would bark at the kids who passed our gate on their way to and from school. And the postman. She loved to bark at the postman, even though he couldn’t hear her.
I look for her under the table when I’m at my computer, but she’s not there. And when I wake in the night, I look for her beside me. Towards the end the only place she was comfortable was tucked tightly between us.
I miss taking her out in her little cart, wrapped in her blanket. That’s the life, people would say as we passed. Wish I were her!
No you don’t, I would say in my head. No you don’t.
It was so frustrating for her at the end. She couldn’t walk without help, hadn’t been able to for a long time, but it got so that she couldn’t really sit up on her own, had to be propped up with a pillow. If she did fall over, she couldn’t sit back up, she would just lie there patiently, waiting for one of us to see her predicament.
It was time to let her go, I know that. But I miss her every day.
Last night I found Chris standing in the sun porch. The sun was just setting, a last blaze of red as it slipped below a bank of purple clouds. But he was’t looking at the sunset. He was looking at the empty love seat.
I look out the window as I write this. It’s a bright, sunny morning, the wind is whipping up the bay, whitecaps as far as I can see. There is a white-breasted nuthatch creeping up the trunk of one of the big cottonwoods in the yard, the first I’ve seen in a long time, and the chickadees are singing their courting song now. Spring is just around the corner.
But it’s still winter in my heart.