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Tonight when it was time to pop out the door for Sophie to go pee pee before bed I decided to put a coat on, grab my cell phone and hiking sticks and take her out for a walk. When I got outside I stood transfixed by the unique beauty of the night. I was put in the mind of other nights, years ago, when I stood in this corner of Montana and looked into the same night. On nights like this, time bends herself bringing then and now together as one.

After nearly two weeks of being in the deep freeze temperatures moderated this morning. When the warm front came in the snow began to fall. Big, fat flakes that were still sharply crystalline as they fell. This evening the front has moved on and the snow has ceased leaving the air clean and soft to the touch. As the temperature rises the vestiges of snow resting on the surfaces of the streets, sidewalks and paths that were plowed multiple times today are softening and taking on a milky translucence. Clouds trailing the front formed a soft gray dome high over our valley reflecting the light back to us.

Sophie has a 40 foot lead. She scribes her world as a giant circle with a circumference of 125 feet. When others are about, we real her in like a big fish so that she has a socially appropriate length lead. But tonight we were alone and tonight she scribed her circle and ran her radius front and back with quiet interest. I walked along enjoying her curiosity and simplicity. I took my gloves off and left them off just to feel air that was 20 degrees warmer than yesterday.

My mind rested on the memory of nights like these when we were young and like tonight, gathered unexpected time and took out the cross country skis running silent in the night. Back then, skis were wooden and we waxed them every trip. I remember it was always being hard to find just the right wax combination for changing snow conditions like tonight. Now I don’t remember anything about waxing when we went out on nights like these. I remember the sky softened by the clouds that rests in the valley below the mountain tops secreting us from the sky above. I remember the smell of the shift in the snow temperatures. I remembered how wonderful it was to ski across the flat field near our house. I knew tonight was connected to those nights but I also knew they were different.

Tonight, as we reached the turn-around point on the walk, I stopped to try to take a photo knowing that the cell phone could not capture what I saw and felt. Even so, I wanted to try. My eyes scribed my circle, hundreds of feet bigger than Sophie’s, but I could not find something that I thought could be captured by the camera either in night mode or with a flash. I decided I would stand at the turning point and take a few different types of shots hoping I could find something useful when I came home.

As I put the camera back into my pocket, I noticed that I only had one glove. I checked and double checked my pockets for the errant glove without success. Instead, with big, fat thumb prints, I found my glasses I had stuffed into my pocket knowing it was a bad idea. I found three dog treats and two poopie bags neither of which were all that useful for gloves. I decided I must have dropped one glove on the path. I decided that it was of no matter since we were returning the same route. I moved forward a step and Sophie took off like a shot, hitting the end of the lead with the same ferocity of the big fish we tease her of being when we real her in on her 40 foot lead. I lurched after her, surprised that the curious, calm dog that came out on the walk with me had suddenly been replaced by a wild hound.

This night, indeed, was not like those memory-softened ones from when we were young. It started out the same as the memory but then reality sat on me. Sometimes I don’t walk all that well. Think big toddler with a twist. Extend that image to a fumbling-for-gloves; fat-finger-print-on-glasses, two poopie bag, well-aged woman in boots with a hiking stick in one hand and in the other a hiking stick and a dog lead–a 40 foot dog lead–with a 400 pound dog on the end of it. Thankfully, just as I smelled disaster, Sophie sweetly spun around and looked at me as if to say, “Are you coming? I will wait right here for you.” And wait she did. A while after we recommenced our travel, I espied the glove in the snow. I asked her to “bring” meaning she should bring it to me. What I meant was “give” as in “give it to me.” She did what I asked. She did not give me the glove, she took the glove in her mouth and carefully brought it with us.

Even in the lurching comical and chaotic parts of our lives there are moments like tonight when time bends and the past is present and the present is past. The shimmering quality of time binds one to the other and the other to the one. Tonight I saw that bend in time. And tonight when the softness of my world shifted to the reality of a cold hand, confusion over where I left my glove and lurching as I walked, time spun out one of her unexpected gifts. Sophie did not give me the glove, she carried it for me.

charcoal effect photograph of a dog standing on snow with woods behind.

The spirit of the walk seemed captured by this stylized charcoal effect image of Sophie on our walk. Somehow its graininess and scratched effect conveyed to me the muted quality of time.