Spring in the air, spring in the step

Trees are budding, bulbs are blooming, birds are singing and kids are playing baseball at the park. Spring has arrived.

Spring weather brings more people outside, on the trails in the woods as well as on the sidewalks of the neighborhood. Parks are full of kids on swings or playing along the lake shore, and dogs happily strolling with their people.

Before starting my work day in earnest this morning, I take the girls out for a quick stroll through the neighborhood to inhale the crisp air and soak up the sunshine. Maia shows her approval by trotting with joy, holding her tail high over her hips, waving it with a wag - something I haven't seen her do much lately. Meadow follows suit, tail high and a jaunty spring to her gait. I encourage our collective giddiness with lots of "Maia! Meadow! Look at your tails, girls! Flaunt it!"

The girls pose in front of inspiring window art.
Walking through the urban village near home, the girls stop to sniff the landscaping beside the sidewalk. I happen to turn back to look at them, and that's when I see a second floor apartment window decorated with a sun, some tulips, and the message: 

Don't forget to live. 

The window bring a big smile to my face. I ask the girls to pose for a photo.

Don't forget to live. An appropriate reminder at any time, but this morning it emphasizes how putting off my work and chores for a bit to take the girls outside is absolutely the right choice. Maia is doing wonderfully now that we've stopped chemo. She remains in remission. Her energy and enthusiasm are back. Yet she'll be fourteen on April 9th, and her hind legs are weakening so that walks are getting shorter. Why not take advantage of her sense of well-being and enjoy the beautiful morning together? 

Work can wait. Maia can't.

Yesterday afternoon I took Meadow on a longer walk. She was pokey, stopping to smell every blade of grass (or so it seemed to me). I tried to be patient, but admit to also urging her to keep walking. Meadow must have known we needed to move slowly so that we would meet Nadya at the park.

I actually didn't know the woman's name until yesterday. But the girls and I have met her out walking at least twice in the past three years. The first time, she told me of her love of big dogs, that growing up in Russia those were the only sort of dogs they had. "None of those silly little dogs," she explained. Thereafter, I thought of her as The Russian Woman who adores the girls.

Meadow was sniffing yet another clump of grass when I looked up and saw The Russian Woman approaching, smiling. Since Meadow was occupied, I simply waited for the woman to approach. She held out her gloved hand for Meadow to sniff, and said to me, "She is old, ya? Like me!" 

"Yes," I replied with a laugh, to which the woman pretended to be offended that I was saying she was old.

"But I know how old you are," I told her. "You look twenty years younger than you are. But only because I know your age did I agree with you!" 

The woman tested my memory. "How old am I?" she asked, mischievous grin crinkling her eyes. 

"Eighty," I replied, although I was thinking that's what she told me two years go so she must be even older. 

"Yes!" she said. "Most people guess I'm sixty-something, seventy at the most." 

"I believe it," I reply. "I guessed 80 only because you told me your age before." 

As we chatted about age, Meadow kept sniffing the woman's hands and coat. The woman's black gloves were now covered in white Meadow fur. I pulled a treat out of my pocket and handed it to the woman, so that she could give it Meadow. In her usual fashion, Meadow started drooling as soon as she saw the treat, so when she took it from the woman's hand, she left some drool on her gloved fingertips. "I'm sorry," I quickly said. "It's nothing," the woman replied, meaning it as she simply rubbed her hands together to absorb the drool.

The Russian Woman goes up a notch in my esteem.

After another discussion about big dogs and the ones she remembers growing up with in Russia, I ask her why she doesn't have a dog. She walks regularly, is in good health; walking with a dog would bring her joy. "Bah. I live in the old folks home over there. They only let you have small dogs."

She refers to herself as "The Crazy Russian Lady" in part because she doesn't listen to doctors who tell her to slow down or that she should have knee surgery that she doesn't believe she needs. "We Russians, we don't like surgery and we don't like drugs." I don't think she's crazy at all. I love that she jokes about herself in that way, and that she just keeps on walking.

We parted, but only after she complimented me - "Your eyes are such a beautiful blue" - and asked my name. She said her name is Nadya. Now I can greet her by name when I see her, as I do Jim, who also lives at the old folks home. There's something very affirming about my elderly neighbors: seeing eighty year old Nadya out walking, or Jim with Parkinson's (progressing from a motorized chair a year ago - see him here -  to now needing only a walker) making a beeline to chat and pet the girls, or the guy (whose name I need to learn) in the motorized chair who always wears a Stetson style hat and a smile and in the dark months of winter tells me exactly how many days it is until the first day of spring while stroking the girls' fluffy necks. 

I also appreciate other neighbors whose names I don't know and likely never will but are kind. They see me walking Meadow alone, stop their cars alongside us and ask about Maia: "Don't you have two?" or "Where's the other one?" or most poignantly, "Did you lose the other one?" So far, I'm able to say Maia's fine, she's home, she's just not able to go on longer walks. 

Nadya's comment about little dogs reminded me what I've always told myself: When I become unable to handle and manage big dogs, I'll have small dogs in my life. Unlike Nadya, I would consider a life without a dog - any size - intolerable if I have the option to have one.

Finn also had a nice walk this morning, both of us taking a day off from running. Last weekend, he and I found the first woodland wildflower of spring while running trails at Cougar Mountain: skunk cabbage!

Yellow skunk cabbage flowers making an appearance in a swampy stretch of trail.
Trillium blooms will be the next sign of spring in the forest. Unfortunately, the devil's club and stinging nettles will also be thriving by then.

Coal Creek Falls was flowing fast and furious. Finn enjoyed jumping through the pools, cooling his jets and cajoling me into tossing him a stick.

Rebecca WallickComment