Eager for the day’s tasks, I eschew the morning workout and head for the community kitchen, taking the long way round the village and pond. I’m on breakfast duty this week.
On the way, Ralph lopes from his garden and slows his pace, two-stepping to my one till I notch my speed up a gear.
That’s all it takes. We jog wordlessly around the village perimeter, then scoot to the garden path that skirts the commons before crossing to the kitchens.
The rhythm of our breath, footfalls, and the steady shushu of Ralph’s windbreaker link us as surely as rope. Along the way, I point to the Great Blue Heron standing in the rushes at the edge of the pond.
A moment later, Ralph giggles as I deftly sail over Eloise, Merilee’s ancient Pekingese.
Eloise likes to sit at the edge of the shrubbery-lined walk, still as a statue, till a passerby steps too close. At the last second, she darts out a dainty paw toward her mark’s leg, barely grazing it, and yaps ferociously.
The preoccupied and unobservant jump and yelp, startled into the present moment, right here, right now, this path, this watery-eyed dog, this spot, this breath. Most laugh at themselves, at the dog, that they’ve let Eloise catch them one more time.
Satisfied, Eloise emits one last sharp bark and retreats under the shrubbery where, feline-like, she licks the fur on her jabbing paw. If you see her in time, as I almost did today, she omits the barking and the retreat and goes straight to licking.
Reaching the kitchen gate, Ralph and I bow to one another, hands folded before our chests.
Ralph’s eyes are soft, his smile gentle, reflecting my own. Making my way through the herb garden to the kitchen, I stop to pluck a bit of lemon thyme and crush it against my nose. Mmmmm.