09 March 2007

Dancing with myself

Spring hasn't sprung, but is definitely springing. The purple plums have begun to flower out; I noticed the first bud from the laundry room window a week ago, and now it is a shower of flowers. The weeds are rearing their charming heads and the grass has resumed growing. Which means I need to go out and mow it.

(It is a well-known fact that I am a bad Californian. I mow the lawn of my $1,000,000 + house and I clean said house, too. Of course, it's also a well-known fact that I consider California a temporary resting spot, even though I've been resting here for over 25 years. I am a woman without a state. This probably needs an entry of its own).

Anyway, mowing. We've had some hard freezes this winter, and very very little rain, so the yard has suffered and some things have died, and it needs attention.

(And while we're at it, please don't think that a) I want you to be impressed by the value of my house or b) that I'm impressed by the value of my house. Again, California. Unlike most of the people who live around here, I'm not only frugal, but also pragmatic and realistic. When someone recently said to me, "You live in a million dollar house; why are you mowing the lawn," what could my answer be other than "I don't need to pay someone to do this."? Okay, stopping now.)

You will note that I'm procrastinating on the lawn thing, which I really needed to start 20 minutes ago. But there's a reason.

My best gardening buddy died a year ago.

I get very zen when I'm out in the garden and I don't mind pulling weeds or mowing because it gives me time to explore that danger zone known as My Mind. But for years, I've had a companion out there. A not always silent companion, and certainly a rarely helpful companion, as her preference was following me and pooping while I was cleaning up her poop. She also upended me on more than one occasion by sticking her nose in my rear end while I was trying to pull weeds. And a cold wet nose in one's armpit on a hot summer day is not cause for celebration.

The Bad Dog was one of the baddest dogs I've ever had the privilege of knowing. She was a beauty with huge drifts of soft white fur (the birds loved the clumps that fell from her in the spring. Great insulation for nests). She barked at flies ("But dammit, this MY airspace!") and ate snails on the hoof (which was her best act in the garden although her smile with snail-filled teeth was gross beyond measure). She knew exactly what she shouldn't do, because she was well-trained, but usually did it anyway, if it was fun (and for this reason, the spouse has some certainty that Bad Dog was somehow my biological daughter). One of her favorite acts of defiance was to roll in the newly mown grass, which turned her from white Bad Dog to green Bad Dog. No joke. We have photographic evidence.

Bad Dog loved it when we were gardening because she loved to be with her people. She would streak across the yard, chase her tail or her talking parrot toy, or just run for the sheer fun of running and wait for the glorious moment when she could roll in the newly mown grass. And she danced with me. I usually take my Ipod out with me, and sometimes, just feel a need to bust a move while I'm trimming a tree. Bad Dog loved this and would jump up on me so she could dance too. Sometimes I'd hold her paws and boogie with her, though only for a moment because in her later years she was so arthritic I feared hurting her. Sometimes she'd just put her paws on my waist and hold on for dear life.

Now I have to dance alone.

The penultimate morning of her life, I went out to check the tomato beds, and the spouse said later he wished he'd had a camera. He watched the two of us standing side by side, heads cocked at the same angle, staring into the bottom of the bed. I don't know what we were looking at, other than tomato plants. Perhaps she was hoping for a snail.

We still see her out there sometimes. A momentary flash of white in the thicket at the fence line. A dainty wet footprint on the stone by the French door where she used to lay. And once in a great while, a hank of white undercoat, soft fluff stuff, detaches itself from its hiding place and drifts in the breeze across the yard.