Following Atticus: Forty-Eight High Peaks, One Little Dog, and an Extraordinary Friendship by Tom Ryan is published by William Morrow. It tells the story of my adventures with Atticus M. Finch, a little dog of some distinction. You can also find our column in the NorthCountry News.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Morning on Race Point

Early this morning we braced ourselves for a walk along Race Point. It was as cold and windy as it was on Mount Jackson last Saturday. Luckily, having spent many a winter day on top of mountains these past few years I had the right clothes for a long walk on the beach.

Not only did we get to see the sun set into the water, we also got to see it just after it rose out of the water. Such is the angle of beaches on Cape Cod.

Atticus is happiest when we are together. But maybe that’s not happiness. Sometimes I think he believes it’s his job to make sure he’s looking out for me and if I’m happy, he’s happy. But nothing makes him happier than to be out in nature. Give him the mountains, a good field or a sandy beach and you see a jauntiness to his step. He gallops with all four legs leaving the ground at the same time, throws his head back and opens his mouth to drink in the world and if there is a good wind all that better!

He knows things I don’t know. I don’t pretend to know what they are, I simply allow him to have his secrets. I’m not sure he’d tell me if he could, but I’d like to think he would. This morning as I was watching him run around on the beach as if playing tag with the wind and teasing the breaking waves I thought of those lines from Mary Oliver’s poem ‘Her Grave’:

“A dog comes to you and lives with you in your own house, but you do not therefore own her, as you do not own the rain, or the trees, or the laws which pertain to them….A dog can never tell you what she knows from the smells of the world, but you know, watching her, that you know almost nothing.”

So it is every time I’m out in nature with Atticus. Watching him I realize I know very little compared to what he knows. Luckily I’ve got a front row seat and I do my best to pick up a tidbit every now and again.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, we have a rule to break.

PS: My favorite contemporary poet is Mary Oliver. As fate would have it she lives in Provincetown.


Ellen Snyder said...

Lovely picture of Atticus on the beach. His coat shines in the sun. We too love the beach in winter - so few people. Actually we are going to the beach today with 12-year old Aria. She loves the water. Although it is a holiday, maybe the wind will keep others away :)

Thomas F. Ryan said...

Here's to having the perfect little places to ourselves from time to time, Ellen.

What beach are you headed too? And how is Aria holding up with the recent turn of events?

Ellen Snyder said...

We went to Rye Beach since it is so dog friendly in winter and easy to get to and free parking! Aria is much more relaxed moving about the house - we had not realized how much her movements and playfulness were curtailed by Bella. But her hind end is weakening and her left elbow is arthritic. This will be another hard decision - when do we decide that she is in too much physical pain? All her systems are still working and she seems happy, so we take week by week. It's been three years since we thought she might not make it through another winter! They are so stoic.