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.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Of Fox and Dog and Man

Neither Atticus nor I are big fans of the rain.  And when it’s freezing rain, as it is this morning, we’d rather just stay inside and wait it out.  But nature calls – in more ways than one – and we respond.  So about eight o’clock we forced ourselves out into the elements and hurried through the cathedral pines, the heavy wet drops, the hissing wind of Moseley Woods here in Newburyport for our morning constitutional. 

The old trees groaned and slick pine needles slid underfoot.  Man and dog both shivered from time to time as we walked through the storm.  Some days, no matter what you are wearing, there is no holding out the raw and the cold.  Today is such a day. 

Walking over the wet roots and hard, brown earth I was distracted by thoughts of tonight’s event at Porter Square Books.  I’ll read from the book while Atticus sleeps, then I’ll pick him up and take questions from the audience.  As is the case with every event I wonder just what I’ll say.  I never really know, and yet something always comes to me.  As soon as the introduction ends and the audience looks at me expectantly my mouth starts moving and I tell our story.  I also found myself wondering about the weather and how it would make for driving in busy Cambridge tonight.  The stop and go traffic; the icy or snowy roads; the slap-slap-slap of the windshield wipers.  Will parking be difficult?  What about the escape from the hectic city after the event? 

I pulled the zipper of my sweater a little higher to keep out the cold and shivered once again as rain drops fell inside my collar. 

Meanwhile Atticus stopped, squatted, did what he had to do, and then he turned right around and we started back the way we came.  No need to stay out in this weather longer than we have to.

As we headed towards our car I realized that we weren’t alone in the woods after all.  Sitting on the side of the trail, his hair wet and dark, sat a beautiful fox.  He was watching us.  Upon noticing him Atticus perked right up and before approaching looked back at me. 

“Hold on, Little Bug.  Let him be,” I said.  So Atticus took a seat and fox and dog and man looked at each other.  He and Atticus looked at each other with curiosity while I took in both of them with a bit wonder.

Yesterday, while moving through these same quiet woods we came to a small pond and on a log sat the tiniest baby beaver.  I’ve seen beavers before, but never one so small.  And just as happened with the fox this morning, Atticus took a seat and watched and I sat back in wonder while the beaver continued to chew and look upon us without a care in the world. 

I thought of yesterday’s beaver while we exchanged non-verbal pleasantries with Mr. Fox this morning and I thought about how fortunate we have been on two straight days to be welcomed to this forest by its residents.  I’m glad that Atticus is the gentle sort who has learned about respecting another creature’s home and that we could sit silently this morning and yet have so much conveyed .

This is not the first fox sighting we’ve had as of late.  Back in Jackson, we had a backyard Christmas tree this year and it gleamed with blue and white LED lights while a smaller varied string of colors wove and twinkled through the branches.  This tree was such a splendid gift to ourselves and was so stunning in its bright simplicity that I couldn’t help but gasp with surprised pleasure each time I encountered it.  It was as if I’d forgotten it was there and fell in love all over again whenever I’d pull into the yard or looked out the window.  One night I saw the neighboring fox who leaves her footprints in the snow for us to find each morning sitting by the tree.  When we went out into the yard she was gone.  The next night, however, when Atticus and I were outside, she appeared through the bracken ringing the yard.  She approached but didn’t get too close.  It was a safe distance for both of us and we looked on each other in the light of that wondrous tree.  After some time, Atticus and I went back into the house and when I looked out the window I saw her close to the tree again. 

On a recent hike up Peaked Mountain we were getting close to the part of the trail where the forest gives way to the ledges and we crossed paths with yet another fox.  It watched us with some interest and once again Atticus looked back at me and waited for me to pick him up and there fox, dog, and man spent a brief visit together.  It wasn’t nearly as long as this morning’s encounter nor the get-together with our backyard fox but it was enough to arouse my sense of wonder.

This morning, all the rain, the falling ice, the wind disappeared in the time of our silent communion.  Eventually I told the fox we had to go and apologized for passing too close on our way out of the woods.  It trotted slowly away and we went back to our car. 

The busy city may await us tonight, but there’s always a string that brings us to what we love the most.  Nature is everywhere, and I wrap myself in her embrace whenever I’m reminded of her beauty.    

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

The Book Fetish Calls FOLLOWING ATTICUS One of the Best of Reads of 2011

We're starting off 2012 with a great review of Following Atticus.  It appears on The Book Fetish Blog.  In the review Ashley Williams writes the following:

At one point in the book, Tom says, “Magic is where you find it; the only thing that matters is that you take the time to look for it.” When I read that, I had to put aside the book and write down that sentiment in the little notebook I keep with me all the time. I also quoted it as a Facebook status, and judging by the number of likes it received, this is a sentiment that we need to remember more often. I wasn’t expecting to be hit by a statement like that in this book. Anyone who dismisses Following Atticus as a book “just” about a man and a dog would be missing out on extraordinary story about friendship, self discovery, and the importance of living the life you’re meant to lead. Unexpectedly, Following Atticus is one of my favorite reads for 2011.
You can read the entire review by
clicking here and going to The Book Fetish blog.