Land in the Sky: My Morning Work

Every morning the collie puppy and I go for a walk around Paradise Hill. It’s all woods out here, so he gets to run free—who knows where—sniffing game trails, poking into porcupine ledges, or romping aimlessly for sheer joy. I do somewhat the same. My habit is to take along a book of poetry—today it’s a new volume by my old pal Joe Mills—and, while the collie puppy is afield, I plant myself on one of the many erratic boulders strewn across this landscape. Perched so, I kill time reading in one of nowhere’s many middles.

I also carry a steel pen and a little notebook to jot down my bright ideas. Whenever the collie puppy spots me scribbling, he breaks off the chase and comes bounding over and jumps up on me. His muddy paws inevitably leave their mark, sometimes on the page. Thus he records, for the umpteenth time, his one bright idea: “Give me cheese!” Yes, the collie puppy is a far more consistent thinker than I am—and he does not require the services of a therapist, imaginary or otherwise.

The other day on our walk, I lost my pen. I’m forever losing pens. And sunglasses. So I’m always buying new ones. I finally gave up replacing the sunglasses. It got too expensive and I don’t live in California anymore. But try as I might, I can’t give up the pens. I know, some of you dearly wish I might try a little harder, but I can’t help myself from writing down words like these. It’s a compulsion that has cost me more than one good job, not to mention respectability.

Anyhoo, I’ve been looking for that lost pen for two days. My buddy Craig Childs gave it to me in Alaska a couple years ago, so sentimental value is at stake as well. That pen had to be somewhere along the path around Paradise Hill, a path that is mostly my doing. The collie puppy travels elsewhere. He does his free and easy wandering off-trail and out of sight. Today, though, he did something different.

He interrupted his romp in the wild woolly-wags to come sit down on the path a couple hundred feet ahead of me. There he waited. When I arrived he spotted the notebook in my hand and jumped up to express his one bright idea. He inscribed it across the front of my threadbare but freshly laundered field jacket. My critique of his muddy thinking was preempted by the glint of something in the drab leaves carpeting the forest floor. It was the lost pen.

So I picked it up and started writing these words. The collie puppy ran off barking happily after something or another. And enough time was granted to finish this.

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