Step 13: Follow The Wind

How To Enjoy A 50K — Step 13: Follow The Wind


The spring peeper frogs are back. A glorious sign that winter is truly over yet today they sound menacing and macabre. Their constant calls echo through my ears and the forest of bare trees beyond. Thinking straight is difficult right now. I try to say hello to the buds forming at the ends of each branch, but the wind and the frogs are so loud it’s hard for them to hear me.

The woods are ominous tonight.

Fierce wind howls, bending branches and trunks at its whim. The trees are still bare and the wind and the night noises cruise right through them, filling the air with a chorus of warning from every angle.

Asha, the puppy, starts out relaxed and loose. She dances and hops, nips at Tobi’s harness and gets tangled in her leash. Is she chasing the dry scattered leaves held over from last fall or is she following the wind? A wisp of it across her face. The scent of it at the tip of her tiny nose. Or is it the sound that whistles through her ears and spins her this way and that?

I am the opposite. My jaw clenched so tight I feel a wall of pain high on my cheekbones, right up into my eye sockets. I haven’t slept in days. I am incapable of relaxing, of even closing my eyes to blink.

The images in my brain are a constant loop of Tobi in a coughing fit keeling over dead and my sister getting shot at a grocery store. The grocery store. The King Soopers on Table Mesa in Boulder where ten innocent people recently lost their lives to a madman. The King Soopers she shops at. The one I shopped at regularly up until two months ago. The one my friend was at the day before the shooting. That grocery store. Neither of these things have come to pass but it doesn’t take much to imagine what they would be like and those images won’t go away.

Back behind the pond we climb into the real woods. Tobi becomes apprehensive, stopping to listen, deciding every minute or so whether to go on or turn us back, and the puppy is getting scared. Basenjis are intuitive and attentive dogs, a breed well-tuned to the sights and sounds of hunting. I know my emotional state and energy affect them both. Every few minutes I pick up Asha and hold her close to my chest until she settles and wants to frolic again, but those frolicsome moments become fewer and farther between.

The wind never dies down.

Deep in the woods, three young boys are walking towards us, the only people we’ve seen, harmless chatty teenagers out for a stroll with friends. They couldn’t care less about me yet I am intensely aware of them. I allow their presence to inject even more fear into my veins though I know there is no logical reason for it. I hook right onto a side trail which will cut our loop by three quarters and quicken our pace. Suddenly, my heart is racing. I want to be out of the woods as fast as possible. The lack of tree canopy removes any semblance of sound insulation. Their voices carry loudly, like the peepers.

I am excessively mad. Inexcusably furiously angry about everything. My temper fuse is as short as it has ever been. I’m barking instead of speaking half the time. Tiny insignificances are sending me off the rails at warp speed. It’s getting dark and the voices of these kids following me through the trees raises my hackles to the point where I am so on edge my head might explode from the pressure. Why am I allowing myself to get so scared?

The mouth of the woods at the top of the hill above the water tower is close to a mile from the car. Tobi starts trotting as we emerge from the trees. I am so scared to let him run—what if his heart?—but he’s off leash like he always is and I can’t stop him. I trust him too much anyway. He knows we shouldn’t be in the woods tonight just as much as I do.

Tobi runs the entire way down the steep decline, through loose rocks and mud. I almost can’t keep up with him and I’m helpless to turn off the begging from inside.

Please don’t drop dead right now.

Please don’t drop dead right now.

Please don’t keel over and die.

The insanity of his condition is this: If the tumor does not bleed, Tobi is fine.

If the tumor bleeds, he dies.

We don’t get to decide if or when it will bleed. We just know that at some point it will.

The sharp squawk of a mallard landing on the pond jars me back to the moment and I muse on this idea.

Of all the dogs in the world, is it any wonder that mine will likely die of a bleeding heart?

Oh, my sweet baboo.

Tobi will not die in the woods today. We will make it home, all three of us wild and frazzled. Hours later, when I head off to bed, my mother will wish me some good sleep. “Thanks, but I’m so exhausted,” I’ll say. “Sleep won’t be a problem at all.”

But of course, that won’t be the case. My body will remain rigid and tense. I’ll forget to breathe. The stress will be so consuming I won’t even be able to close my eyes.

What if my sister goes to the store? What if Tobi doesn’t make it through the night?

I will awake with a start multiple times from nightmares that I’ve dropped Asha down a hole with no end and I can’t catch her or get her back. One time the hole will be a well. Once a sinkhole in a backyard. Once an abyss at the bottom of the ocean.

The next day I will be groggy and quite unpleasant to be around. I will want to scream. And I will scream. One time over the roar of the vacuum cleaner. Once pounding my fists against the steering wheel of my car. Once downstairs in the basement when no one else is home.

Way down deep I know I’m stuck in a loop that I will eventually break free of. I know this will all pass in time, but this life moment is a really hard one for me. So many of the things I love are in danger. So many of the plans I made will not come to fruition. We’re at the tail end of this pandemic yet I am still not vaccinated and feel more stuck and terrified than I have at any moment of the previous year.

This too shall pass. This too shall pass. Indeed, this too shall pass.

Hug your dogs close, my friends. Trust in the cusp. Follow the wind to tomorrow because a new day brings a new path. Sending love 💛 and light 💡 with all my might from a rather dark place today.

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