A Long Walk

It’s our first walk of the new year so I decide to take the long way: a six mile track curving up through the hazel wood, the lake spread like a mirror on one side, the hard ground crunching underfoot all the way to a rocky, treeless ridge, then zig-zag down to the car-park again. It’s a cold, bright morning. The potholes in the compressed ground of the car-park have frozen over. Pale sunlight filters through the bare treetops around the clearing. The dogs bolt from the car. Asimov heads for the whitewashed stump that sits in the crook of the junction where the track splits in two. He gives it the usual greeting, a raised leg. Shelley waits while I zip up my coat and follows me up the steeply inclined path toward the line of dark trees. She ambles ahead and I wonder if she remembers this way even though we’ve ignored it for fifty-two weeks in a row. Asimov stands on the lower path, looking out at the lake. There is a picnic spot down there. I usually sit on the bench and throw pebbles into the water for the dogs, or mostly Asimov, to chase. I whistle and call him. He turns, ears cocked, surprised, then slowly comes to join me and Shelley. We head into the wood, leaving light and sound behind us.