Beautiful mornings are different here. It’s 65 degrees, overcast with a steady 10 mile per hour breeze. It’s not windy, the air doesn’t buffet me, but rather wraps around me like a silky top sheet, billowing gently across my skin. Harley and Helen and I are enjoying a leisurely walk in Fort Lowell Park, one of our favorite destinations. The vibrant green of the little league fields, the smell of freshly mowed grass floating on the breeze, the trees dancing and swaying slowly in a perfect rhythm our steps – they all contribute to a perfect morning as we glide through the park.
I’m lost in thought this morning, letting ideas swirl around me–something I’ve been unable to do for a few months. Shut up, be quiet and listen. As we walk, the Harley and Helen explore the winter homes of the resident burrowing rodents at the park, the fresh earth calling to them. An occasional head pokes up to check on the disturbance from above.
We walk a bit farther and I’m strangely distracted by a foursome of seniors playing doubles tennis on the hard courts across the fields. We saunter toward them and I lower myself to the ground. As I do so, Harley nuzzles me with his prickly whiskers, gently rubbing his face against my cheek. Helen is just confused about why we stopped. She hasn’t learned to sit and enjoy the moment. That will come later, but for now, she stays on high alert as Harley and I relax in the grass.
As I’m running my fingers through the mishmash of coat in his right hip and thigh, the blizzard beings. It’s just a small flurry at first, but as I speed my cadence, the fur flies. He’s blowing coat, ridding himself of the unnecessary undercoat in preparation for a long, hot summer. Thankfully, I’m upwind of this mass exodus of fur. Eventually, he gives in to gravity and just sits on my lap, one hip resting softly on my thighs. I stroke his back, gently massaging his lean muscles, enjoying our time together.
We watch the tennis match a bit longer, the men doing their best to get to drop shots just over the net and lobs into the corners. After a few more points, we decide to move on. As we rise and start our trek back toward the car, a small family approaches. Mother, father and a young son, about 5 years old. The boy has a round face with dark hair peeking out from under the too-big baseball cap that sits slightly askew on his head. The boy turns to his dad and quietly says, “I want to pet the dog.” Dad makes eye contact with me and I confirm that it’s OK to pet the big one but the smaller one is too nervous.
The boy moves quietly toward Harley and me, his hands at his side, his pace measured. Harley is bent down nibbling in some grass and glances up to say hello to the boy then returns to his snack. The boy pets Harley on the neck with a gentleness I rarely see in kids his age. His eyes are gentle. He is an old soul. The boy strokes Harley’s fur as I comment, “You know how to say hi to dogs. Do you have a dog at home?” His response is pure innocence. “I do. His name is Lucky. He lets me hug him.” As he says these words, he gives Harley a soft hug around the neck and shoulders, his small arms barely reaching Harley’s chest. As he pulls back, the little boy says, “Lucky lets me kiss him, too.” And with that, he bends forward and places a delicate kiss between Harley’s shoulder blades, all that was available as Harley continued with his grass snack.
The boy gently caressed Harley one last time then followed his folks as they moved on toward the rest of their morning. As they walked away, I said, “Lucky is a very lucky dog to have a boy like you.” He smiled and skipped lightly back to hold his mother’s hand.
Normally, when we go on walks and meet folks, it’s Harley spreading love and quiet joy. But today, we received that gift, a simple act of kindness, a gentle kiss. Thank you, little boy.