Back from a trip to the supermarket, I walk in bag laden from the outer entry hall to find Ellie sitting on the old braided rug in front of the door, looking up hopefully at me. She's already been out to do her morning business, but she's a young dog with too much energy, and needs more exercise than she's getting most of these unpleasantly dank winter days. I brush past her and quickly put away the groceries without removing my coat, then sigh and take her harness off the peg where it hangs with the various keychains in the entry hallway. I have work to do but I'll compensate by working late. Thinking it would be a good time to take her down to the woods for a romp, since it's mid morning and most normal folks are at their normal jobs instead of walking their dogs on the trail, I figure I'll let her off leash to chase rabbits and chipmunks while I do a sketch - another thing there's been too little of since early November.
Raindrops spatter my face as we walk out. For a moment, I consider leaving my sketch bag behind, but it's not raining hard, and a little sprinkle seems a lame excuse. So we cross the street and head down the alley towards the woods, Ellie pulling on the leash (she still doesn't pay attention to the finer points of proper dog behavior) with me yanking her back every few steps. Across the berm and Conrail tracks and down into the woods, I command her to wait while I unclip the leash from her harness, then she runs off madly seeking the prey she never apprehends.
Plodding through the wet leaves, I turn and look back up the trail, at the barren trees leaning over on both sides, sentinels framing a path, the faintly tunnel-like gap fading off into the woods. I recall January days in previous years when I've drawn this scene, filled with hope for the months ahead. I think of the hard challenges that 2016 brought, heartache and headaches and so many blows to my optimism. Then the title of a favorite book of poems, W.S. Merwin's 'Rain in the Trees', pops into my head, and suddenly I see from a different vantage point. My focus shifts to the good things. Standing there in the middle of the trail, I pull out a couple of my colored pencils, open a fresh page, and do a quick sketch. Raindrops hit the paper and melt the water soluble pigment. I work fast and deliberately to get the essence of what I need for a legible image and to feed my outlook, then tuck the book and pencils back in my bag and call Ellie.
Amazingly, she trots obediently out of the woods, I praise her and promise a treat when we get home.