He knows when late afternoon has come. When it gets to be 4:30 or so, he comes into the study to remind me that it's almost time.
Let's go, he says,
it's time. Even though it isn't quite.
He might bark or he might politely jump beside my chair.
No, I'll tell him,
not yet. And he'll look up briefly and then leave the room.
But when I stand up from my chair, he comes dashing back. And when I put on my shorts and tie my shoes, he's up on the bed beside me, nose in my face, hoping beyond hope that he'll get to go. Because it's that time of day, and he knows what the man does at 5:00 and it usually involves shorts, a pair of running shoes and a leash.
But today is a rowing day. How do I tell him that?
Not today, I say, and he gives me a kiss on the nose.
I grab my wallet and keys, all part of the ritual he knows so well. I turn off the light in the bedroom and walk toward the front door. He dashes ahead of me, sliding on the slippery floor as he turns the corner in the living room.
When I get to the door, he is there waiting.
Now comes the leash, he must be thinking. Instead, I gather my things and walk out the door alone.
He doesn't let his disappointment show. He just peers out the window beside the closed front door, his wide, dark eyes and black nose barely poking up above the low sill.
Certainly there must be some mistake. Surely he'll be coming back.
But today is a rowing day, little doggie. Tomorrow we'll run. I promise.
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Amid the desolation of the Chihuahuan desert, the Chisos Mountains rear their igneous faces and reach for the sky. Their dark slopes beckon, visible from almost everywhere in the park.
Come, they say. Come to where the air grows cool. Come to where trees and birds of ages past survive in ecological niches that have long since retreated from the flatter lands. The Alligator Juniper. The Mexican Weeping Juniper. The Texas Madrone. The Mexican Jays. The Canyon Wren. Come see them, come hear them, the mountains say.
From our vantage point in the desert, the mountains seem impenetrable, a wall of hard rock soaring above roughly rolling hills. Somewhere up there, the Window looks out to the west, and there are people standing up there on the slick, smooth stone looking down on the desert, down on us.
Trudy and Ben are waiting for me.
I'm on my stomach shooting pictures of a little yellow flower I spied growing beside a pinkish-red rock with the hazy face of Sierra Ponce on the distant horizon.
Trudy and Ben are waiting.
It has been a long day. They hear the Chisos calling. It's time to return to our little hotel room in the mountains.
Big Bend National Park
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