……. begins with an exuberant yellow Lab leaping onto the bed between my husband and me to encourage whichever one of us appears least comatose. Most days, after I stagger to the kitchen and revive myself with coffee, Scout gets his first romp of the day before I head to the writing room. My computer desk is in front of a large window. I can see the six raised beds of our vegetable garden out in the sunny part of the yard near the roses.
To my right through a door onto the deck are pots filled with shade-loving red and pink impatiens and yellow begonias, even some blue flowers I planted but can’t identify. Hummingbird feeders hang in the lowest branches of the Chinese elm that towers over the house; we brought that tree home, bare root, in the trunk of our car, close to thirty years ago. Now, like the children we raised here, it’s fully grown, and three beloved grandchildren play under its shelter.
So I spend the day writing. I try not to be distracted by phone or email—or Scout, especially when I’m working on something new. When a book is coming out there’s a lot of work expected on publicity and marketing and sometimes it’s difficult to balance that with focus on the new project—what I most love to do—and often the new work ends up on the back burner for a while.
What I didn’t do today—again–was work on my next novel. But I think that’s the life of the writer now, back and forth between working on something new and what we do to help bring our books into the world and find their readership.
At about 3:30, Scout starts to get impatient. I can hold him off until 4:00 if I’m being productive. By then he’ll be impatiently nosing my left arm, making it impossible to type. If I put him off much longer, he puts his front paw into my lap and jams his head between me and the keyboard. I’ll give up and load him into the back seat of the car, drive the two minutes it takes me to get to the nature preserve near my house where off-leash dogs are allowed to run if they’re under voice command. I’ll have arranged to meet my friend Barb and her chocolate Lab Maggie, and we’ll hike along the little singing river and then through the fragrant high pine forest we call The Cathedral, where our ritual is to name a gratitude for the day.
Sometime during the hour I’ll doubtless shout, “Scout, leave it! Don’t eat it, and no! Don’t roll in it!” (He particularly loves anything that will make him stink enough that I have to hose him down immediately upon returning home.)
He’s obsessed with retrieving his tennis ball, too — when he’s not chasing a squirrel, I mean. Scout’s strong preference is for the afternoons when my husband can join us on our hike; then there are balls launched that he considers worthy of his fielding skills. He’ll leap to catch them after the first bounce and run back to spit them out about six feet in front of my husband, whose job is to get them in the air again without breaking stride so that we all keep moving, especially Scout who then runs far ahead to receive them. (I use the plural, balls, because there might be some errant throws that none of us can find in the woods in spite of Scout’s excellent tracking skills. Admittedly, when you’re flinging a ball a quarter mile down a forest trail, it’s not easy to put a curve on it.) This dog was born to play shortstop, a natural athlete.
When we first got him from Lab Rescue, we couldn’t get him in the water no matter what we tried, including making fools of ourselves by wading in to demonstrate the wonderful fun he could have. But one day last summer, when his ball rolled a few inches into one of the ponds thanks to that aim I mentioned, he couldn’t stand waiting for one of us to get it for him. To reach it, he had to get one paw and his nose wet. A beginning. The next day, we tossed it in deliberately, and a couple inches deeper. Two wet paws. We seriously crowed in triumph the first time we saw him actually swimming–which Labs have the webbed paws to do brilliantly. Now when we come to the river or one of the ponds he runs ahead and dives in, waiting for us to fling the ball to the other side so he can get enough time in the water.
Afterward, a glass of wine, talk, and some music out on the deck with my husband. Then one of us makes dinner while we catch the evening news. The other cleans up. Ideally, I mean, on that “clean up” part. My standards might be somewhat higher than his. Then sometimes it’s back to the computer if there’s a deadline to meet, or an episode of a something we’ve taped on TV: The Good Wife is a favorite, and so is Grey’s Anatomy. Always, always, then an hour or more of reading—almost always a literary novel.
I count it an excellent day when it includes contact with one of the kids. And I’m glad to say that’s more days than not. The day circles its tails and settles to sleep for the night with Scout having done exactly that, first up on the bed with us for some final treats, and then down on his own, everything—at least for a few hours—in place.