Leonard is stretched out on the floor next to me.

And barking at the neighbor’s voices squeezing in through the windowsill. His concern is unconvincing. I suppose it’s nice that he feels a sense of duty.

He hasn’t moved in a half an hour.

I expect this morning’s exceptional walk along the trail was too much for his hound-sized brain. I still can’t run with this achilles tendon, so we walked this morning and took him with us. There were more exciting smells than he knew what to do with. The trail used to frighten him, so this was a big deal. He’s getting over whatever trauma he had as a pup. Slowly.

I didn’t smell stoat this morning, but I am sure Leonard did. Birds don’t interest him, but anything small and furry, or small and spikey does. Some evenings I have to play the guardian of the hedgehog while he does his business in the front yard.

I wanted to say “garden”. The front garden. As though that were a real thing in my life. Garden goes with words like cottage, and teapot. I have an A-frame house built in the 1970s and an electric water cooker. I have a mossy yard with half-hearted flower beds and derelict greenhouses. I wrote neglected first. But derelict relieves me of responsibility.

Time. I think the reason I spend so much of it trying to understand what it is, is because I do waste it. Or spin in place as it passes. All these “free” hours open up like sinkholes in the days. They don’t feel like freedom. They feel free of substance, actually. And inescapable.

Some days I can only get the work done when there is no time in which to do it. To get outside with a plan of some sort. To get upstairs and work with the paints. To fold the damned laundry.

Instead, I have an open afternoon – another open afternoon – and sit here brooding. And chiding myself when E. can hear me.

And it is not very convincing.

the grey heron sleeps
in the reeds-keeps her distance
eye on the canoes

Heading toward a quarter moon. The light is slipping away. I’m not sure I’ve ever noticed the moon as often as I have these past weeks. I suppose in part because we run under the cover of trees so often on the dark mornings. And I suppose because conversation is distracting.

Leaving my phone in the house while I walk Leonard now first thing each day, the quiet can be intense. Especially these days with the clear skies.

Shaking up the routine is a good thing. Leonard sniffs more intensely along the edges of the bushes. I think the hedgehogs are likely still moving around. Yesterday we ran into a cat whose eyes I saw coming from a good distance. Shiny, metallic full-moons in the light of my headlamp. I suppose she was stalking us, and only veered off at the last minute when Leonard’s bark told her that he was onto her.

I remember being surprised that I wasn’t startled. I’m normally scared of the dark. In an odd way, it was disappointing. No adrenaline rush.

Last night I had a nightmare. Graphic, bloody, and… awful. The details still sit in my memory, but I am no longer moved by nightmares like before. I no longer wake in a sweat or have trouble shaking a feeling of premonition. I know this has something to do with age. I know there’s research on this aspect of aging. And I know that in so many ways I should be (and am) grateful not to have to endure nightmares as I once did.

But in an odd way, it’s disappointing. Maybe I’m afraid that life might lose its intensity?

I’ve always had the most wonderful, colorful dreams when I’ve been depressed. An almost inverse correlation between the vividness of those dreams and the dullness of my days. I’ve always believed this fact reveals a deep optimism – despite what I think I think.

So maybe there is a logic – or at least a rationale – in believing that since my dreams are getting duller my days must be getting better? No need to compensate my heart for the fear of emptiness?

Last year I had an intention to create a more spacious day-to-day. And while it has felt like a year of torsion and grinding, maybe things are finally settling. Or revealing.

When I was a kid my grandfather took an archaeology course at the local college. He took me out a couple of times on his “dig”, and taught me how to use the screen to sift through the desert earth to reveal the tiny bone fragments. Years later I married an archaeologist and once again tagged along on digs. It was astounding to watch the professor spot remnants of a fire pit even before the surface gravel had been wiped clear. I suppose it is about learning to discern the relevant details from the noise. At the time, I remember, I was skeptical. I figured he was seeing what he wanted to see. Working backwards to construct the past. But believing it with all of his mind and heart.

Maybe that is what we all do? Construct the past by sifting through rubble. Casting bits of imagination to connect what doesn’t connect naturally? Like dinosaurs in the museum. We’re pretty sure the thigh bone connected to the hip bone.

Or wing.

Maybe what I’m experiencing now is connected to discerning the relevant from the irrelevant. The useful from the useless. Maybe even in my sleep, I can spot what it is important to take away from the dream – and that not being the cold sweat.

The takeaway from last night’s dream was that we can lose so much and still be alive. Our grandfathers die. Our marriages splinter. We get used to the pain of living and we keep on.

We learn to spot the veins of gold in the wounded walls of dark mine shafts, and we learn they are common enough not to need to get ourselves worked up over them.

The past year has been unexpectedly difficult. And then, maybe not. I’m still sifting through the rubble. Still discovering.