Anne M. Smith-Nochasak:
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“I don’t know where she is, or what she’s doin’, or why,” Joe breaks in, “but she were at the lake last May. Up by th’ Narrows, in that ol’ canoe, workin’ along with that big white dog runnin’ the shore beside her. ‘This is a secret, Joe,’ she says. ‘I’m not supposed to be here.’”
“I know what I saw,” Joe insists. “Were a bright and perfect May mornin’, and there she is all bright and smilin’ and that big white dog runnin’ along the sho’ah.”
-A Canoer of Shorelines, Ch. 21
Ten years ago, I brought a heavy binder stuffed with notes from my special cabin to my new home. With me, there were three dogs: the great white Husky, the little brown dog, and the brindled Husky. They were an unusual family, as the great white Husky, although attached to the little brown dog, had a way of stalking from the room as the eager little brindled one entered. He did not dislike her; he just did not care for her company.
Everyone loved the little brown dog, for who could resist the puzzled face and forlorn expression? Initially, the brindled one challenged her. Picture a street dog, fangs bared and eyes rolling, flipping a helpless and woebegone teddy bear to its back and pinning her. Now see the baffled teddy bear eyes suddenly gleaming, the lips drawing back in a snarl, a miniature wolf released and the brindled Husky huddled in a corner of the deck, groveling. The little dog was Amarok, meaning ‘Wolf’, and that day we knew the rumors of her wolf ancestry were true. The brindled Husky became devoted to her, and grieved her passing as I did.
The great white dog died abruptly that first fall, with a sudden and fast-paced cancer. The little brown dog walked the length of his grave, and suddenly we knew she was old. The brindled Husky huddled against her, and in time, they bonded in her grief.
Two years later, the little brown dog died, and my brindled lady mourned for two years.
From that first fall, as I typed notes and arranged chapters, it was the brindled Husky who watched from her bed in the loft. When I stepped away from writing to take jobs, she became my companion, but whenever I wrote, she was my co-writer.
That continued as we brought A Canoer of Shorelines into being. I read to her. I edited and crossed out and discarded and rewrote, and she listened to each revision. Even when the affectionate Shay pup joined us, writing was something between me and the brindled lady. She was the last dog to live with me at the Wasaya setting. She is my lady of Wasaya, my editor, my joy.
She has canoed and kayaked every inch of shoreline with me, hauled the canoe to shore when I could not feel my fingers as my arm swelled from hornet stings, dragged the kayak behind her as we raced from a fire zone, and curled close when I was sick or injured.
She has heard every word, every version, of my first novel, and she has witnessed the emergence of my new draft. This year, I wanted to give my aging friend her great winter, as I sensed her starting to fade, but then I could only shuffle, and I despaired. She taught me then that a Great Winter is one in which you are both present, writing together, shuffling the trail together, open to the moment, awake to creation. She has seen me to my healing, but suddenly, she is weakening. This is our Great Spring, our gift to each other.
We returned to Wasaya yesterday, and we experienced the serenity of creation there. That was one moment, but it is in us now.
She dreams today, and I know she is running the shoreline. Soon, she will find her way there, and be home.
I know that one day, that is where we will meet again, perhaps along the Narrows on a bright and perfect May morning.