It is what Chef David calls the days and moments leading up to our road trips, which we anticipate eagerly all year, and embrace giddily in spite of all the feverish preparations before liftoff. Crunch time has arrived, and entails not only planning the so-called ‘capsule’ wardrobe one takes on a trip, and unearthing the duffels and all manner of totes and single-purpose bags we tend to bring with us on the road, but also making plans for the house in our absence. Starting pretty soon we’ll be taking inventory of what’s in the pantry and the fridge and planning our last few home-cooked meals just so, to avoid coming home to rotten produce and sour milk, that kind of thing. The Chef is expert at this, as one might expect. “This week,” he said solemnly just before our weekly shop Friday evening, “will the last normal week.” Aye, aye, Cap’n Crunch.
For me, crunch time has also entailed checking off an onerous list of items, including pre-scheduled doctor and dentist visits, scheduling a flu shot due for Scout, driving over to Albany for scheduled maintenance on the car, having the snow tires swapped out with the all-seasons, ordering contact lenses, et al. At work, both the Chef and I are doing what needs to be done in anticipation of our week-long absence. For me, that means dotting lots of I’s and crossing lots of T’s, and for the pastry chef, it means an impressive amount of baking and longer than usual work days.
Things will be a tad different for one Scout-the-Goldapeake-Retriever this time around: Even though he is a Dog of the World, he’ll stay behind in his familiar surroundings, with one of the sweet staffers who works at the dog camp he attends every Friday. For that week she’ll move into our house and see to his needs. His schedule will remain more or less uninterrupted, save the Dog Camp Person will stand in for the Beloved Humans he typically depends on for outings and treats and belly rubs. He’ll even go to camp on his usual day. And because someone else will be living here in our absence, I’ll be doing a pre-travel shop to pick up whatever she wants for the fridge or freezer. I hope it’s a fun week for both of them, too.
The guest bedroom looks so inviting now, after a year and a half of serving as the repository for all the things one schleps into a new home, but whose final destination requires decision making you can’t be bothered with just then. You know whereof I speak: Where do you want these boxes of winter workout clothes? Guest bedroom for now. How about these magazines? Guest bedroom. How about all these boxes of photos? Guestroom. Since ‘for now’ is already ‘way back then,’ it was high time to deal with all the stuff, anyway. And there’s nothing like company coming (even if you won’t be there when they arrive) to force one’s hand.
Instead of being piled to the ceiling with dusty plastic bins and cardboard boxes, now the guest bedroom is spotlessly clean. Art at last is hanging on all the walls instead of stacked up against them at the baseboards—a pleasant combination of ballet photography, family photos, and frame-worthy original art my kiddo made way back when he was a peanut. I’ve hung polished cotton balloon valances above each of the room’s two windows, the bedding is washed and the bed freshly made, and I even located a specially designed three-quarter bed skirt with a 20-inch drop, which perfectly fits the antique bed in the guestroom. Before our sitter moves in, the Chef will install a window air-conditioner for her so she’ll be comfortable in the heat. Like most old homes in Vermont, ours has no central air, so we use window units in strategic spots as soon as the temps begin to climb up into the 70s or so. Granted, they’re ugly, but a cool house is requisite, I think, once you reach a certain point in your life. They’ll all come out and go back into storage along about September.
Meanwhile, yesterday Scoutie and I struck out for a long morning adventure at a favorite haunt, Mile-Around Woods; we hoped to bump into our friend Candy and her sweet English Llewellin Setter Tess, or perhaps Kim and her adorable Spinone Italiano doggie Alfie—we did find Kim and Alfie (you can hear Alfie long before you see him because of the small cow bell he wears on his collar), except they were leaving just as we arrived. Another time, we lamented, and then Scout and I struck out solo on a leashless adventure in meadow and wood.
No sooner had we finished the meadow part of our adventure and started on the pathway into the woods, than we bumped into a nice young man with a beautiful German Shepherd puppy named Nova, who at six months already towered over Scout and outweighed him by at least 30 or so pounds, I’m guessing. Nova was well behaved, but silly, and the two dogs enjoyed each other’s company whilst the humans chatted, long enough for Nova to make herself at home in a bed of ferns while Scoutie stood there patiently and panted. The young man decided he’d walk us out of the woods even though we were headed in opposite directions, so we enjoyed a long conversation about dogs, sports, physical therapy (what he plans to pursue professionally one day, he told me), and in general the state of Young People These Days. He told me all about his wife and how Nova was a surprise for her, how it was their birthday week this week, and about running track in high school. I told him all about the Chef and his annual stint coaching pole vaulting at our local high school, which he just wrapped up last week. We said bye, and hoped we’d meet again.
Which is all to say, Scout and I have had some of the most wonderful and memorable encounters with people and their dogs up at Mile-Around. I’ve found my adventures there with Scout among the most contemplative and soul nourishing moments in the weeks that I go, and when I meet new folks up there, often leave with my faith restored in humanity. People are good, or at least, possess the capacity for goodness. I made a pact with myself as I pulled away in my car yesterday, to start carrying my camera and documenting my encounters with new friends and old ones, starting on my next trip to that wonderful natural resource we have so close to home.
Home, where we’re also busy tending our flourishing gardens and creating what we hope will be a beautiful outdoor living space. New garden furniture arrived Friday afternoon, and by Saturday morning Chef David had put all of it together—a coffee table, two arm chairs, and a loveseat, each with thick, comfortable cushions in a pretty russet color. I don’t have a photo yet, but anyway, shall wait until our gazebo arrives and we get it all assembled and anchored into the ground. I’ll finish with a nice outdoor rug, Scout’s outside bed, and a fire pit. Last year we didn’t do much actual ‘living’ outside at all, except for the occasional evening cocktails on our front porch, but living in a state where winter is so long and punishing and summer so short, one must take advantage of all the fair weather one can.
The suitcases are still tucked inside the closet and Scout has no clue, as yet, that anything’s up. He’s enjoying the change of seasons just as much as his humans are, and prefers to spend his time hanging out in the yard engaged in a particularly enjoyable diversion, if a tad undignified. Dignified behavior, after all, is overrated, don’t you think?