I have a favorite time of the day. Depending on the season, this time can even be during the golden hour, when the trees overhead break apart and the sun shines through, softer and stronger than it’s been all day.
I dream of dusk. I wake up early, go through my day, return home. I pour myself a drink: Red wine is my preference, but I’ll take a heavily iced bourbon or vodka soda, too. My dog perches on the edge of my bed, knowing what’s next. “Oh Emma Loueeeese!,” I shout. She goes nuts, wagging her tail, jumping at me. “We’re going on a walk.”
Nighttime dog walks soothe my soul. If I were a doctor I would prescribe them to everyone I met. Emma Louise and I live in a lovely neighborhood, with streets lined with live oaks and houses that face the Wappoo River. I am lucky to rent a house here. I feel lucky every night, as if my dog and I had just stumbled into Alice in Wonderland’s Lowcountry daydream.
Emma and I have our favorite routes. The first goes down a dirt path to a street that loops by the waterfront. There’s one house, if you catch it in the right time in the morning and at night, that reflects the sun shining on the water. We like that house. There are some houses, though, that we love.
We like big front porches and metal roofs. We like white houses because I grew up in a white house. (Emma grew up in the woods in Georgia, so her house color preference is non-applicable.)
During the summer we walk for the smells, the barbecues and the yeasty suggestion of a homebrew cooking in someone’s garage. I spray myself down until I’m sticky with bug spray. I tell Emma to close her eyes and I spray her too. The marshes are a big draw for mosquitoes.
In the winter we walk to see the lights — Halloween decorations, Christmas adornments, dinners being cooked, and served, and fires being started. I usually encounter other people and dogs on our walks. We smile and say hello and the dogs greet one another, sniffing, wagging. Both owners say, “Say hello!” as if that were a very reasonable thing for dogs to do.
My sister has joined me on dog walks. It’s been dark lately so we take a mini flashlight. I have an LED light I could wear, but my sister finds that slightly embarrassing. She likes to walk down to the boat landing where the moon may or may not be rising over the water. If it’s cold we have our hands tucked inside of our sleeves — we don’t have any gloves.
I’ve taken my boyfriend on some of these walks, pointing out the big, beautiful homes I like. He likes them too and we play tentative house together, talking about what a home together in the future may look like. Would it be in a neighborhood like this? (We can’t afford that right now). Would it be by the ocean or in the mountains? (We talk more of our shutter preferences, and how we’d like our porches — a determined location is too far in the future, for now).
Mainly, though, I like to take these walks alone, with Emma Louise. A dog walk is the only time in the day when I truly feel free. We can walk for as long and as far as we want. All day my brain is working, my fingers are clicking at a computer, and I’m worried. Writers worry, ya know? And sometimes things don’t make any sense — the election of our new president comes to mind — and I feel helpless.
But there are always dog walks. Emma Louise will always, always, run to the door when I suggest we depart. She will stand patiently when I say, “Hold your horses,” looping her leash around her neck. These walks clear my head, they exercise my dog, they show me how gentle and kind the world can be as the sun sets.
People say hello, then return to their small and special lives. Tonight one person is making burgers for old friends. Another just brought a puppy home for their kids. I have tomatoes slow roasting in my oven at home.
These are trying times. I’ve found a way to exist in them and if I could, I would prescribe it to anyone who needs it — while dog and drink are optional, the walking part is not. See where you live. See that the world still turns. Turn with it.