First Quarter Moonlight

Tanner and I slid out the front door a few minutes past 2000, just in time to escape this week's "Biggest Loser" episode on NBC.

After a brief hesitation around the corner of the cottage, we hiked through several inches of freshly fallen snow up the nearest path toward the tennis court. We crossed the Van Vechtens' yard and headed down the road to the Back Beach. I paused at the green metal gate, gazing south along the overgrown old road that runs toward the Byork property. Tanner and I had walked it the week before in the dark, him having to learn to navigate around brush that I could easily step over--a task in which he has shown improvement!

Tanner then led me up the higher branch of the road toward the Simonents' and Stiesses' places. I turned him up the hill just shy of the now-straightened red cottage, not wanting to create an opportunity for an unleashed puppy to bolt too close to the edge of the Bluff. I turned off my headlamp upon emerging from the brush, noting the First Quarter half-moon laying nearly on its back and emanating a bright, snow-reflected light. We cut behind the Fenns' and then up alongside the Lambs' before heading south down the road back toward Van Vechtens'.

Tanner hunkered down next to the discarded pile of white sand in the Boogaards' lawn and burrowed his nose beneath the thin layer of snow, as I continued on. I looked back his way, flicked on my headlamp, and called Tanner's name. A bounding pair of glowing eyes quickly approached me, Tanner with a prized pumpkin stem in his mouth.

He jolted forward and waited for me next to the north driveway of the new Simonet place, allowing me to choose our next move. I turned left down the drive, peeking into an orange plastic barrel full of water as I passed. A thin sheet of chunky ice was forming on top, encasing several individual cigar cases which had been floating there.

We emerged out the west driveway, crossed the road directly, and slipped down the normally grassy route toward Popeye Reed's former cottage. At this point, Tanner was still carrying his pumpkin stem. He involuntarily deposited it on the top step heading to Popeye's, but quickly forgot it when a split-second search turned up empty. We followed the shoreline of Sodus Bay southward, dropping down the few steps to the Colemans' back door and continuing on past the Morgan cottage, past the Webster Clan properties.

Tanner and I raced in the moonlight between yards, hopped onto Oak Lane, and slowed by the Jaggers' cottage. Dad and I had paddled the kayaks from the sandbar to their dock two nights before, breaking through the thin ice with every effort of every stroke. We heard a rumbling sound emanating from the bowels of the Ficarro cottage and I considered briefly the new, glistening bolts on the old, rickety water pump at the end of Oak Lane.

We crossed from there onto Wintergreen Point, followed the circle around by the Sharps' cottage, and blazed from there through the trees to the paved Lake Bluff Rd. I led Tanner across the road at a spot where the ditch was negligible and headed to Reading Rock. Pushing aside a few thorny nuisances, I placed my neoprene-gloved right hand on the snow-blanketed rock, recalling its history as I have learned it.

As I did this, I felt a sensation of generational linkage, knowing that this was the spot where many times my father had sat--reading a novel in the sunlight--while waiting for his father to drive by on his return from work. I myself have read there, and once sat there with Koko on a sunny day in hopes of surprising my dad on his way home from work. That day, Koko and I gave up the wait there and continued on along Lake Bluff Rd., where Dad eventually did see us on his way home from work; we hopped into his car near Sloop Landing Rd. Tonight, the moment climaxed for me when Tanner reached up on Reading Rock and placed both of his forepaws next to my hand, a look of understanding on his face.

Tanner and I climbed the hill to Teeples' apple orchard and crossed the first few rows, tree trimmings occupying most of space in between. As we neared the opening to old Corduroy Rd. and the logging trail, I hastily pulled off my Bula woolen cap--the one with the braided chin-ties, the one my wife despises--to relieve my body's sudden overheating. As I turned on to Corduroy Rd. I looked back to where Tanner was stationed, disappointed to see a pliable object dangling from his mouth. It appeared to be the shape of a dead rodent and the lateness of the hour combined with my own fatigue quickly drew me to a scolding mood.

I yelled a disapproving "Tanner, get over here," and he immediately rose and approached me--carcass limp in his steely vise. I positioned him between my legs, bracing myself for whatever disgusting object I was about to remove from his dog lips. As I felt the odd shape, I reached up with one hand to turn on my headlamp. It was gone!

Suddenly struck with reality, I realized that the object in Tanner's mouth was my L.L.Bean headlamp, my favorite headlamp, the one I wore at the wedding reception to assist in the removal of Jessica's garter! In my haphazardness of removing my winter cap, the headlamp had been flung away into the darkness. This had occurred scores of feet back down the row of apple trees from which we had come. Good boy, Tanner!

Overcome with a feeling of guilt for having been briefly upset with my helpful puppy, I praised him excessively. Tanner let me off easy. After his rolling around in the snow and my giving him an apparently satisfactory belly-rub, he released his hold on my headlamp and I zipped it away in my jacket pocket for safe-keeping.

We returned uneventfully to the cottage 1 hr. 15 min. after our departure to find that "Biggest Loser" was still on TV, just over halfway through a two-hour episode. I guess Tanner and I didn't escape after all...


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