Lavender Blue

I have been helping to care for a litter of pure-bred pups this summer. If you are sick or sad you should seek the company of dogs to spend away your super-heated days and sultry nights. I am weary of the sun and the steamy wet that permeates the air in the wake of the rain. I am tattooed in red from mosquito bites, my skin a shade of brown its never been before, a kind of puce, and sore from the slow burn and the teeth of 7 baby dogs.

But am I bored; can I sink into sorrow or slide into fear? No. There is so much to see and experience. On the fence a crop of black raspberries scintillating like amethysts in the sun; the puppies' paws are stained purple from them. A sparrow lands on the lawn like an angel among them and they stop utterly still, stupid with bliss, mesmerized. Then released into a sprint on wobbly legs as she flies and they try to catch the shadow she casts on the ground beneath her. Grasshoppers spring as the puppies walk; they fall back in astonishment and surprise each time as if never before have they seen this satin green chewing machine. There are secret goings-on in the compost heap, they hear it before I do -- the low, scratchy scurrying in the heap of papery husks discarded from corn-on-the-cob. The smallest pup rushes forward and parades round my feet carrying a mouse in her mouth by its tail, a lush, plush creature with beady jet eyes and whiskers laced with corn silk. The puppies swoon as I let them sniff him carefully and then return him to his work on the other side of the wall.

Last week we sent the first pup away and the man we sold her to has complained that she does not come when called and won't retrieve on command. Oh, she is only ten weeks old, so full of wonder and pizzazz that she can hardly contain herself. I am so certain that she is not even aware that she has a name and that within her repertoire of behaviors and responses there is no button for 'come' at this stage of her development. More like 'go'! Go, go, go-out into the sun and wind and rain and grass, run and run and run with your eyes so big and your lungs on fire and your ears like sails. Eat bugs, roll in the dirt, drink from the gutter, spin in the glitter of morning light, try to snatch a butterfly from flight, sleep on the velvet blanket of bare earth beneath the silver maple tree , tongue lolling, little paws still at last, snarling in your slumber. I have an ache in my throat to think of her now . We called her Lavender, Lavender Blue. I remember for a moment my father, who could never see me as I was when I was small. I was never allowed just to 'be', I was always asked to 'do'.

I send my love to the little dog in Ohio, asking for more time for her to be young, to be new, more time for her to still be in love with lightning bugs, to sit with her eyes closed and head turned listening to an oriole's song with nothing better to do than chew on a branch fallen from a storm or dig a hole to lay in later and lick the berry juice off her paws and jowls. And then I move on over to the place where the 6 remaining pups wait for me to turn on the hose. If you are passing by some evening just before the sun goes down you might see a silly woman, her hair all wet, her dress a mess, running with the puppies in the sprinkler's spray, yes, spinning in all that glitter of golden light just as Lavender taught me to do.

Jana Lee Frazier