LONGLEAF STORIES

full circle in the hundred acre wood

I awoke with a start yesterday morning with one of those dreaded “falling out of bed” sensations. I stumbled out of bed, slightly disoriented, and then realized I had awakened in the middle of an intense dream.

The retained image is this: I was staying in a cabin at the edge of a swampy lake. It was dark. Huge live oak trees draped with long, swaying tendrils of Spanish moss rimmed the shoreline. For some reason I left the cabin and was standing at the edge of the lake, looking at the far shore. The lake was mostly shallow, with cypress knees sticking up in places.  A misty fog reduced visibility. It was quiet, but for the slow lapping of water on the shore.

A strange canoe-looking boat materialized out of the darkness. It was very long and narrow, with curving, carved wood at both ends. The wood itself was light colored and I thought “balsa?”  A creature was sitting erect on its haunches in the bow of the boat. It was a huge panther. It was mottled looking, neither black nor white. It appeared to be completely devoid of hair. It seemed to be created of an essence of light and dark.

It looked in my direction, but seemed to be looking through rather than at me. When the boat bumped up against the shore and came to rest, the panther disembarked with a feline grace that any little house kitty would be lucky to achieve. It moved toward the deep woods away from me, all sinew and muscle, until it merged into the light and dark of trees and moonlight and became invisible.

I woke up, breathing hard, the panther’s presence still with me.

This morning, on a short, half-mile, run to the gate with Maggie, she broke suddenly and disappeared into the leaves and underbrush that almost match her color, and the mottled shade of morning. It’s spring, and the squirrels running everywhere are irresistible even to an old dog. Like many dogs, Maggie becomes deaf to my call if she believes I don’t see her. And I didn’t. I didn’t hear a sound, either. I was alarmed only because she had disappeared in the direction of the property line and the road.

I called and whistled, ran up to the gate to check the road, then ran all the way to the house to get the truck. Maggie loves the truck, and will usually run to it if she hears it. Nothing. I went back to the house and woke Buck. He sent me back in the truck to patrol the road frontage, while he walked the woods, calling and whistling.

I had already begun negotiating with God. I swear, I swear to be a better person, to do all the things I know I should do but don’t do, to be less selfish, just please, please don’t let Maggie be hurt or just disappear and never come home. My cell phone rang.

“I got her! I’ve got Maggie. Come home. Come on home.”

That did it. I busted out crying, sitting there in my jogging shorts and tank top, hair a wild tangle, head on the pickup truck’s steering wheel. I guess maybe I needed a good cry. Haven’t had one in several years.

Tomorrow morning, I’ll take Maggie for a run again. On a leash.

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