Tuesday I drove toward town on slushy roads. You know, the kind of snow-melting roads desirous to fling an unsuspecting car into the woods. You mustn’t drive faster than 45 miles an hour or you’ll be ditch-bound. Four-wheel drive pickup trucks sneer as they pass your 2003 Buick Century. They leave a wake of salty spray on your windshield.
It makes you ponder past ditch episodes. Thank goodness, not many in the last several years. You recall your early years in the Upper Peninsula. How many times did your little adventuresome blue Fiestas spin around uncontrollably and land in deep snow?
There was the time you lived at Roland Lake, nigh 20 miles from town. You carried your beloved babe, the baby you would die for, in a safe car seat, heading toward grocery stores and banks. (If you believe I actually remember where I was headed–you don’t know me very well. I can’t remember where I was headed last Tuesday, but will wind the story back to this week eventually, if you’ll keep reading.)
Your blogger crooned to her fair-headed first-born, “Sing, sing a song, make it simple to last your whole life long…” driving swiftly around that curve—far too swiftly, in retrospect–when suddenly, unexpectedly, the blue Fiesta careened out of control and ended up in an undignified heap in the deep white, a ditched creature of unplumbed snowbanks.
You hugged your first-born tight, sweating nervously in the freeze of January, crying, lamenting life’s unfairness, wrapped him tight in your arms which wanted to love him endlessly and never-ever-ever give him one moment of transgression or sadness or pain or grief–and walked home, sniffling, to request a husband and father to pull the stuck vehicle from its new unfair and undignified position in probably two feet of deep snow.
Then there was that time when you were eight months pregnant with second born–another fair-haired child, a girl this time, who would be born looking red as an Indian with black hair sticking up in unruly spikes all over her head–at a time when you were hanging around with the local Native Americans–a very suspicious incident indeed–how could you have given birth to a little native child, except within four months her hair turned blond, blond, blond and she looked like her paternal grandmother, so it must have been the spirits of the Anishinabe coming forth to greet you, to blow their north wind spirit into your womb and out into the world.
That time, eight months pregnant, you drove on icy roads and the north wind blew you off the road (OK, let’s pretend it was the north wind) and you twisted around in a perfect half-circle, about six feet off the road in the snowbank, and you sat, dazed, but perfectly content in an eight-months pregnant type of way. You felt absolutely calm. You knew everything was fine.
You opened the door of the car, stepped gingerly into the snowbank and walked to the road, knowing, just knowing, that life was perfect. Within five seconds, five seconds, mind you, a driver appeared with a four-wheel-drive truck and he asked, “May I help?” and you nodded regally, in that eight-months pregnant type of way, and he hooked a chain on your bumper and pulled ever-so-slightly and out popped your car like a baby without any labor throes, and you thanked your rescuer kindly, thank you, thank you, and off you drove, still calm, to the doctor’s office and said casually, “Yes, my car just went into the ditch” and he took your blood pressure and it was lower than Prozac, so low that the baby decided to remain in the calm womb for another three weeks.
Let’s fast-forward 27 years to Tuesday. I was driving to town and the slush threatened the car.
But no, it would not send me ditch-bound.
Instead I saw a tiny black dog with pink collar tinkling across the road, far from any house. I would like to say that I stopped and rescued that dog, but I did not. In retrospect, that is what a passerby should have done. (Next time I will act more honorably.) Instead, I stared, mesmerized at that tiny creature and attempted to avoid hitting it.
The next car avoided hitting it as well. And then a police car appeared miraculously on the scene and, in the rear view mirror, I noticed at least three cars stopping to rescue said wandering tiny black curly-haired mini-dog.
I suddenly felt quite odd, like somehow there was a message in that dog, a message from the spirits Beyond.
I drove further down the road, glad that the dog was being rescued by responsible folks. (Although I pictured the dog running excitedly toward the woods and police folk and passerbys chasing it up snowbanks and down snowbanks calling “Doggie, doggie!” as it pranced cheerfully away.)
When suddenly–from the corner of my eye–I noticed a fellow driving a truck. Ahhh, it was Hud! Hud is a fellow from our community, an elder, someone with whom I’ve always felt connected spiritually. He traveled to Tanzania to help build a church once, or maybe twice. We met in the early days, back in the 1980’s, when I attended the Lutheran Church in town. Maybe two years ago, maybe six months ago, he plopped down at my table in a local restaurant and we chatted.
He was the county’s dog-catcher for a while.
I thought fondly of Hud as I glimpsed him in his truck. He always makes me smile, a bright light in a human body.
I didn’t think more of the black dog, or Hud, until yesterday.
Barry came home from work at the newspaper.
“Did you hear Hud died?” he asked.
He didn’t know, but I just looked at the obituary.
He died on Tuesday. The day I “saw” him in his truck, the day the little dog pranced along on the road, far from his home. Obviously it was not him driving that truck. It was his spirit, come to say goodbye.
Hud, wherever you are, I send you love and gratitude. Simply for your being–your shining beautiful being. Thank you for sharing your light with all of us.
Wherever you are, I’m sure you’ll stay on the road, avoiding the ditches, keeping your eyes open for stray doggies along the way.