When I changed my jandals for something more sturdy the plump and middle- aged dog was seized with a puppyish urge. He pounced on a jandal, ran to the lawn with it, tossed it high, pounced again as it landed and shook it to death like a rat. Then he looked at me with both ears cocked and the jandal pinned and I had to smile at his joy. Don't let anyone tell you that beasts don't feel.
Indeed, as I tied my shoe I asked myself when I was last as happy as the dog was now. And the answer was Wednesday.
Joe Bennett, extract from, Happy as a Dog.
This captures something of what my New Zealand life was like sometimes. Although I only fished off the wharf and out of a lake. No fly-fishing. But it was possible to live so much closer to Nature than it is here in Antwerp. And lately I've found myself attempting to weigh up what means more to me ... the proximity of Genova, Paris, and the rest of Europe, or quiet moments spent wandering on an empty beach with my dog.
I loved the morning hours back then ... dog-walking, or dreaming over breakfast coffee taken on the steps of some house I was living in. I lived in so many houses between 1985 and 2004. And all over the South Island of Home. Each place I lived would be added to my list of places colonised by my soul. Mosgiel, Dunedin, Cromwell, Blenheim and Te Anau, before circling back to Dunedin.
I had one dog for most of the years of my first marriage. She and I had so many places we loved. She knew the joy of jandals although we were happiest with stones or sticks, a tennis ball, a lake, river or beach. We needed so little to be joy-filled.
Joe Bennett's article set my soul singing a song of longing this morning. I'm just in from zero celsius and horrific pollution. Miss 9 and I headed out into it at 7.30am, mostly laughing our way across the city. We're both very amusing ... we tell ourselves. We shared Gert's big old woollen gloves. She wore his left glove, I wore the right glove, we held hands with the hands left bare and were warm enough out there in the mist and the frost.
She's wearing the cutest little bear hat these days, with long sides that hang down as pockets for her hands but more effectively, those long bits can be worn as a scarf. I hand it to her some mornings saying, what did the fox say?' It's our signal to begin ... she says, 'It's a bear!!!' but we can't help singing that bloody song. 'Bloody' as explained in this interview with the guys who created it (the language switches to English quite quickly, if you haven't viewed it already).
And here I am, still smiling over the long answerphone message I left for my baby brother over in Perth. It's Kim's birthday today. He's surprisingly old, not the 17 year old I still imagine him to be. There was that surprise of time moving on when I picked up our Nana's ancient birthday book, looking for the year he was born.
I'm nursing a pollution-inspired ache in my head, putting off beginning the work I know I must do. My Genovese friends are in Brussels today and I'm cooking them dinner tonight. The skies have been clear since they landed, this morning's mist is already gone ... 10am. They'll never believe me next time I'm in Genova, when I tell them I'm fleeing the grey grey skies of Antwerp. They just haven't experienced those skies, and I'm torn between glad and compromised. They leave on Monday.
But anyway, today's quest ... I would like a small jandal of joy moment like Joe's, like his dog too. I looked through my this time last year photographs from New Zealand and found this one. It was taken on a beautiful sun-rising morning while out wandering Cook's Beach in the Coromandel.