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Nov. 16, 2003

Social obligations kept me out of the woods this weekend, although I did manage to steal a couple of hours on Sunday to take Sophie for a jaunt along Lake Fayetteville, and a glorious, sunny fall afternoon it was.

So I guess this would be a good opportunity to tell the story of how I came to find Shelley, and coax her out of the culvert she took shelter in, and how I took her home, and how everything depends on nothing, and what an incredible series of flukes life is comprised of, and death for that matter, or on the other hand, how everything depends on everything, and how one life can call another across time and distance, and how our lives tumble this way and that, but always inevitably towards our fate, like streams down a mountainside. Something like that, one or the other, or maybe both at once.

The morning of the day before Memorial Day, 2003, Junie and I set out to see what we could see and ramble where we could ramble and photograph what we might. Early on there was fog enough to tantalize, but it all disappeared before we got where we were going first, which was down in the valley of the Mulberry. That's where I photographed the image you see above, virginia creeper growing on a mossy stump, on an excursion to a waterfall described in one of Tim Ernst's guidebooks. Thanks, Tim. The waterfall wasn't running all that well, but the walk through the woods was nice.

Next I thought I would head over to Richland Creek, one of my favorite places, and, perhaps the first of many fateful decisions that day, rather than my usual route along Highway 16, I thought I'd take a way I'd never gone before, east along 215 to 21 and go from there, which is what we did, despite several wrong turns along the way due to non-existent signage. But somewhere in there, before or after one wrong turn or another, as we were going up some forest road or down the gravel highway, for some reason, I don't know why, I started feeling wrong, and depressed. I think I even briefly considered packing it in for the day, but I pressed on instead, hoping I could shake the feeling by getting in a photo and hiking groove.

Along about the time we finally made it to Highway 21 I also started to get hungry, and rather than settle for what I usually eat, some kind of trail mix or some such food that I bring with me, or some kind of snack I could pick up at a convenience store in Fallsville or Deer, I decided I wanted some kind of actual cooked food, and in generous helpings, too. It was then, dear reader, that I remembered the spiced potatoes at the Jasper convenience store. And I hatched a plan. I would go that thirty or forty miles out of my way, over to Deer and up 7 to Jasper, just to get those spiced potatoes, and, what's more, instead of going the direct way from there down to the Richland Creek area, I would go on over to Mt. Judea (Mt. Judy to the people who know her) and take 123 down just because I hadn't been along that beautiful stretch of 123 south of Mt. Judea in a long, long time. I don't know, maybe I was hoping that shaking things up would help me shake the blues.

So that's what we did. Now, as I've said, I like the spiced potatoes, but Junie doesn't much care for them herself, and I usually carry along cans of vienna sausage for her. So I got my potatoes, and Junie got her unconstituted reconstituted dehydrated rehydrated dessicated resuscitated ground hashed mashed mushed beef pork chicken byproducted imitation-flavored meat product slash sausage, which she wolfed down. She also licked up every last trace of the broth it came in.

And then we proceeded east on 74, and when we came to 123 in Mt. Judea, we turned south on it, and started up the switchbacks on that hillside, tight as any switchbacks on a hiking trail, and topped the hill and followed 123 southward as it hugged the side of the mountain, and dodged a place or two where part of the roadbed had fallen down the mountainside, and there in the middle of the national forest, miles and hours removed from the way we would have come if not for some notion as slight as a feather, as insubstantial as a breath or a heartbeat, and followed by some other notion just as airy, there, nine point five miles south of Mt. Judea, we came across a dog as she popped out of nowhere and seemed to try to catch the car.

She's been dumped, I thought, and stopped the car and started backing up to try to find out what was going on. How did I know she was a she?, you might ask, and the answer is that if she was dumped, she was a she, and that if she turns out to be a she, then I'll know she was dumped. As I feared, though, when she saw us approaching she took off, and I thought that was that, we won't catch her. But fortunately, I saw her when she ducked into a narrow metal culvert beside the highway.

Well, she wasn't running off, but I couldn't get her to come out of that culvert, either, not even for a tin of Junie's sausages. Gentle reader, I waited and waited for her hunger to overcome her fear, and I had given up hope that she would come out and had decided to go away and let her have her last supper in peace, when finally in fits and starts and advances and retreats she came to the mouth of the culvert and devoured her food. When she finished and realized she hadn't been struck dead, I guess she decided I wasn't out to eat her, and she jumped on me and asked for some more.

So there it is. There were more complications, like getting her into the car, and getting her acquainted with Junie -- and as it turned out she had Junie's number pretty quickly and intimidated her even though Junie's a much larger dog -- and trying with no luck to find someone who would claim her, but that was the critical point, and after that the matter was settled. She was there in the middle of nowhere without a friend in the world with her life hanging by a thread, and I blundered along and saved her life. And as silly as it may sound, sometimes I entertain the notion that she found a way to call me, and that somehow my unsettled mood was because of something in me that heard her, and that found a way to get to her, and take her home.