A glorious weekend, indeed, this past. Leaves crinkle and swirl in honeyed showers as temperatures hover now in the upper thirties. But Saturday afternoon, hours before we turned back the clocks to usher in bare-branched November, the trees were still lush with mulled hues of cinnamon, ginger and burgundy, and the air was warm.
Al and I looked at each other. It was simply too beautiful to stay indoors. So we put on our hiking shoes and climbed into the car with Ginger, our aging Golden, whose reddish fur matched the day’s pumpkin glow. It was a bit of a scramble. Her haunches are arthritic, and she needed a boost to the back seat.
But once we arrived at our favorite hiking spot, about 20 minutes from home, Ginger was in her element. She’s 15, now, a centenarian in human years, but she can still trot along with us, up and down the gently sloping trails.
We took our time, pausing as I snapped pictures of milkweed pods—my childhood favorite for late autumn—and a slender sapling glowing gold in the midst of deep green pines. Ginger loped ahead to catch up with Al, then turned and waited to be sure I was still coming.
As we climbed a steep hill, she kept apace with Al. I brought up the rear. I’m slow at this, my breath shortened by lung scarring from my scleroderma. It always takes a while before my breathing can catch up with the exertion of walking up an incline. But as long as I pace myself, eventually my metabolism matches my intentions.
And there was so much to savor: cream-colored mushrooms large as saucers, a hillside aflame in scarlet shrubs, tree chunks carpeted in lime-green lichen. Deeper into the woods, all we could hear were Ginger’s panting and our feet scuffling through crisp leaves, interrupted by the occasional thrum of a private plane flying somewhere overhead. The air was fresh, sweet, enriched by decaying foliage.
We stopped by a bridge high over a brook, the water low from lack of rain, but still burbling. Ginger wandered back and forth, then patiently waited as we pulled tufts of loose fur from her hips. “You okay?” I kept asking her, once we moved on, as she trotted back to check on me.
Rounding through the wildflower meadow near the trail head, Al stopped to crack open a dried milkweed pod and strew its glinting silk to the light breeze, ensuring a good crop for another visit. Late afternoon sun illumined leaves like stained glass.
My knees gave out just as we walked down the road to the car. Perfect timing. Ginger clambered into the back seat with some help and lay down, panting, with a Golden’s grin.
“I’m so glad we decided to go,” I said to Al. He smiled and nodded, then drove us home.
Evelyn Herwitz blogs weekly about living fully with chronic disease, the inside of baseballs, turtles and frogs, J.S. Bach, the meaning of life and whatever else she happens to be thinking about at livingwithscleroderma.com.