I squat down, play with the photo settings on my iPhone and take a picture of the wildflower not yet blooming in The Orphaned Woods. I take a few more, turning the phone upside down, trying different settings and lenses. Before I’m done I hear Fate running behind me. I know in a moment she’ll be in my face, probably stepping on the wildflower at the same time.
We do this when we walk in the woods together. Find each other when one of us has fallen behind for too long.
When I realize Fate is not ahead of me I look around till I see her, nose down at the base of a tall Spruce. I stand back a few feet watching as she smells the soft rounded earth cradled by the thick roots. I watch her nose as it travels up the tree, noticing the scratches in the bark.
It looks to me like someone burrowed out a small hole to sleep in last night. Maybe they nibbled on the bark or climbed the tree and left their mark. I know Fate’s done getting the story when she squats and pees, just a little, leaving her scent.
Her interest in the smells on the tree is different than mine. I observe, trying to understand what happened and why Fate cares enough to spend her time here. I’m not really sure what draws her.
But there are some interests we always share. Both of us stop at the coyote scat.
I notice there’s a lot of hair, with a small piece of bone and observe the signature point and twist at one end. Fate gets her face closer than I do, her nose almost touching the scat. Perhaps she recognizes the coyote that left it. The smell familiar to her. I’ve seen her scoff up coyote scat, but this time she just pees on it (she seems to have an endless supply of pee to mark with). I imagine each action conveys a different message. Perhaps eating the scat is more aggressive than just marking it.
I don’t smell what Fate smells and she doesn’t see what I see.
We walk together in the woods, but we have different experiences. She follows her nose, keeping tabs on me, never wandering too far. And I’m keeping an eye on the ground so I don’t trip over fallen branches and uneven earth while trying, at the same time, to see what’s around me.
For me, the appeal is more visual and intellectual. That sense of wonder in finding something that touches my imagination. I imagine in Fate, our walks awaken her instinct, those ancient codes of survival.
We keep each other good company while allowing the other to pursue their own interests. And we trust that we will never stray too far from each other or go home alone.