I’d psyched up for another day of rain, mud, and the company of equally bad-tempered, dour faced and grumpy inhabitants on this over crowded piece of north-east mainland Europe. Sadly, waking up to pitch-black darkness in the morning will do that to you.
My mood was worsened by bad planning – nothing on the calendar but mundane chores and the high-spot of today? Archie’s birthday. Archie is an English springer spaniel and he’s 2 today. Whoop-di-do. You’re with me so far, right? He has no clue, and if that’s the highlight of my day then I need to get a life.
Today was pretty normal. The Captain across the Atlantic on business, Joe working in the north-west of the UK, Missy asleep in the American Deep South, and Harry packed off to school on his bike this morning here in the Netherlands – with dire warnings of the dangers of pneumonia if he didn’t wrap up well. We’d watched the sun struggling to creep over the horizon and in the light of its cosy glow made out the traces of heavy frost and the icy strands of fog in the gloom, so definitely a gloves and scarf day.
In the quiet of Harry’s absence I sighed. Today was obviously not going to be full of high level executive stress and pumping adrenalin, the biggest decision – what time would be good to walk the dog?
By the time I’d finished the domestic tasks, the rosy glow on the horizon was expanding and I realised the sky was not one of the usual hundred or so shades of grey, rather a hint of pale blue emerging in a cloudless sky. I held my breath. Today could be a perfect north European day – frosty, crisp, and a winter-washed sky bright with sunshine.
One important fact about living in the Netherlands, shared with me by a smart and sassy Dutchwoman, is if the sun comes out, drop whatever you’re doing and get outside because hell knows when you’ll see it again. Sound advice.
Archie was beside himself, he’d caught the scent of the cold, like the smell of clean laundry brought indoors. As I wrapped up in layers, along with obligatory hat (it may still rain), scarf and gloves, his excitement reached fever pitch.
Forcibly jerked through the (open) front door attached by a heavy-duty leash to hurtling dog flesh, I grabbed my camera, always at the ready on the hall stand. I wanted a record of the perfect November day, although most of the leaves were stripped from the trees by the gale force winds last week. Oh, and a birthday portrait of course.
We entered the woods alongside our house, the air pure and cleansing and underfoot the fallen leaves crunchy and white-tipped. My mood began to lift. Archie, off-leash, was jubilant, racing in every direction and by turn digging, scattering dirt, rolling in the leaves and springing from all fours in sheer delight. Constantly moving, alert, almost manic with excitement, he was a joy to watch.
There was no chance we would get home without him throwing himself into water somewhere, this is the Netherlands after all, and we float on the stuff. I knew the cold would be no deterrent to Archie’s optimism, and it wasn’t – there’s water therefore I should be in it. He didn’t flinch as he launched himself at full speed from the wooden jetty into the glacial water. I was still struggling to pull his ball from the pocket of my jacket.
I flung it haphazardly and, watching him swim purposefully to retrieve it, realised this morning was a much-needed break from things we think we should be doing. That sometimes doing nothing is exactly what we need to reconnect with ourselves.
Walking home through the sun dappled wood, wet and happy dog at my side I felt calm and content. Life is good on so many levels – it doesn’t have to be about achieving, accomplishing, reaching targets, sometimes it’s just about being.
As I sit and write, huge steaming mug of tea to hand, I listen to the contented snoring and snortling of the Archster, who, after a warm shower, rub down and food, is asleep. He’s laid on his back, neck stretched, front paws dangling casually and back legs splayed exposing his manhood to the world.
Happy Birthday Arch, glad I got to share it with you.