I had a little time in between appointments while I was downtown this morning, so I went down to the river that runs through town, to a sort of secluded stretch between a park and a bridge that is deserted this time of year but crowded with fishermen in warmer weather.
The river managers lower the water level in the winter, usually low enough that the shallow eddies along the edges freeze. But right now, the weather is warm enough that the water is all free flowing except in the stillest, shadiest spots.
I used to take my big dog, Ruby, down there all the time years ago. She would play in the water while I did my civic duty and picked up litter. We would roam up and down as far as we could along the banks, cleaning up the fishing detritus and fast food wrappers and beer cans and an amazing quantity and variety of other trash. The fact that it was so filthy was indicative of the type of people who generally frequented the area, which is why I only went there with Ruby. She kept me safe, and she would always stay nearby and come right back to me when I called her. Nobody messes with a Rottweiler or the person to whom she answers, so I had no worries when she was by my side
Today, I was the only person there as far as I could see up or down the river on a cold, quiet morning. Just a few ducks and me, by myself. I missed the girl. And I remembered why I don’t go down there anymore: it’s just too sad to be there without her.
It’s been more than six years since Ruby passed, and most days I think of her with fondness but not sadness because she had a great life and we had a great life together. I have the little dogs now, of course, which I love to distraction, but they can’t keep me safe and they won’t stay nearby or come back to me when I call them, so I can’t take them to the river. That was just for Ruby and me.
Just like the river, life is always moving, carrying away both the good and the bad memories. I sometimes wish I could relive every good day I ever had in that water with my dog—all the ducks she startled, all the sticks she chased, all the tiny treasures we found, all the time we shared just being happy together with our toes in the water. It’s all long gone downstream, and as they say, one cannot step into the same river twice. But every new day brings gifts of its own, too.
What though the radiance which was once so bright
Be now for ever taken from my sight,
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind….
~ William Wordsworth