Sunday, August 19, 2018

Walking With Mr Smaug.



Walking With Mr Smaug.

He waits for me in the brightness near the open back door with his tail a kinked exclamation mark. He occupies the space, lean body angled across the hall, pointing. As I step towards him he is already in motion, skipping lightly down the back steps on balled feet.

He waits for me two paces away as I slip on old leather shoes, the ones without their laces. Then we decide if it is the sort of day that we will push through the black currant canes behind the old wooden shed, or head left towards the carport. He leads. It is a wooden shed day, and I feel the stiff brush of canes past my right shoulder, and the drag of sunny boards on my left.

He takes a more direct route, ducking under the veranda, and floor, and matches my pace as I struggle round the side. He emerges at the back of the shed and rakes his claws down the warty bark of a nearby elderberry bush that has been let grow to the height of a tree; he bends his back, reaches high with his arms and holds the position like an athlete stretching hamstrings. Sunlight makes his claws flash.


We play Pooh Sticks in an open storm water drain that is more graciously referred to as “The Stream”. He waits beside the drain like a held breath, still, balanced and focussed. Ears swivel as I snap off a short length of willow, and send it on its short voyage. His gaze follows the twig’s every lunge and undulation as it hurdles ripples, and shoots small rapids. 



Then, as it nears, he is tense, waiting his moment. He strikes like a snake. Bam! 



One long front arm up to its elbow in the water, paw patting, treading, claws hooking. He has it now, bites it dead, and scoops the twig onto the bank beside him, to join the others piled there.


He has vaulted the drain and is twenty feet up an evergreen tree before I have registered his absence. Near the top the foliage parts like a theatre curtain and a large bird exits stage left with stuttering whoops of wings scooping air. I push through bushes and get to where I can see cat against sky. He has wrapped arms and legs around a slender trunk that is no more than 6 inches broad, and has reached the point where the usual laws of gravity have started to apply. The top third of the tree sways as he adjusts his hold. He is slipping now, thin twigs are cracking and breaking all around him and he lets go of the trunk with his arms and starts to thrash around with his front paws, desperate to find something solid to hang onto. He twists, the tree shakes, and his eyes meet mine. He lets out a puzzled and despairing “Ohh!” sound, and tries to work towards me. The tree lurches, he slips lower. He begins to spiral round the trunk, snapping twigs and bending branches. This is better. He gains some control. 



He completes the last third of the descent full of confident swagger, looking pleased with himself.

He wraps himself around my legs, he is black that is brindled red-brown in sunlight. We examine new grass, dead leaves, and pounce on things that rustle. 


He rolls against the sunny buttressed base of an alder. The air is refrigerator cold, my breath makes diaphanous curtains of mist that hang and drift, he puffs little grey speech bubbles.


10 comments:

smartcat said...

What a great walk. Having a four legged companion can be an adventure.

Barbara Rogers said...

You sure have a way with words! I loved this experience, especially since Aug. here means heat, and there you are in frosty times seeing your breath puff out. Give your black friend a pat for me, and I'll imagine his purr as well.

Arkansas Patti said...

Thank you for taking me along with you two. You made me feel like I was right there. He certainly is an entertaining companion and I am sure he thinks you are too.

gz said...

A lovely companion..good to see him..if we manage to get to see you next (your) summer we might even meet him!

Peter said...

Hi Smartcat,
Four legged companions are definitely recommended! Mr Smaug makes the little walk great fun. I'm really enjoying his company.

Hi Barbara,
Pats coming up! Mr Smaug purrs very quietly despite his impressive size. I was amused to see his little frosty puffs of breath on that chilly morning. A bit hard to get a photo of them unfortunately, but he looked like a little dragon!

Hi Patti,
Glad you enjoyed the walk! Mr Smaug seems to have really bonded with me in a way that is (and I say this very quietly so that cats can't hear) almost like a dog! He walks (almost) at heel, and does arrive (sometimes) when I whistle! He also doesn't seem to mind water.

Hi Gwynneth,
It would be really nice to catch up with you in person if you do manage to get down this far in NZ. A very special thing to meet up with someone from the blog. :-)

Melissa Rohrer said...

How did Mr. Smaug get his name?

Peter said...

Hi Melissa,
Good question! Mr Smaug was the almost identical twin brother of Brian (sadly Brian got killed on the busy main road). Mr Smaug was identical to Brian in everything but his jaw which was deeper and squarer compared with Brian's and had a dragon-like appearance from some angles, so "Smaug" he became (after the dragon in the Hobbit), and "Mr" followed a bit later. "Mr Smaug" suited him better than either "Mr" or "Smaug" alone. I loved seeing Mr Smaug puffing little steamy clouds out of his nose on the chilly morning that we went for our walk. Just right for a dragon!

PP said...



To go out with an animal friend, as you describe, to have everything reduced to essentials - breath huffs, leaves, sunlight, adventure - nothing extraneous or jarring...isn't that the best thing? Walks with my Great Dane where he did his doggy thing and we negotiated all the details, unspoken but clearly - I miss that more than almost anything.

Anna said...

a very adventurous cat

Peter said...

Hi PP,
Thank you for your lovely comment, I am sorry to have missed it until now, it seems to have got in "under the radar" somehow! The various animals that have walked beside us through life have been really precious and made our journey far more enjoyable. It hurts very deeply to lose them, but it is wonderful to have had the pleasure of their company.

Hi Anna,
He certainly is! I had a good walk with him this morning and enjoyed seeing bluebells, and crunching through dry dead leaves!