Sunday, July 21, 2013


One place where Piper and I often go for a walk (me) and a run (Piper) is a few miles from home. There is a road along each side of a pond, and we go to whichever side has no cars in the parking area because if there are other walkers, I feel I must keep Piper on lead.

By "pond," in this case, I mean a very shallow, wide, mucky wetland.

Historically, this area was once known as a "water meadow." I think this may be a term that came over with the 17th- and 18th-century settlers, but which is no longer in common usage here. Maybe it is still used in other places?

If any readers have heard this term used to describe a landscape or environment, please do speak up in the comments! Thank you!

I interpret "water meadow" to mean an area which supported meadow vegetation but which would typically contain standing or running water for at least part of the year. I picture it used as rough pasture where cattle could be turned out for grazing.  (I really do "picture it."  I see it as an 18th-century engraving of cattle grazing in a rough, lowland meadow, with both sedge-y and hedge-y vegetation. You probably know exactly the sort of engraving I mean.)

At some point in more recent history, a small dam was built at one end, turning the water meadow into a shallow pond.

Piper doesn't care for swimming.  I carefully introduced her to swimming in a lovely clear unmucky lake when she was a youngster, and she discovered that she doesn't enjoy the feeling of bouyancy.  Even after all these years of various water adventures, she finds the moment when she can't feel the bottom anymore - well, not scary exactly, because she is a Big Dog, not a Little Baby Dog - rather unsettling.

But that's okay, Piper always knows how to make her own fun.  In years past, when we used to go for walks with my friend Sue and Piper's friend Wolfgang, Wolfie would leap into water and swim purposefully out after as many sticks as a person could toss. Meanwhile, Piper would plunge back and through the shallows, making lots of huge splashes and saying to us all, "Look at me! I'm swimming, too!"

Piper does enjoy shallow water, and it doesn't have to be lovely clean water, oh no. Piper enjoys bogging. And since the pond we often walk along is pretty much one big bog, I always tell Piper at the start of a walk whether or not she is free to go into the water that day. It often just depends on which side of the pond we are walking along.

Hock-deep in muck
On the east side of the pond, there is a little brook where Piper can go paddling and rinse off most of the muck just before getting in the car to go home.

Piper in the rinse cycle.

On the west side of the pond, the side with the little dam, there is no brook.  There is only More Muck.  No rinsing option here.

Looks like a rinse opportunity, but it's really a few inches of muddy water atop more - you guessed it! - muck.

Yesterday we visited the west side, and as soon as we got into the woods and I took the lead off, I asked Piper to stay out of the water. "Please stay out of the water, Piper," I said.

"More running, no water. Got it!"

All went smoothly until I got distracted for a while:

I never buy blueberries, because they never taste like this.

After a splendid feast that comes once a year with luck, I noticed the woods had grown quiet. I whistled for Piper and soon heard her galloping toward me through the underbrush.

But she stopped just out of sight.

I suddenly had a sort of premonition.

It was truer than most premonitions.

Oh Piper.

"Hi! What?"

"Oh. Uh. Erm. I forgot."

"But look how happy I am!"

It's pretty much impossible to be cross with a happy Piper.  I think this is one of Piper's best features, actually. It's certainly a lucky feature, from Piper's perspective!

But readers?

You are so lucky this is not a scratch-and-sniff picture!

We drove home with all the windows wide open. And the car sat in the sun with all the doors wide open all afternoon, until I had to drive for two hours round-trip to pick up hay. Last night I left the car crammed chockablock full of hay bales, hopefully replacing the smell of muck with the smell of fresh meadow grass.

Oddly, I just this moment realized we've come full circle with another kind of "water meadow"!