About once per month, I must maintain the banks of our creek. If I do not trim the vegetation along the creek’s bank it becomes incredibly overgrown. The bank of the creek is home to eastern copperhead snakes. I have seen dozens over the years, and I even stepped on one once. Not to mention about seven or eight other species of non-venomous snakes I have encountered here. But those ones still bite and can lead to bacterial infection for dog or man.
My dogs all love the creek. To them the creek is lifeblood. Clean, spring-fed drinking water. A place to cool down on the hottest summer days. They play in the creek, and they run across it to hunt down whatever peculiar noise just emanated from the hills and hollers of the forest on the far side. Usually the dead fall of an expired tree branch, heavy from the rain.
But whereas I exercise prudence along the creek, my dogs do not necessarily exhibit the same cautious attitude. So, to minimize the risk to my dogs and to myself, I maintain the creek’s bank. I tell myself that if I keep the weeds along the bank cut short, there will be fewer snakes and my dogs will be more likely to see them before it is too late. Perhaps this theory is accurate, perhaps not. But one does what one must for peace of mind.
My good friend Joseph is a religious man. The son of a pastor. Rather than be called a Christian, he prefers to be called a follower of Christ. This is not necessarily a religious post, so I won’t go into details as to why he prefers the latter to the former. It you are yourself religious, you’ll probably understand his preference without need for an explanation. But the other day he and I were discussing the meaning of the term “the valley” as it is meant by David in his Psalms. Joseph explained to me that the term “the valley” is metaphorical. Simply put, it means that the best and the lushest grass grows in the most dangerous of places. In the valley.
Our ranch is located in what is called a glen. In geographical terms, that is to say it is a small, secluded valley. With Roanoke Creek dividing the ranch across its entire length. And for reasons I have already described, you might understand that maintaining the banks of our creek is a nerve-wracking experience. This morning while I shored-up the creek’s bank, my dearest boy Hawkeye and his favorite playmate Dixie frolicked in the creek. Few things give me more joy than to watch my dogs playing, enjoying themselves and each other’s company. Although trimming the creek bank is not the best time to let one’s mind wander, I remembered what Joseph had told me about David and the meaning of “the valley”. And it occurred me that both literally and metaphorically, my dogs and I live in the valley. Where the grass is lush but also where danger lurks. I thought about that for a moment, weighing it out in my mind.
As I watched my dogs splash and the creek’s water flow across her rock bottom, I concluded to myself that I will never leave the valley. Not if I have anything to do with it. They’ll have to wheel me out. Come what may, I am resolved to stay here in the valley. And despite the danger, every month I will trim the creek’s banks. I will never take the valley from my dogs, or my dogs from her. This is where we will be, where you can find us. Here in the glen where I have buried beloved dogs and no doubt will bury more. Until I can join Nelly, and Loki, and Barney. At wherever place it is dogs go next. Even now, as I sit at my desk and write, I miss them. Perhaps our spirits will live here forever. My dogs and me. Playing in the cool creek waters, here in the valley.