Today is the first day of spring and the March equinox, which occurred at 5:37 A.M EDT, is marked. I noted the sun’s position over our house roof as I rode the stationary bike which I had recently moved from the screen porch to the front, on a corner of the driveway. The changing of the bike is a seasonal one that places it on the porch for the winter cold but outside for all the other days. Thus, each March when I begin riding in the front of our yard, I anticipate a renewal with neighbors and other walkers.
The spring equinox occurs when the earth tilts so that the sun crosses the equator, and the northern hemisphere shifts closer to the sun, and we begin to experience spring followed by summer. This day of equal light and dark is almost magical, and I thought of the Greek myth of Persephone, and her journey from the underworld that brought the earth its renewal each spring.
The spring renewal under the forty pine trees in our front yard is spectacular, and for my new rides here, the life of rebirth is awe inspiring. I marvel watching all the life under our pines—the male birds staking territory like settlers on the prairie, the emergence of fresh leaves on every plant like splashes of paint, and the innumerable green shoots bursting forth like rockets escaping gravity. But I am most eager to re-acquaint myself with neighbors who I have not had a meaningful conversation with since last fall.
Over the past two weeks, I have shared in good renewal chats with Ethel; Martha, Rich and their poodle-doodle Buddy; and exchanged a “Good morning” with others. Some neighbors, like Ken, do not count because he had often visited with me on the screen porch—even in the coldest mornings. But one pair I have not renewed with is Max and her standard, cream-colored Pomeranian Puccini, nicknamed Puci. He generously carried the nickname as well as his formal one.
Max and Puci live near the end of our dead-end street, and for the three and a half years I have ridden the stationary bike in our front yard, I have always known they were coming up our road because I would hear him barking at each vehicle as it passed. His short, sharp bark at a passing vehicle was a signal for me to begin watching for them on the ox-bend of our road. Sure enough, I would soon see him walking with his mistress along the edge of the road. He would stop and inspect odors only he or other dogs could detect, study other objects of interest, and then royally continue on to the intersection near our house that marked his turn-around. When Max saw me riding the stationary , she would say, “Puci, let’s say hello to Roger,” before walking over to chat. He would greet me with one of his barks, allow me to touch him if he were in the mood, and after being polite long enough so as not to embarrass his mistress, he would turn to face the direction of their home. It was his announcement that they had given me enough of their morning, and it was time to go. Then off to home, his sharp barks and noble carriage marking his journey to whatever awaited him at home.
The spring equinox announces change. The scene that I rode in last fall is still like that where I ride now: The forty pine trees, the road, my shop building, the vast sky, all of it is the same as last fall. Yet, over the winter months, change did occur and, while some of it is expected, some of it, like death, came unannounced, bringing its companion grief. Then the sadness.
Puccini, the grand little fellow, died from cancer. No longer will his short, sharp bark herald his coming like the whistle of an upstream steamboat. No longer will his well-groomed, cream form move gracefully along the long bend of our road. No longer will he wait patiently and regally as two humans chat away precious minutes of his morning walk. During the cold of winter he, as King David wrote, “Went the way of all living things.”
Puccini, the cream-colored, standard Pomeranian, was just a dog, but what a fine dog he was. And because we embrace that, we will be renewed when we celebrate an early-morning bark signaling that a dog comes round the bend of Isle of Pines Road.