I have been the designated dog-walker since then. I thought I would hate it, but Cheyenne was my idea so I - the sack rat - make myself get up in the Oregon weather and walk. I discovered that early morning is a wonderful time, whatever the weather or the temperature. When the sky and the river are both blue, it's like paradise. When storm clouds fill the sky and the river roils, it's still paradise, but with an element of dark, dangerous beauty. On those mornings, the wind smells like Japan.
Our path is one block uphill, two blocks west, or east, depending on what Cheyenne decides, then home again. Takes us all of twenty minutes because she has to sniff every blade of grass, but it's very soul restoring for me.
We live in Astoria's oldest plat, and our walk takes us past homes that were built by the owner of a cannery, a former governor, the first priest to serve Astoria in the 1860s, and a business man our guide book calls a wine merchant, but who really owned several taverns. The houses are magnificent, with elegant old scroll-work, beautiful railings and columns, and old four-over- four windows. Because they're on a steep hill, they are set on banks held back by stone or brick walls. At this time of the year, what I'm sure are heirloom red and pink roses cascade over the walls and fill the morning air with the most amazing fragrance.
The oldest home on the block is the residence of a Giant Schnauzer who wants to kill us, but fortunately a fence prevents that. Cheyenne, who grew up with fourteen other dogs in a drug house in the country, takes it all in stride. Maybe the bared fangs and the deep-throated roar mean something else in dog and I'm taking it all too seriously. Still, I'm grateful for the fence.
Every other morning we meet Jane, a lovely woman a little younger than I, who works three days a week in a doctor's office, and Gracie, a raggy little white dog, who loves Cheyenne and wags a spindly little tail like crazy when they meet. We all exchange pleasantries and move on.
We cross 16th Street, which is so steep that the city closes it down when it snows because it's dangerous for cars, so kids sled and toboggan down it. At 6:30 a.m., the traffic is usually light and we can cross leisurely. The view of the river is magnificent from there - especially if the freighters are lined up, waiting for a berth upriver in Portland and have to bide their time in Astoria.
At 17th Street, we go to the downhill side of the road and start back. We pass an empty lot with remnants of a fragrant bush I can't identify, a senior care facility, three old homes that were identical, but have recently been remodeled by a new owner so that they now have distinct personalities and beautiful landscaping. There's a B and B, it's wide side-yard which affords another beautiful view of the river and the four-spired top of the Episcopal church on the block below, and our friends, Barb's and Steve's house (the people who created the party on our front porch.) Their house is bordered by orange poppies and leggy daisies.
Then we turn down the hill to go home. I unhook Cheyenne's leash, our two cats who've waited on the porch run up the hill to meet her and they all go home together. Not matter what mood I was in when I got out of bed, I'm now feeling like the luckiest woman in the world. The only thing that would make things perfect would be if someone else could cook breakfast. But - small price to pay for having such richness in my life.
How do you start your day?