It’s a little over a quarter of a mile to the fishing dock at the south end of Lake Willastein. Sometimes I’m amazed that we didn’t even know the lake was there when we drove here to scout where we were going to live two years ago. Maumelle was nothing more than two rows of trees and a labyrinth of unfamiliar French names for streets then. Everywhere new looks so foreign at first, and then, later, you can’t remember how strange it once was.

I woke on my own, a few minutes before any alarms. I pulled on a shirt and some athletic shorts and pretended to stretch as I walked down the stairs. Casey was in her usual position at the base of the stairs–she always leaves the bed sometime during our nightly unwind with light-hearted shows. She didn’t stir this morning as I walked by her. She must be dreaming, I thought as I peered around the corner and listened to her breath slowly and rhythmically. In the kitchen I quietly made coffee for two, then grabbed Casey’s leash and two baggies. She sometimes needs more than two baggies, but I was hedging my bets today. When I walked to the door and slipped on a pair of flip flops, she drowsily got out of bed wagging her tail, hit her favorite Yoga pose, and we were off.

I understand why people get up early in Arkansas. I don’t know what the temperature is already, but the sun is high enough to make you take notice. It was right around 7:15–one of my favorite times. Nobody is out yet, and those that are haven’t left themselves enough time to appreciate anything around them. They’re already in grim task mode.

We crossed the street from the entrance to the Villas, and started toward the lake. Casey was already fully awake, and pulling against the leash in her typical erratic fashion. She has never really walked calmly; I suspect that at least one of the 57 varieties is some kind of cattle dog. She doesn’t really belong on a lead; she belongs on acres of land, and I’m reminded of this by how quickly she noiselessly speeds off to chase a squirrel when her collar is not attached. This never fails to make me think of a small cabin on a decent stretch of land, steamy coffee on a frosty morning, and some terrier-lab mix zooming back and forth in the frame, like some sort of cartoon. One day.

There are a few runners at the lake, and I look down at my waist, knowing that I am two weeks’ honest effort away from looking like I should look, and feeling like I should feel, but I forgive myself and say, “Hell, at least we’re walking! Normally we’d still be in bed.” And just like that, any pre-effort guilt I had vanishes…at least until a septuagenarian shuffles by and says, “Beautiful pup!” and continues on his healthy arc toward the western side of the lake.

The dock is a nice checkpoint. Casey has a soft pant by now, and I’m pleased that I have exerted the effort to walk anywhere at all. One of my favorite things to do is pause at the end of the dock (after I make sure there aren’t any lures or hooks left on the platform), and just watch the water for a minute. Something tells me that I am close to understanding when I am still, there. I can’t quite put my finger on it yet. I must be just out of sight of it. Around the corner, maybe.

Casey has already started zig-zagging back to the path, so this one will be a shorter walk, but it counts. After all, we could still be in bed. It’s time to head back and begin the day. For some of us, anyway.

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