the sheltering ground

My dog is digging. It’s what they do when they’re particularly happy; their way of saying: I’m so glad to be here, with you, sharing this patch of earth. Let’s dig together – it feels so good!

It’s dark. The neighbors can’t see, so I don’t try to stop her. Tomorrow when they notice the hole in the lawn they’ll think a fox passed through in the night.

Instead, I watch her enthusiasm. Her sharp, busy movements – her nails, which I love: glossy and dark and neat on the ends of her wide, tawny toes, scrabbling. 

She pushes her muzzle into the hole, takes deep investigative breaths, digs some more. Sticks her muzzle in again, way in, snuffling and snorting, delighted. I run my fingers around the inside of the hole. It’s shallower and wider than I thought. A bowl: fresh and welcoming in the hot summer night.

I stick my nose in, exactly the way she did. The wide shallow bowl of earth envelops me with its scent, which is made of many layers. It is a wave – a melody; it vibrates along every nerve in my body. Going to ground. The memory of the cave, lair, den, burrow, safety, refuge, home.

The cellar dug into the flank of the hill under the house.

You climb down smooth, blunt loamy steps into the dark, still airs to reach the barrels where the wine is sleeping. It’s cool and moist and quiet; solemn and quite mysterious. A little scary but it’s OK, because grandfather is here – he knows the way. He is confident.

The grapes ripen in the sun, the wine ripens in the darkness: this is part of the mystery. We must descend, decant it, bring it back out into the upper world, to the light over the dinner table. Where the grownups will drink it, and my grandmother will scoff, Water? It’s for washing… give me a top up, there’s a good girl.

I inhale. And recognize, with every thread of my DNA, that here is my cave - ours. This is where we came from - the shelterer of water, keeper of seeds, guardian of ancestors. Grounding Hades, precious underworld, ship of Earth launched on the sea of a thousand galaxies. How beautiful you are… how marvelous you feel! Please forgive us –

My dog lies down next to me and rolls around on her back for a while. Paw to hand, we mock wrestle with our different extremities on the grass under the stars. (SF)


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