Midsummer, the dog and I have a routine. She’s accustomed to having free run in our fields, but we can’t give her that freedom once the berry-pickers arrive, which they do some mornings at 8 a.m. So early, around 6:30 or 7, she and I will head out to the fields ourselves. I’ll usually bring along a colander for picking whatever might be ripe: blueberries, raspberries, or the wild black raspberries that favor our fields. She brings along just her own energy and attention, which is more than enough for these outings.
Denise Levertov once began a poem with these words:
Let’s go, much as that dog goes, intently haphazard.
I think that “intently haphazard” neatly captures the motion of most dogs off-leash in an open space. Not intentionally haphazard, not purposely random; no, just intently—”with earnest and eager attention”—swerving from one thing to the next as they appear.
There is a happy randomness our circuit on these mornings. The larger motion is more or less fixed: from the house to the blueberries, then backtracking and turning north past the old garden; perhaps stopping at the back edge of a plot there for black raspberries, and then over to field we plowed two summers ago to the row of raspberries. Perhaps then up the hill, but more likely—and especially if the colander is nearly full by now—back to the house.
But within this L-shapped circuit, there’s a carefree wandering. I’ll go to the blueberry aisles that seem most laden with ripe fruit. Our dog follows her nose, darting from aisle to aisle, before breaking free and enjoying the thrill of a wide-open sprint (and who am I, with limited human faculties, to judge the randomness of her attention when it comes to scents? though her interest in the visual, in stray objects or a darting squirrel, is plain enough). At any point, I might pause to marvel at the barn swallows and cardinals swooping about. A sunlit, dew-bedecked spiderweb might catch my attention next, prompting me to pause and fiddle with my camera, the colander pressed precariously against my chest. In the garden itself, new blooms might pull me to one side or another. An occasional turkey or fox might alter our plans. The air is usually filled with birdsong.
Chaos and order throughout, attention shifting from one thing to the next, a mix of intention and chance. A happy wandering.
We return to the house. I carry my pickings into the kitchen, and the dog collapses on a carpet, contented, tongue-lolling.
Yes, let’s go like that, and take that carefree rambling haphazard spirit with us through the rest of the long, hot day.