Surprise, in the quiet house, the dogs are strangely patient and let me sleep in. The second walk I’ve been giving them, the evening walk after dark, is probably the reason. It’s cold, but comfortable, and the river is in a January of in between states, freeze and thaw, freeze and thaw. Last year the river froze solid, so solid I x-country skied down it every day, learning the ways of the banks from in between them. Today was a day of appointments having nothing to do with my writing life, but tonight, I am thoughtful, reflective. I go to the shelves I keep in my bedroom with the diaries for my children and pull them out, one by one, going through all of them, looking for this day, Jan. 10, of any year, written to any child, and I find, instead, many dated January 9 or January 11, but I don’t read those. I am looking to see life on this day of our lives, but I didn’t write it. After dinner, the youngest calls, she needs me to check the mailbox, and that’s the walk after dark we take tonight; the long walk under a sliver moon, a bright bottom quarter of a moon in a misty sky. It’s quiet, the dogs don’t expect me to head to the mailbox. As I climb the slope up to the street they stop in the darkness and wait. They know not to follow to the street, the cars whiz by. Returning, walking by my neighbor’s house I remember a fine night, some years ago, getting a call from him. There was so much deep, fresh snow, and his old dog was missing, had gone out and not come back, and his wife was terribly worried. They wondered if I’d seen him. I put on my skis and off I went into the woods around our houses with my headlamp, calling Spunky! Spunky! My dogs followed me, helping to look. No sign of him. But then I skied to the frozen pond in the trees behind their house. Called and called. No Spunky, a little white fluffball of a dog. I started to ski away, but then in the dim light, I thought I saw a little fox or some kind of dark, wild, strange animal sitting still on the snow. I wasn’t sure if I should approach it, but as I got closer and closer, cautiously approaching, I could see it was fairly tame. And then, very close, I could see it was actually less like a fox or a beast, and more like a Spunky, except not fluffy white in the lamplight, because he was wearing his red snow vest. And he was shivering quite a lot, but he was fine, and I left my poles in the snow and skied him home in my arms. It was my one and only ranger scout rescue adventure, and it was a happy success. I wonder if I will get to ski at all this year. Spunky is long gone, and my dear neighbors too.