Hounds howl in the shaggy dark barn a meter of adobe away from my pillow. Daylight through the blinds. Time to get up. Paddy hears my footfalls, and sets the coffee machine to gurgling. Suddenly Artie Shaw Begins the Beguine, and drowns out the yowling from the barn.
Bob the canary digs jazz. He tunes up his day-long concert repertoire.
Down in the kitchen Rosie and Tim haul their weary carcasses off their beds to stagger over and wag "good morning."
Paddy does not wag. Paddy's been up for a couple of hours, but his rising does not count for much.
I feel significant, getting up. When I arrive, the day really starts, at least for a few creatures.
I round-up pickings from last night's dinner. I change into shoes. I take the scraps out back to the chickens. Tim comes along to make sure the hens don't get anything he deems edible. I call to them as I stride across the yard, "Chicka chickalee, chickatee!"
They love that. They come running, chattering, fluttering, speaking their hen tongue, hungry. I pet the ones who like to be petted. I collect their eggs -- misshapen or thin-shelled eggs become treats for Tim.
Three scoops of chicken feed, two flung along the ground, one in the tin cylinder. I carry the basin over to the studio to change their water, I throw yesterday's over the garlic patch. I will soon have a harvest there, our garlic is so mild and tender.
On the way back inside I start a load of laundry.
Back in the kitchen I down a coffee. Paddy dons his boots and hat. He fills his pockets with dog biscuits. Rosie and Tim are moaning by then, so ready to go.
Their deliverance draws nigh. We head out to the front gate, where they are fitted with leads and sent out into the driveway to wait just a little longer.
I stand by the big barn door. Paddy sings out "Open the cage! Start the music!" and I swing the door wide. The big dogs pour forth in great bounds of joy, leaping and yipping across the tiles, through the flower bed, down the terrace to Paddy at the gate.
We grab little Ruby first -- snap on a lead and put her outside with Rosie, to save her from big Bella's rambunction. I take up the double-ended lead and collar the greyhounds. These two know the drill, but they're so full of beans it is hard for them to keep still. Their long tails draw great circles in the air. Harry yodels and grumbles and groans. Lulu grins at me with all her great white teeth, shifting from one foot to the other, side to side, while I try to snap things onto her collar.
Paddy has the biggest challenge. Bella the Mastiff bellows and leaps at the door. She knows how to strike the lever with a paw, and when she's lucky the gate bounces open for her. Paddy and I used to wrestle her into a "No Pull Harness," but she's figured that out as well. We cut our losses, get a simple lead onto her collar, and follow the flow of wagging, panting, honking hounds down the front steps and onto the street, pulling the gate shut behind us. We each steer our fleet of three critters, each of them determined to go his own way, braiding their leads round our legs.
Somewhere among all this mayhem we determine which walk to take -- Paco's Vineyard, the Tumberon, the Labyrinth, Grand Canyon, or Promised Land? We weigh up the factors: Do we need to be anywhere this morning? Has it rained recently? Are there lots of pilgrims around?
This morning we took the Promised Land option, and within the first ten minutes we had a day's worth of action!
The Promised Land is a great, wide swath of fields, ditches, and tractor paths spread out for miles on the other side of the big A-251 four-lane. A convenient bridge carries us there, and keeps the critters safely away from the traffic. Once over the bridge we usually let all the dogs run free for the first quarter-mile or so. They are busy sniffing, whizzing, and chasing one another in circles, rejoicing in their freedom -- the Promised Land is Dog Heaven. And this morning, within five minutes of starting down the road, Bella flushed from a ditch a full-grown roe deer!
The whole boiling of dogs took off after it, yipping in delight. But the fields are still waving with standing grain, and the critter got a head start and it knows its way around. Our lot came straggling back within a moment or two, panting and waving their tails, bounding through the grain like dolphins through waves. Big fun, so early on! And we still had at least another hour to go!
We topped the little hill just before the Swimming Hole, a stand of whispery trees beside a deep irrigation channel.
Lo and behold, there was a car down there, parked. And a little tent.
And as luck would have it, a little black dog. A barking dog, running up the road toward our pack of six unleashed, wound-up, slavering beasts. And behind it came running a woman, shouting.
A woman in black tights and a fashionable striped blouse. A beautiful woman, calling to the dog. In French.
Maybe our dogs were too whacked from chasing the deer. Maybe they were overwhelmed by the glossy little black dog's grand courage, or the glossy woman's beauty. Or just the bizarre sight of two young women camping out in the Promised Land -- miles from anywhere. How did they find this place? Where were they going?
Women who spoke no Spanish, no English. Women from France!
The greatest marvel was that we had no trouble, no snarling nor biting. Everyone behaved beautifully. We walked right past the tent, the car, the other lady. The little dog jumped inside, and all was well. We topped the hill, went right round to the vineyards. We wondered what could be next -- Flying monkeys?
But we saw only a Least Weasel, a fast black streak across the dusty road. No more creatures, unless you count the larks, the goldfinches, the swallows, the dozens of sparrows dust-bathing on the path.
The sun climbed up the sky. We shed our sweaters, tied them round our waists.
Home by 10:30, time enough to get things done -- feed dogs, hang out the damp laundry, hang Bob's cage out under the gazebo, answer emails, write up a shopping list. Harry, Lulu, and Bella stretch out on the warm patio tiles, tanning their elegant hides. Tim curls up in his beloved bed, in the cool salon.
This is what morning looks like at Peaceable.
We are not changing the world. We produce no masterpieces, we heal no diseases, we make no real difference, doing what we do.
Still, this is what happiness is made of.