I’d been neglecting the hound as of late so I took her on a barnstorming tour of Hermitage Park, located in the north east corner of the city. The park is close to the old neighbourhood. The boys and I used to frequent the place. It was nice to go back. Lots of picnickers and layabouts out there – the sun wasn’t too hot and a light breeze wafted through the trees. We took to a northbound trail that snaked close to the river. The whole area is off-leash so I set the hound free. She dove into the high grass with the abandon that only a city-bound mutt could display. Her golden fur was beautiful against the green and I enjoyed a silent moment simply watching her leap. Her delight was so pure. The grasses smelled wonderful and I walked slow. The trail soon opened up to a large clearing and a lake. Being a water dog, The Hound dove in head first and completely submerged herself. She leaped through the water like a child, splashing and with glee. She made a few friends along the way, including a muscular boxer who playfully body checked her. “It’s his way of saying hello,” said the owner. “He likes to wrestle,” he added from behind circa-‘85 Oakleys and a neon-colored tank top. We came across three seemingly lost basset hounds, all with dazed looks on their faces that said what the hell are you doing in our park? Later on we got to the very lip of the river, just below the holy ground where I grew up. The Hound launched herself into the rapids and was startled at the fast moving water. She got swept twenty feet down stream and then made her mud-sogged way back to me on the shore. A well-timed wet fur shake followed, wherein she doused a couple of nonplussed joggers. Despite her best efforts, she was still soaked with repulsive river water. We continued our relaxed walk and made friends with those we passed. Almost everyone offered a ‘hello’ or a ‘hows it going’. The dogs were unpredictable in their greetings – some growling, some happy as clams to greet their brethren. The whole thing was a peaceful gathering. It was nice to see so many friendly people walking about.
Near the end of the excursion, the hound and I found a little secluded spot on the west bank of the great river green. We sat for twenty minutes, just watching the river do its thing. I saw nary a person nor canine the whole time. The hound laid her head on my lap, as if to say it’s time to go. Get up. One last look at the river. Hermitage Park. On the trail. Home.
Jewel the Golden Retriever, July 2007
StreetRag is an urban weblog and podcast about the city of Edmonton, which is located in the province of Alberta, Canada. It is authored by Edmonton-based writer, web advocate, and poet Michael Gravel and is updated frequently with written urban vignettes, amateurish photographs, deuteronomous audio material, barely coherent musings and rambling ecumenical treatises. StreetRag is a love letter to a lonely prairie burg struggling with its big city ambitions and small-town feel.
The city is Edmonton. It's a subject, not a passion. E-Town is almost universally derided by outsiders as an unlivable tundra wasteland populated by oil-hungry redneck conservatives who despise the arts. All of that is true. But it's not the whole story. There is beauty here. Dusty snowfalls. Brilliant summers. A stunning river valley. A diverse arts community that flourishes. It's a place that inspires a gray relationship - not all good, not all shitty. For that reason alone it is lovable, for what is life but a grayscale?