The Road to Big Willow

Big Willow  2013.  I’m having a difficult time, this weekend, with managing the past.  The passing of time, and the way that it goes.  The way it just flows away behind us.

How many times have I driven up this winding and dusty road, straight into the glare of the rising sun?  Sometimes kind of sick with trepidation (maybe because I’m verging on tardiness and the possibility of missing my first run!), sometimes full of anticipation.  A Peruvian shepherd lounging  on a hillside in the yellow grass, surrounded by his dogs, distantly observes me.  Cattle loose in my path, including a massive black bull who’s considering offering a challenge to my truck.  And, over the last rise, tucked into a tiny valley dwarfed by the majesty of the endless, rolling, dully golden surrounding geography, lies the toylike mini- world of trailers, canopies, sniffing, pissing dogs, vehicles.  Handlers - my friends, nemesis, regardless,  they’re  my special community of people - milling about the tall rustic stick that’s the Big Willow handler’s post, awaiting the meeting.

Many times.  I’m not really sure how many.

It’s always the same dusty road.  The same village of weirdos like me.  The music I’m playing becomes imprinted in my mind and inexorably linked to that moment of driving on that road.  Certain songs by Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle, Massive Attack, Elliot Smith,  will trigger forever the feelings about the state of my life when driving on that road, letting the music inside.

Big Willow 2013.  This time, I can’t handle listening to any music.

It’s a little too real to me, this year; the long, long ribbon of time that’s been unwinding behind me in a seemingly random design while I’ve been on this road.

When I first stepped upon it, I had a mom and a dad.  My own family was young; my grown up daughter a little girl.  Dogs who are no longer running on this Earth were in the back of my truck.  People who are now my dear friends were intimidating strangers.  Some of them have disappeared.  From dog trialing, or even from this life.  I was terrified to step up to the post, and I had plenty of reasons to be!  My home, my career, my own body, my life - all were completely different than they are today.

But the road to Big Willow.  The same.

We often talk about our experiences with learning how to work closely with animals, what we discover about ourselves, and the places and people we are privileged to encounter, and to perhaps come to cherish along the way,  as a journey.

Today I’m considering the path of that journey.  Is it from here to there?  Or, is it perhaps following the looped and circular paths of time?

For how many more years will I be driving on that winding, dusty road.  And when I’m not, any longer … will it still all be there?

P.S.  I still haven’t made the pen at the Big Willow Sheepdog trial.  Maybe next year!

Photo credit: Bonnie Block, Field and Farm Wildlife Photography,

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