“Have to take the dog for a walk!” I shout out. Leash in hand, dog giving me a wonderful excuse, I nearly leap off the front stoop and race toward the wooded path just a few yards away. The leaves are beginning to turn, so I’m surrounded by mostly green hues tinged with yellows, a sudden brilliant red, an aggressive spray of orange. My spirits lift, and I think alone at last, glory be.
But at the next step, I hear a tingling sound, like chimes, and as I follow the path, crunchy with fallen yellow birch leaves, the chiming becomes louder, more insistent.
Darn. My goal is to get away from civilization. What’s this? The dog’s ears perk up excitedly, and he drags me forward, even though I’d rather find another path.
Suddenly, we walk into a clearing where a small thatched-roof cottage sits unperturbed and peaceful. A curl of smoke rises from the chimney, and a glorious symphonic sound wafts from the open door. I step away, not wanting to disturb the occupant, but the dog races toward the door so excitedly that the leash pulls away from my hand. He has crashed the party, so to speak.
His tail disappears from the front entryway into the cottage. Mortified, I step up closer, my nose twitching at the delightful smell of freshly baked butterscotch muffins. My favorite! How strange. I raise my hand to knock on the open door, but a voice, strong yet husky and strangely familiar, shouts out, “Come in, Pam. Come in.”
Prickles of surprise course up my spine into my scalp. I hear nothing from the dog. My stomach gurgles in hope, and my foot moves forward, despite my reservations.
I enter a room so cozy and soothing I want to sink into the nearest chair and stay forever. The space is filled with a few comfortable high-pillowed chairs and a loveseat covered in blue-flowered upholstery. The wood floor is covered with a soft blue chenille area rug. Red pillows and soft cashmere throws add a colorful accent to the inviting room, infused with light from three, large-paned windows.
A figure stands in the far doorway that leads to the kitchen. I can’t identify her at first, she is bathed in afternoon light from the stained glass window that graces the top of the front door. But she moves slightly, and I gasp.
“Amazing, isn’t it?” she says lightly.
I stare at the image of myself, standing as still as a statue while I regain my bearings. She is tall, 5 feet 7, with wavy blonde hair dotted with graying streaks. Her gray green eyes are strong and direct, her full mouth pressed upward in a gentle smile.
It can’t be.
She is exactly what I look like. She moves her head back and forth, as if to discourage me from trying to understand this phenomenon, and then she points toward one of the chairs.
“Have a seat. Let me tell you a story about life, and how little we know of what and who we really are.”
I bolt out of that door faster than a rabbit released from a trap. Even while running, I ask myself, what am I so afraid of? Learning the truth? Or discovering that life has many divergent truths?
Either way, I’m a coward.
Ten minutes later, exhausted and out of breath, I stop. What have I done? I turn around, looking for the dog. He hasn’t followed me. He’s back there, at the cottage. I retrace my steps quickly, heart beating faster than I’ve ever allowed it to. My head spins with a thousand thoughts but only one question. Why did I run?
When I reach the spot, it is only a clearing with some low-hanging underbrush. No cottage. No smells of warm butterscotch muffins. No woman, and no dog.
I have lost my chance at discovery.
“Urf!” My dog is back, leashless, but smiling widely.
I agree with him. We have many solitary walks ahead of us, searching for that path to the answers.