Since we had a day off from flying I got to sleep a little bit later but was wide awake by 6 am. I lay there for a while trying to decide what to do with my day and after going over the options I settled on a nice long hike up in the hills behind my house here in Avanos, Turkey. I cooked some eggs, put them between a couple of pieces of toast and pretended it was an Egg McMuffin. You know you are in bad shape when you fantasize about McDonald’s food. By the time I got myself squared away it was almost 8 o’clock. I put a bottle of water in my pack and headed out the door.
I had every intention of spending the morning alone and enjoying the solitude that the hills had to offer. As fortune would have it, that would not be the case. She was waiting for me just around the corner. I really did not expect to ever see her again, since we had only spent a few casual hours together a couple of weeks ago. She lives just up the street on the way to the trail that leads up into the hills. At the time, I figured it was a one time deal. We had met on the street and even though we could not speak the same language, we just seemed to hit it off. She was quite friendly and I was needing some company. Not as pretty as some of the others I’d seen, but her frolicking personality more than made up for any cosmetic deficiency. I was glad I ran into her again , because I knew my day would be better for it. I’m not sure why she took a liking to me. Just one of those things I guess that you just can’t explain. But I think it was about the time that I started rubbing her belly that she pretty much fell in love with me. Since our language is so different, I just call her Camille. She is also real fond of me scratching her behind her ears. If you haven’t guessed by now, Camille is a short haired white dog with some black spots that without hesitation was once again volunteering to keep me company. And for the next four hours she did just that.
About the language thing. It’s true. I don’t speak dog and she doesn’t speak human. But I had to laugh way out loud when it finally dawned on me why Camille was not responding at all to any of the normal human to canine communication. She did not acknowledge “come here, or come see, or sic em”, or anything else I had to say. How silly of me, this is a Turkish dog and certainly, like all her human contacts except for me, does not have a clue what I am saying in English. But unlike the Turkish humans, Camille is much more accepting and forgiving of my communication skills.
Camille is real good company. In the four hours we spent together on this day, she never left my sight. Sometimes in her excitement to explore or chase a desert lizard or sniff out a hole in the ground she would get a little ahead of me. But never too far and I could not help but notice that even though she was really enjoying her romp, she kept a close eye on me. If I stopped to rest, she immediately returned to my side. If I sat down, she sat down. When I started walking again, she was off and running, checking out anything and everything that may lie in store ahead. I was glad she decided to come along.
Its was hot. The hottest day so far since I have been here. The dirt road we were following offered little protection from the sun. Every now and then we would come across a small tree or bush that cast just enough shade for me an Camille to share. The difference in temperature in the shade and in the sun is amazing. I’m sure it is at least 10 degrees or more cooler in the shade. This is what they call high desert and very similar to conditions in Idaho and Utah. The elevation at Avanos is around 3200 feet. It is a very dry climate with very low humidity. (Not missing that in Louisiana). The temperature was hitting the high eighties but the “feel” was more like the high nineties. It is so dry that you don’t notice the sweat because it evaporates almost immediately. Your clothes stay dry, but you are still loosing water. It is very dangerous and requires taking in lots of water.
The little road was a steady climb and I figured out later with my GPS that we gained 1000 feet in elevation on the hike. The view of the valley below was staggering. After walking a while, I could no longer hear the sounds of the town below. The landscape became a canvass an upon it lay the most magnificent creation. The valley stretched out for miles and because of the distance, became frozen. There was no movement that I could detect, although I knew the little town was as busy now as when I left it earlier in the day. The people were still at the market, the cars and the motorbikes were still breaking the speed limit and ignoring traffic signs. But I could not see any of that. I saw a picture, a portrait of a landscape formed millions of years ago and shaped by the life and death of three nearby volcanoes. And over the many years the portrait became more alive and disturbed by each civilization that came and went. But now at this moment, it just was what it was. A thousand years from now, it will be something different and will have taken on a new dimension to some poor soul lucky enough to be looking down on it as I was at this moment in time. I closed my eyes and tried to imagine what it might have looked like 10,000 years ago, right before humans first came to this area. The only similarity would be the sound of the wind. I know wind itself really makes no sound. It has to interact with something else to make it’s music. And at this moment I only heard the sounds created by the wind caressing what little that lay in it’s path. The tall grass on the rolling meadow makes a quiet rustling sound as the wind goes around and through it like a flowing river. The short grass and rocks ignore the intrusion and make no sound at all. The pine needles act like reeds in a musical instrument and play a melody that is much more distinct. It is a lonely sound, but at the same time creates a peacefulness deep within anyone lucky enough to hear it.
I knew I had made a mistake by not packing any food to carry along. I was reminded of that fact quiet vividly by the rumblings in my gut. I had resigned myself to the fact that once again I had not been real smart. It also brought to mind a way too familiar quotation from my old hippie buddy, Jim. He is very quick when the occasion arises, to tell me that “if you’re gonna be stupid, you gotta be tuff”. Point taken. Again.
As we approached a small grove of trees along the road, Camille suddenly left the road and ventured into the trees. I decided to follow, if for no other reason, because of the promise of some shade. But it was not just any ole trees. It was apple trees. Little green apples so heavy on the limbs, they appeared they would break at any moment. I was immediately concerned. If the limbs broke, the tree might die, or at least ruin the little apples. So the right thing for me to do was pretty obvious. I needed to relieve those limbs of some of it’s heavy burden. So I had apples for lunch. Like I said, they were small but just three of them helped me forget the stupid feeling and put a stop to the rumbling in my stomach. Camille and I rested under the trees and became quite content sitting there, just the two of us. But I knew we had to keep moving because the day was not gonna get any cooler. And we were only about halfway through the hike. So we moved on. I was starting to get a little sore and tired. But Camille just kept on scouting the trail ahead and investigating anything that caught her eye or nose. About an hour later we came to another stand of small trees. This time pears. Little tiny pears. But the sweetest I have ever tasted. Surely the owner of these lovely trees would not miss just a few of these delicious morsels.
We enjoyed the rest of our walk. Into the fourth hour I was getting pretty sore and was quietly hoping someone would come along and give me a ride. But that is one of the nice things about walking in these hills. You pretty much have them all to yourself. As we got closer to town, Camille seemed to get anxious. I guess she knew our time together was about to end. I’m sure that time did not mean quite as much to her as to me. Although being alone is sometimes very cleansing and rejuvenating, time spent with a friend with no questions or no expectations can do wonders for the soul.
Camille led the way off the little road and onto the narrow foot path that meandered through the rocks and down the hill until we finally made it to the edge of the little town of Avanos. We walked right past her house and on down the cobblestone street. It was another hundred yards of winding narrow road to my house. I figured she would just stop at her place and call it a day and maybe give the ever present chickens some grief, before finding a shady place to rest after her adventure. But she didn’t. She led me right to my door. She stayed just long enough for a quick belly rub and then turned and headed back up the hilly little street. I watched as she rounded the corner, hesitated , turned and looked back. Not sure what Camille was thinking. But it was pretty clear what was swirling through my mind….and for just this once, I wish she could understand human English. But on second thought, she is probably much better off not getting involved in human emotion. I hope she sees fit to be my companion on yet another adventure, on another day.