Still days away from the official beginning of fall, we have been getting frost at night that make us search the cedar chests for blankets and fills the house with that cold dampness that comes only at this time of year. The smell of brewing coffee fills the downstairs as I dress in the dark for a hike into the woods to the place where I have always felt most able to confront the demons that haunt my spirit. With a thermos filled with the strong black liquid, I begin my morning journey following the wet path so familiar to me that I can travel it in the darkness without fear of getting lost. I have been making this same trip since childhood and I look forward to reaching the crest of the hill to the spot that overlooks the valley where the stream divides the land between woods and fields. The old stonewall at the top of the hill is the northern border of my land and a favorite place for me to sit and wait. It's been months since I have made this early morning trip, missing it all summer but unable to stir myself to go without my pup knowing that his absence would force me to accept his death but I need to make room in my life for these small pleasures which, somehow, are more important to me than the bigger moments visible to the rest of the world. We appreciate the light most when we are in darkness and I sit with my coffee as the first hint of day begins to show itself through the trees. The sun has not come up yet so the shafts of light that will come later are only an expectation. In my memory, I hear the sounds of my pup running through the woods, stopping to sniff the smells of nature and dislodge the wild mushrooms with his nose. My eyes fill with tears as my minds eye sees him race back to my side with an expression that seems to say "thank you for today." I let the sadness envelop me until the sobs abate. These are the memories and the tears I have been avoiding but now that they have been allowed to come, I have a peacefulness that is almost solemn as I open my heart to joy, something that has been on the other side of the mountain for longer than I would like to admit. With the sun up, I recap the thermos and head for home feeling relief from the burden of grief that has rested heavily on my soul for far too long, grief not only over the death of my pup but for other losses I have kept buried in my heart. I don't think I would have understood the importance of this trip had it not been for a friend who heard my pain and encouraged me and I know I have been given strength to confront the future as well as the past. There is more sadness to come in my life but today is going to be a beautiful day.