We break tracks on the golf course, one of us in snow shoes, the other in fleece-lined knee-high barn boots.
We discuss our day--work done, conversations had, pages written, mysterious breakthroughs and our best theories about the why and how. A lot of this has to do with being more open. Which gets us to our friendship and how it has evolved.
"Do you remember those dinners? How stressed out we all were about work and how we'd wake up in the middle of the night wondering if we'd said the wrong thing?"
She remembers well. She remembers unnecessary insomnia and unnecessary anxiety. A lot of wasted energy.
"I think I was going through a socially awkward phase," I say. "I was like a teenager again."
We recount some of the changes we've witnessed or lived through ourselves since we became close: deaths of family members, bereavement, professional advancement, operations, loss, dramatic familial rearrangements, weddings, babies born, success, disappointment, crises of confidence, hormonal roller coasters, travel, and more.
One thing that has steadied us through all of this time is our dogs.
My friends are noticing that I'm changing since Zoe's diagnosis--in a good way, they say. I'm glad to hear it. I used to think that because I was both self-critical and compassionate toward others, I had stopped being the defensive person I was as a young woman. I didn't know that compassion had to go in all directions at once, always.
We look at our dogs and we take in this expansive field of snow: blank white pages waiting for the next chapters to be written on. Everything seems possible. Zoe is entirely herself: wolfy, powerful, calm, content, curious. She is well. The Cavalier King Charles who Thinks He's a Greyhound is nimble and fast on the trail of a good scent.
"Look at them," my friend says. "It's so easy to make them happy."
"I know," I say. "And that's why a walk like this never fails to make me happy. I just have to look at them and I'm right there with them."
"Eat. Walk. Play," she says. "That's happiness. That's all they need."
The dogs run to us, pointing their snouts to what I brought with me in my pocket and looking up with that beseeching gaze they know will win me over every time.
"Treats. Play. Love," I say.
We agree that we like that as the title of the story of today, even if it sounds familiar.