… the bendy ones, a little gnarled, not entirely juiced-out, still with the bark on.
In two-feet terms, picking up sticks could be debating fonts like the Packmaster does when she pretends screen-busyness: Bold, Italic, never regular. Or, an exercise in finding a friend – misshapen yet reassuring.
I like my sticks thick like lamb shank bones. In lean finds I’ll settle for a T-bone. I’ll even make do with the rolled-up newspaper that’s flung with such finesse into the balcony each morning.
But never for me the twiggy variety with which the pesky pigeons stake squatting rights in my balcony, and definitely not the halfling’s very unsatisfying hairband I once had a go at.
Lucky, a ninja-in-hibernation, focused my ever-wandering attention on sticks. In that very tropical land prone to sudden and fierce thunderstorms, where two-feet walk with a wary eye on signposts warning ‘Beware of Falling Branches’ and lesser dogs mince around with paws bound in shoes, my plucky retriever friend bounds up to the largest fallen branch of the raintree and…
… sinks his teeth into it…
… rolls around and wrestles it, chewing barky bits off…
… tosses it high into the air, leaps up to catch it…
… or, just snaps it into two.
At his shaggiest best, he’ll put you in mind of Chewbacca. On better-groomed days when his stylists give him a leonine trim, he’ll remind you of a lioness tearing into her prey. Always, a force of nature. Always, raw pleasure you’ll feel in your bones.
Sticking it out in an unfashionable end of the galaxy where the Packmaster has set out her lounging chairs, I’ve sniffed out a few gravelly paths on which I run free. (And, ever so often, startle lovers’ trysts and skittish peacocks during off-track treasure hunts for sticks!) Sometimes I indulge the Packmaster in a game of fetch so she can run off the chocolates, but mostly so she too exhilarates in the wind in her ears.
But as is her fanciful habit, she claims that the wind whispers to her of elemental adventures with sticks: Of the special wand of wing-shod Hermes that guides border crossings and travellers. Of Donatello’s liquid way with the bo.
Of water diviners who find sustaining wellsprings and musicians who pull notes out of the air and stitch the world into a song just by waving sticks. Of that slender man with a cane who walked 390 kilometres to collect salt from seawater and shook the foundation of the British Empire with his defiant fistful of earth-salt.
Of the special magnificence of Gandalf who, in honour of Bilbo’s birthday, unleashed from his staff a fire-breathing, somersaulting red-golden dragon that burst into a butterfly shower of sparks!
I’ve heard her waffle on about how dapper her dandies are: Poirot with his telescope and silver swan-tipped canes to assist in elegant murder deconstructions; Bertie Wooster who had the inimitable Jeeves hand him his trusty whangee so he could dash to the park in his yellowest shoes to welcome spring; the devil’s cub and his cavalier ways with women and walking sticks that the Packmaster’s partial to, from all of her romances that turn rakes into heroes.
I’ll give her that: a stick is every gentleman’s wardrobe essential, especially for a jack as rascally as I. I mean, a stick is essential if a dog is going to have any kind of adventure!
Venturing into the unknown, twirling a stick… it’s us channeling our ninja bo-walk.