I stood on the small peninsula overlooking the tidal flats, the same crop of land where I saluted her in the wind and raced her sunset home.
This time I paused with another Labrador, her heir, to watch the cars and trucks on the freeway draw concrete between the ocean and wetlands. A rustle in the reeds below suggested a coyote, or one of the huge herons, or maybe even a mountain lion looking for dinner.
Two huge ears told me this was a deer, exhilarating to witness so close to the ocean, in the middle of the sprawl that is coastal northern San Diego county. But this is a special sanctuary, these thousand acres of nature preserve that have escaped the claws of planned community developers.
The deer took a step into the water and started swimming toward a small island a few hundred feet away. Another deer crept out of the reeds, and another, and another, until 10 of them were moving single file across the hydric channel, silent wakes stretching into the horizon.
A gangly youngster struggled to keep up, and I followed her eventually successful dog-paddle until she joined the herd on dry land. She shook with the same full-bodied hop perfected by that Labrador now in the wind, the sunset light refracting through the mist of water surrounding her like a halo.
And I was somewhere else, absorbed into an unexpected presence, transfixed by how the most beautiful moments can’t be timed, or planned, or manipulated, how the most beautiful moments can’t be captured looking through a screen, because when we capture through a screen, we miss capturing through our heart.