I get to the train station in Sutton Downs with the idea of going to Dublin. But the platform screen says that the train toward the city won’t arrive for 30 minutes, and the one to Howth will come in just two.
Two minutes later I sit in a spacious train car with bright green seats, Italian, Chinese, and Spanish tourists chattering away, cameras and bags slung around their necks.
The pier at Howth is beautiful, which of course they knew. They stand on the jagged rocks and take photos and add autumn filters and upload the pictures to facebook, and then the photographer and the photographee switch places and they repeat the ritual.
They are enjoying the view, which is the thing they came to do. But maybe it is more beautiful for me, because I did not know. This a moment they planned, and one that I stole. And you know what they say: moments stolen are sweeter than moments earned.
Among us there is another one who did not come to see the view. She is a sleek white dog, with thin legs and pointed, alert ears. Her owners trust her without a leash, and I watch as she tastes the salty air with her wet nose, sniffing in a few directions and then following her favorite. A seagull calls from the rocks and the dog’s head shoots up, its tail stands straight, and its back stiffens. Then it wanders over to the edge of the pier, just in front of me, and stares out, without moving a muscle.
For a minute we look out at the water and the rocky cliffs. What does the dog see that stopped it?
I have said that the pier at Howth is beautiful. Maybe it is better to say that my eye makes out seven shades of blue between the water and the sky. Or that the rocky cliffs rise only to the skyline, as if in deference. Or that when the waves hit the rocks it sounds like an old song, untroubled by the roads, the trains, and the coffee shops. Or maybe none of this is enough, and maybe this is why we plan these moments; maybe this is why we take photos.
My daydreaming is broken by a sharp bark from the dog. I look over and see that the seagull has taken flight. The bird must have been right there on the rocks somewhere, just under the dog’s nose. The dog follows with its eyes as the seagull squawks and sails over the water. Or maybe it is just me, following with my own eyes.
The tourists have walked off toward another view, leaving just me and the canine at the edge of the pier. The dog shakes, to clear its fur. The only other sound’s the whoosh of gentle wind and easy waves.
Without warning, my new friend turns around and begins heading back toward its owner. I notice that the wind is little chilly against my throat, and my stomach doesn’t care so much about the view. It would prefer a sandwich. I take all in one more time, then walk in the direction of town, the dog sniffing and zig-zagging and wagging its tail in front of me.