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The mesquite trees are bare for the winter. When we walk in the morning, the lack of winter vegetation allows me to see the dogs better than in the other seasons, where the foliage and understory are thick. I let them run off leash, trotting down the trail and veering off it to inspect the burrows of small creatures.

Small creatures aren’t out much during the day this time of year. There is not enough cover for them to hide. So they pop up in the garden after dark when the daytime predators don’t see as well.

As a result it is safe to let the dogs run without too much fear they will chase rabbits or armadillos or possums or skunks or porcupines, all of which keep burrows on the property. Ginger is insatiably curious about skunks, not one of her most alluring qualities.

The dogs run ahead on the trail, sniffing the smells and feeling the ground under their feet. They investigate holes and stumps and logs. Their delight is evident in the way they move, tails swishing joyfully as the trot along.

Curiosity is a generally wonderful quality, if you leave off skunks and are only modestly curious about porcupines. If we were not curious we would trudge through the day doing the basics we need to survive and then what? Iron your t-shirts? Life would be insufferably boring.

Instead, you see a lovely beaded necklace on the neck of someone at the grocery store, and you come home and take out your beads and thread them, working out how the artist got the sparkling beads to do that scalloped lacy thing around the cabuchon center fire opal. Art is born from curiosity.

Or you have an innocuous exchange with a friend that for some reason makes you want to slap her. Curiosity makes you dig into your ire, to write a poem about how and why you got so mad. Suddenly you have a new insight into yourself and what makes you tick (and ticked). Maybe you find compassion for your friend or maybe you realize you want a new friend.

When you are consumed with the daily tasks of giving care, you don’t have as much capacity to nurture and develop your curiosity, but keep the spark alive. Smell the smells. Watch for movement in shrubbery. Turn over a log to see what’s under there. When you have a few moments, bound along a trail in the crisp morning air.

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