Grateful For Open Spaces

Pedro Hoffmeister
3 min readFeb 19, 2022

I’m thankful for the people who planned ahead.

Photo by Yuki Dog on Unsplash

I took my dogs running in a field tonight. There’s a five-acre field — Ascot Park— only two blocks from my house, and I take the dogs over there three or four nights a week so they can run wild in the dark underneath the light of the moon or stars.

It’s a tradition. I put my three dogs in the back of the Jeep, all together, and I say, “Okay, keep your tails in!” And then I shut the back gate. We drive over to the field, the dogs whimpering and whining with excitement, and then I stop the Jeep, get out, walk to the back gate, open it, and they come tumbling out, scrabbling and barking for joy.

We always go over there in the dark, when very few people or other dogs are using the space, so my three dogs can be joyous “dogs without leashes” as the poet Mary Oliver always wrote.

Bob Dylan, Hank Williams Jr., and Dragon hop out of the Jeep and begin to run and run and run and run, as I stand staring at the moon…or the stars…or at Jupiter…or Venus, depending on the season. It’s a good, long nighttime moment for all of us, and I’m grateful for the time.

But I’m also grateful for the space.

I live in the city — not a big city, but a city nonetheless — and I’m so thankful that the original city planners laid out parks, green spaces, wild spaces, set aside tracts of land when they built schools and neighborhoods and commercially zones areas. The planners could have built everything close together, with no wild spaces in between, but they didn’t. They were cognizant of our human needs for open space, for play space, for running and for breathing.

Ascot park has a track and an infield, three soccer fields, a hilly section, and a slough, with three small wooded areas at different margins. The park is a funny, little rugged moment in the middle of city-enclosed suburbia. Ascot is home to opossums, raccoons, red tail hawks, crows, and a couple enormous great-horned owls, and it’s about as wild as a small green space can get inside of a suburban enclave. And it’s where the dogs run. My dogs run and run, and I stand there mesmerized by the open night sky, listening to the heavy breathing of my sprinting dogs.

Pedro Hoffmeister

Author with Random House. TBI survivor who struggles. Poet. Climber. Former Writer-In-Residence of Joshua Tree National Park. Podcast: “Boring Is A Swear Word”