My daughter Pickle and I are walking the dog yet again, traveling the dirt road loop that stretches around our neighborhood. Pickle (her nickname) is incredibly bored now that school has been canceled for at least three weeks and she can’t have playdates, but the dog is happy. Instead of sitting home alone waiting for one of us to return to play with him, Artichoke is now being walked several times a day.

But even he has his limits.

Last night, when I suggested to Artichoke that we go for what may have been our 10th walk of the day, waving the leash at him so it jingled just so, he shook his furry head and lay back down on his pillow.

But here we are again, the three of us walking, talking and waving to neighbors. Waving to neighbors used to feel like an afterthought to me, something you did to be polite but that didn’t really mean too much. Now it has become the equivalent of a huge hug and I do it so vigorously Pickle has to tell me to bring it down a notch.

Then Pickle speaks to me with a gravity that stops my babbling about how I am noticing so much more these days, how the bark of a tree looks like a series of ancient fingers or that the air, when inhaled slowly with pursed lips, tastes sweeter somehow.

“Dad, I had a terrible nightmare last night,” she says. “I told Mom about it but I can’t tell you.”

“I see,” I say then stay quiet. Pickle is twelve, in fact today, March 17, is her birthday, and I know it will be only a matter of minutes before she can’t contain this secret anymore. But I am also worried. What could be so awful that she fears telling me more than my wife, Cathlin?

We walk a few more steps and as Artichoke sniffs deeply into a rhododendron bush Pickle spills out her story.

“You were going to put me down like a dog,” she says.

"What!" I say. "That is definitely the worst dream I have ever heard.”

And yet I am also curious.

“Why would I do something like that?”

“Because you were going off-Island,” Pickle says.

“That’s it? Because I was going off-Island?”

“Yeah, that’s it,” Pickle confirms. “It felt kind of extreme. I even wondered at the time if I was dreaming it was so weird. But it was scary. You really wanted to put me down like a dog. You kept saying that.”

I talk to Pickle then about how we are afraid of so much these days that it is leaking into all areas of our life, perhaps especially our dreams. I tell her about my dream last night, where I was driving around looking for a place to go for a hike but all the trails were under massive construction. I kept driving and eventually switched to a bicycle, riding with my mother on a tandem bike to a foreign country where we eventually stopped to watch some sort of festival of the falling stars, only we were the only two people there.

“Wow, that is a strange dream,” Pickle says.

“No stranger than real life now,” I answer.

Back at the house we set up the computer for Pickle’s 12-year-old virtual birthday party, which basically means a whole bunch of friends singing happy birthday to her online via the video-conferencing site Zoom, which until a few days ago I had never heard of but now use multiple times a day. It is surprisingly touching, seeing all of these wonderful faces together on screen. If you click gallery mode, everyone appears at once in a grid, sort of like the opening to Brady Bunch.

When we finish the online birthday party, Cathlin begins to make a birthday cake and our teenage son Hardy prepares for a virtual book club with his friends. They are reading Catch 22. This is not a school assignment, just something they thought of themselves.

Pickle sits on the couch, working on her beads and bracelet project. When she makes enough bracelets she plans to set up a stand at the end of the road with an honor box and donate half the proceeds to the food pantry.

Artichoke lies down atop the couch looking out the window, occasionally barking at the wind.

And I am off to the side, calling my parents to check on them again while taking in the scene in front me, marveling at this life I so often take for granted. But not today. Definitely not today.