Sunday, July 19, 2009

Air, Water, Mud

In 1877, Eadweard Muybridge proved that all four of a horse’s hooves leave the ground for an instant at a certain point in a gallop. Dogs, too, are creatures of the air for the briefest intervals of time when they run.

It’s not surprising, considering Comet’s joie de vivre, that he would prove to be particularly buoyant as he runs. And it’s not surprising, given how many pictures I take of the dogs when we’re out and about, that I would catch him at the point that his paws no longer touch his shadow.

Jax, too, is similarly free to challenge the laws of gravity. There’s something poetic about having just two toes in contact with concrete before you abandon yourself to weightlessness for a moment.

Air, soil, water, fire—those are words,
I myself am a word with them—my
     qualities interpenetrate with theirs
     —my name is nothing to them,
Though it were told in the three
     thousand languages, what would
     air, soil, water, fire, know of my

          -Walt Whitman
          “A Song of the Rolling Earth”

The air dogs are also water dogs. Here in the salt marsh, there’s opportunities to run, spray water, and splash around in the mud. We go places like this, and I think to myself, “this is dog heaven.” I realize, though, how often I say it, and it came to me today that a dog can find heaven just about anywhere.

After a swim, it’s time for a chase through the grass and mud, fiery blurs in green grass, muddy legs, wet coats, and that moment when neither dog is touching the ground at all.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

High Up and Wet

“The water, indeed, reflects heaven because my mind does; such is its own serenity, its transparency and stillness.”

                -Henry David Thoreau
                “Solitude in Concord”

Usually, I keep our hike locals a bit of a secret, since I don’t like the idea of our favorite secret places getting exposed on the internet. I have visions of dozens or hundreds of dog owners with different levels of commitment to dog training and the environment showing up and ruining the place.

It may be a bit elitist of me, and it may be an entirely unfounded fear, but there it is. This locale, however, I’ll mention, since I got it myself from a book of dog-friendly hikes of New England.

This is Abbey Pond, a small lakelet nestled in the Green Mountains, twelve hundred feet above and two miles out from the trailhead.

I actually came up here three times this week: once with my folks, which resulted in the entry “Keep Encouraged;” once with a friend; and once with just Jax. I was just so happy to find the place on that first go, and so enthralled by the wild, secluded feel of the mountains around us, that I wanted to go again and again.

Today finally graced us with better weather and a reliably blue sky, and Jax was happy enough to pose for me here and there, after he had his chance to swim and dig a bit, of course. I realize that I have a real shortage of pictures in which Jax is dry. Perhaps in the fall, I’ll endeavor to snap a few shots of him as he plays in the fallen leaves, but for now, I just don’t have the heart to keep him out of the water just to suit my photographic fancies.

But anyway, for now, I’ll be happy that he’s so happy, and I’ll continue to hold the camera high and away from him when he comes over for a check-in and shake-off after he’s been chasing frogs and burying his muzzle in the black mud.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Keep Encouraged

“I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow
     from the grass I love,
If you want me again look for me
     under your boot-soles.

(Photo credit: Donna Tippy)

“You will hardly know who I am
     or what I mean,
But I shall be good health to you
And filter and fibre your blood.

(Photo credit: Donna Tippy)

“Failing to fetch me at first keep
Missing me one place search another,
I stop somewhere waiting for you.”

          -Walt Whitman
          “Song of Myself (52)”

I’m not sure what it was about a muddy dog exploring the side of a remote lake high up in the Green Mountains that made me think of Whitman’s poem. There’s a sense to it that long after we die, we may be found, in this important, real, fundamental way, in the earth we have returned to.

And something about this beautiful, silly dog, plunging his face into the rich mud, made me think that mingling ourselves with these open spaces isn’t all that different from the mingling that will take place when we die. After all, aren’t we dying all the time, even when we’re most alive, flinging mud and rot and life around us in a circle?