Monday, February 15, 2010

Mending Log

“Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it
And spills the upper boulder in the sun,
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.”

              -Robert Frost
              “Mending Wall”

Maybe there is something that doesn’t love a wall, but I can name two things that do, and who “like to get away from earth awhile / And then come back to it and begin over.”

Sometimes the chainsaw man comes, and like something that doesn’t love a log, he cuts out a section and rolls it to the side of the trail. Frost didn’t coin the phrase “good fences make good neighbors,” though it appears twice in “Mending Wall” as he and his neighbor put the stones back in place.

Good logs make good jumps, so sometimes I wish I could mend the sawn logs, but there’s no real need, since nature brings down enough trees on her own, and there’s always a new place to take these pictures.

I don’t know any other creature who would be so patient with me as I send him out over the logs again and again so I can take a picture as he comes back. Looking at that picture again, I realize that patient isn’t the word at all, is it? Jax doesn’t play this game patiently. He loves it.

Each return is nearly as joyful as the last, though there is a small diminishment on each return that makes me stop the game by the fifth or sixth time, to move on to the next log or wall, where the going out and coming back have fresh appeal for all of us.

“Oh, just another kind of outdoor game, /
One on a side. It comes to little more,” says the poem.

Not for the first time, I’m envious of the purity of the dogs’ enjoyment of these outside spaces, with their thin covering of the last snow of the season. Every new direction is a sprint; every new smell is a whole story of seasons and deer, and people passing by.

How odd I must seem to the dogs, plodding along the trail, one step at a time, never sprinting off to smell a tree or to romp in zoomed circles for no reason at all.

I just hold a big shiny dead black bug to my face and go click, click, click, and then I plod some more. Each to our own little outdoor games, I suppose.

Where is Jax going right at this moment, and why doesn’t it matter to him? He might have finished running over to a friend, made a sudden inexplicable turn to the left, or wheeled back around to chase his own steps. I don’t remember what he did next, but I do remember that he did it with total enthusiasm and with no regard for the past or the future.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Beautiful, Curious, Breathing, Laughing

Every time I take pictures of the dogs, I end up with a few silly, unflattering, and outright strange expressions on the dogs’ faces as gravity, momentum, and panting all work their strange magic on a dog’s loose skin. I set out to make an entry of these so I could make fun of them a little, and I remembered this Whitman poem:

I have perceiv'd that to be with those I like is enough,
To stop in company with the rest at evening is enough,
To be surrounded by beautiful, curious, breathing, laughing flesh is enough,
To pass among them or touch any one, or rest my arm ever so lightly round his or her neck for a
     moment, what is this then?
I do not ask any more delight, I swim in it as in a sea.

              -Walt Whitman
              “I Sing the Body Electric”

And then, suddenly, my enterprise of having a little fun with the dog’s silliness suddenly changed. Comet’s snowfoam lipstick seemed so packed with delight that he no longer looked quite so ridiculous. It was as if he came into focus, not as a goofball, but as beautiful, curious, breathing, laughing flesh.

Once again, Whitman and the dogs make serious business of finding delight in everything.

Jax, finishing a shake, cleaning his nose, and gathering like a spring to explode off, stage right, is no exception. This is the kind multitasking I should do more of.

These pictures all come from another West Thompson walk I took with Jill. Andy had work, but she and I and our combined pack of six dogs had a great time.

Tango, who was visiting a friend when we last went for a walk, was in full force today. She looked quite lovely when she was in motion, galloping along with her stick, but I thought this particular frozen moment just caught how much fun you can have when you don’t care who’s watching.

Copley, only a few weeks older, is growing noticeably. I didn’t get enough pictures of him to catch anything truly silly, since he’s still being carried quite a bit, but I did get this cute, focused moment when I whistled for him, and he barreled towards the camera.

Copley also started pouncing in the snow. I have no idea what he was going after, but he pounced a few times and really shoved his nose in there. I’m not sure if he was just pouncing on the little rolling balls of snow he was making himself or if there was some rodent his nose led him too, but he was really focused on it.

Now, Golden Retriever puppies are always photogenic, and Copley’s a particularly good example of this principle, with his snowy nose and serious face.

But I like this shot even more because you can see in his fluffy puppyhood the shadows of the show dog he’ll one day become.