Category: dogs

Uh oh, life is feeling normal.

Uh oh, life is feeling normal.

Not normal, but OK, or not OK, but sweet. Back to the novel, or maybe it’s a story, or a string of stories, novelistic, or connected. Surely nothing like a poem, just a stream of sentences, going in a certain direction. Thunder muffled in the distance. Look at all the paraphernalia on the dog. The double ring harness rated for a Mastiff hooked up to 30 feet of cable screwed into the deck, the Martindale, the toxic flea collar, this babe is going nowhere, we do what we do to keep safe. Missing here is the blue necklace; if she bolts for the bunny at night, you’ll see a blinking garish light fleeing through the cedars. Missing too, the e-collar after surgery. It’s all ridiculous. And temporary. Any day now, she’ll come when called. But the thing is, she doesn’t mind, sunning herself while smaller creatures chase between my legs. Red headed pecker down at the apple tree. Tomorrow will look different, but today, this moment, a break in the clouds rolling in over mountains.

Reading Mary Oliver to the dog

Reading Mary Oliver to the dog

Our friend Rebecca sent over a book she found in the cast-off pile in the St. Albans dump. It is Dog Songs, by Mary Oliver. After dinner, we settle our dog on the couch between us and read her poems. One begins, “a puppy is a puppy is a puppy.” She looks off to the distant kitchen. Our dog has not heard of Gertrude Stein, I can tell.

We try another poem. Here’s how it goes:

PERCY

Our new dog, named for the beloved poet,

ate a book which unfortunately

we had left unguarded.

Fortunately, it was the Bhagavad Gita

of which many copies are available.

Every day now, as Percy grows

into the beauty of his life, we touch

his wild, curly head and say,

“Oh, wisest of little dogs.”

This dog, a little rescue lab not named for a famous poet, put a paw on my chest and said, “When I (unfortunately) ate your new Folio collectable edition of Moby-Dick, you were not so generous.”

water and fire

water and fire

News of the day, one run on sentence

When the American president assassinates an Iranian General, Iran lobs missiles at a US army base. No one gets hurt, except for what is dismissed as headaches, as in ‘we can assassinate your hero but you can only cause us a headache.’  But later we learn that 50 troops are treated for brain damage. Moments later, a civilian aircraft on its way to Ukraine crashes just after take off, killing 176, mostly Ukrainians and Iranian Canadians. Iran blames failed mechanics, the airline, Boeing and the US. Thousands of Iranians gather to mourn their General and hate us. Too many, because there is a stampede where people are trampled to death. Meanwhile, a video is released. Here is the plane, here is the missile, here is the impact. Iran says whoops, our bad, egregious error. Now the protesters turn on their own government.

Trump issues statements: we will destroy your culture and the American people love you and want you to flourish. I wonder: what kind of love is it that destroys your culture? But then, videos begin downloading and I am distracted. Australia is burning. Firefighters in shorts cradle Koala Bears wearing hand knit booties over their burned paws. They are wrapped in blankets called Johnny Pouches knit by prisoners. They knit and knit until Australia is overwhelmed. There are billions of animal deaths. My brain crackles. This is a local extinction. And while I sit there, stunned, Puerto Rico is wracked by earthquakes and then a volcano erupts in the Philippines, and somewhere else, people holding babies and blankets make their way through water up to their waists while dogs swim around in circles.

Burning forests, flooding banks. The ground beneath splits like a melon.

Here it is clouds, freezing rain. The landscape waits silently under layers of ice. I sit in front of a fire at a table cubing the meat of an animal who has spent its short, bucolic life in a field eating grass until it is murdered just for me. Under the table, two elderly dogs lie romp-to-romp. I’ve never been to Australia, Ukraine, Iran. but I can imagine. Under the burning brush, new life, although it is difficult to celebrate because, at the same time, we are the burning bush.

There but for a pebble…a big one

There but for a pebble…a big one

“If, on a certain evening about sixty-­six million years ago, you had stood somewhere in North America and looked up at the sky, you would have soon made out what appeared to be a star. If you watched for an hour or two, the star would have seemed to grow in brightness, although it barely moved. That’s because it was not a star but an asteroid, and it was headed directly for Earth at about forty-five thousand miles an hour. Sixty hours later, the asteroid hit. The air in front was compressed and violently heated, and it blasted a hole through the atmosphere, generating a supersonic shock wave. The asteroid struck a shallow sea where the Yucatán peninsula is today. In that moment, the Cretaceous period ended and the Paleogene period began.”

This from the New Yorker:  https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/04/08/the-day-the-dinosaurs-died

The image of us mammals scurrying around the feet of towering, pecking dinosaurs, borrowing for safety for thousands of years, ending with one random hour-long event, is chasing me this morning as I walk around my field, feeling the emergence of what we here in Vermont call spring, which is really mud, watching the water birds staring over the melting ice at the edge of the pond, sidestepping emerging dog turds and shredded toys, my goodness, life is returning. But for an asteroid we might not be here. “We” might be unrecognizable, maybe something with feathers. Remember this, writers, even as we cover the globe with our ridiculous opinions.

NOLA zoetrope

NOLA zoetrope

The last time I was in NOLA – way before Katrina – I dismissed the city as a theme park. This time, I’m not here as a tourist. I’m in a real neighborhood at a residency established by the people responsible for the first Free Tibet concerts back in 1995, in a little house behind their own.

This is the Bywater, formerly the Upper Ninth Ward. It runs along the river bordered by the French Quarter and Treme. I stand in front of the levee looking up – I am beneath the river! Enormous freighters with names written in foreign alphabets crawl back and forth along the Mississippi. I climb the the steep rusty bridge over the freight train tracks and the levee and come back down to a pretty green walking trail called Crescent Park. The day is gowing hot. People wearing spandex ride fast bikes toward the French Quarter while others, heads down texting, are walking their dogs. Dogs are everywhere and they are lucky dogs because New Orleans has hundreds of dog parks made out of empty lots when the river broke the levees, buildings collapsed and eventually the rubble was taken away.

I ran into one dog today, in a voodoo supply store, a fat hairy dog riveted by something on a top shelf.

NOLA is a bowl in a swamp, where it seems the apocalypse has already happened. The survivors are in various stages of getting over it, standing up and falling down, like a Laurie Anderson song. It is a port – freight trains run along the commuter lines. it is commerce and joy, voodoo and nunneries, community and desolation. People on the street smile, they nod, they say,”how’s your day goin'” and sometimes they stop to tell you how their day is going. The clothes! Prints on stripes, dresses over shorts – this is a city that loves its skin. Po-boys are delicious, gumbo not so much, hipster cafes painted shades of orange behind shutters next to drink dives and one-stops, BMW’s with Jersey plates drive behind construction trucks and Havana Chevys and then there’s the Bark Market that sells pet supplies on one side and art supplies on the other. And the Death, Pharmacy and Chicken museums. An Improv theater in the Healing Center along with the food co-op and trance making supplies.

On my (white) side of St. Claude, soft bellied bearded men sit in cafes eating cake and reading novels, while on the other side an emaciated Haitian rides a stolen bike around in circles. The Quarter is a 20 minute walk away, as is Treme, as is downtown. It is a city of writers. Walter Percy lives on, his old writer’s group still meeting every Friday at a certain bar.

One wonders, where do the people who get pushed out go?  Houston?  Katrina didn’t do them in, they say, it was the government building substandard  levees and infrastructure, the broken pumps; it was America that almost killed them. NOLA, they explain, nodding wisely, is a blue dot in a red state.   

The cats, however stayed and multiplied.  You see them everywhere, in the stores, on stages, grooming their tails in art galleries, hunkered down on stoops, sneaking out of alleys. Always single, They patrol grocery stores, pose on cafe counters and have serious expressions. On every other porch there is a plate of half eaten food. They don’t need water because, as I said, NOLA is a bowl in a swamp.

My computer pings. It’s a weather alert but not for me: a blizzard is sweeping West to East across Northern Vermont.

UBU ROI, our nightmare

UBU ROI, our nightmare

We’ve considered him stupid, moronic, evil, incompetent, mad, racist, misogynistic, a pedophile, self-aggrandizing, lying, stupefying,  narcissistic, character flawed, disgusting We’ve mocked his hair, his ties, his mouth, his little fingers, his wife, his children , his bone spurs, his deal-making, education, university, his gold leaf, his diet, the elevator, his advisors, cabinet and his lack of a dog. We call him a clown and we make Ubu Roi his avatar, Pere Ubu, Alfred Jarry’s surrealistic joke of a dictator who wants to be the king of Poland. That play so horrified its audience, it closed the night of its premier, but this performance has lasted over 500 days to become a national – no, a global – nightmare.  

At this moment, his most despicable action is holding hostage immigrant children to get his way – he wants his wall, and Congress is figuring out how to give it to him.

Bookends of a Day

Bookends of a Day

10:45 washing dishes at the sink. I look out the window and see a doe walking slowly across the lawn with her fawn. The fawn runs a few feet, while the mother waits, then the fawn stops and the mother takes a step, In this way they are proceeding across the lawn. I see the dog at the edge of the porch looking at them, but looking in the way she has of not seeing, of seeing over or through what is directly in her vision. So neither of us wants to startle the doe. It is a lovely sight, this obviously bonded family taking a morning stroll across my lawn. Robins are hopping through the grass, a red tailed squirrel suddenly lept off a fence and disappears behind the greenhouse. I’m know the iphone shot through the window will be awful, but I don’t dare go outside, so I shoot anyway. The image is poor but sweet, the washed out colors convey a certain  lack of authority, as if it is a photograph of a photograph.

Thursday morning 10:30 out my kitchen window

At 4:45 I take the recyclables to the Grand Island Dump. The huge room is immaculate. All the bins are empty, tons of plastics have been squashed and packed on palettes waiting to be shipped. Two attendants, one who’s a volunteer fireman and the other a selectman, greet me and ask if I want help. I’ve been coming here  for 10 years now, but I don’t know his name.  I don’t need help. I can’t stop staring at the compacted structures and I walk around, shooting on my phone. The selectman looks amused.

Many years ago, I lived on Canal street in New York City. On Wednesdays, the few small sweatshops left in the neighborhood would bundle up their unused fabrics, drag them out on pallets for the night time garbage pick-up. By the time the trucks arrived, neighborhood artists trolling for found materials would have picked the pallets clean.

It’s interesting, this impulse to reclaim garbage as art, as if by turning our trash into “art” we are doing something for the environment, while in truth we’re only postponing its suffocating release into our environment.  It’s a kind of recycling, only not as a useful object, but as a cultural comment, as art. For about a year, I collected every bit of plastic that circulated in my house and studio, and after a year, I had a big closet stacked with tubs filled with bottle caps sorted by color,  can tabs, plastic bags, medicine bottles, ties, garden containers, dried contact lenses, packaging sorted by shape, packing peanuts – everything unsuitable for the recycle bins. I had no idea what to make with this stuff. My mind was filled with images of  birds and marine life dead on beaches, their bellies slit open, revealing batteries, caps, netting, fuel canisters, milk cartons – suffocated by the litter humans discard in daily life. Reworking those images seemed exploitive rather than helpful, and I wonder what it takes for humans to turn their grief into constructive action. Chris Jordan  has already broken our hearts with his images of dead albatross in the Midway Islands, where the birds fly out over the oceans, collecting plastics as food for their young, who fill up with batteries, bottle caps, syringes. What image is more powerful than that of a mother unknowingly poisoning her child.

Another option was to use the garbage, like this Nigerian sculptor to create new art. But his work takes a village and is conguent with the life of that village, and conveys a condition that I have no business appropriating, the bottle caps are the relics of a dark story where liquor was     an agent of exchange in the slavery market. I could imagine building reliefs and sculpture, but that would entail additional toxic material, like resins or glues,  which would negate anything constructive, so finally, in a grand purge, I throw it all out, with full understanding of my failure and announce, when I get home, that we are never going to buy anything that comes in a plastic bottle. To no avail.

I find this article tracking the Journey of a Plastic Bottle in the Atlantic Magazine.

The refuse associate at the town dump told me that a truck would arrive soon to pick up the pallets. He doesn’t know where they’re going, only that the name on the truck begins with CAN.  Canada then? The same Canada that begins 12 miles north of my house on Border Road?  It doesn’t seem right that Canada is eating my trash, but then this is the day that my country screws the G7.

So what am I left with? A healthy doe moves across my landscape with her infant at the beginning of the day and at the end, a vision of garbage laden barges plying the oceans. 

 

Grand Isle Dump Thursday 4:37

Egyptian Blue, transmission

Egyptian Blue, transmission

A  painter friend visited a cemetery in Egypt. She was walking with her family when she saw in the distance a robed woman who seemed to be throwing something from a bag on the desert floor.  She hurried ahead and saw that this woman, amongst others, was tossing handfuls of ground pigment into a tomb, or maybe into several tombs. The pigment color, a dense, bright blue, was extraordinary against the muted neutral tones of the desert landscape. The photos she took show an open, domed beehive structure, a tholos tomb,  the floor saturated with layers of this intense pigment, also with dried corn kernels. In one photo, a man stands to the side with a broom. At one point, he offered my friend the broom; for her to do some sweeping? Or perhaps for him to sweep for her? – she has no idea.

The history of the color is intriguing.  It was developed around 2600 as an alternate pigment to the rare and expensive mineral lapis lazuli, made from sand, copper, and sodium-carbonate, CaCuSi4O10m, a testament to the skills of the chemists of antiquity who understood how to control the temperature needed for successful synthesis. Amazing too was its consistency over time until it was “lost” during the dark ages. Lost and found again, when in 2009 it was discovered that Egyptian blue shows exceptional luminescence (it has since been made into a crayon), indicating its possible use in imaging devices.

But here’s what really intrigues me: new research shows that Egyptian blue produces infra-red radiation like that used by TV remotes. In other words, when compressed into infinitesimally thin sheets and compressed, the infrared quality of  Egyptian Blue makes it a communication device.

So,  back to the modern Egyptian women spreading layers of artificial blue pigment embedded with corn kernels in desert tombs. Assuming my friend hasn’t happened on a performance piece, maybe we can consider this scene a ritual having to do with decorating a tomb as Pharaoh’s was decorated and also providing the dead with what it needs in the next world, in this case, the color blue, which we now consider a medium for communication. And isn’t this a universal desire, as witness, for example, my dog Bandit buried under a tree with his bowl.

I also like to think that in some cellular way, the ancient world understood that this exquisite color is capable of communicating through layers of existence.

The latest in dog evolution

The latest in dog evolution

Dog evolution, a dream:

I brought home a dog from the pound. He was large and dreary, with a matted coat the color of slush. We lived in a border town, on a long dirt road.

The dog’s name was  Oscar. The town was at the edge of the ocean. A Dollar Store, some second hand clothing shops across the street from the rocky, littered beach. A desultory craft fair had set up under a tent. Oscar trotted along with me, ignoring what few people or other dogs we encounter. When we arrived at the craft fair, he stopped, composed himself  in the grass and fell asleep on his back with his feet in the air.

So I thought, better get him some exercise. We went down to the beach to swim. He seemed to like swimming underwater, rising up now and then to look around. One time, he came up, paddled over and started talking to me.  For awhile, we’d bob along discussing Kierkegaard or Samuel Becket, cooking shows or dress making, When the conversations lulled, we would swim, and when we ran out of things to say, he would disappear under water, staying there for longer and longer periods of time.

The last time he came up, he had turned into a turtle, also named Oscar.

As a turtle, Oscar had little of interest to talk about. Mainly eggs. I found it hard to follow and soon lost interest. Then he started shrinking. I grew worried, and brought him ashore. On the beach, an Israeli couple were setting up a concession with some jewelry and parts of computers. They called me over, quite agitated; they knew my turtle and were concerned for his well-being. By this time, Oscar had shrunk to the size of my palm. The woman said she could fix him, so I handed him over. He kept shrinking. First his flippers fell off, then his body fell out of his carapace and he was gone.