[lit-ideas] Fwd: Re: Hereabouts

  • From: Lawrence Helm <lawrencehelm@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: Lit-Ideas <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sun, 2 Apr 2017 21:05:40 -0700

Whoops, the dog I mentioned encountering on the hike, was encountered on the hike previous to the one I referenced. Here is the photo I took of that dog: https://lawrencehelm.smugmug.com/RiverPhotography/Mar-2017/i-f42sCSg/A


-------- Forwarded Message --------
Subject:        Re: [lit-ideas] Hereabouts
Date:   Sun, 2 Apr 2017 21:00:18 -0700
From:   Lawrence Helm <lawrencehelm@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
To:     lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx


I came upon Susan's old Backup drive and in going through it ran across something she had done at a party, a game called "how well do you you know your husband." One of the questions was, "what would your husband do if he didn't have a wife". She answered that I would get more dogs. It is true that I'm extremely fond of them. Your story reminded me of something that happened a month or two ago. Diesel, one of the little dogs next door, slithered through a hole in the fence and was out exploring the neighborhood when I drove off with my dogs for a hike. When we came back later and hit the garage door opener, Diesel ran into the garage and out into the back yard where he spent a good deal of time sniffing what was for him the opposite side of the fence.

I found out his name was Diesel by inspecting his collar, but I didn't know at the time that he lived next door or that there was a hole in his fence; so my next door neighbor (a school teacher) and I had a rather confused conversation over the phone as I described to her where I lived. She said she knew where it was because she lived "near me." Diesel by this time had made himself thoroughly at home and was upstairs inspecting my study when my neighbor showed up at the front door. She looked somewhat familiar but I am better with dog faces than human ones so I didn't immediately know she was my next-door neighbor. I yelled, "Diesel, come on down here," and he ran down the stairs as though he was one of my dogs.

I watched to see which house she took Diesel to and was surprised to see that it was the one next door to mine. Diesel in the days that followed has gone back to fence-fighting with my dogs, especially Jessica, who was one-year-old yesterday. Or it could be the other dog living over there who is slightly larger but has a much larger bark. I'd like to think Diesel doesn't fence-fight, my littlest one Duffy (23 pounds and about the same size as Diesel) doesn't.

Also on our last hike: https://lawrencehelm.smugmug.com/RiverPhotography/Mar-2017/i-ZXTs5v7/A we encountered a strange dog. You can see him about half way through the photos from this hike. He belonged to one of the many homeless people who have taken up residence down at the river -- a bit on the ugly side the dog seemed to me, but he didn't think so. I examined my own behavior later on for I treated him as I would one of my own, putting my hand out and touching him as came near, not letting anything rough go too far. We went on and I could hear his owner, who must have heard the growling, shouting from the bushes (I didn't take a photo of him) and then stand out there shirtless watching us walk along. But I wondered later why I put my hand out to this dog (one should never, I told my children when they were young, put your hand out to a strange dog) knowing at some level I can't explain that in this case it would be okay for me to do that. Maybe it involves the same sort of subconscious knowledge that allows you to understand the opinions of chickens. :-)


On 4/2/2017 11:50 AM, david ritchie wrote:

Returned from our travels, I was delighted to welcome my good friend P to tea. He’s back in town for the unveiling of a portrait someone commissioned and, of course, to give me hints and tips. What would his life be without the opportunity to explain that this or that little tweak makes the world of difference to one of my daubs? The magic he works!

Slow to recover from flying, I went outside to see whether a few minutes of vitamin D might help, a coffee mug’s worth. The chickens gathered round and made gentle, inquisitive noises. In those circumstances it hit me that talking to chickens can be like conversations in the hospital; between my recent experiences and theirs was a gap so big, settling on a subject was difficult. I tried Scottish Independence, “Oil revenues are down from the billions to mere millions. It’s hard to see how they could make a go of it.”
Mimo nodded, pretending to understand, “Yes, yes.”
I ploughed ahead, “And yet First Minister Nicola Sturgeon presses on.”
“Sturgeon,” Cheddar echoed.
Pecorino brightened, “That’s a fish.”
Appenzeller, “Quite big, I’m told.”
Mimo did not want to be outdone, “A Nicola must be a little nickel.”
I was going to point out that she was getting her Italian diminutives all wrong when Cheddar asked, “But what’s a nickel?”
I explained it was a small amount of money.
“So,” said Pecorino, trying to move up the pecking order, “Small money, big fish?”
I was feeling mischievous, “Actually she’s a Scottish god… like me.”
Appenzeller objected that “Small Money, Big Fish” sounded like a Native American name, “Along the lines of, ‘She Who Disturbs the Sparrows.’”
Mimo, “Who told you Native Americans have those kind of names?”

There came a knock on the front door. A lady who had been out running had been asked by Hamish if she’d like to play with a pinecone. His view is that our circle of friends should include pretty much everyone in the knowable world. I thanked her, brought him inside, went to the back yard to discover how he had escaped. I found the chickens standing on the compost pile, peering through the gap in the fence left by the wide-open gate. Some god had blundered. The chickens were having a serious debate about Hamish’s safety.
“He has gone beyond the bounds of the known world,” Mimo, stentorious.
“But you’ve all been out there!” I responded.
“No, no…” They did that ‘let’s stomp around to emphasize what we mean’ move.
“Not through The Gap,” Pecorino said.
Cheddar, “No, no. Never through The Gap. That’s where you gods go with the loud wheelie binny thingies.”
It was Appenzeller who made the whole situation clear to me, “We don’t venture where we can’t pierce the veil.”
It took me a moment to parse that one, but I did. The fence on the other side of the house has gaps between the slats, but on this side the planking is tight. I realized that the chickens were willing to escape only into terrain they had often surveyed No going into ‘/Terra Unscouted’a./’
“Well,” I said, “good news. Hamish is fine… And your ambassador to Malawi is getting ready to depart.”
“What’s Malawi?” Cheddar wanted to know.
“A landlocked country in Africa. One of J’s chums is going there to study infectious diseases and when I was in New York, I charged her with being your ambassador.”
Mimo, “What’s landlocked?”
“What’s New York?”
I decided to answer what I judged might be the easier question, “It means ‘without access to the sea.’”
“What’s the sea?”

To return from a trip to Manhattan and D.C., to return from a visit to the Met and lecturing at the Smithsonian at the Museum of American History, might bring on feelings of a return to the boonies, of a sense that where we live is neither as bright nor as vibrant as the Big Apple and the Swamp. This is why we have chickens. I offered them the contents of a packet of airline “savory snack mix,” the kind of thing frequent fliers reject because it’s poorhouse crumbs to them, and what was the result? Pure delight.
“Ecstasy!” said Mimo.
“I’ll say!” Pecorino agreed.
“I said it first,” Mimo reminded everyone how the pecking order goes.
We performed a dirt-ectomy on Mimo’s back end this week—all I’m going to say about that unpleasantness—but the fact she has fewer tail feathers to shake hasn’t diminished her bossiness. There’s probably a latin aphorism describing how useless it is to wish for change in the pecking order.

Hamish has no worries on that account; he is our one and only dog is pretty much always happy. With temperatures warming there are squirrels active everywhere. Magic!

David Ritchie,
Portland, Oregon

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