The First Walk!

You guys, this is why I missed having a dog. He was a little bananas at first but, once he got what we were doing, he settled in right by my side and it was awesome.

I feel a tiny bit like a fraud, though, because I’m trying to do the things Sadie’s first vet told me to do to establish dominance over her–prove, for instance, that, even if she’s physically stronger than me, I will always be smarter. So, I did go ahead and enjoy Sonnyboy thinking that I could protect him from the passing cars.

That’s right, dog! I will bravely protect you from the cars passing by! Accept your place in the household under me!

Oh, Friday!

I forgot to tell you how the bookclub went on Friday. It was great. It was a small group, but they listened to me blab on and on about the things that interest me. I felt a little like I talked too much afterward, but that’s the drawback to giving me wine.

It was nice. It made me feel like I’m doing the things real writers do. I kind of don’t know what I want from my writing, but feeling like I did on Friday all the time would be nice.

He Has His Charms

The Butcher promised me that walking Sonnyboy would be awesome. So we went to the park. It was not awesome. It didn’t totally suck, but I am developing some theories about the dog. I think he was, originally, owned by a dude who may have even hunted a little with him. He’s excellent with the Butcher and he’s excellent with the Butcher at rural parks. I took him to Cedar Hill, though, and it’s pretty clear that he doesn’t have much experience in situations where cars are coming by. He does okay with cars coming at him, but cars coming up behind him freaked him the fuck out.

Even though I’m still pretty sure he just views me like one more lovely woman at the vet’s office, who he doesn’t really have to listen to, I think that it’s good that, when he’s freaked or overly rambunctious, if you just stop, he calms down and looks to you for reassurance. And last night was so much better than the night before. But he’s still a huge tugger and I need him to heel when we walk in the mornings. It was frustrating because I suspected he knew how to do it and just wasn’t interested. But then when the Butcher was like “And isn’t it awesome how he walks right by your side?” Ugh, Sonnyboy and I almost had a fistfight.

He’s still anxious–which I expect will go on for a couple of weeks. The weekend is the best time for us to have gotten him, but he’ll do better once he gets a sense of what the weekday routine is like. And he tends to bark out his problems, but luckily, the “ignore the barking” advice works.

And he doesn’t know his name. Rufus means nothing to him. But now we like it, so he’s stuck with it.

So, I’m a little disheartened by just how much work he’s going to need. 1. Learn name. 2. Don’t fuck with the cats (though he’s in the middle of learning this lesson the hard way). 2. Don’t get up on the counters. 3. Don’t eat out of the trash. 4. Learn to walk with whoever walks him. 5. Stop trying to sniff my crotch when I’m pooping.

Which, granted, is a small list in the scheme of things. But 1. is the big one. I mean, I can tell he’d love to play outside, but, even in our own yard, we can’t let him off a leash to fetch a ball if we can’t be sure he’ll come back when he’s called.

But the biggest thing is that we’ve just got to figure out what motivates him. He doesn’t appear to be treat-driven. I know they gave him treats at the vet and, when you praise him (which he does like, I think), he checks your hands for treats. But when we give him treats, he’s like “Um, no. I’ll just leave this on the ground.” But the impression that I get is that, in part, it’s because he doesn’t know what the hell it is. Just like he clearly didn’t know he could walk on the wooden floors of our house, he seems to not have a lot of experience with things.

The Butcher and I suspect he was rescued from a situation where he was kept outside–hence the fosters’ overwhelming worry about him having to be in that kind of situation–and then fell into the foster situation where the fosters and the vet and her staff had specific treats and food that he associated with being good and awesome and associated with being in a happy, safe place. But the idea that there’s different food or different treats than that? It’s like he can’t quite understand it.

I don’t know. If you met him, you’d see what I meant. I think it must be kind of like what greyhound owners go through. He’s just walking around all the time like “What’s this? What’s this?” about a lot of stuff you’d expect a dog his age to have some experience with.

But another good thing about him is that he seems to learn stuff quickly. I mean, he and the cats have already reached a kind of detente. So, I think that’s just the part that makes me nervous. Not just the training him, but not knowing what kinds of situations are completely new to him.

But I feel bad for him. This must just be so hard, to have to learn all this shit. But he’s got a big heart and he wants to learn shit, so it will take some time, but we’ll get it done.

Things I Now Know

dogs

More things we have learned. Sonnyboy can’t tell the difference between his reflection in mirrors and windows and real dogs. He doesn’t quite have a sense of where he stops and the world begins. So, I got my ear stepped on, somehow. He sits in the Butcher’s lap. And he won’t pee if you hook him up to a line. But he will go out in the yard then turn around come to the door, and then run out in the yard to pee the second you unhook him.

So, we have to work on that.

He loves the Butcher so much that I admit, I feel a little boring. But I’m going to take him for a walk today, just me and him, and we’ll see how it goes.

This picture is of Sonnyboy and our Labridoodle friend. You can see the differences in dogs pretty clearly. They fell in together like they’d known each other their whole lives.

The Picture Part is Going to Take Some Work

The part you guys have to imagine, though, is just how much the dog is in love with the Butcher. Follows him everywhere, wants him to be constantly petting him. Even when we picked him up at the vet, the dog ran straight to the Butcher like they were old friends who hadn’t seen each other in some time.

I’m sure he’ll come to like me well enough eventually, but right now, it’s a dude-love thing.

The Time of Having Crumbs is Over

He’s here. And he’s a little older than he looked. Definitely full-grown. And he’s a drool factory. He’s got this awesome bark, deep and resonant. He’s already been swatted by the orange cat, who is not that excited about him.

But the part that makes me happiest is how happy the Butcher is. They pretty instantly adored each other. And he’s following the Butcher everywhere.

We can’t quite convince him that he’s welcome on the couch, but he’ll put half his body on it and then wag his tail like he won the lottery.-

Excitement

I’m a little trepidatious, I have to admit. There’s no way to prepare the cats. They’re just going to be pissed for a while. But I was also not able to sleep all night, like a little kid who knows that Christmas is right around the corner.

The Butcher said last night, “I am glad to have a dog again.”

And my parents are being adorable about this. My dad is all insisting that we take a letter of recommendation from the owners of the Butcher’s dog friend. I am not doing so, but I will have my phone with me which has pictures of Sadie on the couch and being adorable and sleeping with the cats and all the stuff that we hope another dog will want to do. Come, Rufus, fill the empty spot on our couch.

As for “Rufus,” I’m not in love with it. But I can live with “Roo.” And the Butcher likes “Rufus” a lot, plus it’s what the dog is used to being called. We’ll probably just roll with it. No idea yet what he’ll be called here. But we’ll see.

All the Facts I Know

dogThis is him at the vet’s, where we will meet him tomorrow and decide if we like each other.

He is, as promised, a young adult male, fixed and shot up with all his shots. His foster family calls him Rufus (which I don’t know if we’ll keep, if we decide to do this.). His hobbies, as previously stated, include sitting in laps and cuddling. The other pictures showed him looking pretty chill. His foster family wants to make sure that he ends up in a home where he won’t just live in a backyard, neglected. And, since we’re looking for someone to sit on the couch with us and watch TV and go to the park and go for long car rides and to turn our faces to the warm sun with and who will snore so that we can fall asleep, I think they’ll be pretty pleased with our goals for him.

I think the thing the fosters don’t want for him is to be treated the way that some folks treat their hunting dogs. It’s really odd. You meet some hunters and those dogs–even if they’re not indoor dogs, ever–are really exquisitely taken care of. They have shelter and they have each other and they have plenty of room to move around and their owners spend a lot of time with them. And then there are folks who just basically tie their hunting dog to a tree in the back yard or in a too-small pen and they’re more like racing greyhounds. They just get out to do their jobs and otherwise have small lives.

But anyway, it doesn’t matter. Because the only thing this dog will be retrieving are balls and toys and sticks.

Cold

The yard is making mud onion straws. My walk is filled with crunch crunch crunch crunch swish swish. I’m a cacophony of quiet noises.

The dog’s grave is collapsing down to level. It would be distressing to watch what’s going on down there, but I admit to being curious. I imagine the leveling of the grave is somewhat because of just natural settling, but must also be because she’s already done the part where her middle fills up with gasses and expands to way beyond its normal size and then, pop, sinks back down to regular or less than regular size. As there’s less of her, the dirt falls in to fill the void.

Oh, god, this has become the most morbid post ever. Y’all are going to be so ready to hear about a new dog.

The Yellow Lab

It appears we will meet him, probably on Friday, and take him home with us if we hit it off. He is a “young adult.” Since his hobbies included sitting in laps and cuddling, I’m guessing he’s not yet full grown. On the other hand, my cousin A. has two chocolate labs and they are full grown and sit in her lap. So, we’ll see.

We don’t know about names yet. I’ve been arguing for Sonny Boy Williamson III. The Butcher is kind of leaning toward Grendel. But we’ll see when we meet him and what name the foster family gave him and what kind of dog he seems like.

I feel really happy and really sad. I miss having a dog so much. I feel like I’ve been running around with half my heart missing. And so I’m really excited to bring home another dog. But this also makes it really real. Sadie is really gone. She filled our house and then our house was empty of her and now it will be filled with a dog again, but it won’t be her. I didn’t know I’d feel so emotional about the end of an absence, but I do.

She was a good dog, such a good dog, and because she was, I want to do it again.

Wrapping Things Up

As I continue to flail away against the stupid funk, which has risen but not departed, I’m trying to get to a point where everything old is settled. It’s not going to completely happen, because, well, things carry over. But it’s coming pretty close.

The red afghan’s squares are almost done. I have ten more squares to do, and twenty two more triangles. Then end-tucking, then sewing together.

I have no new short stories out on submission. I have “Frank” out at some anthology, but “Frank” is published, so I’m just thinking of that as the cherry on an already delicious sundae. If it happens, great. If not, oh well. Everything else, though? I just needed a break from the constant expectation of rejection.

In related, but not as helpful news, I have no new stories in the works. Nothing about which I’ve even been mulling over. That’s not ideal, but it is what it is.

The Ben & Sue project is with a reader. Nothing I can do on it at the moment.

I’m trying to get “Sarah Clark” back from the press that bought it, since they seem to have stopped publishing. The contract gives me the story back at the end of December anyway, but I just wish I had some clarification in writing that they get that I’m taking it back. So far no response from them. But the limbo it’s in will be resolved by the end of the year, with or without their acknowledgement.

The obit I was working on is done.

I have rough drafts of the three encyclopedia entries and now I just need to get to the TSLA to double-check some things.

And the book club is this Friday and then I can be done with A City of Ghosts for the year.

That’s all the stuff winding down.

Project X shambles on in its own time. I’m supposed to see art by the end of the year, but it’s a hard time to have a deadline, so I imagine that’s going to leak into January. I really like this project and I really find the different creative pieces interesting. But the length of time it’s taking to happen is starting to wear on me. It’s hard for me to keep up the enthusiasm. This is, as you know, totally on me. The funk is not the project’s fault. I just could use a win, something I’m proud of out there in public. And Project X is the thing I have closest, so knowing that it’s still months off is just wearing on me a little bit. But I’m afraid I’ll just be waiting and waiting and then it won’t pan out and I won’t be able to find someone else who loves it as much as these folks do and who wants to see it through.

The kid’s story is moving along. We were supposed to meet in January to talk art, she thought we were going to be able to meet sooner, but work intervened and now we’re back to January. So, that seems on-track.

I think I want smaller goals for next year. This year, I kind of thought it was going to be my year, that I was going to write a bunch of good stuff and submit it and everyone would love it and it’d be so awesome. And I wrote a bunch of stuff I liked and only one thing got published. And, on the one hand, that was really awesome. On the other hand, it felt like an anomaly. Not really like someone had recognized my talent, but that I had fooled someone into not seeing what a hack I am.

Not a good spot to be in emotionally.

But I don’t know what I want to try for next year. Not yet, anyway.

Mud

I couldn’t walk this morning because it was so muddy under the thin layer of snow. But I did stand back by the creek for a while and watch the water go by. One of my co-workers wants me to adopt a dog she knows. She doesn’t mean it this way, but I feel like she just wants me to solve a problem she has–since I have pit bull experience. I looked up dogs at animal control and found that I was clicking on all the black and white ones to see their pictures. So, that’s where my heart is. Nothing yet about the lab. That’s also the funny thing about people–they need decisions from you so quickly, but they move slower than you can stand when the time comes.

One of my long-time friends has had a professional disappointment the likes of which kind of stops me short. I thought the problem was solely him not getting the support he needed from group a, but really, it’s that group b–a bunch of people who are all our friends and who have previously had a professional relationship with said friend–kind of forgot about him. In other words, if group b had offered their support to him, the ways that group a didn’t come through for him would have mattered much much less. But b was awol.

So, even though he’s done this good, interesting work, it kind of doesn’t matter. Or, at least, if it’s going to matter, it’s going to happen in a way that can’t be mapped out and counted on.

I guess the thing I think is that I do such a shitty job of letting the people I genuinely care about know that I care about them and spend enough time with them. And it’s scary to think of how important it is to show up and hang out with people you don’t necessarily like and who don’t necessarily like you just so that you are a person for whom shit gets done.

Seeing How Things Play Out

No further word on the dog. I am anxious to know either way, but the world works at its own pace, I guess.

The eye doctor was the eye doctor. I really like my eye doctor. She’s great and she’s stabilized a lot of my eye issues. But this was the year when she told me that 40 is not only going to be the start of mammograms, it’s going to be the start of someone more qualified than her monitoring my retinas. So, it’s nothing to freak about but I still find it unsettling.

She was like, “People say their eyes are really bad and that they’re blind without their lenses, but in your case, it’s really, really true. Your retina problems are just exactly what we’d expect to see in someone as nearsighted as you.”

But the thing is that I’ve always has my mom as the marker for what really bad nearsightedness is, so I’ve always felt like mine can’t be that bad. So, it’s taken some adjustment to settle into the idea of it being bad and it causing situations (problems is too strong, I think) that need to be monitored.

I don’t know. There’s just nothing to make you feel like you’re skating out on the thin ice of lucky like hearing all the things that go wrong for people like you but haven’t gone wrong for you yet.

This is It

So, this guy I know here in town posted this picture on Facebook. I’m not putting it up over here, because I didn’t ask him if I could and he is, apparently, mid-walk, so I can’t ask him now.

But I still want to talk about it, because it makes me so happy. So, yes, to start with, the filter he’s using makes the picture almost look like a drawing, like, if you were going to read a fairytale about Nashville, the protagonist would have to cross this bridge in order for the story to properly start. This picture would be the first illustration in the text. I love the craggly tree on the left, which, you know, is going to fill with crows just as you’re starting to step onto the bridge.

I love that the bridge looks like it cannot possibly be a bridge that exists in the world. And I love that I know right where that bridge is. I love the double x-es in the support of the bridge, which seems to indicate that crossing the bridge is a bad idea. I love the warm glow of the concrete path that still entices you to walk over it.

I love the double layer of fencing that suggests something is being held back, that, by crossing the bridge, you’re going into a place full of forces that take a lot to keep them from leaking into our world.

And when I write about Nashville, this is so what I want it to be like–like something ordinary has had the right light shined on it, the right filter placed on it, so that you can see it for the mystery it could have, if only someone would imbue it with some.

The Problem, As I See It

I literally did not leave the house all weekend. Granted, the weather was crappy and I had squares to crochet and words to write and I did all that and felt very accomplished. But I didn’t leave the house all weekend. I had a good excuse.

But I barely left the house last weekend. And the weather was lovely. And yes, I had a good excuse. I was “recharging” from Thanksgiving.

But the weekend before that, when I was “gearing up for Thanksgiving”? I left the house once.

I am content to sit in the house. I am content to make no plans or as few a plans as I can get away with and thus see few of the people who I like and care about. And, should they notice, I can truthfully say that I’m fine, because I am fine. I’m just fine in a way that is less rich than usual.

I haven’t read a book since Sadie died. I don’t have any good fiction ideas. I’ve only written one story.

And the time when I mull things over? My walks? They’re kind of not working for me.

I am not ready in my heart for another dog. But I’m starting to be concerned about what happens to the rest of my life while my heart dithers.

And I’m starting to wonder if I’m just not respecting the Year of Things I Feel Ambiguously About by expecting the question of whether the time is right to get another dog to be answered unambiguously.

In related news, we learned of a yellow lab in need of a home.

 

Dream Truth

Right before I woke up, someone in my dream said to me “You came the way to get here.” Which, you know, in broad daylight, makes no sense. But to my dreaming mind, it meant that there was one path that could have brought me to this moment–the one I took to get here.

I find that comforting.

I'm not saying my iPhone is having problems with the red, but it's totally having some problems with the red.

I’m not saying my iPhone is having problems with the red, but it’s totally having some problems with the red.

The Encyclopedia Entries

They’re going better than I anticipated. I still need to get to the library and double-check some stuff and I’d also like to get hold of the funeral home there in Joelton and ask them if you can still see the outline of Granny Rat’s tavern in the yard, because that would be cool.

I don’t know. I feel like I’m spinning my wheels, but it’s kind of a good feeling. Which is weird. I’m not really recharging or anything and I don’t feel like I’m getting too much done, but I guess I’m listening for squeaks? I don’t know. I have to sit down and make some decisions for next year, writing-wise. And I have to not feel too frustrated that this year was kind of a dud.

It’s Raining, Drive Fast

When I first moved to Nashville, one of the things I found scariest about driving was that there was no universally agreed upon set of rules. Like, in Chicago, you know that everyone is going to be driving really fast, but they’ll slow down to let people on the interstate. In LA, the traffic is unceasing, but, if you signal, people will let you do what you need to do. In St. Louis, no one stops at stop signs, you just roll through them. Etc. Etc.

When I first moved to Nashville, you didn’t know what you were going to get. Some folks stopped at the end of entrance ramps, like the traffic was ever going to clear enough for them to get going from 0 to interstate speeds if they just waited. Sometimes, when three people came to a four-way stop at the same time, the two cars facing each other would go first, even if one was turning, before the car with no one facing it. Sometimes, the person to the farthest right went first and so on.

I’m not saying we’ve completely developed a driving culture in that time. But there’s at least a more uniform feeling of “I know what to expect from you” I think.

And, sadly, one of the shittiest things is that, in any weather event, people drive like they’ve lost their damn fool minds.

So, we’re expecting ice this evening and it’s raining now. I already know some asshole has hit a bunch of pedestrians right by where I work. So, now the question is, on a twenty minute drive, at best, how long is it going to take me to get to and from work today? Can I leave early to avoid the madness or is leaving early just going to put me in the heart of it?

And can I convince the Butcher to go to the grocery store or is that too cliched?

More Circumstantial Finnelson Evidence

Joseph Brown was kidnapped by the Cherokee back in the day. I stumbled upon his account of his captivity this afternoon. In it, he talks about a woman who was also held captive by the Cherokee, who was bought by a guy who Finnelson was working for. (Brown calls him Findelston, but it’s there in Running Water, which is Finnelson’s home). A Creek dude comes along and tries to steal the woman’s child and Finnelson has to run for help to get the kid back.

Thus, to me, lending credence to my theory that Finnelson didn’t trust the Creeks.

There are still people of Cherokee descent named Finleyson, so the name still lingers. But here’s the weird part. The place that used to be Finelson or Finleyson, Georgia? It’s in Pulaski County, Georgia. Pulaski County is where the Creek Confederacy had its capitol.

Bah, This Crap

I’ve been trying all morning to figure out how to respond to this. It really bugs me that the response to finding out that people have devoted months, if not years, to focusing solely on the ways that someone has failed is to argue over whether we agree or disagree with them, not to wonder what the fuck kind of asshole would do that?

Oh, This is Cool

We are in a classroom! When I found out, my very first reaction was to check and make sure I didn’t have any crumbs on my face. Because you can totally tell from my writing that I’m sitting around with crumbs on my face.

Well, I don’t know. Maybe you can. Maybe there’s a way I write when I have crumbs on my face and y’all have figured it out.

Anyway, visitors, here’s what I would say to you. At first, learning to write suuuucckkkksss. Sucks. Oh, god, it sucks so bad. But I’ve been learning to write for thirty years now and it’s eventually pretty awesome. It’s like learning to make a map. When you’re first learning to make maps, you’re like “Oh, ha ha! The person I drew the map for eventually got where I wanted her to go! Score one for me!” But later, when you’re learning to make maps, you’re like “I want to be sure the person I’m drawing this map for can find her way to some place to eat and that she recognizes this bend in the river where the ducks will come right up to the shore and show you their babies if you sit quietly long enough before she gets where I want her to go.” And when that works, it’s so awesome.

But there’s going to come a day when you’re learning to write when you write something and someone’s going to read it and she’s going to be like “Damn, I read what you wrote and I had to write something myself.” Or maybe she’ll have to paint a picture or sing a song or dance a dance your work made her think of.

And that feeling. Oh, god. Well, when it happens, then you’ll know why learning to write well is worth it. Like learning to make maps, in the end, isn’t about getting the person using the map to where you want her to go. It’s about giving her what she needs to go where she wants to.

“To allow everyone to write, to thrive, to live.”

Daniel José Older has a tremendous essay in Apex Magazine this month. It reminds me a lot of Carole Maso’s “Rupture, Verge, and Precipice / Precipice, Verge, and Hurt Not,” which you know is still an essay I return to when I want to remind myself of the kind of writing I want to do, how I want my readers to feel that I am astonished by those “sturdy, glittering charms” in my hand.

It might seem kind of depressing that Maso can write “The future will be gorgeous and reckless, and words, those luminous charms, will set us free again. If only for a moment.” in 1995 and Older can write “We dive in, thrive in the unexplored realms, and the world is asking us to create something new, a new aesthetic, a new community. A new language, brave and delicious, to greet the coming day.” in 2013 and it seems like they’re both pointing us to the same place, still the same distance away.

But I find it inspiring–that we can find people on the path we want to be on, who are gesturing us ahead, who are putting up the signposts we need to know we are headed in the right direction. Never fast enough, never without unfortunate detours, but still headed that way.

The Ghost Dog Cat

Last night, I heard Sadie in the den, growling at something. This scared the shit out of me, as you might imagine. But I was determined to face the ghost dog myself because I have had some bouts of insanity recently and I just could not bear the idea of having to go wake the Butcher up to investigate the ghost of a dog I love. I mean, it’s not like, in death, she’s finally going to rip my throat out or something, even though, in life, she could never work up the ambition.

So, I went into the den, where the noise was ongoing and loud and I flipped on the light and the orange cat looked over at me like “What? Someone‘s got to growl at things out the window.”

Yes, it was him, doing his best impersonation of the dog. I didn’t see what he was growling at out the window, but I bet, whatever it was, it thought the cat was weird as fuck, all growling like a dog.

Cats. I just don’t know.

The Red Afghan

The one thing that I find very interesting about the red afghan I’m making for the Red-Headed Kid is that the 364 yards promised in each skein of yarn is, apparently, a best guess. I should be able to get thirty squares and three triangles out of each 364 yard skein, with room for one or two extra triangles. That allows for some variation in length and some variation in how I make my squares.

But the difference is actually much more substantive than that. I have a few reds that I got everything out of and still have enough for one or two more whole squares. And yet, last night I finished up a skein out of which I got thirty squares and two triangles.

It made me glad I’m not trying to write up a specific pattern, because it doesn’t seem like you can really count on the length being the length. But I’m excited to see how it all comes together, because there are enough reds to really get the tone on tone effect I wanted.