Wednesday, February 10, 2010
My Most Charitable Critic
While I realize no one is waiting breathlessly for the third volume in my Author’s Press Series — my mother, bless her, is no longer able to read — let me state here that I am making progress. One Hand Clapping, “a daily journal in two volumes,” is shaping up to be a thick, completely ridiculous book that will run in excess of 450 pages. Its saving grace, perhaps, will be the artwork featured on the cover — a lovely, intriguing piece by the Austrian artist, my gracious friend, Rudhi. Dear Rudhi — he must be a friend if he’s willing to jeopardize his reputation this way!
Meanwhile, the previous volumes, The Painting of You and No Time to Cut My Hair, remain quietly if not quaintly available, like earnest, soulful-eyed hounds in a shelter. On their behalf, I can say that my father brought home many such strays, and they all proved to be good and faithful friends.
I remember one in particular, a smallish, short-haired animal that was part terrier and part half a dozen other things. It made its entrance on my twelfth birthday, and was one of the quickest, smartest, happiest dogs we ever had. We called her Goordy, a name derived from a sound my brother and I made to egg it on as it raced in mad circles on our lawn. For years, Goordy was with us everywhere on the farm, running alongside the tractor, chasing jackrabbits, swimming in the ditch, rolling in the dirt, snorting, sneezing, and chewing on bones at backyard gatherings. She accompanied me, too, on many of my private adventures, serving as a silent witness and companion during my troubled-happy adolescent years. Those who have had dogs for friends will understand when I say she could speak volumes with her eyes, and knew best when her attention was needed.
Goordy, the dog who slept on top of her house in the deep shade of our mighty ash tree, didn’t die young, but she didn’t make it to old age either. The victim of a tragic accident, she was run over and hopelessly injured by the large rear wheel of our tractor. My father, who loved dogs and considered them family members, was driving. He carried her home in his arms and put her on the passenger seat in our pickup. As he was backing out of the yard, she jumped up in pain and bit him on the cheek — and then immediately sat down and apologized with those eyes of hers. There was no choice but to ask the veterinarian to help end her misery.
When it happened, Dad was not quite the age I am now. And he cried — as I am now crying, all these years later.
What does this have to do with my books? Well, in the end, I guess, as my father expressed himself through his farm, I express myself through my stories, remembrances, and poems. For the record, though, I am still a damn good gardener and pruner. On good days, I think it shows in my writing. And there are no bad days that have writing in them.
In the Forum: haggard mimes playing air guitars.