Archive of ‘Personal thoughts’ category

Real Life Confession #81: Some dogs make me sad

I used to work in animal welfare. I know that a large number of dogs have it much, much worse than the ones I am about to describe. To be more accurate, the above title should read some people make me sad, as it is the humans for which I feel the most sorry.

But first things first. The confession I feel I should make today is this:

I let Shiva tug on the leash.

Yep. It’s bad. For someone who has walked the amazing number of hours I have walked with my dog, you’d think I’d have the walk-nicely-by-my-side thing down. What kind of trainer do I profess myself to be? Can’t even get my dog to stop from sniffing in the bushes. Sheesh.

wpid-wp-1410404306927.jpeg

This is what I imagine people are saying, anyway, when they see us stop for the 57th time while Shiva stretches to read the scent on the side of a tree. And man, is she a slow reader. Sometimes I urge her to speed it up, especially when it is freezing. Other times, she is adamant and plants her feet. She is not moving until she has investigated every last punctuation mark. I am not about to argue.

Is this bad training? According to some people, hideously so. We do have some rules while on a walk. I won’t tolerate long-term pulling, for instance. If the leash gets so taught I am almost yanked off my feet, for instance, or if she is sniffing along and then swings back around to scarf rubbish, dislocating my shoulder. These things are out of bounds. But if she is walking with a loose-ish leash five feet ahead or to the side? If she indicates with a look that she would like to check something out on the other side of the path? If she stops to breathe in the scent of a post? Well, that’s being a dog and I am on board. We are out there for her benefit. If Shiva wants to spend her time inhaling a fire hydrant, that’s a choice she can make.

And this is why I feel sad for some dogs. Dogs who are dragged away from the temptations of scent. Dogs who are told to walk on the inside of the path or the part of the sidewalk away from the delicious, earthy grass. Dogs who have learned to only walk beside their people, at the same speed of their people. Dogs for whom the daily routine is more of an obligation, or a march, than it is a time of exploration and discovery.

It makes me sad to witness this. Not just for the sake of the yearning dogs, as I say, but for the people who are missing out on a richer experience.

wpid-wp-1410404389305.jpeg

The dog walk, for me, is a time of relaxation. A time when I can let go of everything and embrace the moment. I don’t always achieve this but I always feel better afterward. On our twice-daily adventures, Shiva pushes me outside myself and shows me all the little things that are far more important than work deadlines or personal slights. On a walk with my dog, I can take my time, linger over flowers, gasp at sunrises, spot constellations. While she is taking in the scent of a log, I am gazing at the simple beauty of fluttering leaves.

People who walk in straight lines with their dogs don’t appear to any of this. To them, the dog walk is a duty or a ritual, another thing on their lists they have to get done. It isn’t a source of joy. It is one more chore. Their minds are anywhere but in the moment.

This makes me sad.

So I may be a lazy handler when walking with Shiva. We would probably fail any basic obedience test. I am okay with this. Shiva gets me outside my head. It is a daily gift. We are out there for her, but I am the biggest recipient.

A story from my childhood

The first time I thought of my appearance as a matter of importance was in fourth grade. I was nine years old and sitting at my desk in Mrs. MacDonald’s classroom. She was one of those teachers fond of arranging students into groups in the belief the stronger students could help those who might be struggling. My desk was nudged into one corner of a square, next to my best friend and facing my next door neighbour. I don’t remember who took up the spot diagonal to me. I suspect he or she doesn’t recall me or the moment I am about to share either.

Matthew was his name, my next door neighbour. It was so common of a name back then I don’t see the point in changing it now. Besides, I haven’t spoken to him in over two decades. We were quasi-friends in that awkward way of preadolescent boys and girls. I’d been inside his house while visiting his older sister, played on his backyard trampoline, and made fun of him as much as he’d made fun of me. I’d had crushes on other boys in school but  never thought about him that way. He was just the kid next door who stole my answers on math tests, sometimes annoying, sometimes funny. I didn’t mind having to share my desk space with him.

On this day we were doing our usual group work. I’d probably finished early, keener that I was, or perhaps I was being kind and offering help to others. As a kid I was shy – not much has changed – and reluctant to speak up, but the presence of my best friend made me more confident than I would have been in other circles. Regardless, we were chatting about the usual kid things, the Ninja Turtles most likely, or who was faster on the monkey bars, when out of what felt like nowhere, Matthew posed a question that left me addled.

“Do you think you’re pretty?”

It wasn’t asked meanly, though right away I could tell I was being baited. With a glance to my friend, I paused, trying to think of the best way to respond that would evade a sneer. Matthew was often doing that, for a multitude of reasons. It was unpleasant and as someone who has always been afraid of confrontation, I wanted to avoid being the brunt of another cruel joke.

The thing is, I’d never thought about it before, my prettiness. It hadn’t mattered. I did well in school, adults often praised my good behaviour and polite manners. I wasn’t popular but I got on well enough with my peers. Other than Matthew, and a boy named Shane in the third grade who had thrown my touque in a pile of slush, the other kids accepted me without comment. What did appearance have to do anything? I was just a child.

All of this ran through my young brain in rapid succession. I had a feeling I knew the answer he was looking for and I was determined not to give it. I assumed I wasn’t. Pretty, that is. It was a word saved for girls named Angela and Debbie and Emily, girls with lacey dresses and knee-high socks. Girls who giggled and played jump rope and who knew how to French braid. Girls who wrote notes to boys. I didn’t do any of those things. I tried but I still didn’t know how to jump in to the rope. My mother still styled my hair for me. Pretty wasn’t for girls who wore hand-me-downs from their male cousins or who spent their time writing stories they never finished or playing Barbies with their sister several years after dolls were deemed uncool. Pretty girls didn’t gloat about being able to spell better than anyone else, they got the good parts in choir and didn’t trip when playing dodge ball. No, I wasn’t pretty. It hurt to realize this and I didn’t even know why. I was determined not to show it.

“No,” I said, scrunching my nose. “Who wants to be pretty? I’d rather be smart.”

The reply had occurred to me in a moment of brilliance. I had recalled one of my favourite lines from my favourite book, Anne of Green Gables. Gilbert had thought being smart was better and I decided I did too.

Matthew was not to be deterred. He snickered and scrunched his nose right back. The light in his eyes told me I had played it all wrong.

“That’s too bad, because you’re not smart OR pretty. You’re just ugly and dumb.”

“No uglier than you,” my friend spoke up, sticking her tongue out at him. Relieved, I followed suit. I remember wanting to punch him, wanting to say something as hurtful as what he had said to me. I couldn’t come up with anything. The truth is, I was hurt but I didn’t know why. I just knew there was something wrong with me for which I should feel ashamed.

From that moment on I knew being pretty was a necessary thing for a girl to be. Girls who weren’t pretty were second best, weren’t interesting or important. It was something one either was or wasn’t and now that I knew I wasn’t, I gave up every thought I ever had about fitting in. Instead, I worked hard at being smart in the hopes it would get me the approbation everyone craves.

I don’t blame Matthew. He was a kid as much as I was, a product of our beauty-obsessed society. He probably was repeating something he had heard and he did not know the power such words could have. If I’d been a different person, they may not have affected me so much. If others in my future hadn’t reiterated what he’d said in ways that were much more cruel, I may not have even remembered them.

Everyone has stories like this from their childhood. I don’t know why this one moment stands out for me. Perhaps because it was the first time an environment in which I had previously felt safe, became one where I would have to be on my guard. It was the start of the cynicism and fear that comes with adulthood. In some senses, this experience was too late and too soon.

Dear twenty-two year old me

You are at the precipice of a very interesting time. You feel restless and yet exhausted. You want a break but you are scared of relaxing too long for fear of losing your dreams. Unfortunately, things aren’t going to sort themselves out for quite a few years. It would help if you could actually decide what those dreams are. We both know that’s not going to happen.

wpid-wp-1407291900713.jpeg

I don’t have many regrets, you’ll be happy to know. Things get a little sketchy, I’ll be honest, but you find a way to slog through and survive. In truth, I am far happier now than I was when I was you. It would cost a lot of money to convince me to do twenty-two over again. Sorry about that. In fact, the only year I would willingly experience for the second time was the one you just finished. That last year of university, no job, no responsibilities other than writing that paper on Kornilov. Sure and we still lived with our parents, that part was no bonus. It was nice having money, however, and nothing really to spend it on. I hope you savoured that year. The road ahead is a bit of a morass.

It’s not all bad. There are some things happening that will surprise you. You will start dating the man I am still with today. That was unexpected. Actually, I am reluctant to say even that much as I know the thought of such long term commitment at this point in your life terrifies you. Pretend you didn’t hear that, okay?

Hey, one day you'll live in a neighbourhood with purple houses. Could be worse, right?

Hey, one day you’ll live in a neighbourhood with purple houses. Could be worse, right?

I’m sorry your job sucks so much. It is a bit of a necessary thing, though, so you’ll just have to deal. The people are pretty awesome and will go on to help you in so many ways. Be kind, be friendly, be open, and be willing to leave your cave once in a while. Unless it is the redhead inviting you out. Feel free to avoid her as much as you want.

I have no other advice. In many ways, I am just as confused as you are. There are no answers and there is no life-affirming thing that will bring it all together. The one thing I will say is this: stop waiting. This here, right now, this awkward in between space? This is your life. Live it.

Much love – you deserve it,

Kristine

Flailing but not alone

I hope you will forgive me tonight. I am obligated to write and I have so many things swirling that need to be said, that should be said, no, screamed, so that everyone can hear and appreciate. Yet, I am too sad, too in the moment to make them clear enough for anyone to understand. Is there a point in talking to the void without expectation of being known?

It is possible, if only for its therapeutic potential.

My good friend said goodbye to a family member today. It was as hard as it would be. There is no other way to experience it but to expect the ugly and know that it is the only way. It sucks. It isn’t fair. I wish I could make it better. Nothing can make it better.

I had other things to say tonight. Words kindling beauty and promise and, hopefully, humour. There is a time for these things. It might even be now. If I were a better writer I could share them. Alas, I am flailing. I don’t have it in me to come up with anything appropriate. All I can do is look to tomorrow. It won’t be better but it might be easier.

Bathing Suits and Barbeques and Other B Things

Today was not my typical Saturday. I haven’t done any reading, nor have I  indulged in a single nap. Instead, I faced two fears and am still coherent enough to write something. I think that warrants a celebration, don’t you?

Fear number one was a task I put off for a long time. In many ways, it felt of Herculean proportions. But it had to be done for the sake of future joy. After great procrastination I forced a smile on my face and went to the mall to find a new bathing suit.

Ugh. It was every bit as awful as expected. I didn’t used to hate shopping. I also used to be thinner. There was once a time, not too many years ago, where searching for something to wear to the pool or beach was enjoyable. Back then, I expected to find something I liked, even if cost more than I wanted to pay. Back then, I was an optimistic idiot who weighed a certain amount of pounds less.

I know. It’s hypocritical of me to complain about my dissatisfaction with my body. Everyone knows how I don’t believe in dieting, how much I despise the weight loss industry, and has been annoyed with my lecturing about health at every size. But I am as susceptible to the beauty complex as much as any other woman. All my logic and well-reasoned arguments zip away when I am faced with struggling into a bathing suit that is too small, in a size that used to fit perfectly.

I tried to tell myself all of the things I would say to a friend. It is just a number, every style fits differently, it’s okay to not weigh the same at thirty-two as you did at twenty-two. They kind of worked. I was able to drag myself through the stores and I did find something that was almost comfortable. It wasn’t fun. There was no giggling with friends or posing in the mirror. Other than a panicked selfie I sent to a friend for confirmation I wasn’t going to terrify children, It was a solo experience. It was better that way.

The water slides tomorrow better be the best water slides in the world.

The second fear I faced was good old stranger danger. As if the trauma of the dressing room wasn’t horrifying enough, I then had to attend my PH’s company barbeque.* If it was a large crowd, I would have been fine. With groups of thirty or more it is easy to blend in, find a spot on the peripheral and people watch. If it was a tiny circle, I would have been fine. I can handle people I don’t know in more intimate gatherings of up to six. It’s groups between 7 and 20 that intimidate the crap out of me.

This was a group of twelve. Terrifying. My shyness kicked in right away and all I wanted to do was disappear into a corner. Unfortunately, one can’t do that in such a small crowd. People notice when certain people aren’t talking and will call them on it. And when they call them on it, the whole group usually turns to stare at said quiet people, waiting for them to stammer out an excuse of why they aren’t as verbose as everyone else. It’s a brilliant time all around.

Somehow, I made it through the pre-dinner drinks and chitchat and all the way through a somewhat awkward meal. It helped that my not-shy but introverted PH was there. At least I wasn’t anti-social all by myself.

At the end of it all, I rewarded myself with my very favourite Saturday activity. No, I don’t mean beer at the pub, although that is close. When we got home, exhausted after interacting with so many strangers, the first thing I did was go for a walk with the Sheevs. It reminded me that no matter how frightening the world can be, as long as I have a dog to walk, I can handle anything.

wpid-wp-1406430792089.jpeg

*By the way, why is it spelled barbecue in the U.S. when Americans also use the abbreviation BBQ? It’s an oddity.

The Abolition of Lens

Do you know what word I dislike for no reason whatsoever? “Lens.” Not as in camera, or any other traditional and physical definition. What I hate is how it appears to be the latest insidious buzzword, thrown in to sound intellectual or modern. If it were used in moderation, that would be fine. But the metaphor has become cliché.

“But if we look at this through a different lens…”

“Let us switch our lens to that of…”

“The lens of the African pygmy tribe is a shift from…”

Or other such bile. I think I hate it even more now that I have caught myself using it in conversation. “It is helpful to look at things from a more objective lens.” Puke, vomit, gag. It is repeated so often in my current circles. I can’t stand it.

Whatever happened to the word perspective? Was it too long? Too boring?

It is possible I take it to heart. “Perspective” was the word given during my written diploma exam in twelfth grade. We were instructed to choose a piece of poetry or prose studied during our 12 years of academic history and describe, in long essay form, how this selection fit the chosen word. There was a lot of anxiety leading up to this point. The word was kept secret, for obvious reasons, and the only way to prepare was to read over the notes of every short story, novel, play, and poem I had ever read while in school. English was not my favourite subject but I was still expected to do well. I felt the pressure. I will never forget the way my breath snagged when I turned over the test paper. The year before, 1999, the word had been “resourcefulness.” I wasn’t religious even then but I prayed for anything but that.

We were given “perspective,” at once an open and terrifying word. There was nothing we couldn’t do with it, and yet nothing we could. To my consternation, I chose a short story by Margaret Laurence. I still question the impetus behind the decision. I didn’t even like the story. It was about a girl on the Canadian prairie, hanging out in the wild with her cousin. At least, I think that’s what it was about. I can’t even remember the title. For some reason, on that day, I felt it best exemplified perspective. Perhaps because it was one very different from my urban-dwelling, inhibited own.

But I digress. Perspective is indeed a broad word. It might seem a little intimidating upon closer inspection. It once made me write five or six pages about a short story I despised. I maintain it is still a better one than lens. I will be making a concerted effort to use it as much as possible until it, too, gets tired and inspires a blog post.

Are there any words that bother you? Is it absurd to be so annoyed by trendy dialogue?

Fearless Fantasies: Shiva and I are Afraid

Today’s post is inspired by the daily prompt over at The Daily Post.I have a feeling this excellent website is going to be a vital resource for me as I plod through my 100 Days Project.

I am inhibited by fear at every turn. Some fears I am better at ducking through, others prevent me from doing things that many people accomplish without thinking. The most prominent one I have been unable to face millions of people do every day, often multiple times. As a result, there is a great deal of shame that tags along with the paralyzing thoughts. Few understand, including family. I wish I could explain what to me sounds like a rational aversion but to them sounds insane. Or worse, weak.

Fear is a weakness, I suppose, when it stops one from living life. But my fear, this fear of driving a car – I may as well be open –  has been easy to manage. Sure, relying on my own power or public transit can be more complicated and time-consuming. When I lived on my own, I became accustomed to carrying leaden bags of groceries for twenty blocks or more. On occasion, I still do. I don’t mind. I’d rather deal with the pain of plastic biting into my hands than the fear of losing control of a motor vehicle.

It wasn't easy for me, but I steered this motor boat for almost five minutes!

It wasn’t easy for me, but I steered this motor boat for almost five minutes!

Shiva has less fear than I do. If it comes down to fight or flight, she will often choose the former. She doesn’t worry about things beyond her control. Scary strangers in hats are nothing a little barking won’t cure. Thunder that shakes the house isn’t more important than a good nap. Shiva will scale trees, jump off cliffs, and face the claws of The Cat over and over and over again. Nonetheless, even the fearless wonder is daunted by her own dragon. She will take the teeter on the agility course backwards but put her on a boat in the middle of the lake and she turns into a shaking mess desperate for comfort.

Shiva is not a happy puppy

Shiva is not a happy puppy

Though it can be debilitating for her in certain circumstances, in a way, I am glad Shiva has this one unshakeable fear. It shows me that she does care about her safety. So often she rushes ahead without thinking and it has already gotten her in trouble. At least in this one area, she appears to have a bit of sense.

This could be my inner coward talking. I like that we seem to almost have something in common. Shiva hates going to the lake, despite the fact that countless dogs adore swimming and will do anything to get back in. I am terrified of sitting behind the wheel of a car, despite the fact that most human adults spend a lot of money to do it every day. It is far easier for me to contemplate skydiving or bungee-jumping than driving to the corner store. It is far easier for Shiva to tear across a wooden log or jump from a second story window than put her face underwater.

Would life be easier for us if we could conquer these fears? LIkely and maybe we both will in time. If only for how good it will feel to achieve something I haven’t thought possible for a long time. We aren’t going to let them stop us from living joyful lives, however, even if Shiva never leaps off a dock and I never drive again. Fear is only bad if it prevents you from living your life. In that regard, I think we are going to be just fine.

What to do when you see a coyote?

Shiva and I met a coyote last week. We weren’t hiking in the mountains or bushwhacking in the woods. It was 6:30 on a Monday morning and we had just begun our ritual walk in the ravine. I saw movement ahead and my first assumption was an off-leash dog. Before I could even roll my eyes, the animal turned to trot in our direction and I knew my initial inclinations were wrong. There was no mistaking the confidence of a wild predator. This was no muttski.

He looked like this, actually, only not as healthy.

He looked like this, actually, only not as healthy.

He, or she, was thinner than other coyotes I’ve seen. Rangier, even, than the photo I nicked from Wikipedia to the left. The animal, whatever his or her sex, was built almost like Shiva. He was the same height and shape, only with less muscle and lacking her adorable puppiness. I haven’t spotted one in Alberta for a long time, not since I lived in the South and I would see them wandering down the side of a prairie road. Shiva and I hear them often but seeing them is rare. In a way, we were lucky.

Shiva doesn’t have a lot of experience with predator-type animals. Or any. Her response to most of the wild creatures we have encountered is much the same. Raccoon… Friend! Duck… Friend! Deer… Friend! Porcupine… Best! Friend! Ever! For the most part, she sees the world as full of animals dying to be sniffed. Her sole objective is to get her nose up the other animal’s bottom as soon as she possibly can. I had hope that she would be smart enough to tell the difference between a rabbit and a species who could cause he harm.

I was wrong.

Shiva responded to the sight of the coyote with the same alert anticipation she responds to off-leash dogs. Cautious, to be sure, but not afraid. Ears erect, tail high on her back, she wanted to investigate. If she hadn’t been connected to me via a thick nylon cord, she probably would have. Would this have been a problem? It’s hard to say. It was just one coyote. In all likelihood, he or she would have taken off and all would have been as normal. Then again, I wasn’t willing to take that kind of risk.

I am still unsure as the best thing to do in this scenario. While I have read all the books and heard all of the well-meaning advice, I don’t know if there is any one right way to respond. Sometimes the right thing turns out to be wrong and sometimes the dumb thing turns out to be smart. Show no fear, they say. Don’t look weak. Stand your ground. In an actual dangerous situation, I think all one can do is trust her instincts. More often than not, my instincts tell me to get the heck out of there.

Not that I think Shiva and I were in any danger. The coyote was far enough away and outnumbered. There was no need to do anything. Still, I chose to leave the park and take a different route. It seemed more reasonable at the time. Who needs that kind of stress on a Monday?

It makes me wonder, however, if I need to prepare myself better for future encounters. We live in bear country now and if I am going to follow through with my goals to hit up the back country this year, it is very possible a coyote will be the least of our problems. It’s not just my safety I have to worry about. The quickest way to ruin a good backpacking trip is to watch Shiva run up to a Grizzly and shove her nose up his butt.

Do you have any dog-wild predator encounter stories? How did you handle it? What do you do when you see a coyote?

Summer Ass-Kicking: 100 Words for 100 Days

As I mentioned, I’ve been feeling out of touch, low, and pessimistic. Things got better with a holiday to plan but, once over, the bland feelings returned. I hesitate to call them by another name as they seem to be related more to boredom than to anything insidious. It is an overall flatness, a disinterest in all activity. Perhaps I am regressing to teenagehood as it doesn’t feel dissimilar. Perish the thought.

Every day is a winding road

As I stew, burrowing further into mindless routine, complaining yet doing nothing to pull myself out, I refuse to acknowledge the obvious. Nothing changes if nothing changes, as the motivating author of a Life Less Bullshit is always pointing out. It is easy to push this away, in favour of wallowing. My friends, do I like a wallow. I am just so good at it too. It isn’t as if I have such a plethora of skills to engage. It seems a shame to toss this one after honing it for three decades. What will I have left but brownie eating and being bad at bowling? These abilities are not in as high demand as you’d think. It seems there aren’t as many prizes these days for the worst bowling score one can achieve while actually trying. What is the world coming to?

This was my prevailing opinion on the matter until this morning. Strange that my mental ass-kicking should come on a Monday. The bus was late, my feet were still sticky with mud from my morning hike, and I scrolled through the emails on my phone with impatience. I could previse the way the rest of my day was going to go and it wasn’t optimistic. Ever anxious about exceeding allowable data, I almost never click on links without access to wifi. The messages I can’t read via my inbox either get deleted or saved for later. Sometimes later comes, most times it doesn’t. I realize now I am the one who loses out the most with this disorganized and hasty practice. Lucky for me, Amber Adrian is a blogging endangered species who still sends the full text of her posts to email subscribers. If not, I would have missed out on this bit of brilliance:

But you know what doesn’t help the drama? Excusing yourself. Because that makes you less you. Because doing the things you love keeps your engagement with life at a steady burn and being engaged with life makes everything better…

And this too:

For now, it seems to boil down to “do your shit and let yourself feel as good as you can as much of the time as possible.”

Oh, and this:

I am not nearly the special feelings snowflake I thought I was. If I feel scared and lonely and joyful and overwhelmed and stuffed with love for things, you probably do as well.

I will stop before I just copy and paste the whole dang thing. It isn’t a long piece but it packed all the protein I’ve been needing into easy to swallow bites. In that way it proves everything I’ve been telling myself isn’t true, which is kind of annoying. No one likes to be as wrong as I have been. I am forced to deal with the idea that if a woman, whom I have never met, living in a place I have never been, can write something simple yet has a profound impact on me, it might be possible for me to do the same for somebody else. The more I write, the more I will want to write. The more motivated I feel to do something I enjoy, the more pumped I will be for other things and the more interesting my life will become.

In essence, I need to stop wallowing and get out of my way. Darn it all anyway.

every day is a faded signIt isn’t going to be easy to keep me accountable. The lure toward mindlessness is powerful after months of indolence. As if it was Kismet, not a week ago I learned about the 100 Days Project from my friend at NEPA Pets. Several wicked minds in New Zealand know what it is to want to do a thing and be unable to show up get it done. The concept is as uncomplicated as it gets. It is so hard to do on one’s own. This is where the internet comes in. Starting July 11, every day for 100 days, people around the world will do the thing they haven’t been able to do. The range of projects is as diverse as the people starting them. There are photography schemes, physical activity goals, plans for interior decoration, phone calls, and love letters. It is a glorious pile of desires to create and be and do.

It felt like hubris to join in, but I signed up anyway. From now until mid-October I am going to write at least 100 words every day. They may not be good words. They may not make sense. They may be stream of consciousness or they may be gag-inducing poetry that would make even my eleventh grade English teacher wail. They are going to be mine. Even though it isn’t July 11, it would be too easy to wait and forget and excuse myself, so I am starting four days early. With no expectations, no rules, no strings beyond 100 words, I am going to get this done.

Even if I have to run over myself several times in the process.

Dog Poetry Sunday – Emily Dickinson

To be honest, one of the reasons I have resisted poetry so long was because my early introduction to the form was crammed full of the morbid and, in my opinion, broken thoughts of Emily Dickinson. It isn’t that I didn’t think she was brilliant, I just never liked what she had to say. My first real literature instructor adored her, however, and I remember being forced to analyze for weeks on end the cheery “Because I Could Not Stop for Death” and the optimistic “Hope is the Thing with Feathers.” It made me miserable. I didn’t understand why it was necessary for me to take on the agony of a 19th century woman. I was a teenager and had enough of my own angst through which I needed to work.

However, now that I am older and less impatient, I see the value in wading through Ms. Dickinson’s swamps. The practice is still frustrating but if I pace myself I don’t get dragged under.

The below poem isn’t exactly a dog poem. The dog disappears after the first line, which, I admit, bothers me. From what I can discern with my limited knowledge, the poem has much more to do with the overwhelming power of nature and perhaps the writer’s renouncement of life. It certainly reads more like a suicide, akin to that of Edna Pontellier in The Awakening. The reason I sought it out has everything to do with the title and nothing else. I have always loved the short six-word phrase and thought it would be perfect for the title of a novel or memoir.

No doubt it has already been taken.

Regardless, when I looked at some of the literary reviews for today’s selection, I learned the dog might be more important that I had first imagined. One particular analysis by Djehuty struck me most. Instead of a woman walking her dog along the beach, he saw the speaker as Orion, strolling with his dog, Sirius, across the celestial plain. Rather than it being about a woman’s wish to surrender herself to the sea, it is possible it described the power of the Roman god and the water’s inability to conquer the sky.

Who knows? According to my high school teacher, there is no such thing as a false interpretation when it comes to poetry. It certainly makes for happier reading. Besides, the constellations of Orion and Sirius have always been my favourites.

“I Started Early – Took My Dog -“, by Emily Dickinson

I started Early—Took my Dog—
And visited the Sea—
The Mermaids in the Basement
Came out to look at me—

And Frigates—in the Upper Floor
Extended Hempen Hands—
Presuming Me to be a Mouse—
Aground—upon the Sands—

But no Man moved Me—till the Tide
Went past my simple Shoe—
And past my Apron—and my Belt
And past my Bodice—too—

And made as He would eat me up—
As wholly as a Dew
Upon a Dandelion’s Sleeve—
And then—I started—too—

And He—He followed—close behind—
I felt His Silver Heel
Upon my Ankle—Then my Shoes
Would overflow with Pearl—

Until We met the Solid Town—
No One He seemed to know—
And bowing—with a Mighty look—
At me—The Sea withdrew—

1 2 3 22

%d bloggers like this: