Our life is an apprenticeship to the truth, that around every circle another can be drawn; that there is no end in nature, but every end is a beginning.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Home Dawg

On the right in this picture is my wife, Monica. She is putting her gifted artistic hands to work touching up our kitchen doors, I don't know, six years ago? I try to date the photo and only the floor jumps out as a point of reference. I don't think it is more than 8 or so years old. That floor was one of Monica's typical projects. We were very limited in our budget, of course, so once we worked our way all the way down from the in-floor radiant heat, to the imported ceramic, down through the various woods and other tony options like cork, and found ourselves cruising in the linoleum district, we settled on the commercial types found in schools and large office buildings. Monica worked through a myriad of colors and color combinations. I have never, ever, come across anyone better at seeing and sensing the feel of color. Monica then became obsessed with the idea of establishing a completely pattern-free randomness in their assemblage. This involved all sorts of drawings of the floor, including each color of each tile. The pros who installed it (normally I would have done it but our underlayment was so hideously warped I thought it best to defer to a journeyman in this case) at first thought they had a genuine nutcase on their hands. The very concept of a non-pattern was so foreign to all their years of working that it took some time to accept her desire for it to occur. Yet once the process was underway they became so enamored of it, and of her of course (she was right there directing traffic and each placement), that they pushed her not to give up when she got boxed in and her drawings turned out to be off. I am sure those workers could recall that day, no matter what they thought of the outcome. Admire it or not, the floor, like its designer, is something you will never see two of. And that goes for that green-eyed little pudge pot supervising Monica. I said that I felt differently about dogs here in Thailand, and they have a definitively different role in the society here. It is revealing of my modern Americanness when I say that I am as emotionally attached to that squat fellow as I am to any two legged counterpart I have ever known. Not that I dressed PeeWee up, at least not very often, or that he had a chair at the table, or that I was going to pay for cancer surgery on him at 14 years old. But it is no exaggeration to say that he made my life better and more full. Ever eager to go a walk, even after he went blind and his arthritis gave him pain with every step. Ever open to possibility. He once swallowed a live mouse whole and he once dug at a single chipmunk hole for an entire day. When I was asked to speak at graduation several years back, the first iteration of my speech revolved entirely around the lessons I had learned from being with PeeWee. I didn't give that speech, mostly because as I got into it it became more and more personal and in the end it felt less about the students graduating than a damn sentimental ode to my Jack Russell. I suppose there are topics too dear to write about, at least if your bullshit schmaltz-o-meter has any integrity. On the other hand, I may have the new best seller Eat, Beg, Sleep. Peewee and I literally have shared a lifetime- his. He is alive as I write this, but he will not see the new year. He drifted off, totally blind, the day before I left for Thailand, and instead of getting my last day of loose ends tied up, I wandered the Maine woods in circles, hour after hour, knocking on neighbor's doors, calling all the various shelters, not really calling out since he is close to deaf as well, just listening and looking until I thought I myself would go blind, hoping to hear his trapped cry or stumble across his body. It was hideous, as if an inescapable fist, lodged within my chest, was repeatedly punching my heart. Horrible, the chasm of not knowing where he was, if he was trapped or hurt, as I boarded my plane the following day. I consoled myself with two mantras- at least he had disappeared on my watch, so I alone of my family had the burden of guilt- and secondly, he somehow knew I was leaving and had purposefully gone off to die. Real life is never as neat as in the Oprah selections, and the little bastard turned up five miles away, five days later, in the Hope shelter. He had been following some female scent. His nose and scrotum the last operative organs left, apparently. But he is rapidly failing. I won't be there when he goes. I am sorry for that. The beautiful aspect of his being a dog is that I can focus on the much more important reality of what existed for the last 14 years, and treasure that. Peewee has no sense of geography or space, or perhaps he has an infinitely greater sense of them both than I ever will have. I am the only one who has to learn how to manage this, because he will manage it just as he has everything else, by being perfectly himself.
Always a great one to share a nap in front of the heater on a Maine winter's day. Even if you had a mohawk, he refrained from staring or making ironic comments.
Christmas is Peewee's favorite holiday. Very discreet and gentle with the wrapping paper and sure to parade in a circle to show everyone how proud, proud, proud to be a cow he was. And the year we forgot to buy him something was easy. He never knew the hotdogs were just in the refridgerator.

A picture with your mate? Boring! Until you put Peewee into the mix. Always rises to the occasion with a genuine smile.
I had another experience of losing Peewee once several years back. I had him down with me on Rackliff Island on a painting job and when I stopped by the high school he somehow got out of the car and I drove off without him. I got home and went to let him out and when he wasn't there I had to drive 20 minutes back to Rockland to look for him. For 20 minutes I drove thinking of all the reasons there was absolutely no hope of ever seeing him again. He was younger then, and the thought of being without him burned into me like acid. Now, seeing him held up by Conor to the computer's screen on Skype, seeing his old tail still do a bit of a shake and his silly old face crack a smile, I know, well, I just know. So does he.  Let's leave it at that.

i carry your heart with me                                     
by e. e. cummings

i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart) i am never without it (anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)
                                    i fear
no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) i want
no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)


  1. new reader today, a neighbor from home imaging PeeWee in the woods battling with the Lynx, nose to nose. Glad to learn of your blog and will check in again.

  2. Peter - you are damn good writer! Love, Kalla

  3. Definitely got a little choked up reading that. I was in London when Dreyfuss died and it was extremely hard to deal with. Your post encompasses a lot of the words I couldn't say and all the words I felt. And it's true, I do carry his heart in my heart everyday.

    Also, I'm going home next week for Thanksgiving and it's sad to think we don't get to have coffee and "shoot the shit". Rockland just won't be the same!