Anne M. Smith-Nochasak:
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I read this morning a series of recommendations for interacting with dogs. We were advised not to wrap our arms around dogs, enfold them in blankets and sweaters and hats, stare into their eyes, or pat them on top of the head. Sometimes, our well-intentioned behaviours can foster anxiety and even aggression.
As I, too, find those things annoying, I fully agree. Although I confess that I talk to my dogs and generate responses in voices I have designated for each, I am not comfortable with treating children or dogs as cute and adorable playthings. The Husky is a wise and noble confidante and companion; she is not a sweetie or a fur-baby. The Shay is a joyful and exuberant being, rich in affection; I would never dress her in a clown hat to celebrate that fact.
My girls are friendly, but please do not insist that your friendly dog push its face in theirs. They will demonstrate hostility toward your friendly dog, with expressions that might disturb the sensitive. Please listen and let me finish as I advise you, “Don’t put your face down to her –”. Please do not interrupt and say, “Awww, I’m used to dogs,” and then turn to me with accusing and streaming eyes as I finish, “because, as I was trying to say, the Husky loves to bump noses.” Please do not swing your palm down to pat the Shay on top of the head; she will click her teeth to advise you that she dislikes that. If she banged a paw on top of your head, perhaps you would not like it either.
They are my canine companions, the keepers of my secrets. The Husky lies behind me, watching as I write. The Shay studies the front window, and at precisely 4:30 pm local time, she will come up and tug my sleeve, because it is walk time. They are editorial staff and recreational staff.
They scan the sky and take note of all birds, drifting leaves, jets, and moving clouds, and at night, they study the moon. They are vigilant.
Like Musko, they understand human nature. They have made many of their conclusions based on experience. If they and Musko joined forces to write an advice column, I am sure that it would include these, among others:
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Once upon a time, I lived on a shallow, rocky lake, in a cabin accessed only by canoe. I saw beautiful sunrises, and decided to write a book about those. Sunrises do not typically fill a novel, but I did grow up in a rambling old farmhouse. I would write about a woman who lived in a haunted farmhouse! It turned out to be the story of two women, both haunted, both with a sentimental relationship with an old farm, both struggling to find their way in the world.
I did not have electricity or Internet, so I wrote by hand. It was like writing in water colour and I would sit absorbed for hours while the brush grew and dog hair wove into the carpet. The loons would call, and I would surface for an evening paddle. My life was rich.
I must not think that. Lately, my happy Shay dog has started growling low in her throat, staring at the woods across the road. The Husky utters soft moans and paces the deck. This is new behaviour. I wish I had not looked down the logging road as a dark shape skulked across. I hope it is a bear, but my dogs know bears. It moved like a cougar, but we are not supposed to have cougars. (That was explained to me when I saw one ten years ago.) Of course, William Butler Yeats’ The Second Coming keeps replaying in my mind: And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
I should not have taken English 101.
Put a few cameras up, people suggest. Get a motion sensor installed. String up an electric fence. And stay in the house!
Those are great ideas, but presuppose technological skills, cash flow, and a desire to confront my fears on video. I prefer to wallow in low tech comfort, clutching my father’s axe as I do my usual perimeter checks in the fresh air. Perhaps I could write this creature into The Ice Widow, but should not joke, just in case…..
Now that I live on the road, technology can help me in many ways. I also need a leaf blower; I could suction up acres of leaves, grind them to shreds, and deposit them on the garden. I would also need ear protection. The job would soon be done, and I could concentrate on the important things. Ah, but the morning I spent with my once-again-splinted rake, among the crinkling oak leaves, was meditative peace. That is an important thing.
I must have a generator. I studied these, and know that I would short circuit out the western hemisphere if I attempted to use one. Looks like I will be using candles for the pipes, and my battered fire pit for cooking again this winter…..
In an earlier blog, Self-Publishing Unfiltered, I described the challenges of self-publishing during a pandemic with limited internet access. Our region has now acquired Fibre Optic Internet. I am afraid to call it Fibe, because I believe that the Deity should always be invoked by the proper title. I can upload a blog with pictures easily now, from the comfort of home! I can research reviewers. I can email them, too. However, the excitement is gone, and after a quick check to all social media accounts – commenting and posting in minutes instead of watching a little spinner turn and turn and then declare “You have no Internet” or “Something is wrong here” – I sink into writing and try to recall the Wasaya mood that made writing a joy, and not a marketing struggle.
I want to have technology available, but I often do not use it. Sometimes I want a microwave or a television or an automatic washer, but I take a walk until the feeling passes. I love having fibre optic, and play with it daily. I can accomplish my tasks quickly. Then I walk away.
Perhaps there is a place for the mysterious beast in the next novel. After all, readers do grow weary of poignant introspection. I know whatever-it-is has raised my personal heart rate. I am sure it will make the protagonists' winter of confinement more exciting for them and the reader.
I must remember to write in her father’s axe.