The Dog Nose

January 17, 2024  •  Leave a Comment

She turned and dove into the chasm as she said, "Goodbye, 2023." Events of the year flashed before her eyes as her velocity increased. Arms, widespread, transformed into wings that caught the draft, lifting her up and over the canyon rim into the brilliant blue sky of 2024. 

I'm awash with feelings of relief that 2023 is in my rearview mirror, like Lubbock, Texas. I've been known to send out the almost obligatory, upbeat Year-in-Review email. But not this year. "That's a No," is how I gently say to Traveler that he should stop what he's doing or what he wants is simply not going to happen. 

I've asked him to nudge me with his cold, wet nose to remind me, "That's a No," when he sees me ruminating about 2023, chewing the cud that was a tough year to digest. A gentle reminder that I am living in the here and now is needed. I am not looking forward to an unknown future and I am certainly not looking backward into the past. 

Right this minute, I am striving to be more like my smart, happy dog. I'm present, my fingers are touching the keyboard, I'm typing what I hope are inspirational words that will lead to enlightenment for myself and for you. Because, to leave the past in the past and live in the present is Enlightenment. 

So, shine on my brothers and sisters, let's be more like dogs and less like ruminants. The dog knows.

Happy 2024, Right Now.

 

 


Drunkard Brethren Ministry

August 16, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

Tender MomentsTender MomentsThis is my dad and my grandma. It's a beautiful photograph. It it not about a boy and his mother.
It's about love and tender moments. It's about the west and wind and poverty. It's about simple sweetness.
This photograph tells me to take time to live...because we die.
Photographer: J.A. McFadden, my grandpa
Most likely taken with a Kodak Brownie
Oklahoma 1942

"Let Us Cater Your Next Event," proposes the sign outside a convenience store in Canon City, Colorado.

Yes, a convenience store, a Toot N' Totum, a Kum N' Go, a Loaf N' Jug, Gas N' Snacks, or some other N' some place wants to cater my next party. I'm picturing the smorgasbord they'd bring: slim jims, Red Bull, cheetos, those greasy rolling hot dogs, weak coffee. I'm seriously considering it for my wedding.

No. I'm not getting married, but I almost want to so I could have a convenience store cater my wedding.

I've got just the location for my imaginary wedding: The Dunkard Brethren Ministry church in Quinter, Kansas.

Highway 70, Eastbound, closing in on Quinter, Kansas, there's a series of billboards that mimic the old Burma shave ads, or the ones I remember, the Beef Council ones. They were a series of one right after another, one word on each, "Watch" "Your" "Curves!" (then a bug-eyed cartoon man gawking at a curvy gal) "Eat" "More" "Beef!"

This series of billboards East of Quinter encouraged me to seek eternal salvation at their local church. "Save" "Your" "Soul!" "Worship" "With" "Us!" The final billboard gave the eagerly anticipated name of the place where I could redeem myself, "Dunkard Brethren Church."

Rolling down the road at 75 mph, my mind added a consonant and made it...come on, you're doing it, too and you're not driving, "Drunkard Brethren Church."

First thought: At last! I've found my spiritual home!

Second thought: Damn, it's in Quinter, Kansas. Which, although it's fun to say, whether you say Keenter or Kwinter, Kansas is not a place I want to hang my hat again. "Been" There!" "Done" "That!"

Mama and I were on the fourth, fifth or sixth leg of a journey that's got more legs to it than a centipede. I planned a trip that will truly redeem my sinner's soul and earn me an especially sweet place in heaven, like front row at a John Denver concert. I picked Mama up from Texas, drove her to Kansas to pick up her older sister, drove them both to Colorado, then we went out to Georgia to see another sister. They've not seen each other for decades. Then I did the whole trip in reverse. It's about 48 million miles of driving in a very short period of time.

We had a great time, lots of laughs, lots of stops for the "Clean Restrooms," and lots of jello salad in Kansas and Georgia. I learned a thing or two. It's not going to be fun getting old and don't be afraid to ask for assistance. I wanted to drop onto the ground and praise Allah for the wheelchair assistance in Atlanta's airport. But it was Atlanta's airport and a filthier floor could not be found, not even in one of the falsely advertised "Clean Restrooms" on the road. So I resisted the urge.

If you're reading this, then you're familiar with my body of work. It contains lots of trees. Trees hold a certain mystery for me, since I grew up in the west, out on the plains, where trees are a rare commodity. But Georgia has too many trees, they could use some clear cutting, if you ask me. No horizon to be had, squishy ground underfoot, I craved the crunchy sound of gravel as I walked.

Squishy ground makes it easier to bury the dead, not a slogan you see on the Pretty as a Peach Come Visit Georgia website. But a fact, for sure.

I'm glad I made that trip with my mom and her sister. Time marches on, before and after our people die. Get in step and do the important stuff with your people, stop at clean restrooms along the way so you can laugh hard and freely.

 

 


Put me in, Coach!

September 01, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Topper was my door dog.Topper was my door dog. I have a favor to ask.

If you know someone with a real talent for throwing a ball, who now resides in heaven, would you please ask him to throw a ball for Topper?

Ask him to throw the ball real far. She can run like the wind and never tires of a good game of ball. It's a win/win game.

Topper was a thinking dog with joyful heart and a sweet smile. She was the smartest dog I've ever known. The sparkle of intelligence and curiosity in her eyes is unforgettable. She was dedicated to me and to ball.

She came into my life when I needed her most, just as Cutter Bill was making his exit, then my dad, then my mom. She made me smile in the toughest of times.

I will miss her until the day I die. And, then, I'll greet her at the gates of heaven with a ball and a huge grin that matches hers and I'll say...

Play Ball, Topper! Play Ball!


Put Your Face In It

June 15, 2020  •  2 Comments

SauceSauceA pot of sauce cools on my windowsill. Steam rises in the stillness of the cool morning air.
Leica IIIf

Today, the water felt like the softest velvet, gently caressing my skin as I pulled myself the length of the pool. I was gliding with just the right amount of effort to keep it interesting. 52 laps and my best time ever, I crushed it, 52 laps in no time at all...really, the clock was broken at the pool. So, it was my best time ever.

As I swim, I think about life. By the time I haul myself out of the pool, I've got it all figured out.

Life boils down to a thick sauce of sadness and pain which is usually in need of seasoning. You can't season the sauce without tasting it. You've got to have done it many times to know what to add to make a lively sauce from a bland, sad mess. With a pinch of salt, some thyme or maybe lemon zest, you can make it sing. In my experience, it will never be the same, no matter how many times you reduce it like this, it's unpredictable to a degree. 

Standing on the edge of the pool, dripping, thinking, rejuvenating mind and body, I watch a group of 13 year old boys attempt to impress each other with their speedy swimming. Heads up, swiveling in time with their madly splashing arms, they get nowhere fast. The swim lesson hasn't started yet. I remember as a kid watching my mom in the pool. She'd never submerge her head, never put her face in the water, for fear of messing up her hair. 

For me, a high point of life, my lemon zest, is swimming. I put my face in it and I was eager to learn. This...this right here is the key to making a great reduction sauce of life. Do not be afraid of putting your face in it and be eager to learn. And keep doing it.


Eight Second Walk

June 22, 2018  •  9 Comments

Topper was my door dog.Topper was my door dog.  I screwed my hat down tight on my head then cinched the stampede string snug under my chin. 

One, two, three circles around my hand with the rope, I pulled it as hard as I could. I checked it and pulled it tighter.

A deep breath to center myself, then with a confident nod, "BANG!" the door flew open and we tore out as if shot from a cannon.

 

No, I've not lost my mind and taken up bull riding as a new hobby. I'm merely taking my dog, Topper, for a morning stroll. She's a bit of a puller on the leash. She's got more pull per square inch or torque or however you measure extreme pulling power than a tractor, more than an ox or a draft horse or sled dog. She could pull my car out of a ditch, which will be handy in the winter, but not so much fun for morning walks around the neighborhood.

 

She leans into it, pins her ears back, digs in with her claws, pushes with her hind quarters, never looks back or side to side, never stops to smell the roses. This is work for her, it's a job to get done. I've tried every "no pull harness/leash" combination ever made or sold. I've tried stopping every time she pulls, (those 45 minute walks turned into 2 hour ordeals.) I've pleaded, yelled, made annoying loser noises like they have on game shows when you get the answer wrong. I've clicked and treated, treated and clicked. Nothing works. I find myself saying, like a mantra, "Cutter didn't pull like this. Cutter walked nice on the leash. Why can't you be more like Cutter?" She hates that. It probably makes her pull harder.

 

A few times, I just dropped the leash and watched her trudge along. She realizes pretty quickly that I'm no longer attached, the extreme resistance is gone, it just doesn't feel right, so she comes back to me and waits for me to reattach myself at which point she pulls ahead.

 

We've all got places to go, things to do, but she's a dog. What could she possibly have on her schedule that makes her push ahead so strongly to get this walk over and done?

 

So, to all my dog walking friends out there who do not suffer regularly from shoulder dislocation and deepening frown lines, can you offer some advice? I'll give you a treat if it works. Click, click.

 

 

Come On OverCome On OverHatch, Utah
This fella was really curious about me and my camera. In fact, he invited me to come on over to his house to visit a while. The barbed wire stood in my way, so we exchanged pleasantries over the fence, like old neighbors.

Mamiya 645 120mm
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