Monday, February 23, 2009

A Writer's Bestfriend

(Donna Tartt's little friend.)

I'm rarely home these days. In fact, tonight I dined on takeout from a sandwich chain after a long day of running between campus and home. I envisioned living out my last days in Oxford cocooned in the place I created in which to nest, and instead, I am spending my time on the streets. Not Slum Dog Millionaire-style, but it does have to do with a dog.

Instead of the pink light inside my house that filters through my curtains, it's the blossoms of Japanese magnolias I see -- a first sign of spring -- every morning. I didn't realize what little time I spent outdoors until I got Em. Now, it's at least an hour, often more, that I am truly present in the world (when not telling Em "No" as she sniffs some unpleasant object, poised to dine on it.) I wonder how people can have dogs in big cities paved with cement when I delight in seeing Em's nose half buried in dirt.

Now that I have a dog, it seems that everyone does. I'm also learning dog introduction etiquette (which is that I learn the dog's name but not the owner's) and still get embarrassed when Em uses the front yard of a fancy mansion to relieve herself. Even still, with her in my life, I am in good company. I Google my favorite writers and I've found that dogs are common companions in this field. In fact, Em was a rescue from a group named for Willie Morris's beloved canine Pete.

Then there is the famous Faulkner portrait by Henri Cartier-Bresson with Faulkner looking out in repose with his animated "fyce" or rat terriers . Faulkner had this to say about dog ownership: "Every boy should have a dog. He should be ashamed not to own a dog, and so should everybody else who didn't own a dog." Over at The Valve, they've posted a link to pictures of esteemed writers and their dogs. There's Amy Hempill (Wanita), Donna Tartt (Pongo), and Robert Penn Warren (Frodo). The number of southern writers with dogs outnumbers the others, which is interesting considering that the post was on the New York Social Diary.

I can understand the way in which a dog fits into a writer's life, especially in the South where being outside is a way of life most months out of the year. Contemplation is the writer's best friend, too, and walking a dog provides an instant scenario in which to follow your instinct.

(Faulkner's decisive dogs.)

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Spring Cleaning Comes Early

(Some people use post-it notes to be organized, but I get a dog.)

One of the benefits of inviting people to stay with you is that all those projects you keep putting off are suddenly done in one afternoon. Such was the case last weekend, when, after realizing that Chris will be here in FOUR DAYS, I decided I had a lot to do. Namely: hand-mop the floors, rehang the shower curtain, change light bulbs, clear out the summer garden, vacuum the house and car, and wipe everything down. After being on the road for six weeks, a thick layer of dust covered just about everything, and now that I have a dog, hair covers just about everything.

Let's talk about the dog. As I write this, Emileigh is laying beside me in her bed on the floor. She probably thinks she has the most boring dog owner ever, wondering what it is I do all day beside move things around the house and tap at a white object that glows. Bored by me, and because she is still a puppy, she's managed to add some flair to the house. The silk couch I own is now flawed, as is a lamp, and I am with one less bird's nest.

There is a strange correlation between Emileigh and my boyfriend's arrival to my house. Space, that thing we can never really define until something or someone disturbs it, has become an issue. I can not fathom how my parents' shared their space with six children. I am having a hard enough time adjusting to staying with my boyfriend and letting a dog sit on my couch. And perhaps, therein lies the problem.

Growing up, I didn't have any space. Space was the bottom bunk and the pen I used to write underneath the one above me to establish my territory. My twin sister and I used to tape a line down the middle of the room on Saturdays when our room had to be cleaned by the end of the day. That was the only time I was OK with her having a few extra inches. Continuing in the shared space theme, I moved in with my boyfriend after I left my parents' house in the suburbs. He and I lived in a smallish apartment in the the city with a Lab and a German Shepard. The Lab ate a good deal of my books. He, just like Emileigh, was a puppy.

I lived with one other boyfriend after that. He worked from home out of our bedroom, desipte the large den he could have used in the house we shared with a friend. Instead, he became a permanent fixture in the corner of the room with his tower of Coke cans, a sight I found far from endearing. When we moved to London, there was no other choice than to work out of our tiny studio apartment, so we became brilliant (that's what they say to mean "great!" in London) at driving each other nuts. I read and he asked me why I read so much.

Of course with Chris it is different, and with Emileigh too. There is still the adjusting and the wondering if what I am doing is crazy.I like things to be perfect. I look at magazine of homes that are crisp and serene and without a speck of mess. I want that because to me it demonstrates control. But if we let a little bit of control go in our lives, we can let another thing enter: love.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Dogs and the End of Television

(Meet Emileigh Earhart, my bakery beagle.)

I have entered the world of dogs, so there will be some new posts coming up next week. In the meantime, I'm getting the house ready for my boyfriend's first visit to see me (usually I trek the five and a half hours to see him) and trying to train a kind of puppy. I've already prepared Chris for the no television-zone, which he took care of by figuring out a way to redirect his satellite to his laptop. I am amazed by how quickly men go to action to do such inane things as redirecting their television, but when it comes to screwing in a new bulb or taking the trash out, it can take months, let alone ever happen. Thankfully, I've got a guy who can do both.