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The Light, The Moment, The Dog

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

We move along on this June morning, headed back home. Chet starts to turn down Stanleyville Road, always a favorite destination for its cattle and barn cats. "No, honey, we're going up to the church," I say, and he immediately corrects his course and bounds up the Waxler Church driveway ahead of me. It's so good to have a dog who understands English.

We visit Ada Hune first. Of course you'd plant a sweetheart rose over a 14-year-old girl. 

Chet comes and sits with Ada for awhile while I tell her how beautiful her rose is today. She doesn't send any rainbows or orbs, but I feel her presence intensely. 

We go to the door, and there's a tattered old spicebush swallowtail resting on the lintel. It isn't afraid of Chet. He wouldn't hurt it anyway. 

Virginia creeper curls and purrs around the front stoop, wanting in.

I go in and sing a new song I'm working on, a cowboy song. The prairie gets songs out of me every time. Writing a song is sometimes the only thing that gets to certain aches, puts gentle pressure on them until they release just a bit. Singing it helps, too.

Chet lies down to doze while I work on it in the resonant space of the sanctuary. I love being far from anyone, able to sing unheard. This is my rehearsal space, among all the other things it means to me. I marvel that it stands here unlocked, and I can rent it any time I want.

He gets up and finds a spotlight of sun, as Boston terriers are wont to do. I believe he is aware how photogenic he is.

The light in this place kills me, every time. The light and the fusty smell and the presence of so many spirits. The walls are painted the lightest, most subtle mint green, perfect with the worn brown pews. It's such a simple place, but it fills something in my heart to be here, to visit it in every kind of light and weather. But for the mice I could probably live here. There are a LOT of mice.

My favorite shot of the day, Chet turning to go outside and see what's what. His neat little paws, his lovely shiny coat, the shadow he casts, the fluid motion implied, the perspective of the pews...the outside beckoning. Can you hear the catbird singing, preaching in the multiflora hedge just beyond that open door? 

Before we head home, we snoop around an old farmhouse that's now used as a hunting cabin. 

Listen, pry, eavesdrop. Die knowing something. We are not here long. --Walker Evans

When we had our kitchen renovated in 1999, I wanted a linoleum floor. I chose a single-sheet Congoleum that looks like tile. Our contractor, a respected friend, didn't think much of that; he doesn't like building materials that are trying to look like other materials. He advised ceramic tile. "But tile breaks everything you drop on it, and this is going to be a hard-working kitchen, a baby (Liam) underfoot too. I need a kinder floor than tile." Of course, it was to be my floor, so I won in the end. I'm fine with Congoleum. That looks like tile.

But I thought of Dan and felt his point being driven home as I looked at this marvelous...stuff, this, um, covering, so badly wrapped around the back of the old house. I don't know what you call it--asphalt shingle sheeting? Whatever it is, it's trying real hard to look like brick.

 Epic fail. But a great backdrop for Chet. And yes, the porch is sloping that badly.

Those neat little paws again. 

He is a picturemaker, a perfect muse, walking through every painting I see, pausing just long enough to let me record each fleeting mood and moment. Sometimes I'll miss the moment, and I'll have to ask him to go back for me. I did that in the shot below. Well of course. I'll go back. How's this alert look?

 I'm always flabbergasted when I try to photograph any other dog. They simply don't get how to have their picture taken, or hate the way the camera stares at them and actively try to thwart it. It's nearly impossible to get a decent clear photo, much less the evocative portraits I make of Chet every day. Other dogs never stop moving; they poke their noses at the lens; they bowl me over; they constantly turn away. And I realize that this little dog is actively working with me to make these images. He stops still and poses on purpose.  He knows what makes a good shot and he gives me that.  

What a gem we have in Chet Baker. I treasure him more with every passing day, every pat of his sleek hide, every new gray hair on that dear wise brow.


Like the quote by Walker Evans. Had to look him up. Knew the photographs, just not the photographer. I always learn something here.

Julie, this is a beautiful post. I love how you think about Chet -- I mean really think about him. About what he does and why he does it. And how much you love him. You are a wonderful team, and I thank you both for sharing your lives with us so generously every day. You made me very happy with this one....

Thanks for the epic Chet fix! Like Kim said, you two are a wonderful team...

Loved your musings on the church. So neat that you try out your songs here. Never heard the Walker Evans quote although I'm a huge fan of his photos. Had to write it down to savor later.

You and Chet - kindered spirits and always willing to share your wisdom and make us smile.

Posted by Lucy from MN July 1, 2014 at 8:53 PM

Julie, you draw me into your world with these posts. You, Chet, the cemetery, the church, the linoleum. Such a charming combination. You make my day!

What a beautiful post for so many reasons. I love that you think about your wonderful Chet Baker in the ways I think of my Bingo. He is so much more "there" than any other dog I've ever known. He is truly interacting with his people, a companion not just to be close, but to dialogue with through spoken and unspoken communication.

We are both blessed to have these fine Boston fellows in our lives.

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