I noticed while researching "Going Home" this curious thing about dogs and people. No matter how old or sick they are, their death always comes as a shock. It was to me, I suppose. Last year at this time, I had four dogs, and all of them were powerful presences in my life, in their own way.
Frieda helped bring me to Maria, and I have written a book about her that will be published next year.
Rose was my centurion and partner on the friend – I wrote three books mostly about her – and made my early life here possible. Izzy led me to one of the most intense experiences of my life – hospice work, and I wrote "Izzy & Lenore" about him. I've written two children's books about Lenore – "Lenore Finds A Friend" is coming out next Fall. Each of these dogs has been very close to me, has altered my life.
As I write this, as most of you know, two of those dogs – Rose and Izzy – have gone. Neither one was especially old, or had ever been sick and I had not thought much about either of them dying, especially Izzy, who did not experience the hard work and injury that Rose did. I still expect to see them all on the path, where I photographed them so often. I still expect Rose to appear whenever I go out the back door to the barn. I still look for Izzy's head on my knee while I write.
I find that I do not write much about Frieda and Lenore right now. Part of it is that both of them are living pretty quiet lives at the moment. But part of it is also that this is my own way of healing, the very indirect way in which I do it. I am not drawn to write much about dogs right now, or take their photos.
I spent a lot of time with Frieda, my writing dog, and the Hound of Love, Lenore. They are both the most wonderful creatures, and they have lots of life in them, and I will have lots to say about them. But I don't seem to want to point the camera at them much right now. I just seem to not do it. One woman complained of this to me: "I miss photos of Lenore." Sorry, I always want to say. Refund is in the mail. But that would not be gracious. Better to say nothing. You haven't mentioned the dogs lately, Maria mentioned this afternoon. Yes, I said, this is so. She nodded. She always understands.
We walk the two dogs on the path every day, yet I rarely bring the camera along. It still seems as if there should be four dogs. I am not quite ready to accept a photo without Rose and Izzy in it. Without the Imaginary Squirrel and Izzy's joyous herding of me along the path.
I'm with Freud on this stuff – there are no accidents. Lately, my photos have focused on light and color. That feels right at the moment. I don't mourn much consciously, but I believe in giving them their due. No rush. This is, I suppose, my own mourning period. It is, I think, about to change. A friend of mine is going to Virginia to pick up the Red Dog and bring him here – I just can't get away long enough to go get him right now.
I am eager to have him here, anxious to get some sheep back in his life and mine. When a new dog appears, it clarifies the roles of all of the others. Brings them all into focus. Moves dogs back to the center. They all live in relationship to one another. I don't believe in forcing creativity, writing or photography. It comes when it comes. Dogs are a central part of my life and my work, and the more I think about it, the healthier it seems to me to take my time. Crisis and mystery are right over the horizon, as they always seem to be with me.