Some of you may remember my chasing sunsets with my beautiful dog Izzy, who would hop out of the car and watch me set up my camera and dodge trucks and cars by the side of country roads. Today I was chasing sunsets with Maria and Red and I was rewarded with the sun falling behind this big flag on the old Hanks Farm on Hanks Road in Salem, N.Y. I am a warrior for light since Izzy’s time, but I always think of Izzy when I was out driving around those cold and wind country roads. He always charmed the farmers who would appear out of nowhere with rifles, wondering what a stranger was doing with a fancy camera near their cows and barns. It’s just me and Izzy, I would say, chasing sunsets.
I am wary of flag photographs, because there are so many and because in my lifetime the people who speak the most about patriotism rarely practice its true meaning in America – love, tolerance, common purpose, freedom, individuality. But that is a narrow view. Driving down Hanks Road tonight with Maria, I saw this great flag flapping in the wind as the sun set behind it, and my heart did stir at the meaning of this flag for so many people, and I thought of my grandmother, who fled Russia in terror and sorrow, leaving her slaughtered family behind and who would, until the end of her life, throw herself in front of me to protect me if she saw a police cruiser passing by. “Grandma,” I would try and explain to her, although I spoke no Yiddish and that was all she spoke, “you don’t have to hide from the police in America. In Russia, she would try and explain to me, it was the police who killed her family, who came for them. But that is not true here, I would explain. Here, the police protect us.” She never quite believed me, but that has always been true for me, and my grandma lived out her life peacefully and safely. This what I felt when I saw this beautiful flag, guiding the sun down to the horizon.
Cemetery Road, Salem, dusk.
The “Dancing Dogs” book tour officially ended Friday in Wilmington, Vt., at Bartleby’s Books. Red came along to close the deal. It was a nice book tour and I suspect there will not be too many more as extensive, given publishing’s turn towards online marketing as the best and most efficient means of promoting books. I can’t disagree, although I love to get out and meet the people who read the blog and my books.
One of the neatest things about my book tours is that people I have known for years – followers of the blog, posters on Facebook – show up with smiles and good wishes, and it is just like meeting old friends. It is fascinating to put faces to comments and names. I thank all of you good people for showing up from Boston to Illinois to California and taking the trouble to meet me. On book tours, I learn just how important the blog has become to some people and how wide it’s reach is getting to be.
“Dancing Dogs” was very well received – some of my best reviews ever – and is in its second printing, good for a short-story collection. Some people found the book to be sorrowful – I think it is crammed with happy endings – but I think that is to be expected of a book that seeks to capture the real experience of living with dogs and other animals. “Dancing Dogs” is not “Boo, The Cutest Dog” and I am proud of that. My next book will be about Frieda and the role she played in bringing Maria and I together. That will be out in the fall of 2013. I will soon begin work on the Simon book, which, it seems will also include the story of Rocky and Red. I am hoping to do more e-books next year, perhaps even a collection of my writings on the blog. And I think e-books might be a good format for some of my photographs.
I thank all of you for the support you have given to my work and to “Dancing Dogs.” I have really enjoyed meeting with some of you, connecting in this very new kind of community. Thanks, thanks, thanks.
The commands I give Red are “Come Bye,” “Away,” “There” (turn towards the sheep) and above, “Walk Up” (move steadily and straight on towards the sheep.)