After spending last week reporting on the Tour of California, I am back to working on the dog book this week… which means I have gone from the highs of daily race coverage to the dark forest of some pretty intense emotion. Wordsworth said that poetry springs from a place of deep feeling recollected in tranquility. My time working on this next memoir can be characterized as anything but tranquil.
I talked about writing the book for over a year before I finally had the courage to begin. I have mentioned already that I was quite cavalier in my planning. What could be difficult? I’d be writing about some of the best dogs that have blessed my life. But in writing about Ruf, I had to recount some pretty awful times with my (now deceased) wicked step-father. And in writing about Sapo, I had to write about my first marriage. Oof.
Monday, while most of my neighbors were out enjoying the gorgeous sunshine on Memorial Day, I was inside at the keyboard, trying to finish a section of the dog book. Writing… and crying. This is how it’s been through most of the book. When I think about it, this is how it was while I was writing Tainted Legacy. I sat at the computer, allowed myself to channel, in a sense, the emotional suffering of all the players back when my great-grandmother was stirring up trouble in a small Missouri town, and I wrote… sometimes for hours… and cried.
This time the pain is deeper… closer… as I’m writing about my own life, my own wounds. To write this book well means to re-visit those times in my life when all I had to cling to was a tiny ray of hope and a great big dog.
The dog I wrote about on Monday was Mosie, a Doberman pinscher who came into my life for a short period during a very tumultuous time. Writing about what happened to her as a result of my former husband’s idiocy brought back all the anger from that time—and maybe cooked it up to a hotter degree, given what I know now about good animals and stupid humans.
One of the blessings of being here on this mountain is the ability to walk out my cabin door and up to the waterfall whenever I am so overcome with anger that I can’t function any more. I did that, finally, when The Universe was practically hollering in my ear, ‘Step away from the keyboard. Now. And get you to a tranquil place.’ I walked along the canyon rim, listened to the stream below, patted the trees as I passed them, and thought about all my good dogs.
When I came down the trail at the base of the falls, I looked up to see a big black dog—a Doberman pinscher—a young, beautiful female like Mosie had been—just standing there in the water. I’ve seen a lot of dogs up here—pitbulls, shepherds, labs, retrievers and every kind of mix you can think of, but this is the first time I’ve ever seen a purebred dobie. It crossed my mind to ask her person—seated comfortably on a large boulder above the stream—if I could pet her. But I didn’t. I just stood and watched her for awhile.
The experience was haunting, as if in writing about Mosie, I had conjured this apparition. And it was validating. This book has been difficult to write, and I have had to take up arms against my own self-doubt every time I sit down to write again. But it’s what I’m supposed to be doing. I knew that for certain as soon as I saw her.