Saturday, July 09, 2016

a tale of two cynics

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."

Poor Charles Dickens. When he wrote that line, it was fresh and original. Even better, it perfectly (and brilliantly) summed up the tale he was about to tell concerning the glory -- and the horror -- of the French Revolution. Writers enjoy a good hook.

And now? It is like any other cliché. Stripped of its essence by familiarity. Gérard de Nerval's familiar bon mot captures the process: "The first man who compared a woman to a rose was a poet; the second, an imbecile."

Barco and I breathed some life into Dickens's line last evening during our sunset walk. We are both aesthetes -- each in our own way. The problem is we define beauty quite differently.

That should come as no surprise. Dogs find beauty with their noses. Humans find beauty through sight and hearing.

That is where our Dickensian struggle started last night. We headed out on our walk just as a thunderstorm was rolling in over the mountains. I did not need to look over the walls of the house to see a storm was arriving. As the front passed over the house, the change in air pressure along with an accompanying wind and falling temperature obviated the need for a protocol officer announcing its arrival.

The northern sky was almost purple -- forming a dramatic backdrop for the lightning that ran the full length of the horizon. It was a marked contrast with the various clouds that had gathered to the west promising what would be one of our memorable beach sunsets.

But Barco was having none of that. He was far more interested in who had dropped a birria bone or who had urinated on a roadside clump of grass. For him, the world was filled with the wonder of discovery through his nasal passages.

I, of course, forgot to bring my camera on this walk. When I decided to cut back on writing essays, I also lost the habit of carrying my camera. So, I had to rely on the camera in my telephone -- and live with the adage "good enough is good enough."

But, even that camera was a challenge to operate. Because one hand was tethered to Barco, I looked like a tight rope walker when I would stop to snap a shot. The problem? Barco wanted to keep walking.

That is ironic. Before Barco came into my life, I was walking four miles each morning in just under an hour. I still walk an hour with him. But we are lucky to complete four blocks -- let alone four miles -- in that time.

We just do not share the same aesthetic sensibilities.

If that sounds like a complaint, it isn't. I am thoroughly enjoying getting to know this dog. He is actually becoming a pal. And, at some point, like Sydney Carton, one (or both of us) might be able to say: "It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”

But not quite yet. My metaphoric appointment with Madames Guillotine and Defarge can wait. Maybe they can take my seat in Emily Dickinson's carriage.

I would be missing a great opportunity if I dd not close this little ramble with Billie Collins's take on the aging of dogs.

A Dog on his Master
As young as I look,
I am growing older faster than he,
seven to one
is the ratio they tend to say.

Whatever the number,
I will pass him one day
and take the lead
the way I do on our walks in the woods.

And if this ever manages
to cross his mind,
it would be the sweetest
shadow I have ever cast on snow or grass.


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