To look carefully, curiously, enthusiastically, enduringly, and lovingly at something changes me. I begin to feel connected to that subject. I develop an affection that fuels further and deeper observation and understanding.
There are so many wonderful examples of Getting to Know You on her blog.
Here are self’s. (Coming clean: These pictures were actually taken, not by self, but by her Airbnb host in Sacramento. Self tried, but her photos were blurry, as these two were in constant motion. Her host very kindly took self’s cell and took these really GREAT pictures. The pets are Coco and Pi. On Instagram, they have close to 9000 followers!)
Coco and Pi were such a delight. It’s been a long time since self’s had a pet. For about 15 years, she had two beagles, Bella and Gracie. They passed ages ago. And now self travels a lot more, so she worries that she can’t give any pets the attention/love they deserve.
Anyhoo, Coco and Pi are the best of friends, as you can see:
Self knows what she feels most like writing from the kind of books she chooses to read. There was a year she read only travel books. Travel books by women. Two years ago, she decided to read books written on, or about, islands.
Hard to say what the theme was for her 2020 reading. In the early part, she read a lot of science fiction. Towards the end, she read some great books about American politics: Demagogue: The Life and Long Shadow of Senator Joe McCarthy, by Larry Tye (Five Stars), and Life of a Klansman: A Family History in White Supremacy, by Edward Ball.
She stayed up all night reading Megan Mayhew Bergman’s short story collection, Birds of a Lesser Paradise. (This was a year for really excellent short story collections: Caroline Kim’s The Prince of Mournful Thoughts, and Raphael Bob-Waksberg’s Someone Who Will Love You in All Your Damaged Glory)
In the final story in Bergman’s collection, the main character’s dog has swallowed one of her socks. He’s done this before, the sock always works itself out. But this time, she’s not so lucky and ends up having to take the dog to the vet.
I said we’d do anything, but I was worried we couldn’t afford to treat him. I knew his eyes would convince me to mortgage the house, become a one-car family, eat ramen noodles five days a week.
It reminds self of that time when her beagle, Gracie, went into seizures. Self found her one morning, tongue purple and hanging out of her mouth. She rushed her to the vet, and the vet said self would have to take her to a more equipped vet hospital. They would put her in intensive care: $1,500/day. And self decided, right then and there, that she couldn’t afford it. And she cried her heart out in the vet’s office, after calling son in Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (He did not want to put her down). They let her hold Gracie when they gave her the shot. Self was depressed, non-stop crying, for at least a month. That was one of the hardest decisions she’d had to make in her life (Gracie had cancer; new tumors kept popping up, in strange places: in her mouth, under her tail, in her breasts. A new tumor a week, by the end)
9/11 is almost over. Self is sick. She stayed in bed all day, reading The Door.
Magda and her husband find an abandoned puppy and take it home. Emerence, the housekeeper, becomes a completely different person with the dog: she is loving, she is affectionate.
Which reminds self of that long-ago time when her two beagles were still alive. She trained them to SIT.
Dogs Meeting Cute in Trieste
Someone later told self that if she just raised a finger, the dogs would sit. She didn’t need to say the word. And that was when self realized that every time she said the word SIT, she raised her index finger.
And that person was absolutely correct! Beagles would sit if she just raised her index finger!
Noun: Goal; desire; something one wishes to achieve.
e.g. Marco, whose lifelong aspiration was to be the number one seat violinist in the orchestra, was left thinking only about sabotage when it was announced the young prodigy would be assuming the premiere position.
Bella the Beagle, aka “The Ancient One”, who entered our lives in 1996 at six months of age, died a few hours before self’s plane arrived from the Philippines, in the afternoon of Monday, Oct. 14. The Man found her when he got home from work, a little before five. She was still warm. It seemed she had died peacefully, lying in the warm sun on the deck.
Self was quite overcome to think she had missed seeing Bella alive, by just a few hours.
Self’s other beagle, Gracie, died in April 2011, so Bella had two more happy years with us. When Gracie was alive, she was completely cowed and submissive. When Gracie passed away, she began to get a little assertiveness back (We adopted Gracie when Bella was about four years old, and Gracie was far more rambunctious, and completely stole the show).
Bella the Beagle: Sept. 30, 1995 to Oct. 14, 2013
Self’s eyes are pretty swollen right now. It was an exhausting trip. Started 3:50 pm in Bacolod, included a five-hour layover in Manila which stretched to 8 hours, and then a 12-hour flight. She got in at 11 p.m. The Man has to wake up at 5 a.m. to get to work.
But when she was reading her e-mail, she saw a letter from Waccamaw accepting her story “Bridging.” This was a story she wrote while in Hawthornden, June 2012. Towards the end of the month, she and the other writers decided to have an informal reading of works-in-progress. The story self read was “Bridging.” It was only about 8 pages at the time; in August, when she last worked on it and sent it out, it had grown to 17 pages.
Totaling the time it took from the story’s inception to its final version, June 2012 to October 2013, it took only about 16 months. She’s had stories that she works on for six, seven years before they get picked up. Such a one was “Silence,” which was published long ago in The Threepenny Review, and was shortlisted for the O. Henry Literature Prize.
“Bridging” will appear in Waccamaw‘s forthcoming issue (going live October 31).
The band yesterday evening was called “Caravan of Allstars,” and they were just fabulous. Self and The Man had hot dogs, soda, and potato chips. It was cooler than it’s been lately. There must have been at least 20 dogs, drooling at all the food and making goo-goo eyes at sympathetic bystanders. Saw one that looked almost like Gracie: that is, it had her face. But its body was very long and low to the ground: a beagle crossed with a bassett hound?
“Only three more concerts left,” The Man said, in a tone of regret.
Self didn’t think about it until she was getting ready to fall asleep. She must have been in denial because she didn’t respond, earlier. But indeed, counting off the weeks in her head, she realized The Man was right.