For weeks after we had Clara, our dog Delilah sat wrapped around herself on our couch and stared despondently at this new version of her family home. Her eyes were sad; upon having Clara, we would go hours too distracted by a sweet, wrinkly infant to pet our dogs. I felt our love for them change.
I spent a winter cooped in a small cabin, chasing tufts of dog hair, enforcing a “no barking” rule while Clara sleeps, and scolding a certain Dakota-shaped stealer of string cheese. For awhile, Dakota barked every time Clara looked his direction, and I exclaimed more than once that something with these dogs would have to change, perhaps even something to the tune of a “free dog to a good home” ad in the local paper.
Then, the snow melted and we started to go on walks. The dogs dashed out of the car and looked back our direction after they’d explored the perimeter. On these walks, they nearly skipped with slobbery glee down the trail. When I saw the dogs play and romp and look back to make sure we were still behind them, a dormant fondness for those eager, large-hearted animals erupted. Like most emotions, happiness begets happiness. We made them happy by taking them for a walk, and seeing them happy made us happy. Our dogs are horrible on the leash and bark angrily at other dogs when they are confined. When they are off their leash, however, they are friendly, interested in their surroundings, and uninterested in conflict. Watching a dog discover its world feels good, and I realized that if you don’t love something, eventually, you won’t love it. And also that one way to love something is to let that something be itself.
As the mother of a cute little girl and the wife of an esteemed music teacher, I sometimes feel like people don’t see me, and I think the notion of being oneself is simply the feeling that people see you. I have had this conversation many times:
“What a cute little girl. Are you just staying home with her?”
“Well, I teach at the college, too.”
“Oh, really! What do you teach? You’re working full-time there?”
“Oh, no, just part time. Just a couple English classes.”
“Oh, okay. Well, that’s nice to do a little something on the side every now and then.”
Their eyes wander, they lose interest, perhaps we both do, or I hear crying that sounds like it belongs to me. I leave these conversations feeling like they don’t expect me to be interesting or funny or observant or to have much in the way of personality. I find that under the limitations of these expectations, it can be hard to be myself. I worry about turning into the expectations of others.
I wonder if other people worry about being boring—about losing themselves to life’s equivalent of small talk and about not having anything to say. I think one reason I wanted to move to Alaska was because I couldn’t stop checking my email, and as I had hoped, Alaska is full of people running off leash.
This weekend, we went to the “Town of the Living Trees: Saw Fest 2011.” It appears that once there was a man who liked to use a chainsaw and that he decided an appropriate sound barrier for such a hobby would be acres of land he could call his town.
In his town, he sells moose jerky and carousel rides on Alaskan animals he carved from logs.
During Saw Fest, participants get a log or two and carve straight for four days. This “Eagle Flies over the Cuckoo’s Bar” tied for first place.
He tied with this guy, “Bearly Mine”:
This one didn’t place, but I’d sure like to have it in my bedroom:
Here’s Aaron standing next to Second Place:
I mean, how do you use a chainsaw to make teeth?
I like to think of these people spending days making a log look like a funny man. Soon I’ll tell you about how Alaska is so plentiful in natural resources that even I could catch a fish, but for now, my favorite Alaskan natural resource is its people.