Posts Tagged 'dogs'

Georgia and Tom on the Oregon Coast

rainforest

“You get a line and I’ll get a pole, honey, honey. You get a line and I’ll get a pole, babe. You get a line, I’ll get a pole, we’ll go down to the fishing hole, honey oh babe oh mine.”

Tom couldn’t help singing. Tom hitched a ride with his happy thumb on his way to Anchorage Alaska, where he intended to build an igloo and marry himself an Inuit girl, skin seal and harvest amethyst in the frozen ice caves of Siberia. Tom was a born entrepreneur, but a southerner too, at heart, and it got too dang cold for him just about midway up the coast of Oregon and he never made it to Alaska. Stopped in Gorgeous, Oregon, in the deep wet forest that runs along the west coast. For a year or two he lived on blackberries and fish and his hair grew long and shaggy. He slept too hard to snore, and was too unreconstructed to think about farming, or storing, or hardship.

Oregon is a fine plentiful place for people who don’t mind a little rain, and Tom got comfortable, although not soft. One summer he gave forestry a try, strip cutting a corner of the Kalmiopsis near Biscuit, but he found he could not bear to cut the tree people. There is more bleeding in a tree than he’d ever felt in a salmon, though he could not explain that to himself or the woman who eventually convinced him to put his shoes back on and get out of the tree. He became a spokesman for trees, a miner of bees, he cultivated honey, and made a little money. Then he planted gobble sum and toad willow and buddha fingers and poultry rhymes. He opened a nursery on the edge of a small state road where people who were not in quite such a hurry might stop and talk and buy a cold drink, a Yoohoo or a Sierra Mist. He sold plants and named them himself, as much the inventor of his own roadside stand as any other stepaway of that particular time and place.

The Oregon coast is green, wet, mossy, and cool. At one time (at the time of this story, in fact), there were not many signs or arrows pointing to particular destinations, and it was not unusual for strangers to lose their way. They might find themselves slipping from a long low road into an awning of dripping willows, lining the drive where Tom lived with his trees and the woman he eventually married. Her name was Berry, who stings the fingers and stains the mouth, but she was sweet on Tom and he on her, and this worked, out there in the small stone house where they lived together, with their bees, their honeysuckle, their ginger snap trail blossoms and their two-fingered lobulus marionettes. The garden was fresh and they grew herbs, and kept a few chickens, and wrote some books about living in Alaska and building igloos out of ice and amethyst, and swimming with polar bears in the melting snow waters of high summer in the far north.

Georgia liked to make honey syrup from the berries as they ripened. She made a blackberry syrup, raspberry, blueberry, mulberry and rye berry. Each one had a distinctive flavor and a color that was either natural to the berry or boiled in a colored honey blend to brighten them up. Tom smelled each syrup as it mixed, and measured and tested each flavor with nose and tongue and fingertip, looking for the combination that lifted the spirits and let them fly away out into the cool wet air, where smoke from wood fireplaces hung and ruffled in the cool breeze as the sun went down. The fireplace smell was ashes and fruit, and Georgia and Tom’s three big labs liked to lay there, slightly damp but warm throughout, to let the heat seep into their ribs when the nights were long. Georgia gave birth one time, then two, and Tom hung fishing nets along the fence on the deck where they sat while Georgia recovered. Georgia began to identify each of her two births from one another by markings, by sound, by temperament. She did this surreptitiously, quietly, on little padded cotton feet that did not track much into the house. Eventually, she considered naming the children, but by then they were up and ready to name themselves.

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Chocolate A Minah

 

Minah had a butterfly collection that she inherited from her grandfather. Her grandfather’s favorite food was meatloaf, with mashed potatoes, green beans, and angel food cake, that her grandmother made with fresh goose eggs every spring. Minah never got the hang of baking. Her angel food came out tough – you beat it too much, she can hear her mother’s voice, whining like a buzz saw.

Don’t listen like that, she thinks to herself and beats the eggs some more. Poor eggs. Throttled. No greatness, no soufflé, her eggs were always fallen like angels. This did eventually lead her to chocolate, which can accept some brutal handling, some sweet heavy evil, some shame. She reminded herself to be grateful for her failure with eggs, especially after chocolate shook her loose from home and into her own sweetest baking moments.

Chocolate was the name of Minah’s first dog. He was an unintentional mastiff, rescued from the shelter as a tiny tiny pup who suddenly and like the incredible hulk became much larger than expected. Holy cow, she said to her mom, to her granddad, to her kid. OMG, said the kid to his friends. WTF said the friends to each other. They compared Chocolate to Clifford as he grew and grew, as he grew too large to lie with his monstrous feet under the dining room table. They compared Chocolate to Puff as he grew huge, affectionate and exiled out in the yard, where he fit and yet did not fit, lonely dog, lonely dragon.

One day they met an unusual man, a spelunking man who had no fear of dark spaces, big dogs, butterflies or the exact science and mystery of baking. He became the friend and sponsor of one large dog, Minah, and her son Kel.  This man had a talent for dogs, friends, chocolate, baking, teaching, and mixing things up.

The first time they met was in the caverns down south, a series of deep caverns with one wide open mouth. Invisible in the dark on the trail into the main cave, Kel was singing songs to himself about his big dog, songs that rhymed and almost rapped. He could see his hands making gangsta moves in the absolute darkness and he felt cool as the inner sanctum and the wet inner wind licking his skin. The guide turned off his light and then the darkness was absolute, an absolution, an absolute acceptance that the eyes would find nothing. The earth shifted around them, there was a smell of damp and guano, and the lights came back on.

Later there were sodas and sandwiches in a brightly lit cafeteria at the bottom, then the walk back up to the surface. They came out just at sunset and the bats were coming home, dark clouds, red sky, air 104 degrees. Arm hairs shaken and rising in the interim space between dark, light, hot, cold, childhood, death. They laughed as strangers on short journeys do, but met again later at the hotel pool, where they talked generally about caves, bats, dogs, baking and butterflies. Then more specifically about chocolate, Chocolate, grandfather’s butterfly collection, and Minah’s difficulty with angel food cake and eggs. This was a natural friendship of man boy dog and woman, lightly mixed, risen and set to cool.

Chocolate lived a very short life, as large dogs do. Minah and Kel had a box of recipes for chocolate desserts with his picture on the lid, and thought of him every time they made something sweet, and thought of the darkness, and thought of the bats rising up into the sunset sky. 


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