There are two things I love doing in complete solitude—walking and writing. But, truly, I’m never totally alone when I do either of these things. I always have my faithful pit bull by my side. Right now, for example, his head is on my thigh as I write this, and his floppy little ear twitches each time it makes contact with my wrist.
I’d like to think that in times like this when he insists on having his head on top of my keyboard (or as close to it as he can possibly get) he is inspiring my writing. In some strange little way, my muse rests inside a six year old American Pit Bull Terrier that cannot sleep without snoring, cannot eat without wagging, cannot be awake without letting me know he is near. My muse sits inside a sixty pound mass of muscle, flesh and coarse, white fur.
Each night, when it’s not too hot or too cold, my muse and I go for a walk. Sometimes we find ourselves in Discovery Park or Carkeek Park, or, when the weather’s too crappy for most folks, we might head down to Golden Gardens. Most nights, though, we take a walk around our neighborhood. Regardless of where we go, I am almost always able to get into something akin to a trance and it’s just me and my thoughts (and my dog). My mind clears itself of day-to-day ruminations; I stop forming to-do lists; I don’t think of work. I don’t think of much, really.
These are the moments when I see the most, and I see most clearly. Some refer to this as “appreciating what we don’t often see.” I just call it noticing. I notice, for example, the sunset. I notice the speed at which cars travel down Greenwood Ave. I notice the way a street smells differently from one week to the next in the summertime. And then I walk some more.
As an owner of a dog who has a predisposition to occasionally making himself look like a bit of a dork (and because I’m a woman, walking alone, probably looking half zoned-out, and because there are streets to cross and people who shouldn’t be bumped into), I have to maintain some level of awareness. I have to notice things before Petey does.
There are, for example, some chickens in the backyard of a house on 95th, and it is up to me to discern whether or not the chickens are in their coop before we get too close. In Petey’s dogmind, the chickens are always there, and they always deserve to be barked at. But in my peoplemind, the chickens don’t need to be bothered, nor does anyone else in our general vicinity. So I plan ahead and I relay information on to my companion. I tell him to leave the chickens alone. I tell him not to bark or pull on his leash. I tell him to keep walking. Or, on nights when the chickens are in their coop, I simply tell Petey that they’ve gone to bed so he can start seeking out something else to sniff or bark at.
But even as all of this is going on, I am in my relaxed headspace where lists are not being made, work is not a consideration, and there are no bills to pay or people to call or things to do. It’s rare that I even think about writing when I’m out on walk.
And I wonder if what is going on in my peoplebrain is anything like what goes on in Petey’s dogbrain. He clearly does not make lists or consider his responsibilities. He is never burdened by chores or thoughts of how far a paycheck can be stretched. As far as he knows, there is always food in his bag and it will be dumped in his bowl in the morning and again at night.
Life, for Petey, is a series of rhythms. Just as I move my legs one in front of another without much thought, Petey’s life goes on without much consideration. It just sort of happens. The day begins, there is a meal, there is outside, then inside, then outside and inside again. There is the couch, with its tattered and nest-like cushions. There are the bones by the dog bed. There is the door with its long glass panes that provide a perfect view to the patio where squirrels scamper back and forth, begging to be barked at.
Things simply exist without rhyme or reason, and that is perfectly acceptable.
And that’s what makes him my muse. A muse inspires creation, and Petey does just that. Sort of. Petey can show me, quite easily, that some things must be paid attention to, and other things simply are the way they are and will likely remain that way forever (or at least until we turn the corner and are out of sight).
A dog’s mind—my dog’s mind, anyway—would be a wonderful place to take a walk.
There’s something to that, I think. Something in my writerbrain gets this. Something in my writerbrain wants to continue writing and revising this post until I am able to draw all of these ideas together and make some grand statement about my evening walks with my pit bull muse.
Instead, though, I’ll adapt the ways of the dogbrain and close here so I can go off in search of other things that stink.