terminal threshold

This morning the city smelled like smoke but you know it’s not the friendly campfire smoke, but the burning building smoke and maybe people are in danger, not roasting marshmallows and telling ghost stories but instead fighting for their lives as their home goes up in flames. Regardless I continue on my mission to walk the dog because he has his needs and I am here to help meet them. That is what I am to do at this very moment. Later on I have to wonder while reading the Sunday newspaper (subscribed to in a post-inauguration panic) what the terminal threshold is for learning the details of others’ suffering. What is that outer limit of knowledge regarding how hard it is for people to live their daily lives, beyond which there is no value in further absorption. For that is what comprises most of the news. It is a catalog of the world’s suffering accompanied by an explication of the delusions that fuel it. Sometimes I have to turn off the radio or let the papers pile up simply to give myself space and time to breathe. I know people are suffering and I want them to not suffer but there are only certain ways for me to help, and I’m not sure that one of those ways is to keep listening to and reading more and more of the details about how they are suffering and what this or that pundit thinks about why that suffering exists. After a certain point, possibly the terminal threshold, it feels like voyeurism and nothing more. It’s like the photo collection at work, full of countless portraits of the worst forms of human suffering, sometimes so extreme (usually during the annual contest when hundreds more pour in all at once) that I not so much become numb to their effects as want to hide under my desk, away from the screen, to rock back and forth muttering about my ever-waning faith in the possibility of peace and justice. But it’s this intercessory nature of the media that is the issue. I don’t need them prioritizing human suffering, categorizing it, interpreting it, and serving it up to me in bite-sized nuggets for me to swallow like a dry cracker with no water chaser. Rather, if you are suffering and want to talk about it or write it down I can listen or read as you share your pain in your own words, not those of an intermediary with some probable agenda, even as banal as needing to file a story in order to get paid. Thank you and have a good day.

ravine trail

The new trail opens up the wildest area in this urban forest oasis. Clusters of mushroom sprout from the center of the path. Few have walked here yet. It is high summer and the wood thrush yet sings. Cicadas offer up a constant backing drone. Point of fact: dogs don’t process the switchback concept. It conflicts with their innate knowledge of the shortest distance rule. As the trail climbs from the deepest shaded low point, the morning heat barges uninvited into the cool air space. Sounds of the nearby freeway intrude. As I struggle to adapt, a certain chorus tears through my head in response. This walk is soon over.

field report 3

Today the clouds demand close observation. Why is everyone not looking at the clouds. Absurd. All colors today are vivid: the dark and choppy white-flecked waters of the harbor, the green sloping lawn of the former Civil War lookout, the red of the restaurant roof below it. Now is the time when the first psithuristic hints of the autumnal approach appear. Observance and acknowledgment of this occurrence is essential.

A passing child of about 7 says, apropos of nothing: ‘I hope I get a lawnmower soon…a real one…vrrrrrm [presumed lawnmower noises].’ His family chooses not to acknowledge this proclamation. Theory: this is not the first time it has been uttered.

A large black dog (LBD) enjoys the grassy, treed oasis behind the seafood restaurant, complacently chewing a tennis ball as its person paces in circles while jabbering on her mobile phone.

Shirtless males run on the promenade.

Tourists relentlessly take photos of a boat, the so-called ‘Last Survivor of Pearl Harbor,’ by far the most photographed object in the vicinity.

My doppelgänger walks by, as he is wont to do.

Midway through the reading period, sudden drama rushes in when cigar-smoking man (CSM) arrives on his bicycle, only to find LBD lying in the exact spot where he traditionally sets up his legless portable chair. For a few moments the air crackles with anticipation. However, this soon dissipates as, undaunted, CSM approaches the occupied territory and sets up his chair immediately adjacent to LBD. Soon, the fragrant scent of cigar smoke floats upon the strong breeze as CSM cracks open his book, occasionally casting a shrewd eye upon LBD, who pants in patient oblivion as its owner continues chattering.

On the return trip, while walking, a man pauses to execute a precise ballet move: a half-knee bend followed by a jump in place, arms outstretched. The grace of this move is surprising given the man’s overall GISS. He then taps a light pole with the thick book in his left hand. Further on, he thumps the book in his hand like a revival preacher, resulting in a few turned heads. A strong temptation rises to follow him for research purposes, but alas, recess is over.

the sniffington post – a guest blog by farley the dog

Good evening. First, I would like to thank one of my humans for giving me the chance to share a day in my life with you. As I understand it, the audience for this blog is primarily human, so I will accommodate by writing in the English language. Today was another day full of sleep punctuated by short bursts of manic energy. I woke as usual before dawn. For some strange reason my humans were still sleeping. I have yet to train them to get up before the sun, although I’ve been working hard at it. I find that constantly walking back and forth, clicking my nails on the hardwood floors, is one effective method. Another one, known as the “constant licking” method, consists of licking one of their hands repeatedly until I get a reaction. Their general reluctance to rise immediately upon seeing that I am awake and ready to go outside greatly vexes me. What possible reason could they have for this absurd behavior. I find it simply unacceptable. Oddly enough, I have consulted some of my colleagues and found that apparently this is a widespread problem, although certain of my rural kinfolk did allude to some magical invention known as a “doggie door” that allows for free passage to the outdoors at will. O wonder of wonders! Perhaps one day I will be so lucky. In the meantime I guess I’m stuck with these slugs.

But I digress. One human finally stumbles downstairs to feed me and take me outside. So, we get outside and what is the first thing I see but some woman with an enormous hat! I could not believe it. I mean, who is in charge of these things. Such abominations should be flatly prohibited. Of course I alerted my human to the danger immediately. I thought that I was quite effective at conveying a sense of urgency, but instead of the gratitude I expected in return, my reaction was met with a command to be quiet. Quiet?? This is preposterous, I brooded, as the human urged me farther down the block away from the threatening hat. Luckily I soon came across some grass that the cute poodle on the next street had recently urinated on. I inhaled the fragrance deeply and all thoughts of that horrible lady and her evil hat evaporated from my mind. I then lifted my own leg in reverence to the poodle’s sweet black curls.

The rest of the walk was fairly uneventful. Well, with the exception of that guy at the bus stop carrying those plastic bags. Whatever was he thinking? Once again, I sounded the alarm and once again my helpfulness was met with irritation. I swear, sometimes I feel like me and my humans are on two totally different wavelengths. Not only do they appear unfazed by all these unspeakable horrors around us, but they’re also each missing a set of legs. Honestly, I don’t know how they get around. I guess I am impressed that they’ve managed to overcome their disability and survive in this world of giant hats, plastic bags, balloons, and hammering sounds.

At some point in the afternoon it became clear that something was happening. I pride myself on my acute awareness of when the humans are preparing to leave. The only question in my mind, however, is whether I will be joining them or not. This is never quite clear until they do one of two things: pick up my leash (god, I hate that thing) or begin filling my Kong toys with treats. If it’s the latter, I know I’ll be left alone. But if it’s the former, I know I will be going, too! This time they picked up my leash so I knew I was in the clear. We walked down to the field at the end of the street and then my humans ran around in circles with me, threw me a toy that I only sometimes get to play with, and chased after me a lot. It was so fun! But it was also really hot out and so I got tired pretty quickly. Eventually my humans figured out, what with all the panting and my reluctance to run further, that I needed to go back home.

After that excitement, the humans left me alone for an undetermined period of time. I got in some good napping while they were gone. When they returned it was as if they’d been gone for ages. I did my best to explicitly make known my excitement at seeing them. However, I soon was distracted by the allure of my left rear leg, which I immediately began gnawing on with gusto. The humans then gave me my dinner, which I am always grateful for, before commencing to eat their own dinner, which I am not allowed to partake in. For some reason they sit upright at a table, while I eat on all fours from a bowl. I’m not sure what that’s all about.

After dinner, the humans settled down to do their things and I focused in on chewing my bone. How I feel about my bone could fill a book, so I won’t bore you too much with details there. Suffice it to say that my bone and I have a special relationship, borne of many hours of me chomping on it. It’s a mostly one-sided relationship, as I don’t believe the bone itself derives much pleasure from it. But I could be wrong.

Finally, it’s time for my last venture outside for the day. I munch on some long grass, carry a large stick in my mouth, and slide down a grassy hill on my side. You know, a typical late evening walk. At one point I almost step on a slug, but my human pulls me aside, averting potential disaster. Several insects torment me and I snap at them. Eventually we go inside and it’s time for sleep again. I can’t wait ’til 5 AM!

  • Recent Posts

  • Navigation Station

    The links along the top of the page are rudimentary attempts at trail markers. Otherwise, see below for more search and browse options.

  • In Search of Lost Time

  • Personal Taxonomy

  • Common Ground

  • Resources

  • BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS