Archive for March 15th, 2007

There were many chairs holding the ground at Kiowa Ranch in the 1920’s. This one was Dorothy Brett’s. It is smaller than the Giant’s. But has a sturdy seat. Strong foundation.

At the round table, she typed Lawrence’s manuscripts for St. Mawr and The Woman Who Rode Away (based on Mabel Dodge Luhan) on a typewriter once used by Aldous Huxley.

A knight of the round table. I like the sound of that. Aren’t we all searching for some kind of Holy Grail?

Dorothy Brett’s Chair - D.H. Lawrence Ranch, February 8th 2007 - photo by QuoinMonkey, all rights reserved 

Dorothy Brett’s Blue Chair, detail inside Dorothy Brett’s 9 x 11 cabin at D. H. Lawrence’s Kiowa Ranch, near Taos, New Mexico, February 8th, 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

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Something about movies I watched when I was 13, 14, 15 years old. They left an impression on me that no other films seem to have done since.

There was Jaws. I remember sitting in the dark theater, my feet up on the back of the seat in front of me. When the great white shark emerged from the ocean as the police chief leaned over the side of the boat, I jerked so hard my wafflestomper hit the back of the person’s head in front me.

But the movie I really want to talk about is The Omen. In the original 1976 film there was a black dog, maybe two, that appeared whenever something bad was going to happen. I don’t remember everything about the movie, but I remember the black dog.

When I was in my early 20s, I wanted to move into an apartment by myself. I’d lived with my parents, my older sister, and my friend Ellen — but never alone. I found a studio converted from a detached garage. It was one room with a tiny kitchen, sitting area, and space for my bed.

Shortly after I moved in I started getting phone calls in the middle of the night. I’d answer the phone; the person on the other end sounded like a child. He (or she — I couldn’t tell) would ask for his mother. It sounded like a party was going on in the background. The calls came at 1, 2, 3 in the morning, and each time I asked, “Where are you? Are you alone?” The caller always hung up before I got any answers.

One night my pillow flipped off my bed and landed on the floor heater. I woke up choking on smoke that filled the room. I pulled the pillow, which was at that moment bursting into flames, off the heater and threw it out the front door into the cold night. I was sick for days from smoke inhalation.

Soon after that I opened the front door late one afternoon on my way to meet up with my boyfriend and there stood two big black dogs. I gasped when I saw them. I didn’t even try to call out to them, whistle or say, “Good dogs.” They stood side by side, showing no signs of friendliness nor fear. I shut the door, phoned my boyfriend. By the time he arrived the dogs were gone.

A friend from high school, Patrick, came to my studio to give me a prognosis. He had powerful perception, a sixth sense, and his ability to tell whether a house was haunted was legend among our circle of friends. He walked into my place and immediately turned to me and said, “You have to move.”

I didn’t spend another night there. My friends and I moved me out during daylight hours the following weekend.

Nowadays one of the first things I notice when I walk into certain places is how they feel. Were the people who occupied them happy? Sad? Angry? What lingers in the walls?

Perhaps the black dogs were nothing to be afraid of. Loneliness, my own or someone else’s. (Does melancholy have its own spirit?)

I’m not afraid of black dogs now. I’m more superstitous of black cats, to tell the truth. But I still can’t swim in the ocean.

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My visceral response to your sketch of Dirty Dog and Retro Wallpaper is black dog – the Black Dog of loneliness. Late at night in Taos, the silence would waken me. But it wasn’t silence; it was the dogs of Taos barking in the distance. Dogs have always scared me. And when we walk Morada Lane from Mabel’s to go into Caffe Tazza to write, I’m always aware of the dogs, lurking around fence corners.

A friend in art school started a series of paintings the year we graduated. She called it her Black Dog series. She was obsessed with research on black dogs. It took me a while to understand what she was talking about. But when I saw her brooding wall-sized images, I knew. It was a gut reaction. Deep loneliness. I visit the place often. There is no map out. You have to find your own way. She painted. I took photographs. We weren’t running. We were looking to know the Dog.

What I want to say is that loneliness is a part of writing. And sometimes loneliness feels like Dirty Dog looks – bared teeth, facing off, marking territory. Underneath, the loneliness drives me. Like fear, I’ve learned to embrace it. Even when my life is so good I can’t stand it – even then, late at night when the whole house is sleeping, and I’m up writing – the Black Dog is there, lurking around fence corners.

I still wake up in the middle of the night, scared and lonely. I try not to push it away. The last few weeks, I’ve been listening to Writing Down the Bones on CD. What I love about books on CD is that I hear the writer’s voice. I first read it almost 20 years ago. Revisiting it now, I am taken back to Beginner’s Mind, where I need to be to teach. It grounds me. I find comfort in the gnarled roots of other writers’ loneliness.

I’m tired. I’ve really been pushing myself the last few weeks. On the way to work this morning, I realized I wasn’t in my body. I almost hit Liz’s car backing out of the driveway. Looking for ground, I pushed the button on the Alpine stereo; I glanced up to see the sun rising in billowing blush clouds in the distance; I listened to a writer read her work. The early sky reminded me of mornings walking from my room at Mabel’s to the zendo. A deep calm came over me.

Stopped at the light on the corner of Winnetka and Bass Lake Road, crawling to my day job, I was just sitting. Natalie was revisiting the chapter on Engendering Compassion and the way she used to be tortured by loneliness. But something had turned. The dog doesn’t come for her anymore. She seeks him out. She hunts the dog.

The last thing I heard as I turned the corner on green –

“When I don’t feel loneliness, I know I’m not in connection with the edge of my life. I look around for that Black Dog, loneliness, and make sure it’s near me.”

Listen for the Black Dog.

Thursday, March 15th, 2007

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Lawrence’s Firebird, February 8th, 2007

Phoenix, Lawrence Firebird, photo by QuoinMonkey, February 8th, 2007, all rights reservedI remember the chair.

And you there sketching on the porch. The day was clear, my 2 year anniversary date, and you could hear the wind through the Ponderosa pines. Water dripped off of corrugated tin roofs. And we walked up the hill to the memorial in silence.


Remember last October? When we each did 1 minute timed writing practices in the D. H. Lawrence guest book, sun peering through the spoked sunflower window painted by Dorothy Brett.



Giant’s Chair resize, detail, photo of QuoinMonkey, February 8th, 2007, all rights reserved









detail of Giant’s chair, February 8th, 2007

-inspired by the post, Giants Sat Here

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