Until the Dogs Insist

Walking the dogs in the winter sunshine we pass roofers working on a nearby house, several rugged guys, one of them stout and bearded, with a radio on the roof with them, constantly playing a country music station as they bend and call for more roofing. They’re up there listening to country music, and humming, whistling along, as they power-staple roofing in place, and there’s something comforting about it. I am not a fan of most country music, but the combination seems to speak of a cheery acceptance of the working life, of their own culture. Yes it’s a bit like a beer commercial. But they smile and wave to everyone in the neighborhood who passes; saw one of them chatting amiably with a dark Sikh fellow in a turban…A little further down the street someone has parked a small Hyundai sedan which is very much a mild mannered mom and pop car, *except* it has those new flattish tires that look like dragster slicks, and where the hubcap used to be they have one of the faddish spiky chrome wheels, this one looking like a circle of steely fangs all inward pointing like the mouth of a lamprey, four identical such wheels, too large for this modest family car, very sharkish and spikey, and the effect is startling, as if you saw a bland soccer mom who suddenly grins wolfishly at you to show filed teeth and fangs…Then I pass a yard with a decorative little red-barked tree overflowing with plum blossoms. And on one of the barer lower fork of branches is a bird’s nest, quite close to me, a somewhat oversized nest for small birds–it’s chaotic around the edges but almost ostentatiously constructed and like all bird’s nests seems to advertise the enormous, focused work that went into it. That very small bird with its tiny brain like a slightly sentient chip in a timepiece fitting one twig after another into this almost spontaneous architecture. It makes me think of a crown of thorns, from some angles, in the red blossoms–it’s like something you’d seen in a rather too florid Japanese painting. If it was a painting by an American artist it’d probably be kitsch. But I can’t stop looking at it till the dogs insist we go on…

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