A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature
Because we have the archer, I always arise about the same time to walk him. He lies patient and silent in his crate as I dress in the big room, his crate in its center. The desert is cold in early morning, and I layer on clothing for the outing. When he was a small puppy mostly we stayed in the front yard. There would be at least a hint of sun in the east: I would be wearing sunglasses and a big hat. The archer usually would be somewhere close in to my feet, but even when he was there, often I did not realize it. He was so small and quick that it seemed that he disappeared at will and reappeared just as I was about to step on him. I tried to go out one of the gates a few times, thinking he was somewhere else, only to find him outside the gate before I was, his look like a “fooled you”, and then I would have to entice him back in with a dog treat. Now I never go out a gate without making sure he is confined somewhere else.
Unlike now, winter’s pale light disclosed only a little vegetation in the light brown clay, but there were many thousands of round little pebbles, smaller than a grain of rice, which were easily seen. In the portion nearer the fence the bigger gravel was abundant; the pebbles and gravel were added soon after we arrived. Our clay is extremely fine, so it resists holding water. Every time the archer and I traverse the soil, our feet press upon pebbles and gravel and deepen the partnership of rock and clay, so that water, whether a sprinkle or a deluge, eventually can work into clay’s tiny particles. This year during the one cold rain lasting two days, even some archer poo was pressed into the soil rather than thrown over the fence, in order to improve its texture. I love finding his beautiful footprints through a lightly watered area, the pattern small and distinct, which will lengthen the time water is available to work itself into the clay. Paws seem so practical, much more than shoes, which retain the clay and have to be left outside before cleaning.
Near the upper northern edge of the fenced yard area in front, the part most outlying from the house, and the highest, where two big pines over years have grown tall, one on either side of the old railroad tie fence post with little parts splintering off, some time ago I placed several similar big, round, dappled gray, smooth rocks, who have begun a gradual process of deepening down into the dirt. I also had planted an arbor vitae close by and am in competition with the ants to keep its water well intact. Close to central to the big round rocks lies a not small, not large, rough, pitted, rather oblong object made for a purpose out of a rock, which is a little hollowed out, with a faintly greenish hue. I am not sure some of it has not either worn down, dropped off, or both, as the sides are very irregular. Only part of its bottom lies on the soil. I thought of a rough trough when we bought it. It was unusual to find it in a sort of touristy pottery place out just past Huachucha City toward Benson and the interstate, and the place was closed for many years after that probably due to the mortgage meltdown. When I picked up the rough carved rock after getting it home, I thought it surprisingly heavy, and once it was in place, I never moved it or thought about it much. Archer checks out whether it is holding water, and its pitted interior after a rain even now shows the dirt from his paws. It is just big enough to hold all four of his legs, but he usually inserts only two. It is near a flat, gray faux stonelike plaque given to me by a good friend and relative, which seems not weathered at all. That has a modest message about gardens and God. One of the round gray rocks has two, very white impressed circles, which remind me of eyes. Toward the walkway lies the biggest rock, purple, a rather striking color. Nearby on a piece of wood, about twice the width of the legs of Sam’s table, is a small purple rock with two small round depressions that look like close set eyes if you grant that the forehead above them is very tall. Thats is near the front gate. The gate is standard and simple, as is the wire fencing.
The archer’s main exercise area is lower, on the other side of the sinuously curved block walk that extends from gate to porch, the flat blocks now a little up and down near the porch, where some of them have sunk a bit, so you have to look down if you are walking there if you don’t want to trip. There is a little juniper by one of the curves back a way. I am not responsible for the lovely curve which accentuates the gradual slant of the yard; at the time I was not thinking of a walk at all; a man born in Mexico understood the situation and placed the blocks.
Sam’s table sits in the walled front porch near the front door; you can’t miss it. The porch benefits from the partial shade of two immense Chilean mesquite during even the hottest time of year. Most of the small leaves fell and carpeted the ground a couple of months ago, but you can already make out two birds nests in the bare branches of the larger tree. On the porch, like other dogs in the few, other, very different places we’ve lived, the archer enjoys lying on Sam’s table, which is oak, low, octagonal and very heavy. In the high, dry air it is deteriorating; two trapezoids going toward the center before the small triangles that touch the table’s center either are rising or falling. Each trapezoid-triangle section has seven wooden dowels just visible at the table’s edge, and the legs are short, wide and strong. I think you would be correct to call the legs a bit crude. The beams holding each section together meet in the middle and are held together by a large metal bolt below. The table was originally commissioned by a once well known journalist, but when he saw it, he changed his mind and did not want it, so it came to us. Before the finish faded, when it lived inside, it was impossible for people not to notice it since it was so different, but very few people mentioned it. Over nearly 50 years it has proved to be very useful. This winter Sam’s table held several 40 pound bags of pellets for the pellet stove, sometimes along with the archer. In fact archer now weighs about 30 pounds and is lying next to the two bags of pellets that are the last we have. Sam had a mind like a cutting tool but did not have a lot of patience. He almost got a law degree from a well known university despite dropping out of high school but did not finish. With the woodworking tools he had it would not have taken him long to make the table, and I think it has come into its own on the porch.
Ruth Clark lives in Hereford, Arizona. Her column Here in Hereford appears in Vox Populi on an irregular basis.
Copyright 2018 Ruth Clark.