Black Dog Rising

At Black Dog Ridge, the mist lies heavy on the water. The morning dew drips from the leaves of the trees like rain. I made coffee and it seems there was a little whisky left from last night in the one utilitarian cup I use while I’m staying here. So much the better. Saturday coffee, as Brittany would say.

It’s still very much a construction site. But little-by-little, the large stores of materials stacked in the yard and outbuilding are being placed into their proper position—the piles are getting smaller as the house gets bigger and takes its shape. Electrical and plumbing are nearly done. All the windows are in and most of the doors, including the large, expensive, complicated 4-door assembly from the sun room to the deck. In the next few weeks the deck rails will be put on, water system fully hooked up and made operational, electrical sockets and lights put in, shiplap on the walls and ceilings, flooring will be put down and outside board and batten nailed up. Then kitchen cabinets will go in and the bar. The delicate water collection system that will keep my cistern full in a very eco-friendly manner. 

The mason is meant to start the outdoor fireplace and pizza oven next week. The stone company  should be around soon to put the rock walls up around the foundation and lower half of the structures. 

The dog is hyper-active up here.  Running around the half-constructed house; on and off the deck and occasionally a foray a few dozen yards into the forest. She is not a roamer, which is good. When I move around, she sees my reflection in the windows and thinks there is someone else inside and she barks at my clone. 

I’ve taken to calling Marti ‘The Jungle Fox’—her triangular head and sharp ears and lithe, athletic body are reminiscent of that creature of my imagination. And it gives me a little pleasure to tag her with a nickname.

I made a rookie mistake and didn’t bring a 2nd book even though I was nearly finished with the one I was reading. It was called ‘The Midnight Library’. Writing was okay but the storyline was good. Interesting. It got me thinking a bit about life and death. What does it really mean to live a good life? A life of integrity and purpose. I’ve always felt we are here to have fun. To learn. To develop and grow. But. But. But. Also to help others along the way.

Perhaps that last bit came to me later in life. Or at least my recognition of its significance. Or most importantly, that’s when I chose to take action in this respect rather than just watch. It’s something I feel it deeply. We simply must find a way to accept the life we’ve created for ourselves. Indulge in it even. But we must also try to find ways to help others along this journey.

I am aware this may sound a little boastful. I don’t mean it to be. Just ruminating. Wondering and searching for honesty in my own reflection.

I am reflective I think because BDR is nearing completion. And I am overcome with thankfulness.  I rarely think I am deserving of good things–even when I have worked hard to obtain them. It’s a weird sort of psychosis to be driven to succeed by a deep-rooted feeling of not being good enough, even while meditating to be mindful that I am in fact good enough. 

I am writing now from the deck on a beautiful night. Surrounded by forest on 3 sides and a 200 foot ledge on the other–leading straight down to the Greenbrier River. When I stand on the edge of the deck, I am already several feet over the sharp incline that leads to the vertical cliff.

My beloved solitude. The glow of a campfire in front of me. The infinity of the universes above me. More stars than can be comprehended by our limited intelligence. Our insignificance could never be more apparent than when looking up to the skies. 

As the Big Bard says, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy

And so it is.

I know better than to be seduced by material things. Like a fine house on top of a mountain. Or perhaps mountain-ish. As Carla has reminded me that West Virginia mountains are sorta just big hills. Rocky Mountain snobbery.

What does it mean to help others? I suppose it can just mean you are someone of day-to-day thoughtfulness. Taking time to acknowledge others and doing small kindnesses for those who need it. Or perhaps you’re a habitual volunteer for causes that are meaningful. Certainly, hopefully, it means voting responsibly—voting for candidates who attempt to do great good for those less fortunate rather than candidates who are obsessed with cutting taxes so you can have a few more cents in your pocket. Donating money to good causes. Certainly.

I know people who are generally speaking kind folks, but do not seem to make much of an effort to reach out and help others. I’m perplexed by this. I feel genuinely sorry for them—because nothing enriches our soul like the feeling that we are helpful to someone in need. There is no true benevolence. Helping others is a selfish act to get the high that comes with feeling needed. Feeling necessary. Feeling useful. Like our time here is not merely to take from the world without giving back. Like our lives have meaning above our own. 

What else is there. Hoarding for that day when you walk away from the cubicle for an annual trip to Hawaii and babysit the grandkids? Share the love man. Share the money and your time. Give give give. You owe yourself that kindness.

I feel this very deeply. Irregardless of religion or worldview, any life lived without a serious commitment to helping others must fall short of our potential and our purpose. 

My reading game is on-point. Propelled by insomnia.

I recently finished ‘On Animals‘ by Susan Orleans and am now reading ‘Once There Were Wolves‘ by Charlotte McConaghy. The one I left at home at my reading chair.

The mysticism and myth and misinformation around wolves is astounding. I like to read about wolves. I like to think of them out there in the wildest areas. Always on the move. Hunting. Looking after their pack. Ever vigilant and watchful for the hunters and ranchers who are obsessed with killing them. It’s heartbreaking–we’ve driven them to near genocide. Taken their lands so our precious cattle can devastate federal lands. Even while we try to re-introduce wolves to balance the ecosystem, many, a great many, remain committed to killing these amazing creatures.

I have some anxiety over my good fortune in life. I don’t feel deserving, which means I wonder if it’s real. Or if I will wake one day to be the poor kid I once was, yearning for means to travel and explore and do groovy things. Philosophically I know my life would not necessarily be more or less richer if this place somehow was suddenly gone.

We are all imperfect I suppose, and I struggle with my own sorts of anxieties even though I know that is intellectually irrational. 

“Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.” 

Henry David Thoreau

HDT never fails to raise my spirits.

I made blackened mahi-mahi the other day and noticed the cajun seasoning I pulled from the pantry expired in 2018. Still good, although I decided to retire what was left. 

I think I speak for everyone when I say I wish that newscasters would quit introducing their paid guest speakers as ‘working for a think tank’. Really? Can’t we just say they work for some organization or another with an agenda? Why the need to pretend intellectual superiority? Fuck you and your think tank bullshit. 

Extreme temp’s in the southwest this week. There is a certain wanna-be cowboy in Crawford Texas who I remember as being a famous climate science denier. Except his ignorance cost millions of lives and set the world back decades in this important moment in time. 

I wonder what his views are now that his farm is on fire. I like to think of ole Georgie down there, clearing brush, painting his childish art, and hopefully manifesting the reality that he made decisions that killed, maimed, and displaced millions, and wrecked the economy and left office having made the world a far less desirable place. I wonder if it bothers him. Or if he spins it to view himself as a victim. Or if the thinks of it at all. Simple George.

Last week was an all Brittany weekend. Birthday weekend for our girl. 

Friday night we had a lovely quiet dinner at Restoration Hardware Rooftop followed by a nightcap and cigar at Fado. 

Saturday, back to Fado for lunch and a little light day-drinking with some of Brit’s friends and co-workers and then Saturday night dinner at Smith & Wolensky with a lovely  couple. 

Sunday, back to my house where I made grilled salmon and halibut skewers with grilled veggies. Mom made an amazing carrot cake and the whole family came around. It was nice. It rained a good bit of the time, but we were outside under the covered deck. Beautiful night. 

The little dog is coming along. All puppy at the moment, but striving for dog maturity. It will take a while, but she’s on point for her age. She is either running around chasing anything and everything or zonked out. We are getting acquainted with one another. If Brittany is here, Marti needs to be able to go back and forth between us. Although she does like a late lie-in with Brittany when I get up to work or read in the early mornings. She’s no dummy. 

My time is consumed by 3 things these days. Getting BDR built. Getting Java-13 open, and of course my real job to pay for it all. Just trying to push things along. Help where I can. I don’t want to be that annoying home owner who is always around pestering the builder to get done—but then, I sorta do. Kenny and I have developed a great friendship. He is a very talented and unique guy. I am so lucky that we got introduced and especially at a time when he had availability. 

He assures me that I am no bother and compliments me on my ability to calculate my own materials and keep ahead of his need to consume supplies. I almost believe him. It’s probable he’s working me, or at best indulging me, but it feels genuine. We will remain friends when this is done and that is not something everyone building a house can boast.

September 1 feels achievable for a move-in. Fireplace won’t be done but maybe by October it will be. BDR will be a balance of mountain cabin and convenient modern home. Forest, water, views, wildlife. It won’t suck. But even when Kenny is done, I will have plenty to do. Waterproof the siding and decks, finish landscaping, outfitting the house appropriately. 

For the last task, I will need help from Brit, my sisters and Carla. I only trust my own judgment so far, although I really am not a bad designer. 

Traveling with a dog can be stressful. Especially a puppy. When I got into town I was exhausted from a week of too little sleep and hundreds of miles of driving and generally trying to juggle shit. So I popped into the Wild Bean to have an iced coffee and take an on-line meeting before I could check in to my hotel. I got a table outside, where dogs are allowed, and called in my order for expedience–so I could get in and back out straight away because Marti freaks out a bit when I leave her. She’s still a puppy and assumes if I walk away she’ll never see me again. So…I wait a few minutes and walk inside to get my coffee. An elderly woman, about my age, is in front of me completing her order which came to $4.83. She proceeded to empty her purse, absolutely convinced she had to get rid of the $.83 she just knew was in there. The search continued. Shit piled up on the counter. Coins and bills and make-up and hand lotion and a power cord and all kinds of crazy ass shit that seemed absolutely unnecessary. And, easily visible to me and the increasingly exasperated retail clerk, a debit card. Which remained unused. The search continued and the coins piled up. We had a false alarm when she counted out the stacks only to find she was light by 13 cents. I offered then, to pay for her entire order, and she said ‘no, thanks, but there’s no need. I’m sure I have the correct change here‘.  I offered to buy her a new car if she just used her debit card. She gave me a side-eye.

The dog howled from the sidewalk. The retail girl rolled her eyes. The guy behind me left–apparently deciding he no longer needed the coffee. Or getting fired wasn’t worth a cup of coffe. Or perhaps just to kill himself. Which I was contemplating at that moment, but decided it would be unfair to leave behind a young pup who was just getting familiar. After a long long long 6 or 8 minutes, she shrieked with delight and handed over $4.83. And then, with a grand flourish, proudly dropped an extra couple of dimes in the tip jar. 

I wondered what planet she must be from to be that oblivious. Surely not this one.

By-the-by, I re-joined the puppy and she was fine. Probably only slightly scarred for the experience of having been abandoned on a West Virginia sidewalk. 

Java-13 should be open sometime in August. Things will remain busy for a bit, but eventually they will settle and hopefully I will too.

It’s taken me two weeks to nurture these words to blog-worthy order and in that time I finished reading the wolf book. Terrific novel. One of the best I’ve read in years. ‘Once There Were Wolves‘. Get it. Read it.

A life in pictures. I tend to snap a lot of shots, often randomly. I like to believe I will look back fondly on these posts one day and remember that I had strived to live expansively. And to find joy and beauty in every day occurrences. There is a sequence of photos below that are pretty spectacular. I was at the ranch last weekend and within a 20 minute period, the sky went from grey to yellow to orange to pink; this happened as a storm moved out of the valley and the sun was dropping over the horizon.

Brittany volunteers at a charity golf outing each year. Her responsibilities include drinking a lot of Tito’s and driving around in a golf cart looking cute. And, apparently, standing on top of the golf cart. 

Martini decided she wanted to be a tree climber—seeing that squirrels climb trees and she wants to capture them all. 

I’m back in Worcester now quite a bit. I already miss the little dog. I like to think she misses me too.

No other news of note.

Humbly submitted.

2 thoughts on “Black Dog Rising

  1. Hey there, I’ve been following your writing for a little while and couldn’t go past on this one without saying how much I agree about helping others. Wish there was more people like you, world would be better place. Looking forward to your future writings and adventures.


    1. Good morning. Thank you for the kind words and feedback. It’s always refreshing to find like-minded folks. Thanks again and keep well.

      Liked by 1 person

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