him, because memories are pinned in images to our minds, and
to our hearts. Galileo knew this too. “For such is the condition
of the human mind,” he wrote, “that unless continuously struck
by images of things rushing into it from outside, all memories
easily escape from it.”
When I stand on the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, I think of
Dante, child of that river city, comparing sinners hunkered in
pitch to frogs cowering up to their eyes in mud, fleeing the
Heavenly Messenger as if fleeing a heron’s jab. I can picture that
panicked sideways spurt of motion, raising a curl of river-mud
through the water, because I saw it in Alabama first, alongside
the siren drone of peepers and the soft plunk of turtles in our
own lake, on some evening that my father and I were—are
always — standing on the bank, enjoying, together.
The lovely thing, truly seen, can bend time back into itself
until all moments are the same.
Danger. Beauty. These things remind us: dust thou art, and to
dust thou shalt return. But first: open your mortal eyes and gaze
upon this world.
WITH THE ACME THUNDERER around my neck, I parked the
Stal and unlatched the dog trailer and released Brownie, the
female pointer who’s the hardest-running, most self-forgetful
dog in the kennel. Brownie will leap into a patch of thorns
and nose around until she’s cut to ribbons. She’ll bite her own
tongue in excitement and gallop on, bleeding. She won’t come
in until she’s good and ready.
Running along the creek bank, she caught something in the
air and swung around so hard she almost backflipped. Then
she was on it, digging with both paws so fast her head soon dis-
appeared. Every so often she’d thrust her nose against the dirt
and snort, pause, then dig faster. I hunkered close and poked
with a stick but couldn’t see anything. Not a quail, for sure.
Maybe it was an armadillo—they were all over that field. She
dug so hard I was worried she’d soon break through the burrow
ceiling and fall in.
“Brownie, come on.” I touched her wiry back, ribs and mus-
cles jerking under the brown-flecked white fur. She ignored
me. “Come on.” I grabbed her collar and yanked her away, and
she strained back to the hole. All the way back to the dog trailer
I dragged her and she fought until she slipped loose and gal-
loped back to dig in again.
Then I remembered: Brownie loves rats, which, like deer or
house cats, are forbidden. But look how badly she wanted it: tail
whipping, mud-caked ribs heaving. Isn’t that why we take ani-
mals out into the world with us — to enter reality as they experi-
ence it, even for a little while? To feel the world flow into our
bodies as it flows into theirs—one continuous river of taste,
smell, sight, desire?
A month before my father’s death, Brownie would be the
first to run to him where he stood shakily in the door, and the
last to be shooed away.
It is something to want, to reach with everything you have
for something no one else can see, because it is so clear to you.
To look at the world, and keep looking. This is how a spirit
moves forward through time. This is how it goes on.
I left Brownie at the rat hole and fetched Stal and the dog
trailer. By the time I got back, the rat was gone, and she was
ready to come in, trotting close and low, looking up at me and
wagging her tail, leaning against my legs, ready to be lifted into
the trailer to go home.
In the Stal, whistle jingling around my neck, I cruised past
the house and waved at my father. Distantly I could see him in
the door, waving back. Good work. O