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Creek Running North

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November 25, 2005


Zeke has limited patience for small children these days. Ten years ago he was all about the kids, joyously letting them poke and prod and punch him (which they called "petting.") Pushing fifteen, he'll have none of it. But he's far too good to think of disciplining the errant children he meets, and so the only real differences between Zeke beset by children at five and Zeke beset by children at fifteen are the look on his face as they mob him, and the elapsed time before he tries to get away.

Sophie will be two in January, and she loves dogs. We thus had one of those irresistable force and immovable object conundra enacted live for our amusement last night.

Liam is going through changes of his own. At three, he already has a profound sensitivity and inner life. He tired of even his favorite uncle's company after half an hour or so of playing "airplane" on the rolling office chair. He fed the rabbit and the guinea pig, walked over to the beleaguered dog and kissed his forehead. This is a measure of Zeke's demeanor, as Liam is quite afraid of dogs. For much of the rest of the evening, Liam was self-contained, playing with Becky's toys and wandering around our house exploring.

Sophie's hand was glued to Zeke's back for most of the evening. This was a dilemma for Zeke. He was unsure how to slough off his hitchhiker. He walked to the bedroom, then from the bedroom to the office, then from the office to the kitchen and back into the living room. Nothing worked. Sophie followed as though she was grasping an assistance dog harness. Even the old "walk under the dining room table" gambit failed to dislodge her, despite a minor bump to her forehead. Mere pain would not dissuade Sophie from the important task of loving the dog.

I could have said something to her, asked her nicely to leave the doggie alone, and she would have, as she is in the main an obedient child. But I didn't. I found Zeke's obvious, eye-rolling annoyance more amusing than a compassionate dog person should. Sophie wasn't pulling hair, or poking eyes: she merely kept the dog company he didn't really want. Eventually, Zeke went out into the rainy backyard and found blessed solitude.

It was later. The rest of us were in the traditional Thanksgiving post-prandial torpor, but Sophie was peckish. Out came the raisins. She ate one box-full. The second box was for sharing. She made the rounds, trying to treat each adult in the house to at least a couple raisins, which she carefully put in our mouths. As favorite uncle, I was lucky enough to get the two that had fallen on the carpet with the dog hair. This was not a problem. It was, after all, my dog.

Zeke came back in, ate a few bites of turkey, and the forced march through the rooms began anew.

And then it was late, and Liam and Sophie drove their sleepy parents back home, and my mom and Jim left, and my brother-in-law and I did a bit of desultory cleaning as Becky lay unconscious in her big chair. While Sophie had been seated at the table, I'd brought Zeke's food dishes to our bedroom laden with stuffing and organ meats so that he could eat in peace. I went to bring his dishes into the kitchen for wash.

Zeke had licked the plate clean. On that empty plate, carefully positioned in the exact center, was a raisin.

Posted by Chris Clarke at November 25, 2005 12:30 PM TrackBack URL for this entry:

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The raisin in the dog's dish is a nice touch. A sweet offering that softens a bit of unintended torment Zeke suffered through. Such a good disposition on that boy. I probably couldn't have watched Sophie annoy him, even reading about it drove me a little crazy.
Sounds like you had a nice Thanksgiving, Chris. And Zeke got in his licks.

Posted by: Rexroth's Daughter at November 25, 2005 02:41 PM
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Are you sure that wasn't a present from Thistle?

Posted by: Ron at November 25, 2005 04:37 PM
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oh, zeke is such an excellent uncle! [as you are, too, chris. airplane rides and hair-encrusted raisens are not everyone's idea of fun.]

i love sophie's present to zeke. and liam's kiss. maybe it is those kinds of moments that bind us together through time and trouble. [along with some humor -- thanks, ron!]

Posted by: kathy a at November 25, 2005 06:31 PM
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What a wonderful story. Here's another raisin for you.

Posted by: Lei at November 25, 2005 07:43 PM
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Posted by: Mike Anderson at November 25, 2005 11:27 PM
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I like to remember Zeke playing with the kids on Frisbie Street.

Posted by: craig at November 26, 2005 02:29 AM
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I want to have Zeke's babies.

Posted by: Jamie at November 26, 2005 10:16 AM
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Sorry, Jamie. Zeke has committed to a child-free lifestyle.

Posted by: Chris Clarke at November 26, 2005 10:19 AM
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Chris, thank you so much for sharing your beautiful Zeke with the world. I have never read a blog. I have been very distressed today because my beautiful Matilda, an Australian Silkie is not doing well. She is 16 years old. I found her and her sister in a window after calling off my wedding. I gave her sis to my Mom. Matilda has long blonde flowing hair. She is beautiful and no one believes her age except for her clouded eyes. She is a pint size pup but with the energy and spirit of a giant. Watching her run across a lawn was pure joy. She would sing and dance, tumble and jump...she was a darling. During the past year she has slowly faded. Her eyes, her hearing and her sense of familiarity seem to have all vanish. She cannot find her way from the lawn to the back door. She does not want to be touched or cuddled. She has a collapsed treachea, heart murmur and assorted other ailments. I worry about her quality of life and then suddenly she will prance down the hallway as if nothing is wrong. I must face a terrible decision in the near future. Thank you for sharing. You write beautifully. I enjoyed meeting you. Warmest regards.

Posted by: fiestyseagull at November 26, 2005 02:42 PM
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I'm honored by your comments, fiestyseagull, and I wish you and Matilda the easiest possible outcome to this difficult situation.

Zeke and I will be in the same boat before long.

Posted by: Chris Clarke at November 26, 2005 04:16 PM
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Isn't being an uncle great? Okay, well, I know how it is to be an auntie, and I assume the uncle thing is close to the same. Really, I would never share a lollypop with anyone, but when a sticky two-year- old whacks you in the teeth with a huge one and says "tastes yummy - Auntie Kim, taste it" who could refuse! Sounds like it was really okay for Zeke too. What a great dog!

Posted by: Kim at November 26, 2005 04:18 PM
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Zeke has committed to a child-free lifestyle.

So not only is Zeke the coolest dog personified in print(?) since London's Buck, but he's also a man-hating, evil feminist hell bent on destroying the selectively recollected polemical (and false, thank you Stephanie Coontz) history of the 'merican family? Watch out, I feel a Republican War on Dogs comin' on . . .

Posted by: Jamie at November 26, 2005 05:37 PM
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zeke isn't into war -- he's into love, joy, nature, and turkey, as near as i can tell. go, zeke!

Posted by: kathy a at November 26, 2005 07:08 PM
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fiestyseagull, we went through the same experience this past summer with our faithful old dog and my heart goes out to you. It's always amazing how animals find us when we need them. Matilda was there for you when you needed her and now it's terrible, the tables are turned. All I know to say is, trust your instincts, listen to her, and you will make the right decisions about her care. email me directly if you want.

Posted by: Charles at November 26, 2005 08:04 PM
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THANKS .... for your Doubts!

Posted by: Yubi at November 27, 2005 02:19 AM
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This is actually a reply to "Doubts," not "Thanks." I know that I have spent too much time over this holiday on my blog, too. But I'm glad it's there, because it's all the writing I have time to do. I wish that were otherwise.

I think you ought to trust yourself at any given moment about the writing that you need to do. If it's the book, let it be the book. A blog shouldn't own you. Write in it when that works, but not when it doesn't. You don't owe anything to a readership.

Your doubts make me think, too, about the role a blog should or shouldn't play in my life and how much is too much. Thanks for posting.

Posted by: MindSpin at November 27, 2005 10:23 AM
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I notice this re-examination and self-questioning is beginning to become a theme among many academically inclined bloggers of late. The mood of a frustrating few years living in this strange country???

Chris, your contributions are a delight to read; they create some moments of pleasure in my own otherwise too weary days. Thanks for all of them, on all the different places. And when you re-discover what it is that made your creativity come out this way, do it some more, please???

Posted by: spyder at November 27, 2005 03:02 PM
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While you may have doubts about it, a few of your blog posts are some of the best stuff I've ever read. And I'm pretty well-read.

You have one helluva a lot of talent. Whether it's better spent on your book, or your blog, or something else, is for you to say. But I just wanted to let you know how much I've enjoyed your blog.

Hope you can find a way to work out both -- but do whatever you need to do. And thanks, I've really appreciated it.


Posted by: Mike Anderson at November 27, 2005 10:41 PM
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I couldn't agree more with what Mike said, especially including the "thank you" part.

Posted by: Charles at November 28, 2005 05:37 AM
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What Mike said. I hope you pull back and make this blog exactly how you want it to be. If that means cutting down the time on it to every few days, or even once a week or less, so be it; but I certainly hope it can continue to be a vehicle for you and a meeting place for us. We want you to be happy when you're here, and have this space be balanced with the many other facets of your life, because, well, you rock.

Posted by: ostranenie at November 28, 2005 06:23 AM
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I'm with those guys above - your writing is beautiful and it has brought pleasure to my life - sometimes tears, sometimes smiles. You must do what you must do, but please know that you've touched my life - and I'm sure I'm not alone in this.

Thank you.

Posted by: anne at November 28, 2005 08:42 AM
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i agree. chris, i so much enjoy your writing, and the views from your particular windows. i thought, probably selfishly, that your posts also might help your other writing in various ways -- sometimes as practice runs, diversion, for feedback, for community, etc.

please do what you gotta. much as we enjoy this blog, we admire you and your work, and want you to get things done that you need to do.


Posted by: kathy a at November 28, 2005 01:45 PM
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Chris, your Doubts entry caused the outing of one of your most faithful lurkers: me. Like your fans above, I consider this blog to be one of the best I have encountered due to the honesty of your reflections.

As a daily poster on my own blog, I understand the distractions of counting the stats, lavishing time on the blog that would better be spent elsewhere, etc. But you have connected at a fundamental level with a number of people. Your cadre of readers attests to this. Along the lines of the post above, could you view your blog as a sort of workshop or testing ground for the ideas you want to make more permanent?

Posted by: bitterroot at November 28, 2005 03:11 PM
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No doubt, you wanted no comment on "Doubt" but bear with me.
I am an occasional reader. I appreciate a fresh perspective on the stories that MSM ignore because wild lands and ecology issues don't sell papers. I have trudged through miles of decomposed granite hills, alkali flats, sage brush, joshua and creosote in the Mojave...sometimes for a jack rabbit or if in the Panamints, looking for agate. I never get anything to take back but the desert always gets me to come back.

If I promise to buy your book, will you continue to avail yourself of this little pulpit? You can say stuff here that no publisher would print but an audiance, equipped with google and the right attitude will find.

It is pretty common for bloggers who are better paid for their non-blogging output to regret the way a blog sucks you in, hooked by your own vanity. You can disengage slightly, write smaller pieces, enlist more co-writers...lots of ways to reduce the burden much less than you reduce the benefits.

My reservations about my own blogging, especially about the warping effects of imagining who my audiance is [all two of 'em], led to reduced output and may cause changes of format, mission statements and participation in web rings, blogrolls and alliances. But in the end I couldn't just kill it without walking away from a virtual party, falling silent among a small crowd of strange new friends.

You can park the domain name for the cost of a decent dinner and use one of the free services. Blogger, although it limits your looks and features, is steadily crawled by google: cheap visibility if your keywords honestly match your content, or lots of zero-length visits if not.

I'll say it again: I enjoy your thinking, your experience and the language by which you conjure them into our minds. And, as you know, some impressively thoughtful bloggers are impressed with what you have written here and linked to your posts...that is how I came to know of your writing.

Come to think of it, maybe this comment is not entirely OT since the post is about Thanks.

Posted by: greensmile at November 28, 2005 03:17 PM
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As another longtime (in internet time, anyway) lurker, I'd like to add my voice to those above, Chris.

You must, of course, decide what is best for you, and for your writing... whether it is closing up shop, or maybe just pulling back some, and refocusing. I hope it's the latter. You would be greatly missed.

Posted by: Nanette at November 28, 2005 04:11 PM
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