Thursday, August 20, 2009

The force of beauty

Sometimes I wake up and see the folly - not of all man's works but of mine. Yellow Bird is a fantasy that I cannot possibly realize, too off the beaten track, too hot in the summer, too much for one person etc etc. Jay has been bushhogging with my tractor recently, and doing quite a bit. But the weeds seem to be winning. And progress on building projects is next to zero. I say to myself that I am waiting for the pound to recover from its precipitous decline last year. So this morning I took a tour on the four wheeler to see what I could still get Tony Young to cut professionally with his 10' wide bushhog. And I glimpsed again the envisioned YB, the rolling grass, the place that could feed the dreams of others too. And with that vision back in place, everything changed. The YB dream is back on track. So what is happening here?
One sociobiological explanation of the appeal of landscape painting, and look-out points etc. is that when we were apes, we would climb trees both for safety from predators, and to get a better view of possible threats. Landscape vision represents security. There may be SOMETHING in this. Views of dense forests, or jungles seem less attractive, and that might be because we cannot see what might be hiding in there. Desertscapes, on the other hand, are attractive only when there are interesting dune formations, or wave patterns in the sand, or oases. And even then, there seems to be something lacking? This suggests that security is not enough. Yellow Bird grabbed me because there was a perfect mix of meadows and woods, cleared and dark spaces.If artistic values sublimate naturalistic ones, then one would expect analogs of the concern for both security and interest to re-appear. Total clarity would offer real control, but over nothing. At the naturalistic level, a landscape with no dark spaces would hide no predators, but also provide no cover for edible creatures (or plants). If sublimation moves us from considerations of diet and survival to ones of information - richness of input combined with a capacity for forming and shaping - would that account for landscape values? And for changes in our 'views' of landscape? (Think of the glories of wilderness, on the one hand, and the gardens of Versailles, on the other.) Somewhere in the middle, towards Versailles perhaps, Jencks' Garden of Cosmic Speculation. It would be an interesting theme for a YB photoshoot - the tame and the wild, and the battle/creative tension between them.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Commemorating Buddy - from John Llewelyn

Dear David,
I have just been walking in the gardens of Astley-Ainslie hospital along the end of our road. At the edge of one of the lawns, under a tree, are gravestones commemorating dogs that have, presumably, "belonged to" certain members of staff-though the one remembering Sambo makes me wonder whether Harry and Barbara Acton, who lived not far away, had their Welsh spaniel interred there. The earliest date is on the grave of Dum-Dum, who died on August 25 1900. The most recent date is on the grave of Pax, who died on July 27 2008. The stone is new and was probably put in position a few weeks ago on the anniversary of his or her death. I also walked today along the "donkey track" on Blackford Hill where someone has fixed to a section of exposed igneous rock a wee brass plate on which is written:

"In loving memory of Rex & Moss
& Polly & Cleo,
Fower dugs tae whom
This hill belanged a'
The days o' thir lives."

In the garden and on the hill I thought of the dogs named at these two sacred places, but I also thought of Buddy. And I thought of him too when I was back home in our own garden where the horse-chestnut leaves will soon be falling on the grave of our German Shepherd Dog Jacky. Margaret and I were granted the gift of burying him. If you are denied that with Buddy, you must invent something that will not only help you, as Margaret was helped by writing a book about our life with Jacky, the last chapter of which is also the last chapter of my attachment (blessed word). We are sending an extra donation to Compassion in World Farming in support of the campaign to ensure that male dairy calves have a life worth living. We are doing it in memory of Buddy. You, David, through your writings and other actions on behalf of
animals, have already put into practice Gavin Maxwell's maxim "Whatever joy she gave to you, give back to nature." But if you thought of a way of commemorating and celebrating the life of Buddy in particular (like planting a special tree?), your friends and his over there and over here would be grateful for the opportunity to contribute to whatever that might cost.

But I refuse to give up all hope yet that he will find his way back home. Meanwhile, for sending those lovely photographs of him and for him and his "owner" we are

Yours gratefully,

John and Margaret

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

In memoriam Buddy boy

Before I left for England and Italy, I gave Buddy some worming liquid and a big hug. Two weeks later, Joe drove up to the house to say he had not seen Buddy for three days. He was about 10 years old. His mother had died at about 8. When I counted the goats they were down to 10, and I thought Buddy might have died in a valiant battle against coyotes. On recounting the goats there were 14, so no losses. If anything an extra one. I cannot find him, or his body. But there is a bad smell near his shed which I cannot pin down in the long grass. Could I have killed him with the worming liquid? It was just routine - I never saw worms. But he had not had it before. Was he just old? Did he have heartworm? I wish I had been here to help. Could I, or a vet, have made a difference? According to Joe, he just stopped showing up. Was he injured?Buddy had the perennial smile of a sheepdog, which comes from the line of the mouth. It's hard not to respond with trust and affection, which generates more trust. I had often imagined truly befriending him, taking him back to the house one day. I worried it would ruin his connection to the goats. I always thought there was more time. As with so many things, that's not true. Perhaps it's better to say: there never more time. There are only actions, events, decisions. But that's not true either.
Today I was up with the goats. Lots of serious braying - male/male standoffs - with huge horns. Some residual coyote protection from these guys. Goodbye Buddy. I want to find your body, for closure. And then again, dear friend, I don't.