Dunga Brook Diary

The rural life through the lens of an iPhone and notes from the field…

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Country Life, 3.1.17


Country Life

These are the ghosts of the wild tomatoes that (each summer) rise from the loam and take over my yard. The pig jaw is from my neighbor’s carcass pile. Out here, that’s a thing. 

The picnic table they rest on is a nice pallet that the very same neighbor let me take home in the back of my truck. The pallet picnic table is held up by two junk-store sawhorses that cost me less than 5 bucks. I live in an old farmhouse (gussied up in navy blue and a red metal roof) made cozy upon my arrival by a top to bottom renovation. 

Yes, Virginia, house-poor is definitely a thing. 

LA was my base for over 20 years before this- I miss my friends and my salary and my hairdresser, but not much else.

Besides, this middle of nowhere life gives the most unusual gifts- bones and broken china and musket balls that rise from the muddy hills at the first thaw, a laboriously slow Spring that gives birth to furious pink peony blooms, a too brief Summer that passes in a swoon of greens and swirling blue skies, Falls that arrive with a riot of ripe vegetables and trees all gussied up in crimson and golds, and the winters… those old man winters…with bony white charm and eyes full of menace…one minute gifting lovely snow flakes and the next, slapping with ice…but mostly he’s toothless and doddering and by March, April, May, he’s well overlong with his stay. 

I’ve met lot of nice friends out here, all artists and poets and musicians, all outliers. 

When I first arrived, I dated the two-horse town lawyer (a most respectable gent) and followed him up with a crazy young crazy lover who came but almost didn’t went. 

I’m good now, I’m good, I’m good, I repeat with the wind as it howls down the tired old hills to knock at my windows like a ghost who’s not sure if they’ve been missed. 

I’m good now, I’m good, I’m good, I repeat while he huffs and he puffs but he can’t blow this old house down…anchored as it is with a lovely stone foundation from the 1820’s and a lot of dollars from heaven.

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Lil Jester & a Bone of Wisdom via Georgia O’Keeffe

Lil Jester and a bone of wisdom from Georgia O'Keeffe

“To me they are as beautiful as anything I know,” Georgia O’Keeffe said of the sun-bleached bones and skulls she found in the desert. “To me they are strangely more living than the animals walking around…. The bones seem to cut sharply to the center of something that is keenly alive …”

Lil Jester, the Story

I did know this little guy.

In 2011, I flew from LA to CNY to see my house for the first time (I bought it the month before, sight unseen) and to stay with my neighbor, Tim, who first posted the picture of the house on Facebook.

This was Mother’s Day weekend.

On Mother’s Day, Lil Jester was born, there were twins but one died and this one survived, barely. The mother rejected him, so Tim and I hand fed LJ for the first few days of his life.

There is another story where I was in charge of him and he disappeared and I thought he’d been swallowed by a coyote or ferret and I cried inconsolably, but I’ll save that retelling for later.

Anyway, by the time my house was being renovated in July 2011, he was a handsome young goat with nubs where his majestic horns would be.

In the country, not all goats are created equal and boy goats do hot hold the same rank as a girl goat, a girl can be milked and bred, a boy can be annoying and eaten when he is of the right age.

This was the fate of the little boy goat.

His bones were left in a field behind my house, I knew not where until spring 2013 rolled around and I was on one of my long walks through the mud.

Spring mud pushes bones to the surface that Winter stripped clean.

There he was.

I brought him home.

Oh my god, I love this guy…

Oh my god, I love this guy...

For D. D.k. Crawford…the story of Chevy’s return home.

Chevy disappeared this past Thursday as I was walking him, I had dropped his leash for a minute to look for my grandmother’s ring, which was refashioned from my grandfather’s platinum and diamond hat pin (he was a dandy back in the day), the ring had gone missing near the creek, probably broke when I scaled the walls of the creek, earlier in the day).

No ring and when I looked up from my search, no Chevy. He had disappeared into the tall grasses around us- we’ve had so much rain he could just poof, disappear. He likes to mosey off to look for fun creatures, I wasn’t too worried as he always reappears, in 10 minutes or an hour, he always comes back.

One time he flushed a deer from this very spot, he chased close to her heels as she zigged and zagged, trying to shake him. She crossed the road and jumped a fence. So did he. I could hear heavy breathing as she plunged into the woods 30 acres away. He came back ten minutes later, heaving and breathing heavy, himself.

But this time, he didn’t come back. I called and called. My son and I searched until 2am. No Chev. That night, I was lying in bed when I heard his bark, it was 3 am. I went outside and called, no Chev. I sat out there for an hour, he never barked again.

Next day, more searching, the hills and woods held no clues. We expanded miles past our home, nothing. We made flyers, we called pounds and vets. Friday at 3 am that bark again, I went outside again, called and fell silent, hoping to hear him again, I was trying to get a read on where the bark was coming from. No more barking.

Saturday morning, I was up early, walking towards where I believed the bark was from, behind Tim’s barn. My neighbor, Margo had heard it, too. No luck. All day Saturday there were false sightings. I drove for miles, handing out flyers. A woman had seen him an hour from here. Someone on the next road had heard barking.

I knew these weren’t him. He is a wanderer, not an escapee, he comes home, an hour tops, and he keeps his circle close to home, even on the trail of a deer, nipping at a deer’s heels, he will circle back in a bit when he is worn out. I was devastated. I was sure, despite the barks, he was gone.

My fear was his leash was caught and he was strangled in a panic to escape. This deep sorrow was actually, I believe, the realization of how much I love this guy, how much he has been my touchstone for the past two years of my journey into the middle of nowhere. How much I need this guy. We aren’t done, I kept thinking, please.

He is my photographer’s assistant. Every meaningful photo I have taken, save the past few days, he has been by my side. A gorgeous close up of his eye was my first test photo for the aluminum prints I have had so much success with. He is a subject in all of my photography shows. He is in every image, in spirit.

Despite being sure he was gone, my feet wouldn’t stop walking the woods and the fields he loves so much. About to give up, I gave it one more walk, an hours walk, no luck. Returning home, behind Tim’s barn, I heard a bark. I stood on a hill and looked at his barn, I texted Connor, come back, I hear him, he’s here, meet me at Tim’s barn. I scoured the barn with my eyes, calling his name. No answer. I got closer, I called and called. Is he in there? It is a behemoth of an old barn, you could lose an elephant in there.

A bark! The burdock in front of me, down the hill towards the barn rustled, shook and I called again, it shook harder, he is there! Chevron! You are ALIIIIIIIIIVE, I yelled, My baby lives!

I fought my way through giant weeds to the burdock, he was their wagging and wriggling and licking my face as I unspooled his mangled leash from the base of the giant weed. Nearby was the gopher hole he’d been trying to reach.

Oh my god, I love this guy.

He dragged me to the creek, joyously flying through weeds for his first full drink of water in 3 days. And, relief.

That is the story.

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