Big Dogs and Old Friends

Jacek Yerka-jardin

Michael and I lived in an eclectic 20’s neighborhood, inhabited by artists, writers, waylaid shepherds, and lots of regular, incredible folk. There were even some such neighbors that I had grown up along side with … as far back as Catholic grade school. The common denominator was that everyone embraced all lifestyles AND a keen appreciation for an area where individual expression flourished. The lawns and gardens were creatively drawn with personal embellishments of statuary, meticulous gardens, and a great deal of magic.

Michael and I liked to think that our yard was no different; it was our canvas. The front was more formal, with symmetry, uniformity, and a hint of grandeur. The back, however, was much different … with circles and spirals of ancient perennials, espaliered figs, and intimate groves for reading and conversation. We had the obligatory pond of reflective goldfish as well, built high with cobble and guarded by stone Pans, gargoyles, blooming papyrus.

The real oddity in the yard was perhaps the assortment of antique tombstones that were propped against tree trunks or sequestered in the shade. Do not fear, my friends: we obtained these through honest and pure transactions with a company that restored old markers, often discarding some that were as old our country itself! (My favorite such granite “borrowed memory” was that of an open book propped against an urn on a pedestal, as I always keep it underplanted with lobelia.)

The yard was by far our favorite room at Fort Fairmont; yes, every poet’s home has such a name! Yet every morning I would take my coffee out back to ponder and survey the yard and what tasks awaited my supervision. Inevitably, Pan would be toppled, the papyrus crushed, and perhaps a grave marker felled flat on the earth. Some would assume naughty goblins or pixies to be the culprits … but I wasn’t too convinced.

For several days, I kept a close monitor but with no findings. That is, until one afternoon when (from an upstairs window) I spotted a large and regal yellow lab frolicking in the pond. He splashed, drank, and made canine merry as only such a good-spirited dog can. I ran outside, scolding and chasing him off.

This interloper, however, was undaunted as he returned later that afternoon. Once again, I chased him as far as the next street.The following morning as I savored yet my brew of ritual, he cautiously entered the back yard. I coaxed him over, saw at once his trusty tag, and found his address. “This was going to be the end of my consternation!”

I dragged him to the Courtland Street address, angrily rang the bell, and waited, practicing in my mind that stern, principled oratory on canine responsibility!
The door opened and … oh my, it was Adelaide, a friend from high school. And not just a friend, but an individual who was always kind, egalitarian, and exemplary in nature! I explained to her what had transpired; repeatedly apologizing for any part MY carelessness had played in the dog’s romps. And I went home.

My mind raced from regret to relief to frustration … to joy in discovering a comfortable old friend. I went home and immediately rearranged the statuary and moved Pan to even higher stones … and swept the papyrus aside to create an easy watering hole. From that afternoon on, the dog was no longer a trespasser; I was a gracious HOST!

Is there a moral to such a rambling, comrades? Perhaps. Let’s just say if you plan to run with the big dogs, be prepared to grab them by the collar, and look your youth squarely in the eye. And prepare to move on.

(Image: “Le Jardin” by Jacek Yerka.)