“It came with the wind through the silence of the night, a long, deep mutter, then a rising howl, and then the sad moan in which it died away. Again and again it sounded, the whole air throbbing with it, strident, wild and menacing.”*
“A man’s or a woman’s?”
Dr. Mortimer looked strangely at us for an instant, and his voice sank almost to a whisper as he answered: “Mr Holmes, they were the footprints of a gigantic hound!”*
*From, The Hound of the Baskervilles, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
A large something has been dogging me for months. I’ve sensed it in the spaces of the trees. Glimmers, shadows, traces of things, then out of the blue, I catch a look at it: the dogged thing. I’ve looked for answers in stacks of papers, mossy rocks, old friends, long walks and in the silence of the night.
You, I’ve said as bravely as I could, I see you. I name you.
This all sounds very good. Except I no sooner name it as it changes. I name the tallness because it haunts. Shortly thereafter tallness is immaterial. There is an almost missing forearm impossible to avoid, which itself becomes irrelevant because the smell of cheese is so intense. But I cannot worry about cheese too long because I hear the sound of bagpipes not only in my head but in my bones.
It has made for strange conversations.
How is it going, a friend might ask, about the tall thing.
Tall thing? I feel terrible. The forearm is dangling precariously by a sinew. Apologetic for the confusion, I rename the dogged thing from tall to dangling.
Mine is a simple theory: naming things makes them manageable. Having to keep renaming the dogging thing has been a crisis of confidence, especially for my writing aspirations. Writers name things. That’s what they do. If I can’t adequately name the dogged thing, how can I expect to write?
We’ve been in a heat wave drugged by humidity. Thoughts beyond the immediate have not been possible. I kicked in the life skills/coping strategies almost as soon as it started. Hottest jobs for coolest times of day, hydration, hydration, shade, etc. Every afternoon I got the kids to cold water to swim or took them to the library to cool down in the air conditioning. It worked. In fact, it worked so well I decided it wasn’t needed.
Wednesday we did nothing to combat the heat. By the afternoon, sticky grumpy bodies lined the couches. Shrill voices complained loudly. Irritating acts occurred every ten seconds. Violent acts threatened. When night fell, I went outside for some air. Two lone bats flew the skies. The rest knew it was too hot even for the mosquitoes. The fans that had worked splendidly to cool the house on hotter days were pathetic and impotent against our stickiness that night. No one could sleep for hours.
Based on the weather, it could have been the fifth or sixth day of misery, but it wasn’t. Every day I’d taken the heat seriously had been just fine. Lying there, I thought about how sometimes you know more than you give yourself credit for. Then I thought about the dogged thing whose naming had so plagued me. Why had I insisted it was one name or another? That not knowing which name was the actual name was a failure? People can be named Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill and much longer names than that. Cannot dogged things have many names as well?
With that I sighed relief. The dogged thing was named after all. For the rest of the summer, we shall go forth to be sensible on hot days and not. As Mr. Churchill once said:
Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.