Thursday, August 25, 2011

Adopting Wally

Years ago my mother was an elementary school vocal music teacher, and this week I got to thinking about the songs she taught me as a child. It occurred to me that a couple of the songs I remember now, 50-some years later, happened to be about dogs:

There was a farmer had a dog,
And Bingo was his name-o.
And Bingo was his name-o

And there was this:

How much is that doggie in the window?
The one with the waggly tail?
How much is that doggie in the window?
I do hope that doggie’s for sale

These songs came to mind, I guess, because two weeks ago Leah and I adopted a shelter dog named Wally. On the day we moved him from the shelter to his new home, Leah looked after Wally at the house while I went to the pet store in town to buy him a collar, leash, and dog food...but what else do you suppose I saw there?
Why, a doggie in a window of course!

Wally is a sweet but timid one-year-old who the shelter workers said was neglected in his birth home (seeing his extreme timidity, I think he must also have been abused.) He’s lived in the shelter about half of his life, and Leah and I are beginning what we know will be a long (perhaps very long) process of patiently helping Wally understand that he has nothing to fear here. He spent much of the time his first day or two cowering under a table, and Leah and I considered it a sign of great progress when Wally got up on our couch to nap -- though he kept a wary eye on me.

Quite honestly, it was our intention to adopt a "needy" dog that other humans might consider too problematic, but even for us -- knowing that we've taken on a challenge -- there are days we wonder what we’ve gotten ourselves into. We’re learning that patience is an easy word to say, but a more difficult quality to practice. Yesterday Wally peed on the floor in our dining room (the shelter folks told us he is “mostly” housebroken.)

Yes, this will be a long learning process, for Wally, and for his humans.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Printing for the Show

I’m madly working away in my office this week, getting my “Tibetans in Seattle” images edited, printed and matted. Three years ago when I began taking pictures for my Tibetan friends at their various community events, I had no plan to make The Work into A Project (nor did I consider the making of the photographs work, I might add.) It is simply a matter of happenstance that, after shooting for all this time, I can look back through my archives and realize that I have in fact amassed a pretty comprehensive collection of pictures that please me.

Thus, when the Tibetan Community asked if I would show my pictures in a gallery near where they’ll hold Tibet Fest this weekend, I said: "Sure, I can do that." And so I’m living, mole-like, in my office this week, staring for hours into my computer display screen, revisiting images and memories.

This process is quite enjoyable, actually.

Last weekend -- before I took on my mole identity -- I was still out and about in the world...shooting a number of things for my business, but also doing (as has become quite a pleasant habit) a volunteer shoot for the Tibetans and their monastery. A very important Tibetan Buddhist Lama, His Holiness Sakya Trisin, was in town, and I spent the better part of three days hanging out with the Tibetans.

It’s possible one or two of these new images might wind up in my show.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Language and Cultural Class

Two weeks from now my friends from Seattle-area Tibetan community will hold their annual cultural celebration, Tibet Fest, in a huge city-owned building in the shadow of the Space Needle near downtown Seattle. There will be Tibetan singing and dancing and traders will sell Tibetan jewelry, woven carpets, and the like. Many of the local Tibetans will wear traditional costumes -- dressed-to-the-nines, as Americans would say. Long strings of prayer flags will hang from the rafters of the Seattle Center House which hosts the event.

It will be quite a scene then, the Center House a visual feast of color, the Tibetan community happy and in full-on Party Mood. I have been asked to hang a small showing of some of the photographs I’ve shot over the past three years at the community’s events, and I have a lot of work to do to edit, print, and frame my images.

But while my preparation for my Tibet Fest show will keep me fairly busy for just two weeks, my Tibetan friends’ work at sustaining their culture goes on in a myriad of ways all year long. For example: Every Sunday parents and community elders hold language and culture classes for Tibetan youth, where kids learn to read and write in Tibetan (I can tell you from personal and frustrating experience that Tibetan is not an easy language to learn.) And there are other lessons in art and dance.

The parents and teachers are patient and kind with their young students. And the kids? Well they are kids. The little ones are sometimes shy, the older students usually interested and engaged but occasionally a little tired-looking (the kids, after all, attend American school five days a week, then have Tibet Class on Sunday.)

It is an impressive thing to see, this community’s work to keep its culture alive.

I’m looking forward to displaying photographs that I hope reflect my respect for the Tibetans of Seattle.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Dude Ranch

I’ve been revisiting lately some of Mark Twain’s books that I first read when I was in high school, and I’m tempted to steal a scam from Tom Sawyer's bag of tricks. Remember how his Aunt Polly wanted Tom to whitewash the fence surrounding her house, and Tom convinced some of his schoolmates to do the job for him? (plus pay Tom for the privilege.)

Leah and I have been joking that we might do the same kind of ruse here, because we’ve been feeling a wee bit overwhelmed with all the summertime chores we have on our to-do list: There was firewood that I split and stacked (summer has barely arrived here in the Pacific Northwest, but I’m already having to think ahead to winter;) and there’s an amazing crop of moss on the roof I’ve been scraping off, shingle-by-shingle. And the garden and orchard are beginning to yield produce, thus Leah has been busy in the kitchen, canning and preserving.

So our joke went like this: There must be folks on the other side of Puget Sound in Seattle -- city-types, you know? -- who would love to come out here to our small farm and do some back-to-the-land work. We’d have a dude ranch of sorts where stressed-out urbanites could pick apples and blackberries, then slave away in a hot kitchen, making jam that Leah and I can eat this winter. Maybe those city folks would even pay us for the soul-healing tonic of doing Good Honest Work.

Just as Tom Sawyer was able to go fishing once the gullible kids took over his painting responsibilities, Leah and I too would have free time that presently is so hard to come by. We could go for leisurely walks. We could pet the neighbor’s horses.

I asked the horses the other day what they thought of my plan, and they nodded approvingly.