“If you go slowly enough, six or seven months is an eternity—if you let it be—if you forget old things, and learn new ones. Even a week can last forever.”
Rick Bass, Winter

"In the midst of winter, I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer."
Albert Camus

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Day 31: Black Dog, White Snow

Until this winter, I always took pictures as mementos, not for art.  Nikon point-and-shoots were my brand, never the kind that cost more than a hundred dollars.  The one we took to France with Zoe wasn't bad, but I left if at a café in Brittany and when we went back, it was gone.  We bought its replacement at BJ's Wholesale in Massena, New York: a downgrade, if there ever was one. Then I dropped it at the Tibetan Children's school in Macleod Ganj and the little trap door that holds in the memory card and the batteries broke.  To use that camera, I had to stick a rubber band around it.  There's only so far you can go with a camera of this ilk.

It's easy to take a picture when the world is drenched in color.  One day, in Corsica, Zoe picked out a new house for us.  We looked down at the village below and she said, "I like this view."  Then she turned around to face us, and posed.

Still, I wish you could see the color of her eyes.

Today, outside my studio window, the sky is a uniform washed out gray.  But whether the sky is a jazzy blue or the gray of drenched newsprint, photographing snow is tough for a rank beginner like me.  The camera thinks the white is overexposure and will make fresh, clean snow the gray of a dove.  Or the ultraviolet light will tint the snow blue.  My photography guru, Tara Freeman, says to bump up the exposure to at least +1.  I can't wait to practice.

On the automatic setting, you can see that there's a lovely black tripod dog waiting zen-like for her person to stop with the shooting, but can you see the wolfy amber of her football-shaped eyes?  Until that happens, I'll keep trying and trying.

When my sister and I were little, we had a club.  We convened in the back yard of our apartment complex on the West Side of Cleveland, under bushes where we played our own versions of I Spy and Little House in the Prairie. We had a secret alphabet, a secret code, and a mission: to chase and scare the neighborhood boys. Or, sometimes, to time-travel to Colonial America where I was always the person and my sister was always the horse and the dog.

Our password: red snake in the green grass.

Summer was our season.  We never met at any other time of the year.

When we held meetings at our grandparents' house, often in the basement, we did school-like things.  We wrote poems and patriotic plays to commemorate holidays.  We studied maps of the world, dreaming about the places we hoped to see someday.  I was always the president because I was the oldest one of our pack, and also the most alpha.

No one is president of Club Dog, except perhaps, the dog.  Membership is for life.  We meet year-round.

The true test of being able to live where we live, the North Country of New York State, is to make it feel as wondrous as a green place with red snakes.  You have to keep making discoveries.  Small miracles.  Light on the river.  Textures and colors.  Peeling birch bark and snow.

Above all, you have to make friends with winter.  It's not just about learning to cross-country ski or ice skate on the river or snow-shoe through silent woods, although those activities help.  What made me a citizen was to adopt a durable, all-weather dog who gets me outside every day of the year.  (But we do draw the line at thunderstorms and hail.)

I don't know how long Zoe will be with us, but I vow to savor each day we have, in every kind of weather.

This winter, the password to the club is this mantra:

Black dog in the white snow.
Black dog in the white snow.

Even if, sometimes, the snow looks gray, or a moonlit blue.

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