Dream of the Dragon

Category: push coming to shove

In the mouth of madness.

by Justin

I wish I was cool enough to write about the Sam Neill movie.

Before I begin the tale, I want to clarify one thing. A note on responsibility: I erred in a dozen ways in the course of the following events. I was reckless and irresponsible, naïve, and altogether an idiot. While the animals acted according to instinct and, therefore, cannot be faulted, I was brazen enough to create a situation riddled with potential hazards. I believe I learned several lessons. And I feel incredibly lucky for escaping largely unscathed.

Long Island, NY – A large square field, some 50 yards on each side, marks the end point of most every morning walk. It affords not only ample space for reckless running, but clean sight lines in every direction until either forest or buildings reclaim the landscape. From dusk until dawn, the field belongs to the deer. They graze and lounge, cluster on the edge of panic, and do whatever else deer do under the cover of night.

Icarus (my whippet, newcomers) and I typically conclude our walks with an inspection of the entire perimeter of this field. The purpose here is to check the whereabouts of deer – most nights they sleep in the open spaces, and then retreat into the woods just after sunrise. More often than not, however, a few will linger along the edges, dragging their hooves and nibbling at tall grass. So the dog and I secure the perimeter every morning: I whistle loudly to announce our presence; Icarus bounds along with occasional high jumps so any creatures can catch his scent and steer clear.

The deer in these parts lack a healthy fear of canines. Whether from lack of exposure or a cultivated feeling of security, the instinct to fly in terror from just the rumor of a dog has been dulled. In an attempt to dull my dog’s opposite inclination to chase, I have walked him within 10 feet of the bravest beauties. So long as they stand their ground, curiosity tends to trump madness. Should they run, however, his world goes red. And so we secure the perimeter.

Once I am confident that the wild is aware of us, I let the pup off leash so he can stretch his legs and do what he was born to do. Most mornings, this means a raucous round of Frisbee. A German neighbor named Icarus “the most sporting hound around” after seeing these daily exploits. After nearly a month of these routine frolics, the system of deer-dodging has proven successful.

Yesterday morning, I cut a few corners – or rather one specific corner of the field entirely. The sun was high in the sky, the land featureless and flat, and I deemed the field secure. I let Icarus loose. Read the rest of this entry »

Deer crossing.

by Justin

The wind chill today pushed the temperature into single digits, making the earth outside hard as concrete and the streets more desolate than ever.

Whippets, by rights of centuries of breeding and manipulation, live to chase down small animals. Rabbits are the ideal quarry, but squirrels and anything of a similar size are nearly as mind breaking. My dog’s instincts fly into overdrive and the bits of his brain reserved for listening to me disintegrate whenever the opportunity to chase arises. Curiously, as Icarus is wary of anything larger than a cat, a particular animal much larger than most dogs causes a similar abandonment of reason. Deer, sighted even at a great distance, threaten to make the pup spiral into madness.

Three deer gathered this morning around a large puddle covered by a thick layer of ice. Two were chewing the dying grass, the third was sipping the dregs of unfrozen water. Only once we got within 20 feet did they do anything other than perk their ears and stare. At that point, white tails raised, the deer leapt into the woods and vanished. Deer crossing roads and grazing outside homes offers that dreamy and dangerous juxtaposition of the untamed and the too-tamed.

The power just comes up through you!

by Justin

An old man, easily 70, jogged past me. It was a slow pace, but with good form and very light footfalls. I caught up to him on the boardwalk, at which point he was engaging a younger man in spirited conversation. The dynamic, at a glance, seemed to consist of the old man as passionate teacher and the younger man as over-achieving student.

“And then, the power just comes up through you!” said the old man, miming a ball of energy rising up through his feet and settling in his chest.

Out at the edge of the horizon, a massive cargo ship drifted south. The dull red and blue of its containers, stacked at least a dozen high, looked more like plastic Legos than welded steel.

The manhole covers in the area are inconsistent, some engraved with the names of local companies, others with only an “S” surrounded by a crude geometric sunburst. But a handful read either WATER or SEWER across the center, with this smaller engraving along the edge: “Made in India.” I like to imagine that the water itself was made in India, then imported to keep our sewers flowing.