Thursday, January 6, 2011

Howling at The Moon

by Judy Merrill Larsen



I have a dog who howls at sirens. It's very sweet and hearkens from somewhere long ago in his ancestry. I asked the vet about it; I was worried it meant the noise hurt his ears, and while we live in Mayberry, our house is on one of the main streets and we have our share of fire trucks roaring past. Our vet assured me it wasn't caused by pain, but rather, when Ernie (our dog) hears sirens, he thinks it's another dog somewhere looking for his pack. So Ernie howls to try to call him home. It's fun to watch. He'll usually be sprawled on his back in a deep sleep (I mean, he spends at least 20 hours a day snoozing) but when a siren sounds, he jumps up. (We joke that he resembles George Bush at a press conference at that moment of startling.) And then, it's as if he goes into a trance of sorts--he tips his head up (to open his throat, I guess) and howls. It's mournful, it's eerie, it's a sound that comes from his toes and from thousands of years ago. And then, he looks around as if to see if we noticed. And I wonder if he ever feels sad that the dog he was calling home never arrives. But he'll do it again, every time. He can't help it.

Sometimes, I feel like Ernie, howling away, wondering if anyone hears. As a writer, much of what I do is very solitary. I write, never sure anyone else will ever read my words, much less come home to them. I send blog posts out into the ether and am more tickled than I probably should be when someone leaves a comment. It means we've connected in some way. But, like my dog and his howling, writing is in my blood, in my bones. I don't have a choice to not write, to not howl out and hope I'm heard. In reading a variety of blogs, I don't think I'm alone in this wondering. Books are released to much fanfare (or not). We earn out our advances (or not). We garner scads of reviews (or not). But what it's really about, at least for me, is to wake up and check my e-mail, like I did this morning, and open a letter from a reader who just finished my book. And who said it made her love reading again. And in tears, I write her back. I howled, she heard me. As writers, that's a power we all have. Sometimes I think that's all we can do. Let out a howl. See who answers.

14 comments:

  1. I'm howling back at you, my friend. I absolutely LOVED this post and will be adding it to my blog. How poetically you have captured the essence of being a writer. Thank you. Your words have offered me the inspiration I very much needed today.

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  2. Thanks, Jill . . . so glad this resonated with you . . .

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  3. I love this post too Judy, and while I am only a writer on my blog I get all choked up when a new reader finds me, or if I write a book review and the author leaves a comment, I am honored and thrilled!
    I don't think I'll ever hear a dog howl again without feeling a tiny bit sad.

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  4. Judy, keep howling away! I can hear you over here in Brentwood! ;-) I know exactly what you mean about writing being in your blood. I feel the same. You still have stories to tell, and you must tell them. I, for one, will look forward to every howl. I mean, every word. Hugs!

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  5. Oh, ((sigh)), this is so lovely and true. Keep howling, girlfriend. xx

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  6. Thanks . . . see, we all howled and got an answer. I love that!

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  7. Nice analogy, Judy! Poetically and sensitively written. A little bit Kingsolver, a little bit E.B. White. Howl on!

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  8. Being a cat person, I'm more likely to meow, I'm afraid.

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  9. "Then there's the dog satellite. You've heard about the dog satellite, haven't you?" Mr. Barry asked. "In the evening when your dog is lying quietly and nothing's happening. All of a sudden, the dog looks up and barks -- that's when the dog satellite passes over."

    "Everyone thinks writers are very busy writing, but a lot of the time you sit around feeling stupid, with this tremendous fear of having to get a real job. But with the dogs there, no matter how stupid you feel, they are always more stupid," he observed.

    He used the recent hurricane in Miami as an example. "We had a screened-in porch, to keep the subtropical bugs from stealing the furniture, and every day for years, I let the dogs out, first opening the door to the porch and then the door to the outside. After the hurricane, our patio enclosure was orbiting the earth, but the screen door was still there, standing by itself like a sculpture. What do you think those dogs did when I let them out of the house? They ran to the screen door . . ."
    hollygee

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  10. Ha ha ha, Holly. I love that. He totally gets dogs.

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  11. Judy, I think you expressed this so well, and we're all more than a little like Ernie ;). I was just thinking today about how it's such an incredible thing to have a reader or two tell you that you've touched their life... There's no price tag that can be put on that. Please keep howling!!

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  12. Judy, what a lovely post! Congratulations on the letter you received and the gift you gave to the reader - a renewed love in reading. No better compliment in the world!

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  13. Antoinette La ForceFebruary 9, 2012 at 5:15 PM

    I know; I know, Judy : What can I say, but : " Owwwww-OOOO !!! " Great post !

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