My good friend Jill recently matched up some great field photos of her dogs with some Whitman poetry, and ever since I saw that, Whitman lines have come flying out of my memory and have stuck to my impressions of the dogs when they’re outside.
Andy and I recently found a new trail loop at a favorite old park, incidentally one Jill herself showed me years ago, and the dogs had great fun running through the leaves of grass in a field off the trail.
As Andy romped with them in the tall grass, I was reminded of Whitman’s live-oak and its joyous leaves, the contrast he draws between a solitary tree’s joy and a human’s need for love and companionship.
I Saw in Louisiana a Live-Oak Growing
by Walt Whitman
I saw in Louisiana a live-oak growing,
All alone stood it, and the moss hung down from the
Without any companion it grew there, uttering joyous
leaves of dark green,
And its look, rude, unbending, lusty, made me think
But I wonder'd how it could utter joyous leaves,
standing alone there, without its friend, its lover
near—for I knew I could not;
And I broke off a twig with a certain number of
leaves upon it, and twined around it a little moss,
And brought it away—and I have placed it in sight
in my room;
It is not needed to remind me as of my own dear
(For I believe lately I think of little else than of them;)
Yet it remains to me a curious token—it makes me
think of manly love;
—For all that, and though the live-oak glistens there
in Louisiana, solitary, in a wide flat space,
Uttering joyous leaves all its life, without a friend,
a lover, near, I know very well I could not.
As of yesterday, Andy and I decided that Jax is starting to look like a grownup dog. He’s got a serious game face, and his ears are no longer wildly disproportionate to the rest of his head. We suddenly see the adult dog for more than brief glimpses.
Puppyhood is so, so brief, and it’s briefer still when you miss the extra eight weeks we missed this time around. Still, it’s fun to see the full-grown friend emerging from the youthful pup.