I’m on a stage now. The old pine wood floorboards are beneath my feet, the morning sun on my left shoulder. A yellow lab, my audience, is sitting to my right, tail brushing rhythmically across the floor. I tell her how I’ve been poaching eggs lately - filling a frying pan with water, adding a tablespoon of white vinegar, letting the water reach a rolling boil while I crack an egg into a small bowl then slip the egg into the water, covering the pan and pulling it off the heat for exactly 3.5 minutes for a runny egg. This method is much easier than dropping the egg into swirling water, I say aloud, or keeping the heat on beneath the pan, wondering when the poach is complete. She gets up to investigate with her nose then follows me to the fridge, to the counter, the spice drawer, the sink, the cupboard then back to the counter again.
I am making Turkish eggs, the way my friend Nadia taught me. A smear of thick yogurt on a plate topped with a poached egg, a swirl of melted garlicky butter reddened by a big pinch of Aleppo chili flakes. Nadia would top the egg with chopped soft sprigs of dill and slivered mint leaves, maybe a few dried rose petals and a pinch of sumac. I rescue a few mint leaves from the fridge, slice them thinly and sprinkle the strips over the poached egg. I pull a stool from the kitchen island, just missing the dog’s paw, then sit down to eat. I don’t tell her about the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria. She is new here and still so unsettled.
Her name is Dottie. She is our new dog, a two year-old yellow lab. She likes to pull on toilet paper then trot away, watching as the roll follows her down the hallway. She hugs with paws wrapped around your neck. She follows me everywhere. This shadow, always present, is showing me how I move through the house - inefficiently, forward, backward, zigzagging. Her face says stop, settle in, open your laptop and get to work. I will sit at your feet and settle too. You’ll see.
In 2018 writer Maggie MacKellar and I collaborated on an episode of The Food Podcast. In the episode Maggie writes to me from her farm in Tasmania, and I reply from my home in Halifax. Together we share the flavour of home with each other - the tone, scent, feeling and tastes to take us to a place we have never visited before.
It’s one of my favourite episodes. The Be Good Tanyas gave us permission use Dogsong2 from their album Chinatown for the episode. The song tells the story of burying a beloved pet -
out in the trees, dirt on our knees
we laid him down forever
and on that hill there it was still
as in the ever after
It’s a tear jerker. But it was the right piece of music, I thought, to hold the ache that Maggie was feeling at that time. She buried her horse that week - the horse who walked her through so much trauma, grief, heartache and hope.
My middle son wasn’t aching to know that love, at the time, but he really wanted a dog to cuddle. He would ask for a dog while eating cereal in the morning. While walking to school. While he brushed his teeth. One night I picked him up from a co-ed thirteenth birthday party. He slumped into the passenger seat, seemingly filled with thirteen year-old feelings. Instead he turned to me and asked, “can we please get a dog?”
He wrote a sonnet about wanting a dog for grade seven English class, right around the time I was writing to Maggie. It was the flavour of our home at the time - a boy who wanted a dog, a dad who didn’t - so I wove into the letter.
My dog dreams will rest in these 14 lines.
And on it goes, in the rhyming pattern of an english sonnet...AB, AB, CD, CD, EF, EF, GG. Then he shares his thoughts on how his Dad thinks a dog is a chore -
nothing more that picking clothes up off the floor
But the void is there,
the warm spot on the bed,
the welcoming hello,
the soft pats on the head.
Now, four years later, the story has changed. His Dad softened. We have Dottie. Heartache will come someday, of course it will. But in the meantime, there will be soft pats on the head, and a warm spot in the bed. And cuddles with paws around the neck.
Dottie is right. I haven’t been able to settle lately. Writing feels hard. Words flow smoothly when I sit down and tell the truth. But truths have been difficult to articulate lately, so instead, I walk around the kitchen inefficiently, performing for a dog.
This afternoon we went to the park and stretched our legs. She darted through the bare trees while I sorted out my thoughts. Then we came home and drank lots of water. And now I’m sitting down to write.
We can help by donating to organizations like The Canadian Red Cross’s Earthquake in Turkey and Syria Appeal.
Gorgeous writing Lindsay, maybe you have found your new muse. She’s very beautiful. And thank you for the gorgeous mention. I loved making that poddy with you. xx
Another beautiful read. A few moments away from the rabble of life, always a joy x