Of Words and Dogs and Little Fishes*
I feel so blessed that I can “work” from home as a book reviewer, essayist and occasionally as a literary editor, and to comfortably say that I read for a living. It’s like living the dream (well, until the bills come in, but that’s neither here nor there).
But I didn’t realize just how many people in my tangible world have also taken a few steps further into the bibliosphere than simply picking up an occasional book at B&N or downloading e-books on their Kindles (or even their smart phones, nowadays). It’s incredibly exciting and uplifting that books and the written word – in whatever iteration – have continued to permeate so much of our modern lives.
For instance, at the microcosm that is the Lake of the Isles Off-Leash Dog Park in urban Minneapolis (where I spend part of almost every week day with the Mighty Belle), there are on any given day:
- A benevolent professor emeritus from the University of Minnesota who is an authority on the subject of fairy tales, their evolution, and their social and political role in civilizing processes; he has authored at least 15 books and edited 20 more. His wife is also a published author in her own right. Proud owners of a rambunctious standard poodle.
- A very sweet and caring woman who was acquisitions editor / publications manager / journalist for numerous periodicals and publications, and who is currently working on her own illustrated children’s book about rescue dogs. She belongs to an inquisitive basenji.
- A wonderful gentleman, a stalwart of the dog park, who is an avid reader (and photographer) and loves to pass along his recommendations to me, and to accept mine. We’ve also exchanged books themselves, when we come across something that we really think the other will enjoy. I trust his judgment implicitly. His beautiful border collie / husky mix rules the dog park and keeps the young’uns in line.
- A fascinating and passionate woman who for many years wrote for one of the premiere entertainment magazines, as well as having articles published for major periodicals and newspapers; she still writes freelance pieces for prestigious magazines and newspapers. Is kept on her toes by two very large but very loveable Bernese mountain dogs.
- A delightful young woman who self-published a romance novel and yearns to write more; she came to me for feedback on her book and we’ve had wonderful conversations on books and writers and the writing process, among many other things. She has an adorable little maltese, and often brings along her mother’s shih tzu.
- A most pleasant young man, a relative “newbie”, who recently lost a “soul-sucking corporate job” and is looking to use his down time to follow his passion for writing; it’s so endearing to see such enthusiasm and promise! Makes me excited to see where he will go. He’s an “uncle” to the sweetest, silliest St. Bernard mix puppy on the planet.
- Two other engaging women who have written romance novels; we’ve had some fun discussions on writing, publishing, and the romance genre (and its sub-genres) itself. They really opened my eyes to how diverse that genre can be. Between them they have an energetic and loveable border collie/Australian shepherd mix, and a little shih tzu rescue who thinks he’s the biggest dog in the park.
- A highly conversant woman who holds a Masters degree (for which discipline my poor mind can’t recall at the moment) and who has had articles published in prestigious academic journals (and elsewhere, I believe, once again, my memory fails me), and is extremely well read and well informed on any number of subjects. Brings with her a beloved black lab mix.
- A well versed and well traveled fellow who is writing a thriller set in Minnesota’s North Country, based, I believe, somewhat on his own experiences. He has asked if I’d be willing to read his manuscript, and of course I said yes. He has an impish little black lab mix.
And these are just some of the people who immediately come to mind when thinking of specific literary- minded, dog loving folks who frequent this specific 1.87 acre plot in the heart of Minneapolis on any given week day morning; I’m sure there are others that I’ve ashamedly forgotten (and I apologize if I’ve gotten any bits of information on anyone wrong). So many fascinating, wonderful, diverse folks come to the park with their pups – it truly is a highlight of my day.
But the thing is, it’s not just the folks who have an added stake in the literary game who revel in the written word. So many times our general conversation turns to topics such as a book that someone has enjoyed and wants to pass along, or requests for suggestions for upcoming book club gatherings; blogs that were particularly insightful, magazine articles that were informative or entertaining, or some other literary pursuit that is shared and explored. I’ve even had discussions at the park on the need for retaining the use of the Oxford comma, the value of local libraries, the evolution of new words, and the controversial topic of “one space at the end of a sentence, or two?”
It truly warms my heart to know that the written word is so alive and vital in the world that I inhabit; how it is still so intrinsic to our modern sensibilities, despite and beyond the clamor of social media, online videos, sound bites and the burgeoning proliferation of television offerings and streaming entertainment content. And yes, I know that my experience is just a small snippet of the vast, diverse, ever-changing world around me, but dang, right here, right now, this is a mighty fine place to be. And I’m so very, very grateful to be able to say that.
~ Sharon Browning
* So why this title? Well, one of my maternal grandmother’s favorite sayings was “Well, dogs and cats and little fishes!” meaning, “Well, I’ll be!” or “Isn’t that something?” So I thought it would be appropriate to play on it here… even if I’m the only one who “gets it”!