Monday, June 20, 2011

Letter to Canon Customer Service, Digital Camera Department

20 June 2011

Customer Service Agent, Canon Digital Cameras

To Whom it May Concern:

Since March, I have been the happy owner of one of the new PowerShot Elph 300 HS cameras. My previous camera was also a PowerShot Elph; one of the much earlier ones, with only four megapixels. The 300 HS was obviously a huge leap forward in technology. I am writing this letter to sadly report that I am no longer able to use my 300 HS, and while I don't believe the reason my camera no longer works is covered under the warranty, I thought you might be interested in hearing the story of its demise.

This is the last picture I took with my camera, using the automatic setting:

Note the clarity of detail in the face of the dog. He is perceptibly uncomfortable sporting his new porcupine whiskers. Note, as well, the horse fading misleadingly into insignificance just beyond the dog. And further, note the subtle but present signs of wilderness all around: tall conifers, patchy grass, mud.

For several years now I have enjoyed both the pleasures and the responsibilities of housesitting for family friends who have a tree farm and horses, and whose land borders the Clearwater National Forest near Harvard, in northern Idaho. Although I grew up on a small farm myself, and am not averse to getting my hands dirty, today I live in Seattle and my dogs are, primarily, city dogs. The older, more sensible dog has retired from accompanying trail rides through the National Forest but the younger, erratically curious one is just entering his third year of excursions. I have seen many varieties of wildlife on my rides and hikes through the area, including deer, coyote kits, owls, moose and mooselings, and once, thrillingly, a grey wolf. I have also seen signs of bear and cougar, although I am happy to report signs only.

This porcupine was the first for all of us.

We had only been out for about 20 minutes (expecting a ride of maybe an hour and a half); myself, my dog, one of the farm dogs, a friend who had come to hang out with me to play on horses in the woods, and two horses. The dogs had veered off the track into the woods as is their wont—I believe they easily cover two miles to every one of ours—and when they returned, I noticed my dog behaving strangely. As we walked along and turned onto a logging road, enjoying the mountain air, he kept throwing himself to the ground and rolling about. As there are innumerable kinds of animal scat around, as well as bits of carcasses in various stages of decay, I assumed he was merely perfuming his body as he felt would be most attractive (to be quickly scrubbed off as soon as we returned home, long-dead deer not being a scent I enjoy to the same degree). He went on and on, though, flinging himself to the ground, and running his muzzle through the still-full drainage ditches on the sides of the road we were riding on. An instant after it dawned on me that he might be trying to rub something off, I caught a glimpse of white along his upper lip.

I called a halt and slid off my horse (not the one pictured), caught the dog, and immediately recognized porcupine quills, known from a set of earrings my mother had once brought me from Alaska.

"Oh, poor doggy!" I crooned, as my friend dismounted and took the reins of my horse as well as hers. "Hold still, let me get a picture, then I'll take those out!" I was able to snap this photograph before my mothering instincts reached full steam and pushed everything else from my mind, including the delicacy of modern technology. I set my camera down next to me on the road and, quick as a flash, grabbed a quill and yanked. I hoped it didn't have a big barb on the end; it didn't, but it wasn't an easy extraction. Nevertheless, it came out, and the dog yelped and leapt away, pulling me off balance and startling the horse in the picture, who rushed at my friend, indiscriminately kicking at any cameras that might be in the way. Only one was.


In full-on Mother/Veterinarian mode by this time, I ignored my camera and instead spent the next 20 minutes wrestling in the dirt and mud with my 74-pound Lab mix, slowly, and evidently painfully, extracting the quills. Each time the dog leapt away I would untiringly call him back and he, desperate but also, somehow, hanging on to a thread of trust in me, would come and let me have another go . . . or at least let me catch him again. He was salivating madly and the quills were slick with mud and saliva, but one by one I got them out, even the last four, stuck in the roof of his mouth. To his credit, this pain-crazed young beast, drops of blood spattering his snout, did NOT bite down when I held his lower jaw open with my bare hand. What a good dog!

Once the last quill was out the dog was quite recovered; we remounted our horses, and continued our ride. Some might think we should have turned immediately upon discovering the quills and gone straight to the vet, but even if we had it would've been more than an hour before Porcupine Mustache could've been seen—and that's if there were no other patients. Field surgery was what was required.

A subtle but deadly dent and a bit of mud was all that marred the face of my new red camera; I pushed "on" hopefully, but "off" it remained.


Calin Taylor


For all of you blog readers who are not Canon Customer Service, you might be interested to know that the story of yesterday does not end there. It was, in fact, a day that was far, far from being a plateau. Inside the last gate at the end of our ride, maybe 200 yards from dismounting, Sikem, who had already destroyed a camera, shied and MS took a tumble. She hit her lower left back (kidney-level) and clocked her helmeted head, but is, in fact, perfectly fine today except for some residual pain and a tiny bit of blood in her urine . . . which is perhaps a bruise to the kidney, although there's not enough blood to indicate a laceration.

I would love to write more about this because it is an entire other story complete with rural EMTs and trips to the closest hospital facility—in Moscow, 45 minutes away—both late last night to collect MS (she rode in the ambulance because I needed to eat and change clothes after the Hoover/Porcupine debacle—I was so covered in mud and grime when I answered the door to the EMTs they thought I was the patient) and earlyearly this morning to deliver a new urine sample—but I am too exhausted to give the story its due and tomorrow we must deliver another earlyearly sample, and then in the afternoon we're heading home. Suffice it to say that, when MS was holding both horses and I was battling Hoover, Sikem stood patiently and Shadow patently did NOT; also, the moment MS came off him, Sikem stood stock still above her, as he should, instead of continuing to his stall even though it was so close. Accidents happen, when you're living life to the fullest.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Nature's Botox

What you see in this picture is fewer lines between my eyebrows than I had when I got up this morning and no, it wasn't just that spending time in the woods has taken years off my life.  I was bushwhacking with the dogs today, having a fine time with my little saw, indiscriminately hacking off branches and saplings if they stood remotely in my way, or in the way of where I think I might be on horseback, which means I frequently had both hands over my head as far as I could reach while I was sawing.  You can see my path here.  One thing about this particular path is that, on foot and going at sawing pace, it seems really, really long. I am disappointed to report that it is, so far, only a little over 1.5 miles round trip from home, and that does not a very long horseride make.  Anyway, at one point as I was slashing my way through the woods, covering myself with sawdust and bits of bark and lichen (it's even worked its itchy way into my undergarments), I stood up right into a spider's web.  I noted a blurry black dot--it was too close to my face to see clearly--batted absently at my hat (I was ON THE TRAIL and TOO BUSY WITH SAWING to worry about my health), and forgot about it.  Imagine my alarm when I returned home, removed said hat and glasses to clean them, and felt that my procerus was distended.  Felt with my hand, mind you--I had not felt a bite with my face.  After a brief surge of anxiety, I took a Benadryl just to be on the safe side, and told MS that she was to watch for any symptoms of arachnid-induced nasal deterioration.  I think it's probably not a big deal, and hey--the wrinkles (well, couple of them) are gone!

Dogs in the woods.  This is one of the paths I cleared!  Okay, okay.  I'm obviously lying.  This represents the kind of wide-open spaces that are found in the deep woods, which lead one to believe that she can clear a deer track through to the next one.  And still know where she is.

This is a mine that I found deep in the woods (well, about 0.75 miles in).  Difficult to see, no?  That's what makes them dangerous!  There was a lot of gold mining once in these here hills . . .

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Rainy Afternoon Musings

I had been tacking this on to my most recent post on I Thought I Was, but I realized it didn't really go, and you all probably needed piddle breaks anyway. I sure did. By the time you notice I've written STILL MORE, you will be in a better position to read it. And so . . .

I didn't listen to anything on the drive over yesterday, although I had a book and hundreds of songs primed on the iPod. Sometimes it's nice to just have the silence and your thoughts. This is a different place for me, Jerome Creek, than it was when I first came as an adult, 10 years ago (after maybe 20 years since I'd been here as a child). I have had some pretty momentous experiences here, both good and bad, both for me and for the dogs, and for the animals I care for here. I no longer come here with the expectation that the most difficult part will be convincing the 3-year-old that I'm riding bareback (Hobo—great horse, long gone :() that he should go forward and stop trying to back us into a steep, wooded ravine.

There can be nothing better, for example, than galloping bareback through a mountain field, when you and your horse are equals thrilling in the rapture of speed. I'm willing to accept that there may be some things as good, but nothing better. On the other hand, having to send your first born dog to the teaching hospital at WSU because he appears to be dying and no one can figure out why, that's awful.

Having your younger dog joyously, spectacularly exhausted from running free in the woods: awesome. Losing same dog in woods the first time he went out: petrifying.

Sharing this amazing place with dear friends: exquisite. Having an emotional crisis that leads to a serious rift (now healed, although I'm still careful about the scar) with some of those friends: heart breaking.

Sawing logs fallen across trails, mending fences, discovering new trails close to home, where K&A have been riding for 30 years: physically satisfying, mentally satisfying, smugly satisfying.

Having a night of serious illness: puking, migraine, orange diarrhea; followed by a couple days of intense anxiety and panic: terrible.

Being trusted to take care of this farm and all of its intricacies, and having the ability and skill to do it well: ALL OF THE ABOVE.

I don't know what I'm going to get when I come here. I love it; I love the drive over (except for the 60 miles east of Othello, but particularly the river valley east of Washtucna); I love the quiet; I love the space. I love hiking through the woods and riding through the woods. I love that my dogs burst out of the car grinning at the end of the journey (I did not love that Hoover started squeeing in anticipation at Colfax, more than an hour away). When I drive back into Seattle at the end of my time here, I can feel the noise and static and frenzy of the city climbing up my spine and into my neck. There's never any kind of silence there. Here I can revel in it. This is one of my homes.

But, being home, it comes along with everything that home has: glory and sadness and peace and exhilaration and fear and joy and dread and mundanity. And it's a little too far out in the woods to just walk down to the corner store for my supper, so there's a bit of inconvenience here, too. Good thing I like to cook.

View With My Morning Coffee

The top photo is Shadow and Sikem engaging in charmingly horsey behavior--scratching each other's shedding withers. The bottom photo is birds having a little ride. I don't know if the horses have parasites on them that the birds are eating, but the birds certainly shit on the horses rumps. At least they're Appaloosas, so it's harder to see.
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