My dog just got trolled by two coyotes.
I was sitting in my writing chair, wondering where to take today’s column, as Haley was lazing in the sun, just outside the sliding glass door.
All of a sudden, she leapt up and started barking.
(The full-throated, “I mean business” kind of bark.)
And this is one of the quietest creatures you’ll ever meet.
She can go all day without making a sound, unless she drops a little whine outside the front door when she wants to come in.
Barking, for her, is serious.
So I got right up, to see what was going on.
Just yesterday, (when she was away on a walk with my wife,) a massive coyote came strolling through the yard, practically prancing through Haley’s territory.
I called out to the kids, (who are home Zoom-schooling, b/c of Omicron,) and we all watched the gorgeous coyote for a good two minutes.
My son even captured a video, and I’ll post it here, if he’s up for sharing.
So today, my first thought was not psychopathic burglar, when the dog went ape-shit, but that it was probably the coyote coming back.
I was close, as this time, it was two.
Now, I’ve seen Haley tear off at full speed, determined to chase off her wild relatives, and maybe catch them if she can.
She must be a bit older and wiser, because despite her ferocious jaws, (she’s half-pit-bull,) Haley would be no match for two full-grown coyotes.
This time, she ran about ten paces, and then stopped, content to scream at them in dog-language.
I imagine she was saying something like, “Hey, assholes, get the fuck out of here! This is my turf! What’s your fucking problem? You don’t belong here! I’m in charge, not you! Leave! Now!”
I stood at the window, watching her body quake, giggling at the subtext of her unhappy barking, and then I decided to watch the coyotes.
They looked at her, only for a second, and then just pretended she wasn’t there.
It was an epic troll job.
They stood their ground, and went back to sniffing around, without the tiniest hint of hurry, or bother.
Then, and I swear this is true, one at at time, each had a leisurely poop, and then kicked at the dirt around the excrement with their hind legs.
You can’t make this up!
Living in a horse pasture in the heart of the American West, I admit life can be lonely, and almost boring, if you can’t take pleasure in watching the birds, the deer, the aspen leaves shaking in the breeze.
(And sometimes, the isolation does drive me crazy, especially since Covid began.)
But just now, in the last few minutes, I felt like the natural world was putting on a play, just for me.
In the end, the coyotes loped off, slowly, in their own good time.
They mocked Haley with their indifference, daring her to charge them.
Thankfully, she understood simple math.
2 coyotes, 1 dog.
Not a fair fight.
I bring this up, partly because it just happened before my eyes, as I sat with my computer on my lap, wondering what to write.
But also, (you know me well,) because I had a book in mind to review for today, and the coincidence is just uncanny.
Tara Wray published a photo-book a few years ago, “Too Tired For Sunshine,” which I reviewed favorably, though in my experiential fashion, I had no idea it was really a treatise on using photography to combat depression.
Remembering what I wrote, I did wonder about the title?
Why would someone be too tired for sunshine?
And I was impressed by the search for rich, deep color, and powerful moments, as it seemed to have a hidden drive behind it.
The book became the basis for a movement, both on Instagram and IRL, with a series of group photo exhibitions around the world by other artists who also suffered from depression.
The phenomenon culminated in the formation of a non-profit organization, the Too Tired Project.
(Pretty badass, if you ask me.)
In early 2021, Tara kindly send me a copy of her new book, “Year of the Beast,” which was made during the first pandemic year.
(Hence the title.)
This one was published by her own imprint, Too Tired Press.
The artist lives in the mountains of Vermont, in an isolated, rural existence, much as I do. (Though I’d kill to be able to get to Boston or NYC in half a day, instead of Albuquerque.)
I found this set of images to be a bit looser, perhaps not as locked-in as the previous work, but still, it’s a compelling project.
We see her children, in various guises, and lots and lots of animals.
Frankly, it was that connection with the natural world which I couldn’t shake from my brain, after the coyotes walked away.
There are only a few clear, symbolic references to the pandemic, like the fully stocked pantry image, and I dig the subtlety.
Other than Bo Burnham’s genius Netflix special “Inside,” which I’ve shouted out before, I don’t think I’ve seen much art directly ABOUT the pandemic that had enough nuance not to feel “too soon.”
So I appreciate this book is not didactic.
I was fortunate to interview Tara for the PhotoNOLA Virtual Book Fair, about both books, the way she uses art to battle depression, and the movement that popped up in her wake.
You can check it out here, if you’d like.
The images in “Year of the Beast” are displayed in the order in which they were shot, so the narrative plays out in real time.
It’s a tactic many of us consider with our documentary style photo series, but so often we opt for sequencing with intentional rhythm, creating runs of images based upon color, symbolism, texture, or emotion.
As 2022 has just begun, now the third year of this public health crisis, I thought it appropriate to kick off the column with a book that shows us one artist’s vision of 2020.
The Year of the Beast indeed.
If you’d like to submit a book for potential review, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are particularly interested in books by artists of color, and female photographers, so we may maintain a balanced program. And please be advised, we currently have a significant backlog of books for review.