By Scott Sullivan
Pit Bull Put Down
“Allegiance” means a subordinate’s commitment to a superior individual, group or cause. It draws on the late Middle English liege, one who pays fealty to a lord, and appears often in Shakespeare’s writing. Shake a spear at the lord, in league perhaps, and what happens?
Cervantes’ “Don Quixote” took lance against windmills Don thought were dragons. His quest, published 1605 in Spanish, it was translated into English two years later; he and the Bard were contemporaries. Avid writers read.
Flag pursuits fascinate me too. I saw the upper-right Oval Beach photo as a U.S. flag, to which I have long pledged allegiance, de- or re-constructed. I am loyal to your freedom not to salute it too.
Before school each day, my classmates and I stood with hands on hearts pledging loyalty to an emblem on a stick in the classroom corner. There it didn’t block what called the blackboard though some were green. The pledge still is said before public meetings with other protocols before juicy stuff starts, if any.
Flag de- and reconstruction fuel many photo fossils, but star/stripe geometries strike me still. Burn them to make way for cleaner energy? Where’s our knight errant when we need him?
“Thou hast seen nothing yet,” Don Quixote is translated into English saying. “Self-love, my liege,” wrote Shakespeare, “is not so vile a sin as self-neglecting.”
Might “allegiance” come instead from “allege,” to assert without proof? Say “The liege alleged his allegiance?” Maybe allegorically.
I pledge allegiance to flags ever changing, inviting participation, not out of fealty to a stick image in a corner. Who has more fidelity than Fido the Dog? Fidel Castro?
Insouciant cats were enemies to my dogs growing up. Dogland, Catland and Birdland were mortal enemies. Frisky, my character, fought for Dogland, whose troops were bigger, stronger and more trustworthy. Cats were sly, slick and subtle; birds had an air attack.
Why not form a league — share strengths, not grind down each other down fighting — towards a greater end? Who would give up what then? Who sets agendas? Authority can be a boobytrap too. To what end?
I swore to another image, new Saugatuck industrial geometry, in clear morning light earlier this month. It had severe, square and slanting delineations, sharp shadows also. The flag empties in a lower right corner car hood, so why not invert its colors? I don’t know how or where I will use it; it’s enough I have it.
In grids, curves are essential. Lines bend, focus hardens and softens from plane to plane. Too much of too little goes on and on.
I pledged allegiance to Holland windmill dragons I saw as a boy through car windows bound from our home in West Lafayette, Ind., north on U.S. 31, then west to our family’s Crystal Lake cottage.
Cindy, our springer spaniel, sometimes puked in the back seat, which no one liked but so what? A dog’s loyalty is a road map and flag as well.
If Dad took the I-196 route west then north instead, my brothers and I saw Grand Rapids rise over a wooded dune. Lights at night spread out larger, nearer, surrounding and suffusing stars. St. Adalbert’s basilica domes were magic.
From there, Dad exited north on U.S. 131 where dark skies and stars came back. You could see Orion, the night sky hunter, once more clearly. Then west on M-57 through Greenville, north on a country road past Vickeryville and Butternut, at last to Crystal.
Most nights the lake opened up on the Milky Way. Northern Lights now and then appeared over Rainbow Gardens across the lake, where we would roller skate. There boys and girls vied to see which of us was more shy.
I returned to Crystal, shooting color film in my late 30s, for a July 4 parade. One flag print I still have shows from a deep angle two girls tiaraed with U.S. flag deely boppers. Behind them rises a 20-foot-tall, bare wooden cross mounted on white slat church walls up to blue-sky sliver triangles over the slanted roof.
Another from that shoot now 30 years ago shows a crudely-painted black cat with sulfurous eyes a-prowl on a concrete post base. “CES” (Crystal Elementary School) is inscribed above it, topped by a soccer ball. My brothers and I swatted baseballs on a crude diamond west of there, from which Shawn shot a model rocket we never found in the nearby wetland. By my 30s I always kept black cats as a pets like a cloak of stars.
Angel, a caged white dove in my bedroom now, coos and sings. My wife pays allegiance to every species, save her own sometimes, and I cede authority. I have enough dragons of my own.
Brain cancer sucks. My Mom, black cat Hamlet and last week our pit bull Ori succumbed to it. What grace is there in grief loving lives now past?
Crystal Saugatuck stars cross skies and Orion seeks in cycles, liege to light.
By Scott Sullivan