My most dogged critic

The dwindling daylight brings a blessed calm in the pace of our farm. Instead of returning to work after supper and weeding in the garden until bats flutter overhead, we can claim the evenings for those pursuits that languish during the growing season. A stack of books resides next to my husband's wing-backed chair that John shares with our house cat, while the different volumes I am exploring drift about the house. Because both of us are musicians, we must take turns practicing during the evening hours and alternate between books and our instruments.

December has been a month of musical demands, from racing through jigs and reels as we prepare to play for the local contra dance, to fingering my recorder while I learn a ream of Advent music for Sunday worship. In addition, I upgraded to a larger folk harp, and as with any new instrument, daily practice is a must. When John and our cat reach their saturation point for arpeggios or high notes on a recorder, they retreat upstairs to their reading nook and close the door.

Our corgi's short legs deny him a rapid ascent up the stairs, so for him these long hours of music try his patience. On those few times in the summer when I could play music, I moved onto the front porch, and our corgi hid in the farthest back corner of our house. But these days, northern winds keep doors closed and the stove stoked.

He tries to interrupt the flow of notes. He thrusts his ball in my lap as if to say: "Surely playing with me is more fun than repeating that tune for the 10th time." I toss the ball a few times, and settle down to work out a difficult piece of fingering. Instead of separating from the offending noise, The dog flops on my feet and whimpers. The whining increases as I work on my breathing so that I can clearly hit the high notes on my recorder.

Eventually, the dog gives up and searches for a soft napping spot. I hear pawing and scratching, and I assume he is rearranging his dog bed. But when I look up, I discover that he is snuggled on the sofa with a pillow over his ears, his nose barely visible.

From now on, before I tune my harp or pull out my button accordion, I know that the first thing I must do is tuck our corgi into his napping position, complete with pillow. Perhaps he dreams of warmer weather, when he can escape from the din and spend his evenings lounging in the garden.

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