Of Writing, Biscuits, and Gratitude

May 25, 2017 § 23 Comments


The resident dog at my vet’s office is named Beulah and she is clearly senile. Her black-lab muzzle is grizzled and her eyes are opaque gray.

She stands in the center of the waiting area on unsteady legs and makes eye contact with me, then moves her eyes to a blue ceramic jar on the counter marked Biscuits. Then she looks back at me.

When I look over at the jar, and back at Beulah, it sets her tail to wagging so hard she almost falls over.

Beulah looks at the jar, then at me. Over and over. Nothing breaks the trajectory of her gaze, not even when a german shepherd happens by on his way to the examining room and jams his nose into Beulah’s butt. A tabby-cat yowl coming from a crate not five inches away from her doesn’t even seem to register.

“Can I give Beulah a biscuit?” I ask the gal at the counter. “She looks hungry.”

“Nah. She’s already had four this morning. Thing is, as soon as she eats the biscuit, she begs for another. She does that all day long.” The woman leans over the counter and smiles down at the ancient dog. “Beulah never remembers that she just ate a biscuit, and I guess she never gets full.”

Something about this chills me. Something bothers me about that idea of being in a constant state of yearning.

Maybe because I recognize it in my own life. Maybe because I see a little of myself in Beulah’s fixation on more biscuit.

Like, for instance, the way I crave the feeling you get when you send out a “My writing got accepted!” email to friends and family.

How I yearn for the next infusion from the Muse. Words, gimme, gimme more words.

How easily I forget a good writing session and pine for another.

Yeah, Beulah, I feel your pain.

I can’t help this dog with her cravings and forgetting, although I do go over and give her a good head scratch.

But—and this is the thing—unlike Beulah, I can turn from my cravings. I can stop and say thanks to the Muse for guiding me in my garden-at-night poem, for helping me find the tendril of thought that strains towards what the poem is really trying to portray.

I can remember that I had a solid journaling session this morning, complete with the arrival of a memory about my college days in Gunnison, Colorado, when I had no car and walked everywhere. And because I was on foot and not in a car I noticed how the lines of snow on the mountains inched upward in May.

I can observe, and even admire, the way snippets and memories coalesce into a personal essay that explores why I am so obsessed with my elderly mother’s eating habits.

I can even appreciate a wobbly dog who pushes me to acknowledge the nourishment that writing gives to my life and helps me, for a moment at least, to feel full.

Lynn G. Carlson is a writer who lives on the prairie outside of Cheyenne, Wyoming with a retired firefighter, a span-triever and plenty of gophers. She has published poetry and nonfiction in various literary magazines and has an essay in NPR’s This I Believe archives. In 2016 she served as editor for Watch My Rising, an anthology of stories and poems about recovery from addiction. Lynn blogs at www.writingwyoming.com.

§ 23 Responses to Of Writing, Biscuits, and Gratitude

  • Jan Priddy says:

    Yeah, Lynn, I hear you.

  • Interesting thoughts… So many snapshots of memories that make us who we are..

  • Susan Mark says:

    Oh, don’t we all know and love a dog named Beulah. And don’t we all want to hand her a biscuit to make her feel full until she forgets again that she is. My personal feeling is with ancient dogs, feed them as many biscuits as they beg for. But writers… you’re write, we have to meditate on our own feelings of fullness and not keep looking for more. This is a lesson I need in my life. Thank you, Lynn, for a lovely piece.

  • Wonderful essay. Thank you for it!

  • Thesanica Chan says:

    An essay full of great points and thoughts, thank you for writing this!

  • Oh, Lynn, I just loved this piece. We are all Beulah. Thank you for the gentle and perfectly stated reminder.

  • James Johnson says:

    An email conversation that happened after sharing this with a friend.

    “Had you not said who wrote it I would have thought you had written it. Sounds like something you would write.”

    Thank you … it’s quite an honor to be thought of in that way. Perhaps I failed to mention this is nonfiction.

    As I have said before …

    Grammatically speaking, I lack the polish a seasoned author possess’.
    My prose, pleasing as it may be to the untrained eye, lacks the style and flare truly gifted writers own. You can dress a pig in a suit but it’s still a pig.

    “Can you imagine not remembering you ate so you were always hungry.”

    I think Lynn used this as a metaphor leading to the ending of her story.
    I might be mistaken. If it makes you think, then purpose is served.

    Pieces like this capture my cognitive dissonance nature and can be interactive, each time you read her you see something new. It entices you to recall something that happened in the past that relates to our today. Her musings are a delight to read.

    ” Many ways to use that little story for application in one’s life.”

    Exactly why I shared it with you! I read a bunch of blogs, each with it’s own distinction. Some have work like Lynn’s and I have to share them. Like poetry, people can see totally different meanings in the same verse. I think this is intended and defines style and flare.

    As an aside, many dogs are gluttons, they never know when they are full especially when cookies are involved .

    Thank you Lynn.


    • I read short pieces like this all the time, and use them in the way that you do, James. It’s one of the reasons I like the Brevity blog. They spark thinking, discussion, insight. Craving and forgetting is, of course, a very human thing, and not just for writers. Thanks for letting me eavesdrop on your conversation–it’s thought-provoking too.

  • […] via Of Writing, Biscuits, and Gratitude — BREVITY’s Nonfiction Blog […]

  • Karen says:

    Beautiful! At least Beulah lives in a state of happy anticipation, it seems, of the next blissful moment a biscuit heads her way, rather than mourning the loss of the last one. Nothing to sneeze at!

    • You’ve got a point, Karen. I no doubt suffered more in observing Beulah (and equating her behavior to my own life) than she did. Maybe my cravings can be tempered into more of a “happy anticipation”?

      Thanks for that insight. Ain’t it amazing how much we can learn from dogs?!

  • kelly says:

    I loved this so much. Every bit of it. I saw Beulah as you painted her, and of course, am Beulah too. Thank you for sharing this.

  • Reblogged this on Notes from An Alien and commented:
    Some real fine writing in today’s re-blog — Ponderable…

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