Pegi Christiansen: Distance 7

May 6, 2015

This is the seventh in a series of blog posts by Pegi Christiansen, who is a Lynden artist in residence through October 2015. As part of her project, Distance, Pegi will accompany people, in groups of up to three, on their first trip to Lynden. She will pick them up, drive them out, take a walk with them, and bring them back. As part of the excursion, she will ask some questions about distance. If you are interested in participating in this aspect of Pegi's project, please call 414-446-8794 or email and mention you are interested in a “distance visit.”

I did not confess to Bobbi Ganiere my general aversion to dogs when we arranged that she would bring Lily, one of the two dogs she and her husband Brian own, to Lynden on April 8. Bobbi and I both grew up in Shorewood and had renewed our friendship a few years before she retired at the end of last year from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Bobbi is keenly perceptive and I couldn’t wait to hear her impressions of the current show in the gallery, “Robin Jebavy: Recent Paintings.” She called the still life paintings “simultaneously opaque and transparent.”

Lily came into the gallery with us (Editor's Note: special permission required for this!), and her quiet and elegant bearing impressed me. As we went outside, I explained my dog disdain and asked about Bobbi’s history with dogs. Her dad had owned dogs, but it broke his heart when they died, so they didn’t have any when Bobbi was young. At a Girl Scout meeting when she was ten, Bobbi saw a litter of mutt puppies. She brought Peanut home, black and white with floppy ears.

Peanut was it until Bobbi and Brian went camping with friends who owned a Vizsla. Vizslas--Hungarian, medium-sized, short haired mahogany pointers—are known for being devoted and smart. When the dog had puppies, Bobbi and Brian bought one. This was in the mid-nineties. They have always had at least one Vizsla since, and often two. Bobbi described Vizslas as “cuddly and sweet” and said she could understand my feelings for most dogs. She thinks the kind of dog matters.

I had never thought about this. Maybe my attitude toward dogs was based on the breed. I was warming up to Lily by the minute.

Bobbi Ganiere - Distance Visit
Bobbi and Lily

During our walk, we passed by almost every sculpture in the garden. The two trees that Amy Cropper and Stuart Morris painted in 2011, one red and one orange, have always perplexed me. Why interrupt seeing the natural backdrop at Lynden? Bobbi had the answer: “You have to stop for a minute,” she said. “It makes you take a closer look at a specific spot.”

I finally got around to asking Bobbi directly about distance. I have been inside the newsroom at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on a number of occasions and I couldn’t imagine working there. The desks sit side-by-side with no walls. I wondered how she managed without physical space and quiet. “I loved the newsroom,” Bobbi said. “I got used to the noise. It was cozy and you could learn a lot listening to conversations.”

Bobbi also needed to be adept at using social media. What did she think about all the communication technologies available now? Bobbi told a story about a friend who spent two year-long stays in Antarctica. She could order from Amazon and get deliveries. As Bobbi observed, “There is no place to be totally alone anymore.”

We went back inside to warm up a bit before departing. April 8 was a foggy day between two of rain, so we had been lucky, though at forty degrees it still wasn’t feeling like spring. Lily sat between us and I found myself petting her. I just don’t do this. Driving home I actually considered mentioning the idea of owning a dog to my husband Dale.

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