Pam's dog william

Twenty Words During Lockdown, Day 3: Free

By Pam Houston

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These 20 words were assigned to Pam Houston by her friend, the writer and photographer Kyle Wolff, as part of Project 2020 (Quarantine Edition). She gave Pam and others a word most mornings, and the assignment to write to that world and either take or find a photo to go with it. These 20 words and photographs by Pam Houston are appearing daily in through June 20, the summer solstice.

March 26, 2020


I was going to only post photos I took on the day of the assignment, and mostly I will, but this photo has always said free to me. My William. My good good boy. How I miss him.

Dogs have everything to teach us about freedom. They give so freely, love so freely. William loved so freely he used to gather his squeaky toys together as if to comfort them. William welcomed the day, whatever it was, with a wag and a sigh. We talk about being in the present moment, but we don’t get one-tenth of the way there compared to even the most neurotic dog.

I spent so much of my childhood dreaming of being free of my Dad’s abuse, of my mother’s drunken sadness. And then I got free, but somehow became my own jailor. Proving, proving, proving. Working round the clock as if I were on some kind of permanent game show. What has all of that work added up to now?

The country is descending hard and fast into fascism. The government has closed its borders, suspended its immigration program, stopped giving out passports, has stopped even pretending they aren’t trying to take away our rights. Oil is worth minus $3 a barrel and yet Trump is opening more and more and more protected lands to drilling. Every government agency is continuing to be dismantled from within.

But what about this day, says the dog.

And when the human can’t come up with an answer, the dog says, I think it could be a good one.

Pam's dog William



Pam HoustonPam Houston is the author of the memoir Deep Creek: Finding Hope In The High Country, which won the 2019 Reading the West Advocacy Award, as well as five other books of fiction and nonfiction, all published by W.W. Norton. She lives at 9,000 feet above sea level on a 120-acre homestead near the headwaters of the Rio Grande. A book co-written with activist Amy Irvine, Air Mail: Letters of Politics, Pandemics, and Place, is forthcoming from Torrey House Press in October 2020.
Read Pam Houston’s Letter to America in Dear America: Letters of Hope, Habitat, Defiance, and Democracy, published by and Trinity University Press and view a video of Pam reading her Letter to America as part of a Dear America town hall.

Photos courtesy Pam Houston. is the world’s first online journal of place, publishing a rich mix of literature, artwork, case studies, and more since 1997.