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This poem came about as I looked at photos of Josie on her first beach visit last spring. We have another trip to the Longbeach peninsula planned for later this month.
It’s about being out
in the world
It’s about wet paws
running full pelt
and tideland bubbles
sneaking up on you.
It’s about being
at the edge when
ocean and land
It’s about the salt sea air
It’s about flighty birds
hovering overhead or
dancing on the edge
calling into the roar.
Mourning Doves mate for life, and a pair once again is living in our yard. We hear their plaintive coos drift across the grounds from tree branches, rooftop or fences. But mostly we see them on the gravel pathways in the terraced back yard. Early in the spring when I walked out, one of them would startle and fly to safety, followed by the other, so I started talking to them in my own cooing way, saying; “It’s OK, I won’t hurt you, I love you.” It is working; though the lead bird startles, he rarely flies off.
Bewick Wrens have been at the feeders all winter. Now I see two who appear to be a pair, flitting through the branches of the tall Rhododendrons, scolding me, yet in a way it feels more like they are engaging me in their search for the right place to nest. Some outside furnishings stored under the eves provide them stopping off points, and I see where birds have used the sheltered parts as warming stations during frigid nights.
Did you know male Wrens scout out several potential nest sites, then takes his mate to each one for her final approval?
Oregon, or Dark-eyed Junco live here year round. We have counted up to a dozen at a time feeding on the hulled mullet we put out for them. When the snows hit, we kept adding millet to the top layer so the birds would have plenty to keep their internal fires burning. I see one pair consistently now. Junco have a particular flight characteristic that makes them easy to identify. Since they are usually disturbed when at ground level, when they fly up and out to the nearest shelter their tails flair into a distinctive black and white fan.
The Humming Birds drained both feeders, so I filled them fresh. Now I only see one or two Anna’s a week - but I’m quite sure that will change as a new group migrate into our area. I have many plants that attract them, plus the two feeders positioned so that a bird feeding at one cannot see a bird feeding at the other. Very territorial and bossy these birds can be, along with lovely and amazing to watch.
Sadly, this is the last weekend for Project FeederWatch. But we will continue feeding, identifying, providing shelter, water, and habitat.
At 2:00 in the morning Josie awakened me with a long barking bay, outside near the storage shed. Yelling out the second story bedroom window did nothing to quiet her, so off I padded in my bathrobe, downstairs and out to the grounds in frigid pre-dawn.
“Josie, Josie!” I called in a whispered shout.
“No way Mom!” Josie howled back.
“Whatcha got? A possum?” I asked.
“Damn right, and I’m not stopping till it goes away!” Josie continued.
I flashed a light around the fence top and soon heard the intruder plop off into a different yard.
If I were still working, this would be spring break. The weather is perfect, and the forecast calls for sun every day. It would have been such a blessing to me then, as it is now, yet now there is not the anticipation nor the drive to get everything done in one short week. My garden cleaning and rearranging, adding to taking away has been in process since February - and that phase is almost over. Tomorrow Josie and I will take the last load of yard waste to the recycle center and I can begin the tasks of finishing up.
Josie had some blood work done in late October before having her teeth cleaned. The results indicated somewhat elevated creatinine and BUN levels, a kidney issue. When I took her in for her annual vaccinations I asked to have the blood test run again, just to be sure. They came back double what they had been, and at the critical level which may mean she has a congenital kidney disease or…? The test of her urine showed no infection that might be the cause. She is on the KD diet, and after research and consultation, I ordered more complete tests.
Yes. More tests; to check out possibilities, which is to say eliminate some and steer toward others and maybe (with DogGod on our side) we might determine the cause ~ and (of course this optimist believes it will happen) and there will be a solution, a cure. That most certainly is where my heart is now. Josie is the sweetest, smartest, most obedient, careful, and self-regulated Beagle I have had the pleasure of living with; and she’s my fourth. So why, at the young age of five, is she showing signs of advanced kidney failure? We may never know.
Vet, whom I trust, says it is congenital and degenerative. OK. So it cannot be cured, but it can be managed and that is what I intend to do. But it is hard to look at her and think she could die any time. She is beginning not to eat, or even want the treats she looked forward to with relish before. I hold her and love her, I make some rice and burger for her which she likes at first but not the second day. So she gets a scoop of our left over home made spaghetti - that disappears.
It has been a month since Gary died.
“It seems like just yesterday,” Creighton says, shaking his head as he remembers the dead man on the floor.
“It seems like forever,” Linda says as we talk on the sidewalk. “One thing is for certain, he’s not coming back.”
Tomorrow Hope buries her mother. Life seems so tenuous suddenly. I am once again hit with how hard it is (and will be) to lose friends and neighbors, not to mention relatives and dear ones. I imagine my father, almost alone, giving thanks for his four loving children and their families.
At 6:45 I bolted out of bed, washed face, brushed teeth, threw on clothing, made coffee, grabbed water and the store bough sandwich from the fridge, and tore out of the neighborhood by ten after 7, which put me at Mountain View to help proctor the ACT exam for college entry.
“Hey John,” I called out to my longtime colleague and friend. “I’m running on Wellman Standard Time this morning!”
John smiled and laughed in his quiet
I get it
way. Always one to arrive late for meetings, my being ten minutes behind time mattered little to him.
Looking up from my yard chores, I saw a young boy standing next to me. His warm brown eyes and blonde hair were my first clue.
“Hi Lindy,” Cameron greeted, offering me a plastic box. “I have a snail.”
“Wow, that’s a really big one,” I exclaimed.
“I had a bigger one, but I sort of gave it to Logan. Anyway he has it now.”
“Well this is a mighty nice snail.” I said, handing back the container. “Thanks for sharing it with me.”
“Oh,” Cam replied earnestly, “I really came over just to say hi.”
“A double pleasure!”
I was just cleaning up after lunch when the doorbell rang. Descending to the landing, I opened the door to Marlene, one of neighbor Maureen’s sisters. I invited her downstairs where she unfolded a story to Creighton and me and asked for our committed support of their older sister, Maxine. You should know that these three beautiful and bright women had lost their ninety year old mother just three months prior and had orchestrated a fitting tribute to her in which I played a very small but helpful part. It was how I came to know Marlene and Maxine.
I was surprised at the parallels these three women shared with my sisters and me. Maxine is two years older than Marlene, who was thirteen when Maureen was born. My sister Diana is five years older than me, and I was thirteen when Lori was born. It was the love and strength they gave one another that struck me though, and how much it felt like my family. For a while I was part of theirs as I too gave strength and support to them, and now Marlene was counting on me/us to provide that love and strength again.
“Maxine has been in the hospital a week with a condition that has rendered her paralyzed below the chest.” Marlene told us.
Her symptoms had progressed from those of a common cold to pre-stroke or heart attack. When she finally asked to be taken to emergency, a five minute trip from her home in Corvallis, she couldn’t walk. Her husband called 911, and she was in intensive care. All the scans and tests revealed no readily identifiable cause. Then it was discovered that blood had seeped into her spinal cord interrupted her nervous system and caused the paralysis.
“I know I can’t fix it, but what I can do is just this - tell people who know Maxine, and ask you to hold her in your thoughts and prayers, and I’m asking even more than that. You know, people go from one thing to the next, and our focus dims as the time between an event and today lengthens. God and Maxine will determine if she ever walks again, and my goal is to make sure my sister is buoyed by the love and positive energy of many people who care about her. Will you join me?”
“Of course I will.” I said.
“And will you?” Marlene asked Creighton.
“Yes, I will too.” He answered, somewhat baffled but willing.
“I am hoping you will send her a card or letter once a month or so,” Marlene continued. “Not something with just your name on it, or a computer written letter, but in your own hand; something that conveys a personal touch.”
“We can do that,” I assured her.
“Not everybody believes in God, or the power of prayer, but I do, and I know you are spiritual people, and the more people pulling for her, the better.”
In such a short period of time too many people I care about have serious shit going on with them; from outpatient surgery that requires weeks (or months) of physical therapy, to coping with death. Somehow I thought when I retired I would no longer experience frequent vicarious traumatization on this level.
Well, it is everywhere, and I must be thankful that I am only affected by the suffering of this small sphere of human contact, not the greater scope that counseling high school students (plus parents and teachers) adds. Still, I feel the stress within me, and seek relief.
So on this sunny Easter Sunday morning, I am blessed with so much that it takes my breath away. I want to call my sisters, brother and Dad, I want to run outside and listen to my bird couples as they make their secreted nests, and I will write a note to Maxine.
It was a whoa back day for me. Though I tilled two of the raised beds, planted snap peas, cared for my roses, and headed the primroses, this evening I feel refreshed and ready to finish the pea gravel tomorrow so I can clean up the truck!.
It will be a different week. We are going away for three days and two nights to Long Beach, WA. ~ a Groupon deal to a place we have not been before. But this year Josie is not as vigorous as last, and I am worried about whether she will be strong enough. She isn’t eating much of anything I put out for her. I found some good sounding recipes and sound advice on a website I trust. Tomorrow I will shop for everything we need to come home to, and ingredients to make a variety of meals for Josie.
What fun making dog food! I have decided if I wouldn’t eat it, I won’t put it down for Josie. The home made meals are high fat and low sodium, but good food; hamburger, ground pork, sticky rice, potatoes, unsalted butter, Malt-o-meal are all on the menu. After cooking everything and combining them into appropriate portions, we have about two weeks of meals for our girl dog. She licked the skillet (which she hasn’t been interested in for some time) and with the application of whipping cream, Malt-o-meal passed the Josie taste test.
Dead battery, AAA service, rain from home to coast, booked into a disgusting room. Only the Long Beach Thai take out dinner saved the day. Too late to change rooms, we decided to tough it out, and vowed to get up and leave first thing in the morning even though we have already paid for two nights.
“What a dive!” I kept repeating. “Bar table and chairs, and this one’s broken. I’ll sit on the bed.” Its thin burgundy spread stank.
“The fire alarm is hanging by wires,” Creighton said. “And there’s no place to plug in!”
This morning the storm had subsided. Josie and I walked to the beach and I came back determined to get a better room and stay this second night. It worked out. With improved weather, and after more walks and good food, we watch the sun set over the Pacific’s roar. Night sounds begin to rise above the daytime chorus:
the constant pull and tug of ocean at shore
unfathomable churning depths
the cry of birds calling, greeting, warning
of Heron discouraged by Crow
and Sandpiper scolding, “away! away!”
and frogs in bogs croaking
awaiting reply under a twilight sky.
One last morning walk to the beach and we are off to home. Creighton stopped at a couple turn offs so I could take pics of the incredible bridge that links Washington and Oregon at Astoria. I took some of it en route across from inside the truck and also on the other side - pretty good shots. As much as we love getting away for a few days, Creighton and I also feel blessed to return to a nice home in a friendly neighborhood. After unpacking, I walked the gardens feeling at peace -not the beach, but my own sanctuary.
Friends Bill and Carol will be here tomorrow for lunch. We haven’t seen them in a long time although there were many years we were together every weekend making music. Bill helped me bring Creighton back after his breakdown. Music was something that kept him alive, and Bill - at that point a single man with Aspergers - thrived on the chance to play with someone else and also have a sense of family on Sunday afternoons. We grew together, and then a few years ago Bill wanted a different musical outlet and we stopped getting together regularly. It was hard.
Hard, yet Creighton plowed through it and so did I. We still got together, just not to make music, and Bill never did tell us what had spurred him away. So it goes with relationships though, and all I know to do is respect the right of all to do as they need or want to express themselves fully. Carol has been a grounding influence for Bill, and he has provided her financial security she has not had since she was young. They are moving to Ashville, North Carolina in a month, a town she lived in before and loves.
As we hugged goodbye after out time together, I realized this may be the last time I see Bill and kiss him lightly. Such a sweet soul, such a needed friend, at a time when my life was about to pull me into the darkness of never coming to the surface for air.
He is seventy. They will be three thousand miles away. We can visit anytime. But not really. If the spirit of the universe is with me I may be out that way once before I am unable to travel any more. So I grieve another dear loss.
Josie is curled next to me on the wicker love seat cushion. It is 5:00 and warm enough to be outside in a cotton shirt, capris and sandals. Goldfinch call to meet at the feeders on the deck, and a Hummingbird just whirred in for a drink at the sipper mounted a few feet from where I sit. It feels like the first day of summer and the forecast calls for eighty degree tomorrow and going up - unseasonably warm. But this year I’m ready!
It is for this that I work so hard in the cool spring rains.
Life is about finding a balance within yourself, in your community, and in the world. Most of what I do in my daily rounds is to maintain a balance that works for me. When I find I am feeling unsteady, I know I must figure out what the hell is going on. Some things I can control - like when I discovered the pills in my estrogen vial were the same as the pills in my progesterone vial. Oops - pharmacy fuck up. But not the end of the world. Now I am returning to normal, whatever I decide that will be.
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