Monthly Archives: June 2016

Riding in Cars with Dogs

Standard

june2016 273

On the way home from work on Sunday afternoon, faced with the balance of the day plus two days off, my mind runs through the possibilities.

I considered bringing some plants home, the sorry, leftover specimens that have been too long in their starter pots: tomatoes, peppers, cabbages and eggplant. Could I dig up a patch of garden yet? What about that sweet peach tree, with tiny fuzzy fruits already on its branches? How nice it would be to spend the day in the garden! I sensibly – though with remorse – talked myself out of it. Too much to do, to allow myself to go off in another direction.

The entire lawn needs mowing, but the back yard – that didn’t get done last week – is desperately in need of it. I brought home 50 feet of rope, with intention of restringing my clothesline.  It was a nice warm day with a slight breeze: a good day to wash sheets and dry them outside! A good day, too,  to shake out the rugs and open all the windows, give the floors a good sweeping and get the cobwebs out of the corners.

I have several hours (days??) of writing and computer work to do. I have stacks of notes from meetings and interviews to turn into stories. I have others to edit and organize. There are letters to write and phone calls to answer. The subscriber database always needs updating as the checks or changes of address come in the mail. I need to set up a filing system for advertisers, and bill out the classified ads. If I were to get all of that done in a timely fashion, my taxes are still waiting to be filed.

The studio, yes, a dozen things to do there, and the back closet where I started sorting seasonal clothes, and the kitchen cupboards to get ready for the new counter top, and weeding, dead-heading and watering the flower beds…by the time I got home, I was exhausted just from thinking about it!

The dogs greeted me when I got home. I made a sandwich, and wandered the yard while I ate it. It really was a beautiful day. Chance of rain or thunderstorms for Monday.

“Do you want to take a ride?” I asked.

Darla jumped up from where she was laying in the grass. Rosa Parks gave a series of yips as she ran for the car. I grabbed the can of mosquito repellent, my camera, a book, and one bottle of beer.

“Let’s go!”

Darla jumps in first, and takes the passenger seat in front. Her posture is impeccable as she sits tall watching out the windows. I pick up Rosa Parks and take the driver’s seat. Rosa scrambles across to position herself on my lap, with her nose out the window, her chin resting on my left arm. Darla smiles benignly across at me, to let me know that she believes that spot on my lap should be hers, but that she’ll make the sacrifice.

It’s one and a half miles to Fox Lake, down a barely traveled, narrow gravel road. The breeze is nice. Every now and then, I point out a bird or squirrel or chipmunk. If they were on foot, they’d be very interested. Riding in the car, they pay no attention to the wildlife. They know when I come to the drive that leads down to the lake. They murmur and shake in anticipation. If I accidentally drive past it, they turn to look back. Still, they each politely hold their places until the car is parked, and I open the door to let them out.

The lake is an adventure unto itself, with water for wading and new smells to investigate. For me, it’s an hour of blissful relaxation. The ride home is a repeat of the trip there, only in reverse…and more damp. No matter what’s on the to-do list, riding in cars with dogs is an excellent way to spend an afternoon!

 

The 52 Lists Project #25

Standard

may2016 316

List the things that make you feel powerful:

  • A blazer. For dress or casual wear, as a light jacket in spring or fall, or just to dignify a less than stellar outfit, any blazer will do. Whether it’s my ratty, old  blazer with thistles and brambles solidly enmeshed in the fabric, my newer, all-around gray blazer, or one of the dressier ones that used to be parts of men’s suits, a blazer is my power choice.
  • Helen Reddy singing “I am Woman.” Always stirring, even after all these years.
  • Making bread. It takes physical effort, and the results are magically better than the ingredients that went into it.
  • Having my hands in clay, working with paint or ink or charcoal. When I feel humiliated, embarrassed or beat down by the world, art-making brings me back to my center.
  • Writing, sometimes.
  • Walking in nature, when neither ice nor mosquitoes are out there to intimidate me.
  • I had a father with strong opinions, a big laugh and an impressive work ethic. Though I think much of my strength comes from my mother, any feelings of power come from my father’s influence.

Saturday, Almost Father’s Day

Standard

june2016 197

I looked – once again – at a special DVD created from old home movies taken in the early fifties. My Grandpa Ted bought the movie camera because he had new grandchildren: my sister Brenda, me, my brother Teddy. Grandpa shot most of the movies himself, but sometimes Grandma Thelma had the camera, and sometimes my Mom did.

My Dad did not take pictures, and he didn’t much like being in them. Yet, there he is, grinning widely as he hoists a child to his shoulders, or bends to rub a dog’s ears. There he is, striding purposefully across the lawn carrying boxes that soon reveal a new swing set…and there is Dad, assembling it as we smile from the sidelines. He’s there in the summer, giving us rides in the wagon he built to pull behind the riding mower; in the winter he’s pulling us on a sled. At parties, he laughs as he fills glasses from a pitcher. In other scenes he talks to adults or tickles children, and often puts up an arm to hide his face from the camera.

My heart swells to see my father so young and vital, so involved with his family, and with so much life still ahead. Being one of the oldest, I remember that man. I also remember the man he became: frustrated, saddened  and disappointed – often – with how his life had turned out, sometimes a little bit bitter.

It’s hard to know, because all change is gradual, what happened, and when, to make the difference. Age alone, I’ve come to realize, alters the world. There comes a point where some dreams have to be set aside; no longer is there time or energy or ability enough to continue to believe that anything is possible. Aches and pains can be frustrating. Everything that could once be done without a second thought, but that now is a struggle, becomes a discouragement. Losses build.

If I could spend a day with my Dad, I’d choose a time when hard work was possible, and hope was still alive. Let it be in the years when he always leaned over to give Mom a long kiss before he left the house, and when they’d snuggle together on the couch to watch cowboy shows.Let him be old enough to have his many children all around him, young enough so that we were still at home. I’d like to give each of us children enough foresight…or insight…so that we’d  appreciate Dad more than we did at that time.

Sometimes it’s hard to see the value in a person or a thing until it’s long past. If I could spend a day with my Dad, I’d offer him fresh strawberries with cream. I’d tell him everything that’s happened in our family; I’d talk to him about Aunt Katie’s health, Bob’s sheep and chickens and the new pond. I’d do my best to let him know I love him, and appreciate all that he was, and all that he taught me. I know his value, now.

Miscellany

Standard

june2016 215

I will either wait to write tonight, after work, when I already have 12 other things waiting, or I will hammer out a few words right now and be done with this one commitment before my day gets underway. I choose the latter. Maybe.

I have now published five hundred posts on this site, since I started it in October of 2011. More impressive, to me, is that I’m almost half-way through a year of writing every single day.

Ah, and now, already, I have run out of things to say, today. It was the boasting that cleared my mind, I’m sure. So, on that note, I will “save” instead of “publish,” and rush to get in the shower and off to work, hoping that today brings more to say.

And here I am, more than twelve hours later, exhausted, and wishing I was done for the night. I’m not.

After a long and hard day at work (the one short break I got was spent at the post office and the bank), I had to go to the grocery store, then rush to the gas station before it closed, then home.The car had to be unloaded of purchases and packages. Groceries had to be put away.

Finally, I took the dogs down to the lake. I managed to sit, quietly, with  a book, even, for a solid twenty minutes while the dogs played in the water. Three men in a boat pulled up to the shore then, and my dogs refused to be polite. The charged into the water, barking sharply and growling. Though their tails were wagging, I didn’t have leashes for either of them, and I didn’t trust them. Behavior that may be predictable in one dog, becomes unpredictable with two together. I loaded them back in the car for the ride home. “If you can’t be nice,” I scolded, “You can’t stay at the beach.”

Home again, there were chores. I emptied the compost pail into the bin that sits on the edge of the garden. I pulled a few weeds. I picked a colander full of ripe strawberries. They sit on the counter waiting to be cleaned. I fed the dogs, and started my own supper.

A well-intentioned phone call was next. Evidently, I had hurt someone’s feelings. I didn’t do it on purpose, and didn’t even know about it, until I got the call. Now – though I feel like friends could give one another – sometimes – the benefit of the doubt, and that it is not necessary to jump to the conclusion that I am ignoring or shunning someone just because they don’t hear from me regularly – I will take the time to explain myself and apologize for my neglect and try to salve hurt feeling…because I care. Not  because I have the time to spare. Because I don’t.

On that note, I don’t have an ounce of energy for another single word this evening.

 

 

 

 

Timeout for Art:

Standard

sanctuary

When I started working in Collagraph Print-making, I wanted to delve into texture and color. There were so many possibilities to explore! To enable me to do this, I chose a simple, abstract shape – a triangle on a square or rectangular ground – for my composition.

The design had meaning to me, as it mimics the roof line of my family home. My childhood bedroom was tucked up into the second floor of that house. That was a time in my life when I felt safe, when others were taking care of all the big decisions, and when my worries were small and few. That was a far cry from what my life was like when I started making these images, and the feelings of child-like simplicity and security were ideas I wanted to convey.

A triangle has a solid base, and it lends itself to the image of a shelter of some kind. Textures add stability to the floating image, and colors add emotion. I made dozens of variations from the plate that produced this image, trying out different color combinations and printing methods. The title of this work is “Sanctuary.”

Darla

Standard

june2016 213

Darla, the newest canine family member at my house, has been with us for almost a month now. She seems to be settling in nicely.

Rosa Parks did not, at first, appreciate the new companion as much as I imagined she would. Nor did Darla, who thought she was going to have me all to herself, like finding that the chubby little dog felt proprietorship of me and the house. They begrudgingly tried to get along, for my sake. They each warily kept an eye on each other. It took a couple weeks before they started to have fun together. Now, they are good companions.

My back yard often has dog toys scattered around it these days. Before I get the mower out, I wander around to pick things up. One knotted rope toy, two chew bones, an old slipper, a squeaky rubber chicken and a half dozen stuffed animals. As I pick up each item, Darla grins and wanders over, happy to take it off my hands. She loves a toy! She brought her own stuffed terry-cloth puppy when she came to live with me. Tail wagging, she goes through the basket of old and neglected toys to find new-to-her treasures. When we walk, she often carries a soft toy all the way down the Fox Lake Road. She wants to bring something outside with her every time she leaves the house. Distracted by other things, she forgets to bring them back inside.

Though she was a little afraid of the water at the beginning, Darla now enjoys wading whenever we go to Fox Lake. She still doesn’t swim. At first, Darla was quite nervous about every ride in the car. She now understands that it almost always means fun, and she jumps right in when invited. She pays attention to my whereabouts when we walk together. She stays pretty close, and comes to me when she’s called. She doesn’t go out of the yard without me.

Because of her size, and because I live in the woods, I was nervous about how Darla would react to deer. If she wanted to give chase, I would have to keep her in an enclosed space. It turns out, she is very interested in birds, snakes and bugs, but doesn’t take much interest in deer. When they come into the yard, she growls and woofs; they turn and run, and that’s the end of it.

Darla likes to be close to me, and will follow me into the smallest spaces. There is no room to step out of the shower, with two dogs crowded into the bathroom with me. I often trip over the big dog when I get out of bed or turn from the sink or washing machine. She likes to sleep right beside my chair or bed. She and Rosa Parks often rest, side-by-side on their cushions on the floor.

Just a few weeks into this, I think Darla is working out just fine!

 

Tuesday: Exercises in Writing #2

Standard

june2016 202

This week, my writing exercise comes from the book Old Friend from Far Away (The Practice of Writing Memoir) by Natalie Goldberg. The instructions are here:

What aches? First tell the concrete aches: your back, knee, toe, ear, wrist, head.[…] Now move to the other, less obvious injuries…

Aches, there is plenty of material for that topic in this aging body. I am awake this night, in fact, with leg cramps. Since I’m awake, I may as well write. Since I can still feel the residual ache from the muscle spasms, how appropriate to run across this writing prompt.

I was sleeping well when a slight rearrangement of my feet under the covers caused a muscle in my calf to stiffen. I rolled slowly over to return the leg to its prior position, in hopes that it would relax. My three middle toes got into the act, separating and pointing upward, as the calf muscle went into total spasm. I reached down to rub the leg, but the movement brought my other leg into spam as well. I cried out just because it hurt so much, though there is no one to hear it except for the dogs, who seemed unaffected.

I rolled sideways out of bed and walked on my heels – bow-legged, knees bent at a severe angle, toes pointing upward in several directions – down the stairs. In the kitchen, I poured a slug of apple cider vinegar into two ounces of water and drank it down as if it were a shot of good tequila. An old folk remedy, it is supposed to stop leg cramps in under two minutes. I’ve had mixed success with it. I continued on into the bathroom where I bared my legs and sprayed them with magnesium oil. I hobbled around for a while, waiting for the cramping to stop. By the time it eased up, I was wide awake.

I have almost every pain listed in the directive. It wasn’t always like this, but aches and pains have crept in gradually, so I could hardly say when the pain started, or how long I’ve dealt with it. My back is pretty strong right now, but I have to be careful of what I expect of it. When it goes out, it is excruciating. My knees hurt every day, just enough to make their presence known. My wrists, hands and fingers have a bit of arthritis that is just slightly bothersome. I notice it mostly when I’m hand writing. All of it is a nuisance, but none more than that. I’m fortunate.

The less obvious aches are the hardest to stand. In my case, these primarily include regret, shame and embarrassment. I don’t let go of things like that, and I don’t go easy on myself. When I am hurt or humiliated, I take it on forever. When I speak or act in a hurtful manner, which I have done too often through my life, I suffer for it. I can still cringe at a foolish or mean thing I said or did many years after the incident. It is almost impossible to overcome the negative aspects attributed to me by myself or others. In this, I am not fortunate.

Monday, Monday…

Standard

june2016 191

A cloud of sadness – instead of sleep – came over me last night, and stayed.

I’ve been here before. As someone who has dealt with depression throughout my life, I am fairly clinical about it. Sometimes it’s an imbalance issue; sometimes a true and good reaction to what life hands out.

I look to possible reasons. Lack of sleep or exercise, tiredness, and a feeling of being overwhelmed could all play a part. There is also the “teeter-totter” effect.  When my mood is chipper almost to the breaking point, when everything seems perfect and I laugh harder than I’ve laughed in years…I can expect that the balance will shift, and I’ll want to cry.

I’ve just finished a five-day work cycle. Business has been brisk, and the hardware was a little under-staffed. In addition, I’ve had meetings and interviews, writing, bookkeeping and banking and a dozen other extracurricular activities. I’m tired. I’m behind in everything. I don’t know which task to tackle first. Of course, I can’t sleep!

Two dear friends lost their mother yesterday. I know how devoted these brothers are to their family, and what a wonderful presence their mother was in their lives. Feelings of sympathy combine with empathy, and the loss of my own mother – almost five years ago – is brought right up to the present, as my heart goes out to them.

I had a meeting last evening, with a lively, young and beautiful family. We talked and laughed and exchanged ideas. Their life looks much  the way I expected my life to be like when I came here with my family nearly  forty years ago. The long list of things that changed the course of those plans could cause anyone a bit of melancholy. Also, as often happens in those circumstances, I shared more personal information than I am comfortable with. I was cringing about that, by the time I got home. Finally, the outcome – though not bad – was not exactly what I’d hoped for. Any of these things could have contributed to my change in mood.

I know the things to do, to lift the cloud of depression. There are baby steps to help alleviate the feeling of being overwhelmed. I make lists, finish one task, create a plan. There are distractions that sometimes work. At three o’clock this morning, I made a cup of tea and watched a movie. At five o’clock I decided that a few hours of sleep – if sleep would come – would be better than none at all, and I took to the couch.

Now, here is Monday.

 

 

The 52 Lists Project #24

Standard

june2016 082

List your quirks:

  • I sometimes have a quirky sense of humor.
  • I count things: dishes, as I wash them (one, two, three cups, then two pieces of silverware to bring the count up to a multiple of five, six, seven for two bowls, then three spoons will bring the count to ten); stairs, as I go up or down; clothes, as I fold them; steps, when I’m out walking.
  • I like to sing in the car.
  • I talk to my dogs.
  • I like to arrange things…like furniture, or items on a shelf or in a drawer.
  • I’m a saver; I have trouble throwing things away.
  • I sleep only on my side.
  • Books and movies that are too scary give me nightmares.
  • I have difficulty being on time.
  • I like lists.

Storm

Standard

june2016 176

This weekend is a free weekend for fishing here in Michigan. Though some rules still apply, no fishing license is needed. The Beaver Island Wildlife Club, along with a few other sponsors, is hosting a fishing tournament Saturday and Sunday. It’s geared toward families, and there are quite a few youngsters that have been anticipating it for days.

Yesterday, the weather forecast didn’t sound good. A big storm was coming through, it said, with thunder and lightning, rain and strong winds. The hardware store was one of the sponsors, and one of the employees was a major organizer. He wasn’t working at the hardware yesterday; he was busy getting equipment ready, gathering life jackets and handling last minute details. Still, the questions came rolling in.

“What is the back up plan, if the storm comes?”

“Will the tournament be rescheduled?”

“What happens if it’s raining?”

My answer to everything was “I don’t know,” though I speculated that rescheduling might be difficult, since this is the free fishing weekend. I freely gave out telephone numbers of people better equipped to answer the questions, and sympathized with their quandary.

“Of course the kids are really looking forward to it!”

“No, certainly you wouldn’t want to be out on the water in a storm.”

“Yes, it will be a darn shame if it rains all day.”

That was it. No matter what, the weather is out of our control. Though I could honestly agree that the timing was poor, I couldn’t change a thing. Which allowed me to – completely without guilt – relish the fact that I was forced by the weather to put off mowing the back yard.

The storm came through last night just as the sun was going down. There were big booms of thunder and impressive flashes of lightning. Great big raindrops fell softly to the ground, but not for long. I found myself wishing it would continue through the night.Maybe it did. It looks quite moist out there this morning, as the sun is coming up. As for the storm, we may have seen the end of it.