March 30, 2009

Buckaroo Composes a Poem


It goes a little something like this:
Mama is a raccoon
Mama is a monster
Mama is a ladybug
Honk Honk Honk
I love you.
R says it's a language poem, but I think not.
Have I mentioned that it is stinkin' spring! It makes me so happy I want to burst out in tears. As of yesterday our frosty lake is all water again. Today the Lake Folks put the boards in the dam so it will fill up.
There are no flowers yet, although I've heard tales of sprouting tulips. Our flowers will come last as we are in the snow belt, and it's cinched tight. We've still got a few spots of the frozen white stuff in our yard.
I've never felt so happy about spring. Ever. I had never waited like this for Spring Equinox or wanted to celebrate it with such wild abandon. It always got my feathers up a bit when people complained that California didn't have seasons, and I still stand by my belief that California has two seasons-- maybe two and a half. However, there is no spring there-- just those couple of months when winter is a little warmer or summer is a bit cooler. It all flows together. There certainly was no mud season in the Bay Area, unless one wanted to hunt it down.
Here though, everything is melted and wet, and dirt colored. R's dad says the birds should be back soon, and today I saw a cardinal twittering in the twigs outside Frog Mama's house.
We bought Buckaroo some cow galoshes. They're black and white spotted with cow faces on the toes and tails on the back side. He won't wear anything else, and it's probably a good thing since we have rather large puddles on our road, and he's recently become a connoisseur of jumping.
Sweet P, on the other hand, refuses to wear a jacket. She came in from the rain after school today and looked like a bright pink, and very wet, rodent.

March 24, 2009

Sweet Blue Goodbye

I was planning to go to church Sunday morning, but I took a nap instead. It was that kind of day. It was a light nap, and I could still sort of hear Buckaroo going wild with his trains in the other room.

Then I was standing in a forest where everything was green and warm, and in front of me there was a small, clear, pool of water and a deer bending his head low and drinking from the pond.

Even though I grew up in deer country, I still get excited to see them. There's something comforting about a deer. I stood behind the deer, a bit to one side, just in awe of the moment and the quiet, hoping not to startle him away. And then the deer transformed into Blue. He was shorter and darker, with those long silk-floppy ears and his sniffy nose.

I didn't call to him. I just watched him continue to drink (that dog had an unquenchable thirst, maybe caused by the cancer that took over his kidneys) and I knew he was Ok. He wasn't disappointed in us for letting him go.

Later, I looked up deer in an online dream dictionary, and this is what I found:

The Indians of North and South America gave deer a spiritually important role. They believed that the souls of men passed into deer at the time of death. The deer in your dream may be a symbol of gentle and helpful parts of your psyche. In order to understand the message of the dream, think about what situation in your life would benefit from gentleness and soul-fullness?


Rest in Peace, Blue.

March 17, 2009

Blue's Blues

Blue doesn't eat. I've been working with Sarah, the lovely doggie angel from Ahimsa, to figure out what's causing the food aversion. First we thought Blue was just in transitional shock. Next, maybe his tummy was upset from his antibiotics (he also had a double ear infection), then we thought maybe he was just stubborn. Maybe it's all three of those things, but in two weeks he's lost ten pounds.
Sure, he needs to slim down a bit, but this is some kind of crazy crash diet.
Meanwhile, he vomits. He drinks a ton of water in one go and then spews out a bit of it. Sarah thinks he might have a water disorder because his previous parent denied him a filled bowl. Leave it to me to adopt a dog with a drinking problem.
The vast amounts of water intake may be an indication of diabetes, so he's had a blood test. Also, I'm supposed to bring in a sample of his urine. They recommend using a ladle. You'll never want to eat soup at my house again.
Until we know what's going on, we're supposed to feed him any kind of bland, non-greasy food he'll eat. Tonight for dinner he had a bit o' bread.
In other news: This is day two of weaning Buckaroo from his bed time milky drinking and the first step toward complete night weaning. So far it's been a beautiful thing, except that I don't get to listen to the podcasts or books on cd anymore. I will miss the stories, but at least now I don't have to worry that Buckaroo's going to call some little girl a saumensch on the playground.
Sweet Potato will attend her first dance on Friday night. She's playing it cool, but at least she's going!
R sweet-talked a guy at church who builds post and beam homes to come and have a look-see at our project by the lake, but-- and I find this fascinating-- the guy is totally booked until September! Economy Shnonomy.
Tomorrow is supposed to be roasty toasty (well, you know, 55) so Buckaroo and I are heading down to the muddy playground. Maybe we'll see ya there!

March 16, 2009

The Presidents' Church


Yesterday our whole congregation took a field trip to Quincy (pronounced Quin-zee by locals, dunno why), to enjoy Sunday service at First Parish church, which was followed by a tour of the crypt.
I've never been much into presidential biographies, but following the law of "no such thing as coincidence" makes me think maybe there's something to this Adams fellow.
First my mom has been raving about the Adams series, starring Paul "I'm not drinking any f-ing merlot" Giamatti and Laura Linney, and I love them both.
The next day, possibly, our church announced a field trip to see the church where the Adam presidents and their wives our buried. We went, had the tour, and I recommend it.
Then, last night, after our long day enjoying QuinZy, eating Mexican food and visiting the in-laws, I was listening to my new favorite Book Tour podcast while Buckaroo did his milky drinking, and there was Steven Johnson talking about his new book, Joseph Priestly and The Invention of Air in which-- get this-- he discusses Priestly's relationship with Adams and Jefferson.
Turns out Adams and Jefferson had a tumultuous relationship-- I'm probably the only person in American who did not know this-- and it was Priestly, in a way, who caused their falling out and their reconciliation. Then, and this is the best part in my opinion, Jefferson and Adams died on the same day, the 4th of July! Adams last words were, "Jefferson lives" or something along those lines; it was a bit of a mumble.
So now I'm off to Netflix the Adams series as we're at the tail end of Ugly Betty. Maybe the Adams series has a secret, hidden message for me-- I'll keep you posted.

March 12, 2009

My Mirror of Erised


On Saturday mornings I woke up with Papa James and fiddled around the kitchen while he made a tankard of coffee-- really, it was one of those restaurant-sized containers-- and when he had poured a cup for Nana, and a cup for himself, I carried hers into the dark bedroom, careful not to spill a hot drop. She sat in bed next to a bright light, reading her latest Agatha Christie mystery. I handed her the coffee and hopped on the bed beside her to hear about the next chapter in Poirot's adventures.



Then I'd sit by the fire with Papa James and watch game shows, playing "Who's the prettiest girl in the world?" during commercials while Nana, in the pink bathroom, put her face on. Sometimes I visited Uncle Mike and his chickens outside, but it was kind of smelly out there, and I was a little afraid of the bully roosters.



When Nana was ready, we baked. If we made pies, she kept a bit of dough aside so I could press it into a miniature tin-foil pie plate left over from a TV dinner. If we made cinnamon braids, I had my own pieces to twist and sprinkle. When I got a little older I was allowed to sit on the counter and watch the mixer swirl the batter as long as I promised not to stick my fingers in there while it was running. Nana always let me lick the beaters, too, and that was the best part.



At lunch I was the living room messenger, running back and forth with requests from Papa James. Sometimes we ate chipped beef on toast (but Nana had another name for it involving the S-word, which I could never bring myself to say), or she made toasted peanut butter sandwiches with banana and marshmallows, and I drank instant tea with lemon or milk flavored with maraschino cherry juice.


Then we'd sew, paint ceramics, make jewelry, or I'd recite Shel Silverstein poems until I was nearly hoarse, from the book they'd given me for my birthday.


In the evening I played with the dachshunds or Uncle Mike's Lego set on the living room floor while Papa James watched the news and Nana made dinner. During commercials Papa James quizzed my addition skills. Sometimes we went to Gotto's market in the VW bus for berry pocket pies, and Papa James was patient while I chose the perfect flavor.


Later, Nana Ivy might come over, and we'd all play canasta. Nana Ivy called it "Nasty," and rubbed her bony fingers together when she said it. She and Papa James were always a team against Nana Pat and me, and they cheated. They'd try to speak in code or flash each other their cards when they thought we weren't looking. Nana always caught them, and she'd shout, "Mother!" or "Jimmy!" with feigned exasperation.

They'd drink coffee and smoke cigarettes while I ate the dessert we'd made that day, and we'd play until I was nodding at the table, and then Nana would tuck me in on the brown vinyl couch, and I'd twist the big gold buttons and let the tick tock of the cuckoo clock lull me to sleep.


Holidays at Nana's were huge, and she baked non-stop for days. There were tables filled with pies and cookies piled high with frosting, and home made eggnog. The Christmas tree had real, nana-made gingerbread men. Plus, all of my family was there drinking, joking, and filling the house with smoke-filled laughter while my cousins and I dashed about them in our best Christmas clothes.


Nana Pat died of cancer when I was twelve, and the family dismantled itself without her; even our grief couldn't hold us together. Papa James married a woman who preached the bible to me, to everyone, and I understood that he needed someone to take care of him, but I didn't visit.


Years later, I visited my dad in New Mexico when I was pregnant with Sweet P, and in the spare bedroom I found a photo album filled with black and white pictures of my family that I'd never seen. One page held a blurry photo of my bright-haired dad as a boy next to a separate photo of my tall, tan, and handsome Papa James. Above it was written, "My Sweethearts," and that's how I knew that it was Nana's album.



When my dad died, his cousin Chuck cleaned out Dad's belongings and called to ask what I wanted. I said all I wanted was that burgundy album if it was still around. He found it and said he'd send it to me, but it didn't arrive. I didn't want to pester him for it. He and my dad were best friends, and I knew he was grieving.


I was shocked and sad when Chuck died last year, and I felt that I'd lost the last connection I had to my dad and his family. I remember him saying, "My mom was my mom, and I loved her, but your Nana Pat was the most amazing woman I've ever known. She made everything special."


Last week I got a call from Chuck's wife, and she told me that she found the missing album while she was clearing out the house to move. It arrived in the mail the next day. The pages are dark and brittle, and so many of the pictures are missing. The back cover has fallen away completely.


I sat on the couch, examined all of those familiar faces, somewhat younger than when I knew them, and cried-- so many pictures of my dad as a happy baby, before he was broken.


When Harry Potter discovers the Mirror of Erised, which shows its gazer the deepest desires of his heart, Dumbledore warns him that many have perished in front of the mirror, giving up everything while longing for what they see there. As I turned the pages of my nana's album I knew what I would see if I were to gaze into the Mirror of Erised. Of course, I've always known-- many an hour of therapy has been spent learning how to live in the present.


I didn't expect to find any pictures of myself in the album because they were all taken long before I was born, and there weren't any. As I was closing the album, I found an envelope glued to the back page, and I was excited to read something in Nana's scrawl. What I found instead was my own messy, childhood writing. It was a Robert Louis Stevenson poem I had copied on a piece of lined paper and given her. I have no memory of this, but I still know the words of the poem by heart. It was the first poem I ever loved:

To Any Reader

As from the house your mother sees
You playing round the garden trees,
So you may see, if you will look
Through the windows of this book,
Another child, far, far away,
And in another garden, play.
But do not think you can at all,
By knocking on the window, call
That child to hear you. He intent
Is all on his play-business bent.
He does not hear; he will not look,
Nor yet be lured out of this book.
For, long ago, the truth to say,
He has grown up and gone away,
And it is but a child of air
Who lingers in the garden there.


March 6, 2009

Adventures with Blue

You know those dogs who are only happy when their keepers have strapped a back pack to them, filled with doggie treats and baggies, because the dogs need to feel like they're working, contributing, doing their part? I think I might be that kind of dog.

Here's the thing: I don't have a keeper to strap a back pack on my back, put me on a leash and send me hiking, and I really need one.

My dad was a workaholic (and every other kind of holic). My mom is also a hard little worker and rarely takes her day of rest. My whole life I've been trying to figure out how I could have come from such hard-working parents and ended up being such a lazy arse.

Today I realized that one of the reasons I become so jittery and feel the need to tear down walls and plan vacations is that I really need to work. I need a purpose. While I know in my core that staying home with Buckaroo and raising him to be an upstanding young man is a very noble deed, it can be a little . . . (hang me by my thumbs now). . . dull.

This all occurred to me this morning while Buckaroo and I were taking our foster doggie, Blue, out for his morning constitutional. When I told my friend Cynthia that we were fostering a dog, she asked, "Are you nuts?" Obviously, she doesn't know me very well. Of course I'm nuts. Possibly bananas and bonkers, too.

The thing is, so far-- and it's only Day Two, so I may eat every word of this-- Blue is making me work in a different way, and it's been a blessing. Buckaroo and I have to get up at first sunlight and take Blue for a long walk, so that's what we do. Even though it's chilly, and we're bundled up to our eyeballs, it's good for us. We need the walk as much as he does. We're outside again for the first time in months, listening to the birds yack and hoot, watching the stream melt, smelling spring.

Plus, I'm improving the life of a homeless dog by helping him go healthy. And what a sweet dog he is: half chocolate lab, half blood hound and so patient with Buckaroo's loving (and sometimes not-so loving) attention. Blue is the size of a small love seat, which is appropriate because he spent his entire life (seven years) sitting on the couch watching TV.

The whole world is new to him, and it's exhausting! When we return from our rambles, Blue heads straight for his cozy spot and snores. Honestly, I could do with a couple of Zs myself, but Buckaroo usually prefers that I stay awake and tend to his train table. By that time, though, I don't mind playing trains so much. I've done my morning work, and I feel mellow.

March 2, 2009

Demolition Day






All of my blubbering about the lack of renovation paid off! (Sorry, Obo, this will not work for you). R and his little helper spent all day yesterday tearing down the wall between two of the tiny bedrooms to make one larger bedroom. It's not a huge change, but it does let in a bit more light, and I'm sitting in the room as I type this. In fact, each family member is in a different room of the house happily going about his or her business (don't fret, Buckaroo's business is sleeping).
Eventually, the wall to R's left will disappear, too, but not for a while. We want to make sure we still have a guest room -- you know, in case we have guests (hint hint)-- until we've added some sleeping space downstairs.

All of this excitement has definitely satisfied my need for a bit of change, and R says he feels like the house is really ours now. We've started something!