When any of my pets have passed on I make a piece of artwork to remember them by. Though I love photographs, my personal interpretation of their spirit provides more meaning and facilitates closure. Sometimes it’s a clay sculpture, a tile, a ceramic mask. This time in remembrance of Dougie, my sweet 14-year-old Golden Retriever we had to put down last week, I made this collage.
This piece pretty much summarizes his personality- colorful, happy-go-lucky, playful and a little goofy. The painted paper I used for his face, tail, and the spirals are from a failed print that came from a printmaking workshop. These so-called mistakes are torn up and placed in my collage box for a future reincarnation- a lemonade out of lemons kind of thing. To be able to repurpose these disappointments into other forms that are pleasing to me is very gratifying and highly symbolic.
Out of the ashes we can find beauty. We passed the Spring Equinox. Winter is behind us. The daffodils are blooming in the yard.
Last week was difficult. I had to put down my almost 14-year-old Golden Retriever, and the little stray cat, Lizzie that adopted us last year died due to complications due to feline leukemia. Dougie was a devoted companion for years, Lizzie a bright spot in our lives her sweet face peaking in our screen door requesting a meal.
It got me to thinking that these creatures we love are just borrowed souls- and I do believe animals have souls. Our pets connect us to our best selves. Their lives are far briefer than ours but add so much. Theirs is a language of the eyes, of touch actions and acceptance. Now the grief has subsided, I am filled with gratitude I had the privilege of borrowing their sweet souls on their short stays on planet earth.
The following poem speaks to all the dogs that have shared my life’s journey…..
IN MY GOOD DEATH
by Dalia Sheven
I will find myself waist deep in hight summer grass. The humming
shock of the golden light. And I will hear them before I see
them and know right away who is bounding across the field to meet
me. All my good dogs will come then, their wet noses
bumping against my palms, their hot panting, their rough faithful
tongues. Their eyes young and shiny again. The wiry scruff of
their fur, the unspeakable softness of their bellies, their velvet ears
against my cheeks. I will bend to them, my face covered with
their kisses, my hands full of them. In the grass I will let them knock
It was unlikely that we’d find each other- a big man that pumps concrete connecting with an artsy middle school science teacher, but we did.
We were to celebrate 19 years of being together as “spousal equivalents” by spending two nights at the Cannery Pier Hotel that juts out into the Columbia River in Astoria Oregon. Massages were on the books. I’d always wanted to stay there and have a romantic getaway. There we would lounge around in a lovely room while sipping glasses of wine watching tug boats maneuver barges and huge cargo ships up and down the Columbia
As luck would have it, our 14-year-old Golden Retriever, Dougan was on his last legs, and Lizzy our adorable little feral cat that adopted us, disappeared and returned quite ill. We were hardly in the mood to celebrate so we canceled. No matter- we enjoy our days together. Another time awaits.
I decided that 19 would trump 20 as a big milestone. It’s a prime number that hardly gets any recognition being overshadowed by its next-door neighbor, 20. I find comfort celebrating the obscure, including feral cats and second-hand dogs.
Both of us had been married before, twice each. This time we decided to shed all expectations creating a framework that worked for both of us. We lived apart for the first 8 years raising our own kids. No use complicating things. We have been cohabitating since. Our hearts bind us rather than a piece of paper. The foundation of our relationship is built on mutual respect- which we both work on.
Beyond all the other complexities of life, the chance to be loved and loved back by other humans (and furry four-legged) is where it’s at. You don’t have much without loving relationships. Lucky me. Lucky us
The hotel will still be there. When the time is right eventually we will get to watch the tug boats guiding their ships on the mighty Columbia River. Continue reading “#19”
It’s a risky business calling yourself an artist or a writer. People tend to hold you in higher or lower esteem than you actually deserve. Then there is a matter of assumptions… Attend a social gathering and then introduce yourself as a brain surgeon to one group a people and then a waitress to another. You will be treated accordingly. Thus I prefer to avoid labels entirely preferring when asked what I do using more of these descriptors:
I write, I make art, I play guitar, I sing, I garden, I am recovering from teaching middle school, or whathaveyou. Then there is the added pressure of living up to your label. It’s far more enjoyable to be a verb.
I would rather be a verb than a noun
I would rather emerge, shine, fly, dance
And kick up my heels
Rather than just be a person, place or thing
Let me describe an action, state or occurrence
And wedge myself in the predicate of a sentence
Give me the energy to escape the box with a pretty label
And end with the pleasure of being all used up
My wings in tatters
My breath gone
When my time on Earth is done