Hurtling towards the spring equinox I awoke to the sun in my eyes this morning. It’s been months since that’s happened. Yesterday I made an appointment for my second Covid vaccine. There is light at the end of the tunnel. Soon I will be able to resume somewhat of a normal life. Camping and river trips are starting to appear on the calendar.
As with everyone else – it’s been a rough go through this pandemic (and everything else). If I were going to give a speech at the “Covid Survival Awards” at the beginning (while holding my covid 19 virus trophy) I would have to thank my two, now 7-month-old tuxedo kittens, Zoey and Zander, and their baby mama, Zinnia (“Mama Z”) for unwittingly helping time to survive this time. Their endless antics and purrs have helped to keep laughter and smiles in my life. I’m sure many of you out there feel the same…
It was no surprise. Bandit, our little red cattle dog, age 17 had been declining for months. Like any elderly soul, we dealt with his incontinence and difficulty walking. We put a doggy ramp on the porch stairs but on his last days put a sling under him to help him outside.
I’ve written about Bandit before in other posts- Stroller Dog and In the Company of Another Old Dog. I’ve loved all my dogs but he was exceptional in so many ways. When his arthritis got too bad I had altered a jogging stroller and a bike trailer so he would not miss out on our outdoor excursions.
The day before Bandit took his last breath, we carried him out to his beloved stroller. I took him for one last ride down our favorite country road to the rushing creek swollen by the recent rains. Even in his declining state, I could see the pure delight in his face as he took it all in.
We buried him out in a quiet corner of the yard under a big pine tree. I fashioned a cairn in his honor to mark his grave and hung his collar on top. Bandit basically died of old age, wearing himself out by living well. If we can only be so lucky.
We borrow the souls of our four-legged friends. At some point, we have to let them go. Their passing leaves holes in our hearts but in return, they give us such love and fond memories.
I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions. That concept sounds so burdensome. Instead, I have a personal tradition of picking one or more words to aspire to live by for the coming year. I revisit these words from time to time and check in on how I’m doing. (Writing them on the bathroom mirror is a very effective strategy.)
My words for 2020 were acceptance and focus. I almost wore out the word acceptance with the pandemic and political matters and it’s unlikely I can ever truly accept the damage of the forest fires had here in Oregon this year. Climate change is unacceptable and is something I will always fight against. Thus it has been a mixed bag with that word. FOCUS has been an ongoing challenge for me but I am happy to report that I am BETTER! Being a creative soul I am forever distracted by my thoughts and every shiny thing that comes along in my day. Now though, I am more aware of my distractions and am honing a system to keep me on track.
This December I mulled over what my new words would be. I wait to see what will bubble up to my subconscious and pick the ones I resonate with the most. So drumroll.. my new words are:
Commitment– I allowed myself this year to go “fallow” and dabble in a lot of creative pursuits. Now I am ready to synthesize what I’ve learned into specific avenues.
Generosity– Give more of my time, talent, and money to others
Focus – This word remains on the list as I need more work with it.
Let the year unfold! What are your words for 2020?
and my poem for you this New Year…
A Toast for 2021
It’s the season of new
the Earth has spun through the heavens
and arrived at the place we call the beginning
a bookmark we humans have put in the order of things
the New Year, the first day of the first month of the 21st year of the 21st century
All is new, yet all the same
a cycle in a continuum of millennia
yet a comfort that we have a fresh start in our minds
Shall we proceed then with our new slippers
virgin calendars full of exotic pictures
day planners devoid of marks
and forge on with gusto?
for we have been given another turn
a blank canvas to paint another 12 months upon
Let us mix up our palettes with new intentions
hope, faith and the unseen circumstances that will surely find us
stroke, splash, and drip with abandon
make your marks with love, touching others with color
We have arrived at the Winter Solstice, the tipping point where we in the N. Hemisphere mark the point where the earth will begin to rotate back to the sun’s full exposure. The Winter Solstice marks the longest night and the shortest day of the year. While our modern calendar denotes it as the first day of winter, I and others from the time of the ancients mark it as the return of the light each day forward, bit by bit. It is a time of hope and new beginnings – like a solar New Year.
In a couple of hours, a few friends will gather at my home, take a walk, circle around a bonfire, sharing readings and thoughts. We will also toss into the fire the things we are hoping to leave behind. There are plenty for this year 2020 that I don’t even need to mention. As we turn the corner in the heavens, let us heal from these disasters and let the fires of hope burn bright.
Some of you may have witnessed this event called a “murmuration” of starlings- thousands of starlings swirling through the sky in a grand, seemingly coordinated performance. If you haven’t, do watch the video included with this post. I have noticed them more this year than in years past.
With technical photography, scientists are understanding more about the phenomenon. I think its one of natures “trade secrets.”
I am not fond of starlings
But in late autumn
Sometimes they crowd in the treetops
In a chirping chorus
Like a reunion of relatives
With an abundance of news to share
Who knows what stirs these rather uninspiring birds
To gather in in such a cacophony
Then on queue as if the din is too much
They rise from their perches to find positions
In an undulating dance that wafts over harvested fields.
My dog Bandit is now 17 years old. He walks like a very slow wind up toy that sometimes tips over. The things that keep him going in life are his pain meds, love of food, and our stroller walks. Most of the time it’s local but on occasion he gets to the beach or on mountain trails. The stroller functions as his wheelchair. We are an item as we walk down the local roads. Often we are greeted by smiles and waves as people drive by. Then I get a lot of puzzled looks like “why is that woman pushing that 45 pound dog in a stroller?” Small children are often filled with a combination of delight and confusion.
September has been a gruesome month in my home state of Oregon. We were traumatized by wildfires and smoke that began Labor Day Weekend staying in our homes for 10 days to avoid breathing the toxic cloud of air that descended over the state. Thousand of people were evacuated from their homes. The fires ravaged over a million acres of land burning several 2800 structures including homes and businesses. About 11 people lost their lives. Many are homeless and without jobs. The towns of Detroit Lake, Talent, and Phoenix were decimated as with many communities up the McKenzie River Hwy. Many of the larger fires are still burning.
Particularly heartbreaking to me is knowing that some of my favorite places were hit especially hard; the Breitenbush Hot Springs Community, the McKenzie River corridor, and the Opal Creek Ancient Forest Center and Wilderness. These were places that recharged my soul. Nature will renew them- but not in my lifetime. It looks like my ashes will be scattered among the ashes.
We lost a giant this last week. Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away at 87 years old working tirelessly for womens rights and equality up into her death. She was a lion in a diminuative, soft spoken body. Her passing was a blow for many of us.
RBG legally orchestrated women’s’ rights and equal rights in this country after overcoming tremendous discrimination in her own career.
Ginsburg was one of the first eight women to enter Harvard Law School and was told by the dean they were taking the place of qualified males. Even after graduating from the top of her class, she could not find a job because of her gender. With the help of her supportive husband, she persisted, raised two children and ultimately rose to the Supreme Court. She continued her hard work to her death sleeping only a few hours a night. Ginsburg survived cancer two times and followed a rigorous workout twice a week with her personal trainer. RBG became sort of a pop icon for her famous dissenting opinions on the Supreme Court becoming known as “The Notorious RBG.”
To learn more about her life watch RBG, the documentary on Netflix, it is truly inspirational as well as the dramatized movie “On the Basis of Sex.” She has been a role model for us all, especially women young and old. Learning about her life gives hope and offers a welcome reprieve from the current events.
Losing someone of this character leaves a hole in the universe. I think this poem by Maya Angelou sums up the magnitude of this loss.
WHEN GREAT TREES FALL
by Maya Angelou
When great trees fall, rocks on distant hills shudder, lions hunker down in tall grasses, and even elephants lumber after safety.
When great trees fall in forests, small things recoil into silence, their senses eroded beyond fear.
When great souls die, the air around us becomes light, rare, sterile. We breathe, briefly. Our eyes, briefly, see with a hurtful clarity. Our memory, suddenly sharpened, examines, gnaws on kind words unsaid, promised walks never taken.
Great souls die and our reality, bound to them, takes leave of us. Our souls, dependent upon their nurture, now shrink, wizened. Our minds, formed and informed by their radiance, fall away. We are not so much maddened as reduced to the unutterable ignorance of dark, cold caves.
And when great souls die, after a period peace blooms, slowly and always irregularly. Spaces fill with a kind of soothing electric vibration. Our senses, restored, never to be the same, whisper to us. They existed. They existed. We can be. Be and be better. For they existed.
We are among the lucky. Thus far we have only lost power and internet service. There is a fire a few miles away but it seems to be holding. My heart goes out to those who have lost everything and the 500,00 who have had to undergo the stress of evacuations.
As Oregon Burns
A dry wind howls from the east
We extinguish the candles
and do not sleep
As Oregon burns
A black cloud draws across the sky like a flat curtain
If you have country property here in my corner of Oregon, you have probably noticed an explosion of small mammals, including ground squirrels, rats but especially voles this year. Rodents have population cycles peaking every few years and then falling after the predator population catches up to them. This is a banner year for voles
Voles are rodents, bigger than mice with smaller ears and short tales. They are chiefly vegetarians munching on roots, nuts, young plants, and bulbs. They are proficient tunnelers. You don’t want them in your garden.
On the positive side, they aerate the soil and distribute nutrients in the soil layers. My inner biologist recognizes their role in the great circle of life but my outer gardener is extremely frustrated. I am perhaps the first person to write a poem about vole holes?. Adding a bit a humor has made the situation in my lawn more tolerable.