The Borrowed Souls of Four-Legged Friends

img_1747Last 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.IMG_1869

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 b191b6b2a5a1e5779ebdcd2fb968d468language 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

me down.

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#19

'11 Ray 'n A kayakIt 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 cannery-pier-hotel-day

As luck would have it, our 14-year-old Golden Retriever, Dougan was on his last legs, IMG_0400and 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 IMG_1869awaits.

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.

Bath TimeBeyond 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”

Being a Verb

fairy-2573105_1280It’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.

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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

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The Blessings of Wintry Weather

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View from our porch Feb. 25, 2019

The start of our winter was mild with temps in the upper 50s and sunny skies.  The bulbs were fooled into poking their heads up a month early.  I worried about another summer of unseasonably warm temperatures and drought.  The snowpack was low.  Now our familiar Western Oregon weather has returned.  Rain and even a little snow dusts the yard.  There was even enough powder snow where friends and I drove up to Mount Hood last week for a day of cross-country skiing.  I haven’t been able to do that in years.

I celebrate winter. This is my creative time. It is a time to come inside, literally and figuratively.  Nature needs rest and renewal and so do we.

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THE RAINS CAME

And the humans complained

But not the Earth who soaked the sky water deep into all its pores

Nor the trees who quenched their thirst in grateful gulps from deep roots

Nor the bulbs gathering strength for their dazzling spring displays

Nor the deer hungry for tender green grass

Nor the salmon longing to swim upstream

Nor the bees dreaming of anthers heavy with gold pollen and pistels leading to chambers of sweet nectar

Nor the seeds shivering with anticipation of their impending emergence

Nor the  bears conjuring images of plump berries in their sleep

Nor I, with book and pen

Joining their ranks 

Resting,

Going within

Savoring the blessings

Of wintery weather

 

Her Wild and Precious Life

mary-oliver-by-don-usner-200x200_bwMary Oliver, the great poet is now no more in physical form on this earth as of January 17,2019. She leaves a huge void but in her wake is a monument of poetry and prose of her making. I never used to care for poetry. Poetry was presented to me in school like nematodes to be dissected in biology. I ran from them Then years later her poem, “Wild Geese” brought me to my knees. I was converted. Years later I am writing poetry. What power words can have!

Mary Oliver was a sage who connected the dots with spirituality and the natural world.  The long walks she often took in the woods near her home provided much of the inspiration for her poetry.  Those poems became the vessels of profound observations, questions, and ponderings and blessed the lives of many, including myself. She did far more than just visit this world.  It is a better place because of her.

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print by the author

 

You are gone now

but still, I dwell in your forest of poems

and sit by the streams of your verse

finding sanctuary

May you rest in peace

Mary Oliver.

Continue reading “Her Wild and Precious Life”

The Art of Streaming Nature

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Yesterday I was doing my home exercise routine when my zippy Irish music was interrupted on Spotify by one of their ads (I’m too cheap to buy a $ 120-year ad-free subscription).  It was an extra-long commercial about Spotify Premium and the many reasons I should upgrade.  The last one was something like this “Never be without the music you love!  Stream anywhere, even when you are offline!” This got me to thinking why we always need content streaming in our ears?  Have we lost the value of quiet?

img_1744Workout routine done (don’t be too impressed, I don’t work that hard) I changed my clothes and headed out the door with my 13-year-old Golden Retriever for a ramble. We drove to the Benedictine Abbey less than 10 minutes away for a walk in the woods.  They have a series of trails that they allow the public access to.

Car parked we headed off.  It was a relief to be out of the house and in the fresh air, sweet with the scent of coming rain.  We headed uphill on a muddy trail, thick with woods, mosses, ferns, and lichens. The calls of hidden birds surrounded us as Dougie and I made our way up by a gurgling stream with miniature waterfalls.  By gosh I was streaming a real stream! An unlimited sensory experience brought to you by NATURE!

Imagine what I would have missed if I had earbuds in.  I think about the students in high img_1749schools I sub in.  They are constantly with their earbuds, listening to music, watching videos, checking social media.  What about the sounds of birds and the ruminations of their own thoughts? I’m sad for them.

It was a lovely walk. I spent a lot of time observing and looking for ideas to include in my paintings in my new online painting class.  You might see some things from my photographs in my coming artwork….

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I wrote this poem last year while I was subbing at a local high school

Continue reading “The Art of Streaming Nature”

Pausing for Poetry


Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words. 


Robert Frost

New Year’s Eve I brought some poetry to a gathering to share.  The hostess, a dear friend said “this group won’t go for that” but I  read them anyway after the game we played.  One poem was one I wrote myself, a funny one about aging.  The other two were by Mary Oliver, my favorite poet, and appropriate for the New Year.  I hope they were enjoyed.

Poetry makes one sit and pause as the words are distilled down to the essence of experience.  It slows us down and makes us notice and savor the nuances of language.  I think it’s sad that pausing is going out of fashion these days. I think that if everyone paused and read some poetry daily, this world would be a saner place.

Until a few months back I was writing poetry if- even one line- before I got out of bed in the morning.  Before I went to bed I read some poetry. My days began and ended with a sense of groundedness.

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I miss my morning poetry write and my bedtime poetry ritual that I began a couple of years ago.  Habits sneak away sometimes but I want this one back.  The little pink leather journal embossed with an oak tree is now filled up.  Maybe that’s why I stopped writing- but journals are easily purchased.  That task is now on the list for next week.

If you are new to poetry, no worries.  My poetry habit started a couple years back when I,  a non-English major, noticed I was more likely to write in my journal in poetic form.  Then I started seeking out poetry that I enjoyed. (It’s a wonderful antidote to the news) If you have trouble pausing, noticing, or pondering, pick up a poetry book by Mary Oliver. She will get you out wandering in nature in the comfort of your own home. Devotions her latest anthology is wonderful.  Here is a video clip of her reading…

And here is a poem that I wrote about poetry……..

Begin the Day With a Poem

let the lines of beauty

spin a warm cocoon about you

Revel in its warmth

and the protection it offers

from the harshness of this world

Drink in the loveliness

of pure imagery

and let the words

light candles in the darkness

marking a clear path before you

into the garden of hope.

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