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
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.
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
Every Friday I head over to the Newberg Animal Shelter for my standing date with cats from 4-6PM. This is not glamorous work by any means. Basically, I do the afternoon feeding and cleaning of all the kitties in the shelter except the ones in the quarantine room. I volunteered as I wanted to do something for the community and all things furry and four-legged who do not have a voice.
In the cacophony of barking, I say hello to the other shelter volunteers, then I greet the dogs in their kennels to see new arrivals and who has gotten adopted. In the storeroom, I don a grey Newberg Animal Shelter T-shirt and then proceed to the lobby and cat areas to get a count so I know how much food is needed. I grab a rolling cart and am off to the kitchen to prepare the cat food, get a pitcher of water and pick up cleaning supplies.
Everyone likes birds. What wild creature is more accessible to our eyes and ears, as close to us and everyone in the world, as universal as a bird?
One of the most famous sketches in the hit show “Portlandia” is the “Put a Bird on It” sketch” where Frank and Carrie, the actors mock the epidemic use of birds on crafty, artsy items that abound on Etsy, other internet commerce sites and of course, Portland hipster stores. (I live an hour from Portland). Not too soon after, T-shirts, cups, and posters started appearing with the meme, “Put a bird on it.”
Beyond being a birder at an early age and loving the uniqueness of birds. I have several feeders about my house and so love watching the chickadees, nuthatches, woodpeckers, and juncos as they feed. They are my neighbors. They fascinate me as they have with humanity for centuries.