It’s a new year Dwight. A fresh start. A new beginning. Rather than New Year’s resolutions, which can lead to expectations and disappointments, I like to choose a word for the year. This word reflects a need I have, usually for improvement. It hangs in the periphery through the ups and downs of the year, reminding me to pay attention. Be mindful.
Two years ago my word was “listen”. I chose it again for 2020, adding “and learn” as I still needed practice. You do too, buddy, as you run off without a glance back when I call your name. You hear me just fine, but you don’t listen. I am guilty of the same. Sometimes, I am so excited to share, I talk over other’s words. And many times, my mind drifts to other places, rather than listening. But when I pay attention to now, I learn a lot.
2020 offered lots of learning and listening opportunities. Besides learning how to Zoom, play Words With Friends, and pick up my mask along with the car keys before leaving the house, I learned a lot about ignorance. Ignorance is pervasive right now. Fake news, or propaganda, has settled around us like a thick fog. Navigating politics and a Pandemic is difficult. Some refuse to slow down, turning on the high beams trying to push their way through. Many just hunker down at home, avoiding it all. Others stay the course, slow and steady, making adjustments for the conditions. Listening and learning.
But ignorance is like the fog and it is fueled by fear. Fear of change. Fear of losing. Fear of not being first. Fear of shortages. These fears create hoarders, me firsters, and lots of excluders. This ignorance can escalate to hatred and intolerance very quickly. I heard and felt all the angst of 2020. I can’t change it, but I can approach 2021 with hope and peace in my heart.
Its time for a new word. I will still work on listening and learning, but for 2021, I choose “worthy”. I want to be worthy, or deserving of all the blessings in my life. The world is worthy of my attention to do what I can to make my corner a little better. When I am lost in the fog of social media, or other time sucking adventures, I hope I will think, “is this worthy of my time?” And most of all, I want to believe that I am worthy. We are all worthy. I am worthy to leave my mark on 2021. Starting today. I know there will be backsliding, treading water and sometimes complete stalls, but I am worthy to keep going.
We got this year D Man. Don’t look back, we’re not going that way. What’s your word, Dwight?
Thanksgiving is a time to reflect and be grateful. No gifts to wrap. No cards to send. Just sharing a meal with family and friends. That’s why it is my favorite holiday. Dwight, for you, it’s a time to bask in an array of kitchen aromas while patiently waiting for a morsel of turkey to grace your dinner bowl. For me, this Thanksgiving marks a 10 year anniversary. I don’t usually like to look back, but I think I need to honor the past this year.
You see, 10 years ago on Thanksgiving, I was in a power wheelchair, eating my evening meal at Ted’s Montana Grill, outside The Shepherd Center in Atlanta. John was there, as well as the boys, who had flown down to spend the long weekend with us. I remember my wheelchair would not fit under a standard table, so the waitress quickly steered us to a tall table. My iced tea glass was so heavy, I couldn’t lift it with my one functioning hand, so I bent my head to the straw to drink. John cut my food into bite size pieces, which allowed me to feed myself. I remember the things unsaid. The boys faces; stoic and unreadable. I remember the sadness that settled in my gut, making swallowing difficult. I wanted to be a mom, a wife, a daughter, a sister again. I just wanted “normal.” But I knew that was not realistic.
Despite all this, I found much to be grateful for. I was outside the walls of the Rehab Center with all my boys. No longer on a ventilator, I was making good progress with Physical and Occupational Therapies. I had befriended some amazing people at Shepherd who were overcoming tremendous obstacles. We held each other up as we found laughter and solace in the simplest of things. I was deeply touched and forever changed by those who lost their battles. They continue to inspire me.
Gratitude has helped me through some difficult times, Dwight. This Thanksgiving, I will be standing in my kitchen, preparing the food that I shopped for, while sharing the bounty with John. And you, of course. We have much to be thankful for. Sadly, there will not be any other family members at the table. But I am grateful that they are all well and staying home to help tame this Pandemic.
I am thankful for memories. What a blessing to be able to recall the people, places and moments that have shaped my life. I won’t dwell on the past, but I will honor it’s importance. I am grateful I can recognize mistakes, count blessings and learn from both.
I am thankful to have you in my life, D. You make me laugh every single day. You are the best personal trainer. We always get a walk or two in, regardless of the weather. Thanks for that, buddy.
Fall is a season of gratitude. Perhaps if we all find some, the world will thank us in return. May we all carry our bounty of blessings into the winter to keep us warm and grateful.
There was a full moon on Halloween, the clocks fell back an hour, and the threat of the Corona Virus loomed large. Sounds like a trifecta backdrop for a low budget horror film. Halloween 2020. It was different, but I’m glad it happened.
I’ve always enjoyed this dress up and ask for treats day. The red, orange and yellow leaves warm the soul as they dance in the cool fall wind. Buckets of candy dwindle while they sit, waiting for visitors, other than their owners. Mischief fills the air as kids become the monsters who frighten them or the superheroes that save them. Just pretending.
I miss helping my boys put their costumes together. Over the years they posed as pirates, vampires and ninjas. They donned Scream masks, fake blood, scars and face paint. We had a bucketful of weapons in the playroom, as they always needed one to complete the costume, but found it too cumbersome to carry as they asked for treats. I think my favorite pretends they did were the banana, a bottle of ketchup, Abraham Lincoln, and a friendly (not fiendly) clown.
Thank you for indulging me with the bumble bee costume, Dwight. You tolerated the charade with dignity, inspiring laughter and head pats from many. I know you can’t pretend to be a bee, but the rest of us can pretend for you. It suits you. Bumblebees are a little bottom heavy, buzzing from food source to food source. Hmm, rather hound-like, D Man.
I’m glad our neighborhood allowed Trick or Treating this year. We put our candy in sealed bags, displayed on a table 6 feet away from where we sat at the end of the driveway. We enjoyed the costumed kids parading by. Giggles and screams filled the air, as shouts of “Trick or Treat” echoed through the cul-de-sac. It was so nice to pretend that the world was normal…for just a little while.
You loped into the room, long legs striding, head up, tail down. A true Westminster Dog Show entrance. I was sitting in a metal chair in the corner when the trainer led you over to me. You confidently placed your snout in my lap. The first thing I noticed was your “movie star” handsome looks. Clear brown eyes ringed in black with a chiseled snout, framed by long velvet ears. True confession, Dwight. It was your looks that I fell for. I knew I had to adopt you. Of course, after I got to know your personality, I loved your goofiness as well.
When we go walking, I frequently hear, “what a good-looking dog.” I respond with “thank you” as if I have something to do with your appearance. You are a looker, Dwight. I should have known that the combination of your handsomeness and your training at the correctional center would lead you to an acting career.
Your nonspeaking roles were mastered early on. Our fenced yard is adjacent to a neighborhood walking path. Many dogs walk by sniffing and barking. Kids zoom down the blacktop on skateboards and bikes. You remain stoic. Sphinx-like. Non plussed. One walker actually thought you were a lawn ornament. Great performance Dwight.
Your “woe is me, I am so hungry” performance is pretty convincing too. You sit by your empty bowl with that hang dog hound face that’s hard to resist. I’m very mindful when I feed you, as I’ve almost fallen victim to your “fake hunger” a few times. Lucky for you that I keep account of feedings, as too much food could ruin your good looks.
But these performances were just practice. Clearly you were training for the lead role. The diva dog performance of the year. You got your chance a few weeks ago on a sultry summer evening. Your BFF Frazier came over for a run in the backyard. You ran around for a few minutes and then went into the house (you can open the back door independently) and retrieved a toy. You leaped from the back step, ran a few feet and then fell to the ground, licking the bottom of your left front paw. When I approached to investigate, you limped off. There was no blood, but there was a lot of limping and licking. We ended the play date and came inside. I was sure you’d just put yourself to bed and all would be well by morning. That’s not what happened. You licked, you panted, you paced. You panted so hard, I feared you might have a heart attack. Without a muzzle, I knew I didn’t stand a chance of looking at that paw. There was no calming you, even with a peanut butter slathered treat.
Concerned, I called the Emergency Vet and was told they were not busy. So, we donned your harness, grabbed our masks (COVID protocol) and got you in the car. When we arrived, you jumped out of the car and walked, bearing weight on all 4 paws, into the building. I looked at you sitting calmly at my feet. I told the receptionist I wasn’t sure we needed to be there afterall.. As if on cue, you held your left paw, limply up in front of you. I relented. She put us in a room. I filled out the paperwork as John calmed us both, Dwight.
The vet tech came in. Acting as a typical mother, I advised her that all she needed to “fix” you, were a muzzle and a pair of tweezers to pull out the thorn or the splinter in your paw. I elaborated on your medical history of a tracheal injury and warned her of your hound dog histrionics. She nodded agreeably and took you back to the exam room. A few minutes later we heard you howl and bay. You walked back into the room with the tech. I was pleased that the whole ordeal was over. But no. The vet tech looked at me and said, “Dwight’s not comfortable with us looking at his paw. The doctor wants to know if its OK to sedate him to get a better look.” I was looking to you to speak up at this, Dwight, but you just sat there.
My mom instincts kicked up a notch. “I told you he will howl. You muzzle. Pick up the paw. He howls. You pull out the thorn. De-muzzle. He’s your best friend. Just like the fable of the mouse and the lion with a thorn in his paw.” The tech replies, “The vet wants to sedate.” I say, “How much will that cost?” (Not my best mom moment) The tech says she will get the doctor to come and talk to us.
A few minutes later the vet comes into the exam room. She says she didn’t want us to have to endure the anguish of listening to your fretful howls, Dwight. We told her we were used to it and promised her it would be brief. Just muzzle, unsedated, remove splinter. She agreed and said, “Wait here while I wrangle up a crew to help me hold him down.” You offered no comment, Dwight. We had already been there 30 minutes and were waiting patiently, when we realized you were sound asleep next to the door. No panting. No pacing.
We decided to wake you and leave. As we walked down the hall to checkout, your tail was wagging, and you were bearing weight on all 4 paws without a problem. We paid our $101.00 examination bill and left AMA (against medical advice). You leaped into the car and happily jumped out when we returned home. Yawning, you put yourself to bed, exhausted after your harrowing performance. And the Oscar goes to…Dwight, best hound in a leading role. Congratulations D Man.
I didn’t watch the news last week. I didn’t even read a newspaper. I counted stars rather than COVID cases. I listened to sea birds squawk and argue over ghost crabs rather than political rantings from opposing parties. I was fortunate to stay in a house on the ocean for a week. My news came from the mindful moments that pass too quickly by the sea.
I saw seven sunrises from the same spot, yet no two were alike. As the sky lightened enough to erase the stars, I’d go out on the deck and wait for the sun. Some days, the clouds blanketed, like a pillow, trying to smother the morning beneath the horizon. But the sun always won. First the clouds blushed red, then the colors bled through, painting the sky with reds, yellows and pinks.
At night, I’d sit on the deck, listening to the waves roll in, as the breezes shook the sea oats on the dune tops. The stars were scattered like seeds across the sky. More stars appeared, to pierce the darkness, the longer I gazed upward. One night I watched a shooting star disappear into a cloud. I was so awed, I forgot to make a wish.
My days were spent on the beach, watching. Dolphins, pelicans, seagulls, and clouds. The waves set the cadence for the week. Waves roll in bringing rocks and shells, roll back out smoothing the sand, leaving a clean slate for footprints and sandcastles. Each wave reveals a new moment. I’m mindful of the impermanence and my old mantra…this too shall pass. Sometimes the hard times don’t pass too easily, but my rough perspective does. And sometimes, the good times don’t last long enough. I collect them like sea glass so I can reflect on them and smile. Impermanence.
I spent part of my days cloud watching. Chubby white clouds proved unreliable at predicting the weather but were perfect for lazy day dreamers and provided fleeting respite from the sun. The ocean breezes moved them quickly across the sky and I laughed as the fire breathing dragon shape shifted into a poodle. Impermanence.
I spent a lot of time walking in the surf, awed at the footprints a tiny Sandpiper can make. They create beautiful patterns as they scurry along the edges of the waves searching for food. On one walk, I saw a rainbow reflected in the wet sand. It was in the sky, behind me, but the image was in front of me. Nature’s watercolor, erased by the foamy surf, only to reappear when the tide went out. Impermanence.
I saw some beautiful creations built in the sand. The “artist” spent hours sculpting them, only to let the tide reclaim them each night. Impermanence.
The breaking news of the week came from the loggerhead sea turtle nest on the beach in front of our house. I didn’t see the turtle lay the eggs, but I can imagine the difficult journey she made to flipper herself so far from shore to lay the eggs. A fox disturbed the nest and devoured a belly full of eggs but left enough for some devoted volunteers to monitor each evening. They placed a wire cage over the nest to deter the fox. On the third night, movement was detected under the sand, so the hatchlings were dug up and carried in a bucket to the water’s edge. I watched them determine across the sand and disappear into the surf. I learned that they swim all the way to the Caribbean, but sadly only one in one thousand will make it to adulthood.
I survived a week without “real” news and am grateful for the respite. I feel refreshed, centered and hopeful. We missed you bunches D Man. I’m thankful that my cousin was available to stay here with you. Someday I’d like to take you to the shore. You would enjoy the smells of the beach, but the sand would be way too hot and soft for a dirt loving hound. Late fall or early winter might be more suitable. Maybe early November. Perhaps the week before the election.
My mom called it dog days, when it was too hot to sleep at night. We had no air conditioning and relied on a big metal box fan to keep us cool. I never understood our dog’s part in this, other than we tended to lay around a lot, like a dog. Everyday is dog day in this house, Dwight; as we are here to serve you. The official dog days of summer are July 22 through August 22. Typically, these are sweltering times, when a severe storm is welcome, to drop the temperature for a cool minute as it quenches the earth. The rain sizzles on hot pavement, creating a mystical summer steam. The pace of life slows as our iced drinks sweat, even inside the house.
Summer dogs are lazy; digging to find cool while long, pink tongues drip sweat under shade. You don’t seem too interested in running, Dwight. But you like summer. The wild scents that cling to the humidity cause your nose to lift and twitch, but you sigh and shake your head, as if deciding it’s just not worth the effort to pursue.
I’m not a fan of the heat. I tend to hibernate during the dog days while I dream of sweatshirts, fall leaves and crackling fires. I do like the one thing about July that you detest, Dwight. Fireworks. The spectacle of colors bursting in the sky, cascading through the air and ending with a boom that is felt as well as heard. It’s worth sitting out on a sticky July night to see the patriotic display. The launch sounds like a small cannon, as all eyes look skyward in anticipation of the various colors and shapes that paint the thick summer sky.
Not for you Dwight, as you are not a fan of loud noises. During thunderstorms, you self soothe by curling into a ball and hiding your nose under your back leg, staying there until the storm passes. But fireworks make you bonkers! You pant and pace restlessly through the house, racing to the side door, looking for a way out. There’s no distracting you, even with food. Due to COVID, there were no public displays of fireworks this year. However, a few nights ago, someone in our neighborhood let loose a five minute salute of booms and sizzles that had you in a panic for the rest of the evening.
Deputy Dog Dwight discovered the source of the boom on our walk the next morning. You seemed pleased to find the empty explosive casings. You sniffed the evidence for a few minutes, evidently insuring that the boom was dead.
We are both pleased to see the tail end of July, Dwight. I wish you well during the last few weeks of dog days. May the sun shine warm on your belly and the thunderstorms be swift and few.
When was the last time you did something for the very fist time, is scrolled on a magnet on my fridge, to remind me to seek the new. To search for fresh experiences. It might be as simple as trying Sushi or a new recipe. It might be as easy as trying a new hairstyle, as daring as a hot air balloon ride, or as edgy as a first tattoo. I crave “firsts” almost as much as I crave chocolate. “Firsts” enlighten, inspire and keep life interesting.
Last week I experienced a startling kind of first. I drove down Richmond’s famous Monument Avenue. The Black Lives Matter movement have been protesting on this beautiful tree lined street for weeks, with the Robert E. Lee monument at the center of their demonstrations. I was not prepared for what I saw. The statues were covered with layers of angry colors and words of animosity. Not one inch of the base of the Lee statue was spared. So busy, there were many phrases, letters and words I didn’t understand. But I could feel the message.
It was like viewing a piece of art in a museum. Hauntingly moving. I had to stop the car and get out to take the time to absorb its meaning. It spoke to me. Very loudly. For the very first time, I saw my white privilege and it hurt me deeply.
I never felt particularly privileged growing up. I was raised in a small town with good schools and a supportive community. Schools were integrated when I was in 3rd grade, without any issues that I recall. I went to Stonewall Jackson Elementary, then onto Thomas Jefferson (we called it TJ) and finally, Robert E. Lee High School (we called it Lee). I moved to Richmond 8 years after college. I shared an apartment on Monument Avenue, just a block west of the Stonewall Jackson statue. Wow! I never noticed all these Confederate ghosts escorting me through life. In sight, but out of mind. They never made any noise for me, until now.
The ride down Monument Avenue woke me to the injustice of my privilege. Yes, I’ve worked hard for my accomplishments, but the doors were not hard to open and few were ever closed. I’ve never considered myself racist, but my lack of awareness has contributed to the intolerance experienced by others.
There is enough anger in the world right now for us all to share. I hope we can take the power from these negative emotions, make it positive and use it to fuel some firsts. I pray that we can stop the polarity and meet in the gray area to start healing. We must move forward. Together.
The concept of time during a Pandemic is elusive. It’s gone the way of Mathematics in my mind. The exactness that’s required for Math doesn’t engage me. Instead of being precise, I’m more abstract; coloring outside the lines, rounding up to the nearest hour. It’s difficult to find the order of days during this time of “too much free time.”
It doesn’t bother you, Dwight. You seem to know the time instinctually. Without reading a clock, you appear at your food mat every evening at 5:30, excitedly waiting for the kibble to rattle the bowl. You find your way to your bed around 9:00 as well.
In the beginning, the Pandemic isolation felt like a snow day. A quiet time to read, reflect, eat carbs, and enjoy the solitude. But the snow day, turned into a rainy week at the beach: perfect for sleeping in, reading chunks, and gazing at raindrops rolling down window panes. But it’s been months now. I’ve baked…a lot. We’ve eaten…a lot. I’ve read…a lot. We’ve walked…a lot.
This would be the perfect time to accomplish more writing, decluttering, and cleaning. I should get more acquainted with my Instapot, but slow roasting seems more appropriate somehow. I could read my car owner’s manual and figure out how to program my radio, but I listen to Pandora through my phone, so what’s the point. My mind is still on snow day time, so I don’t want to overwhelm it. I’d rather Zoom with friends, play Words with Friends, write some letters, read every word in the newspaper, and explore the plethora of offerings my Smart TV has for me. I’ve watched documentaries on South Dakota and taken a Master Class in Tai Chi. I can distract myself with cooking classes, binge on drama series, and pull up shows I watched as a kid.
I’ve tried to order my week, to stay oriented.
Monday: laundry day
Tuesday: water plants day
Wednesday: change the sheets day
Thursday: grocery shopping day
Friday: cleaning day
You get walked at least two times a day, Dwight. I accomplish more than just my headline chores each day, but the schedule keeps me on task. I try to send a card or letter to someone daily. I drive through the outside collection boxes at the Post Office, as I understand they need the business and it gets me out of the house. Yet there seems to be a lot of hours unaccounted for in each day.
As Jim Croce sang, “If I could save time in a bottle, ” I would. I wish I could collect some of these lazy afternoons to use when the pace of “normal” returns. I hope we will hold onto the not rushing piece of our isolation.
You seem nonplussed by the Pandemic, Dwight. You enjoy your longer walks and don’t seem to notice that we are home more. I enjoy observing your Circadian Rhythms , fueled by sunbeams that you follow throughout the house. They illuminate your nap spots with warmth.
We’ve adapted well to our new normal, Dwight. We share apples while we watch TV, you keep the kitchen floor clean, and together we watch the birds at the feeder as we contemplate the wind and the world. I am grateful to have food in the fridge, friends and family on my phone, and fur at my feet. This Pandemic will sort itself out, Dwight. It’s only a matter of time.
There’s so much to fear these days, Dwight. A Global Pandemic, climate change, the economy, politics. Folks are panicked. Many are hoarding, arguing, protesting, denying. But some must face the situation head on and care for the sick, keep our food chain running and provide other essential services. These brave souls are on the front lines of this global fight. But many of us don’t know what to do.
I am so grateful for the distraction of nature. I am thankful that we open our eyes to the delight and surprise she offers us each day, Dwight. This morning we observed a doe eating a shrub. We stood still on the low wooden bridge that crosses the wetlands and watched. Her ears perked, as she kept an eye on us; but she kept pulling and nibbling at the spring buds and leaves. Voyeurs, we paused, mindful of this gift. At just that time, nothing else mattered.
Walking with you is where I find peace. An hour in nature fills me with gratitude. We watch, as nature steers through the seasons without hesitation. The tree buds, the flowers, the spring peepers, and bumblebees know the right time to surface. Let’s hope that mankind can get through this crisis ; knowing the right time to emerge, maybe with a few scars, but with dignity intact.
These are hard times for Peacemakers like us, Dwight. The” F word” abounds. FEAR. A pandemic is a legitimate reason for fear, but like COVID 19, fear is contagious. We must stop feeding it with network news that perseverates on numbers and dire statistics. I don’t like math, but even I understand the need to flatten the curve. The ink from the morning paper stains us with news of shortages, restrictions and local numbers. I want to be informed. Not overwhelmed.
So, what can we do, Dwight? Let’s keep walking. We’ll take care of our corner of the world. Pick up trash. Share a smile at the right social distance, check on those who live alone, and figure out how we can safely share with others. And most of all count our blessings. Some fears you face. Some you walk away from. Some you have to defuse, by understanding them a little better. And as Mister Rogers said, “Look for the helpers.” I’ll always be your helper, Dwight. Don’t be afraid.
February looms long, despite the expanded days, pushing the dark into the lengthening shadows. I am restless, Dwight. I love winter, but I find myself visiting the pantry a little too often. What am I feeding? There’s a longing, a void I am trying to fill. You seem content to follow the sun from window to window, although your ears lift when you hear the hinges on the pantry door talk. We share. A cookie for me. A biscuit for you. Adding calories to provide the extra insulation needed to play and work in the snow. But we have yet to see any of that winter magic, Dwight. Maybe that’s why we are bored.
We need a good snow to soothe the soul. A day to sit by the fire, read books, snuggle; contented to listen to the quiet. Don our winter gear and blaze a trail through knee deep powder, our foot prints cutting shapes into the white landscape. I realize you don’t care for snow. That heavy blanket drowns the scents of your world, Dwight, making you feel lost. I won’t lead you astray. We can winter walk in our woods. You might even enjoy it. A snout full of snow as you tunnel through to find the ground. It won’t last long before melting into the earth, softening the loam, allowing daffodils to push their way toward the sun. Searching for spring.
It’s Leap Day, Dwight. An extra day of winter. One more day to wish for snow. Or, maybe it’s just an extra day to read and enjoy the soulful silhouettes of winter trees…and lounging hounds.