Dog Days

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.

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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.

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Firsts

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.

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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.

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Time

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.”

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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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

Fear in the Time of Pandemic

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.

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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.

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Leap Day

 


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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.


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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.

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Happy New Year

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We all have fitness goals for the New Year, but, really, D Man?  At 2 o’clock in the morning? Your mapped, pre-dawn wanderings resemble a geometry lesson gone bad. What an adventure you had.

Thank goodness, Patrick ( my son), bought us  a GPS tracking device for your collar back in August 2019. We all joked at Christmas that you hadn’t run away since we attached it to your collar. Perhaps we spoke to soon. You tested us, and the system, last night. At least you tested John. I slept through the whole ordeal.

I left you snoozing and John watching Netflix around 11:00 to go read. John let you out for your nightly constitution, not realizing that the backyard gate was ajar. The wind must have blown it open. He was alerted by the Whistle App that you were out of your “safe zone.” Dang! John and I are proud that we have contained a happy  hound since July. The Crean  mantra is “Where’s Dwight”, which we silently whisper before opening any door or gate. We keep you well exercised with walks and runs with friends. You walk so well and look back often to “make sure of us.” We were just discussing that maybe we could let you off leash on the power line walk and you’d return to us.

You broke our trust last night, Dwight. What a tear you had. Two different neighborhoods, 3.1 miles and lots of zigzagging through yards. Poor John. He drove. He tracked. He ran, he called, he fell in a hole and got wet in the rain. He’s probably been captured on many security cameras throughout the neighborhood. I advised him to shave his beard and go on the lam for a few days.

I am glad I slept through this, Dwight. I worry so, when you run away. I know you’re happy here, but I also know you can’t help yourself when you “smell” an opportunity. Thank God you are safe…again. It’s a New Year, Dwight. Let’s not look back. We’re not going that way. Let’s have new adventures, walks, and discoveries…together. Happy New Year my sweet, sweet pup.

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Memories

My phone storage is full. The message popped up this morning as I attempted to take a picture of you, Dwight. Not that I need any more images of you. I take for granted that my “clicking” has its limits. Snapping pictures with my phone is a daily occurrence. A  butterfly, a heart shape on a tree, a heron, and of course your sweet face.

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My phone is my camera. No more 35 mm film canisters, focusing, setting f-stops and shutter speeds. No more careful planning for that perfect shot, winding the film, removing it and dropping it off to be developed. No more waiting. That anticipation after picking up the processed film, flipping through the photos, hoping for some good shots. Smiling as the preserved images conjure up remembrances of a road trip or a mountain sunset. It’s almost too easy now. Failure is an option, that can be deleted, or preserved for a good laugh.

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35 mm photography is an expensive hobby. I wouldn’t have wasted film by taking a picture of you every single day, or a shot of the pillow in TJ Max, to determine if it “fits” with the den sofa. A roll of film only had 36 shots, so I used them sparingly.  I never had a dark room, so I had to take my film somewhere for processing. Sometimes the canisters would pile up, as I didn’t always  have the funds to develop them.

Now I take a lot of photographs. Why is that? Am I trying  to preserve a joyous instant?  Hopeful that a good moment  will become an epic one by capturing its image and sharing it on social media? I think I take so many because it’s easy. I always have my phone with me, so I can snap pictures all day long. But I find that I rarely give them another glance. They leave my phone to be stored in that great “cloud in the sky”. Preserved memories floating around in cyber space. There are probably as many photos in that cloud as there are stars in the sky.

As we are both working on our hoarding tendencies, Dwight, this is great. We don’t have to find a place to store them in the house.  I can buy more cyber storage and click on. We can just access the cloud to find a memory.

Although my phone is convenient, I miss the old way of taking photographs. It was more mindful. A little slower. There was more mystery to it. A tangible memory that I could touch and turn over in my hands. One moment in time…preserved. Magic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pawsing to Wonder

We saw him running, head down, zig zagging back and forth from yard to yard. House to house.That lost dog dance that occurs when an animal searches for familiarity. A scent. A trail. A dog lover recognizes this immediately. I pull over and my friend and I corner him. He’s a sweet, black male with a gray muzzle, who gladly allows my friend to hug him around the chest, to contain him, while I search for a collar and a leash.  We take him back to my house and release him in my fenced yard. Then we start the search. We make flyers, call shelters, call vets. We are committed to assisting this helpless creature. Eventually, we found a home for this sweet boy, who I named, Dudley, but it took a village. Well, a kennel owner, a church group and two determined dog lovers.

This occurred before you came into my life, Dwight.  Maybe all the times you have been “rescued” after following your nose and running away from here, is just Karma for my efforts with Dudley.

Yesterday, I had an encounter that gave me pause. There was a young man ahead of me in the checkout at the grocery store. He had a lost look in his eyes. His clothes were baggy and dirty. His stretched out t-shirt revealed sunburned shoulders and a blistered, peeling neck. He wore flip flops and his toes were caked with mud. He smelled as dirty as he looked. He wasn’t zig zagging or dancing. He was standing there with his bag of grapes, 2 peaches and a candy bar. He handed the cashier a gift card and a twenty dollar bill. Looking hopeful, he asked her to check the balance on the gift card. She told him she wasn’t sure how to do that. The young man’s gaze dropped to the twenty as he reached out to hand it to her.

I interrupted, “I’ll pay for his.” He looked up, once again hopeful. “Thank you. Thank you so much.” She rang him up. He thanked me again as he left.  A lost young man. Probably in his early 20’s. What’s his story? Why didn’t I chase after him, put my arms around his chest and keep him secure, until he was found again. I didn’t make “Lost Boy” signs or call around to try and help him. All I did was pay $6.21 for a bag of grapes, 2 peaches and a candy bar. Shame on me. I hope my simple gesture made as much of an impact on him as his kind face made on me.

All who wander are not lost. You’ve taught me that, Dwight. But, I think we could all use a little help sometimes, to find our way.

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Borders

We have a fence around our yard, Dwight. A border to keep you from following your nose and wandering off. The enclosure allows  untethered freedom to run, chase and explore. You spend a good part of the day out there, basking in the sun or digging a hole under a shade tree. Watching. Not a watch dog, but a mindful dog. Ears twitching to catch all the bird song, leaf crunching and wind crescendos. Jowls sucking  scents in and out as your nose turns skyward to pull in more air, taking you into the woods beyond the fence.  Sightings of deer, heron and foxes and the enticing  fragrances of the unseen intrigue you.

You are so curious, aware, and accepting of all. I wish I didn’t have to fence you in. But you have shown us, when given the chance, Dwight,  you run. Far and without boundaries. In the 2 years you’ve lived with us, you have escaped at least 14 times. Thankfully, we always get a phone call…I’ve got your dog. Perhaps if  you had come to us as a puppy, I could have created invisible boundaries by teaching you through consistent, love, food and shelter, that this is your home. A safe haven where your needs are met. A place to stay.

I wish I could let you roam free. That’s how it was where I grew up. There were no leash laws. Back when the world wasn’t so afraid of itself. Dogs could roam the neighborhood, but mostly stayed in their own yards…without borders.

At least once a day, most of the time twice, I take you out to explore the world. Although tethered to a leash, I give you as much freedom as I can, allowing  you to take the lead, pausing when you pause. Sometimes we watch water. Clouds floating reflectively on the pond’s surface, ducks cutting the stillness. You stand, stoic, gazing. Many mornings we hear the geese, both of us looking skyward as they honk their arrival. We watch them circle the pond, lower their black leathery feet and skim across the water. Wow! Thanks for showing me this, Dwight.

Recently , on our walk, we encountered a broken picket on a fence. On the outside looking in, you insisted on crossing the border. I let you go as far as you could squeeze, so you could see the other side. I’m not sure if the grass was truly greener, but after a moment, seeming satisfied, you backed out and we continued on our walk.

IMG_2874There are two sides to every fence, Dwight. On one side it can be viewed as protection. A barrier to keep “things” out, like predators and annoyances. Some find comfort in exclusion. Staying inside the lines.  However, this can create a fear of the outside.

And sometimes a boundary is used to keep “things” in, like dogs and children. To keep them safe. Protected.  Some find comfort in keeping their loved ones close. Hovering. This too, can create a fear of the outside.

I wish we could all learn to create and  respect our own boundaries. Just take care of our corner of the world. Maybe then, we wouldn’t be so afraid and need barriers. For now, my wish is for us all to find a few broken pickets, to allow a kind, curious exploration of the other side.

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Hoarding Hound

Dwight, you’re a hoarder. It appears to be new learning, as you came here with no possessions. Only a harness, a short lead and a bag of food. A few days after your arrival, we gave you Little Dino. You adored him, taking him with you everywhere. It was sweet to watch you care for him. This Christmas, a treasure trove of toys descended upon you by well meaning family and friends. You pile them on your bed and fret over their care.

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Life was much simpler when there was only Little Dino. You could scoop him up in your mouth, run around the yard, bury him, dig him up, re-bury and dig up to the cadence of our days. Let dog in, let dog out. Now your toy collection seems overwhelming. You have even started stockpiling items on our walks. So far, you have found and fretted over an unidentifiable piece of black plastic, a hairband and a glove. These treasures have been stashed in various spots in the neighborhood. You check on them frequently, and many times relocate them. But today was over the top, D Man. You found a plastic Coke bottle. A big ticket item to bury, which you managed to do. Pretty impressive.

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You’ve got an issue Dwight. Too much stuff is weighing you down, getting in the way of life. I can relate. I have my own clutter issues. What to do with all this stuff that sneaks into drawers and closets. A golf ball found on a walk, a box of chalk, dry rotted rubber bands, safety pins and paper clips that reproduce and move on to live in an adjacent drawer. I bought a book, took a class, and started my de-cluttering adventure.

Then I had to stop to take care of life for awhile. And then, loss. And then, Christmas came. But its a new year now, so, no excuses. Let’s make 2019 the year to de-clutter and reclaim joy and freedom from stuff, Dwight. We can help each other. With every bag of impedimenta I take to Goodwill, I’ll squirrel away one of your toys for a needy dog. I’ll dissuade you from collecting more things on our walks and try my best to keep us mindful and grateful for what we have.

There are emotions attached to possessions. The trappings of things. That’s why its hard for us sensitive types to let go. Memories can be messy, but they don’t clutter. Fond ones warm the soul and inspire us forward. Sad ones overwhelm, encouraging us to hang onto more stuff in order to stay anchored to the past.

Let’s bury our sadness under the Birch tree in the backyard. If we need it, we’ll know where to find it. We will be respectful and remember its location. Don’t look back, Dwight. Were not going that way. Happy New Year.