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Dog time

I am headed back to Minnesota for a visit in May, and I am looking forward to seeing my family and friends, and spending some quality time with them. And besides those lovely souls I am planning to spend time with, I am thoroughly looking forward to some dog time!

I will most certainly be seeing my daughter and son-in-law’s two dogs, Chopper and Boe Boe, as well as my son’s dog, named Buster, and I am making sure to pencil in time to see “my girl”, my collie named Maddie who I had to leave behind with my ex-husband when I moved to Portland. And sadly, I will also be sure to visit the grave site of my other dog, Kirby the lovable cocker spaniel, who recently passed away after a happy and fulfilled dog life of twelve years.

When I went back for a Christmas visit in December of 2011, I stayed at my daughter and future son-in-law’s home for most of that time. So I got to know Chopper and Boe Boe quite well, and was inspired by their day to day antics enough to write a poem about each of them. Boe Boe is the elder one of the dog household; he is a mellow mutt who had the run of the place until the little guy came around. And Chopper, with his boundless Jack Russell terrier energy is about as different from Boe Boe as night from day. But they have learned to love each other, with Boe Boe accepting Chopper into the family, and helping to breathe maybe a bit more life into the old boy.

Those of us who are blessed to experience the love of a pet, be it dog or cat or even a goldfish, know of the special bond that ensues from such a relationship. I look forward to having some very special dog time when I go for my visit in May; as I once more get to experience some unconditional love in the way that only our pets can bring.

Chopper and Boe Boe

Chopper and Boe Boe

 

 

My name is Boe Boe

I was here first

Before the little one

But it doesn’t matter

I let him think he is cuter than me

He wants to play

As puppies do

He gnaws on my neck

Thinking I will accept

his invitation to run and play

But I like to rest these days

I had my time of

playing and puppy-ness

So when the little one runs in circles

I curl in a ball and watch

And remember my days of such behavior

I am Chopper

My house is an obstacle course

I jump onto the couch

I am tiny, like a cat

So I run along the back of it

Then onto the other couch

And I leap!

I fly through the air to the chair

A perfect landing!

I do not require a net

I am nimble – a jumper of great heights!

Then I dig in the toy box

And take out many toys

And leave them

Later I will take out more toys

And leave those also

Then for fun

I run in and out of my kennel

But I don’t stay in there too long

Because sometimes they lock the door!

I hear a noise outside

Or is it in my head?

It doesn’t matter

I bark anyway!

All of this is very tiring

I finally rest

Until 5 a.m. – at the very latest!

Then it is time to get up

And run the obstacle course again

Kirby, now in Doggie Heaven

Kirby, now in Doggie Heaven

 

 

Memories of Kirby

 

A white ball of fluff

Tiny and nestled in a laundry basket

Comes home to join our family

The roly-poly puppy

Grows into a handsome dog

Who never quite learns to enjoy

Being bathed or groomed

But he behaves like a gentleman

So kind to all who care for him

 

If you happened to say the word “walk”

Be prepared to grab the leash

He always enjoyed the forays and adventures

Into the woods and down the roads

Seeming to find great pleasure

In scaring up a bird or two

 

Thoughts of food filled his mind

Constantly

His tastes ranging

From potato peelings

To rabbit poop

And anything in between

 

Not content to lie on the floor

Our furniture was his furniture

Our bed was his bed

Snuggling close at night

Sharing a pillow

Sharing love

 

And his body aged

As all bodies do

Now he romps once more

Seeing clearly, running freely

Uninhibited, unencumbered

He left us but left his love

And sweet memories of Kirby

Maddie girl

Maddie girl

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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And what did I learn this time?

Life can be a breeze here, when the dominoes fall in perfect succession. I have had that pristine line -up of  all things clicking into place, as they did when I made my plans to move here to Portland, when everything did come together as it should and the dominoes fell in a perfect wave of all I needed, all I wanted.

But now I am cleaning up all the dominoes of a recent experience, where they seemed to connect at first, but there was a piece or two out of sync that caused everything to scatter. I have found myself needing to secure a job here in the near future, so I do not blow through my retirement money and end up having to live with one of my children – not the scenario I have for my “golden years”, and not one I’m sure my children have either! So I started the job hunt a couple weeks ago, perusing Craigslist, and came upon what seemed to be the perfect job for me in so many ways. I started to line up the pieces, so sure they would all be in order.

Oh yes, this job seemed to be made just for me! A short 15 minute walk from my home, part – time hours in the morning which would leave my afternoons free, and located in a small holistic health clinic – the type of medicine that is near and dear to my heart, no longer wanting to be back in the world of Western, corporate medicine. And after my first interview with the clinic manager, I walked out of there cocky and confident, thinking about what kind of clothes I needed to buy for what I was sure was my new job.

But wait, not so fast. I was asked to come in for a second interview with one of the physicians. Well of course I was more than happy to meet with one of them and show what a great catch I was for their clinic; this was just a formality and then I could get started earning some much needed income.

But I started to realize as the interview progressed that I must have failed to line up one of those damn pieces just right, and things started to scatter everywhere. I went from a belief in myself that I could do this front desk job with ease to jumping into a defensive mode, as the physician interviewing me started asking his probing questions. I felt the energy shift palpably as he questioned my ability to handle stress; citing my reason for retiring from lab after 30 years of burnout and stress as a red flag to him, not confident that I could handle the stress of their front desk. Fair enough; I patiently explained the differences I saw between front desk stress in a clinic setting versus the stress of working in a hospital laboratory, literally dealing with life and death situations.  But when he asked me if I could handle the fact that some of their patients die, I almost had to laugh! After 30 years in healthcare, I unfortunately saw my fair share of patients die, but that did not discourage me from working in my field. I think that was when I knew my chances were oh so slim.

And then I received the response that I knew all along was coming – they hired another candidate. What have I learned? This is what I come to ask myself these days, with all experiences, good or bad. I’ve learned that there are times we think we know what is best, in our limited egocentric ways. But I know in my heart that for some very good reason, God and the Universe knew this was not my best place to work, and arranged it as such. So in that way, I learn trust, letting go of the bitterness my ego wants me to feel. I learned how to speak my truth, not making up a more pleasant reason for retirement, even though “burnout” to some may paint me as one who can’t handle the stress of work. And lastly, I learned honesty, especially with myself. Because deep inside, I knew this really wasn’t the place for me, but all the parts seemed to fit – except the part that was missing, and that was a genuine excitement to work there. And I learn that my soul really wants that, enthusiasm and joy when I do go back to work. So I patiently wait until I come upon the workplace that genuinely lights up my soul.

Remembering Elliott

Those souls who have left this earth for heaven, or whatever we believe is beyond are missed and remembered by those close to them. But there are those souls who leave us that were able to affect a great number of people by their time on earth, and Elliott Smith is one of them. He touched us with his music; words creatively brought together that often spoke of heartache, of sadness, of anger and even hope in the midst of despair, paired with achingly beautiful melodies that often betrayed the mood of the words. He was able to get us to listen to the sad reality of life that it is sometimes, in the guise of musical notes that danced with joy. In doing this he created a following of listeners who empathized with him and felt that Elliott understood the pain in their own lives.

During his many live shows, Elliott brought himself even closer to his followers, as they hung onto every word and every note he played in utter admiration and devotion; all eyes and ears completely focused on the lone man  playing his sweet and precious music. Elliott had a gracious way of making his audience feel so involved in every show, so appreciated; never putting himself up on a pedestal. Song requests were shouted out, or oftentimes Elliott would ask what the audience wanted to hear. He would tell little stories that fed the camaraderie he had with his fans, and they felt as if they knew him intimately.

Despite all the drama and despair that was his lifetime – dealing with depression, addictions, and a sadly violent death – Elliott Smith gave all he could to the career he chose as a musician. He crafted his music with a perfectionist’s touch, and toured extensively to bring that music to all who wanted to hear him play. He showed us the qualities he possessed of hard work, integrity, generosity, and compassion in the man that he was, not letting his struggles in life hold back the gift he gave to us of amazing music, created from his very soul.

Elliott Smith would have been 43 years old today, and he would still be blessing us with lovely songs. In this world he is lovingly remembered by the timeless legacy he left of music, but he will also be remembered as a sweet and gentle soul who just wanted everyone  to enjoy his gift of song.

Memorial plaque of Elliott Smith that hangs in Lincoln High School in Portland, OR

Artwork done of Elliott Smith that hangs in the Crystal Hotel in Portland, OR

Their Friend

 

Every venue he plays

Becomes an intimate setting

As if he sits

With the audience

In their living room

He greets them with a shy “hello”

Then sits in the chair

The small man and his guitar

Swallowed up by the stage

He nervously picks at the guitar

And a song starts to emerge

The crowd cheers

Then a hush ensues

He holds them in the rapture of melody

The song ends

They cheer once more

A quickly spoken “thanks”

Is shared with his followers

They talk to him

Asking him questions

He politely answers

Someone shouts “I love you!”

“I love you too” he replies

And this exchange of love

Is what endears him to them

To every face in the crowd he is

Their friend who sings

Re-inventing myself, midlife

What do I want to be when I grow up? This is not a question that a 53 year old woman usually asks of herself, but I keep asking myself that question as of late. I feel as if I am at a crossroads, like the train has stalled on the tracks, like I’m in a holding pattern waiting to land, or any other clever cliche you can come up with to say “I don’t know what I want to do with my life!” I walked the path of convention for many years; go to college, go to work, get married, raise a family. Then I opened the can of worms called awakening, and said hello to my soul. My soul doesn’t much care for conventional ways any longer. So many things in my life are so perfect; living in Portland, not working in healthcare any longer, even not owning a car any longer is a dream come true. But as I watch my IRA balance go down instead of up, my little scheme of living off of that until I die may not work any longer. So now what? I feel a pull in my soul to do some type of work, some type of soulful work, but I hear no clear cut answers. This morning as I melted down into frustration and impatience and fear about my future, I started to wonder if this time of non-doing is the lesson, a lesson in trust. Waking up to the fullness of my soul has revealed so many positive aspects of self, but there is also the shadow side. I learn I am impetuous when it is not appropriate, I am impatient and want things now, and I am controlling, thinking I know what is best for me. Maybe I have stalled so I can learn to let go, to let the flow of the Universe touch my life, and trust in that. So I work on those nasty attributes that make me feel like a child at times, and instead turn to the strength of my ever maturing soul to find out what I will be when I grow up, in this phase of my life.

Emotional energies

I’ve been reading a wonderful book by Melody Beattie entitled Finding Your Way Home. This morning I read a chapter about emotions and dealing with them in a soulful way. And there was an exercise that consisted of picking out an emotional trigger from a very long list and journaling about it. The one that spoke to me was grief, but instead of journaling about it I found a poem coming through instead. As I see it, grief is a never ending journey; one with many twists and turns, shifting and changing as we deal with the often painful certainty of death in our lives here on earth.

An Arrangement

Grief and I

Have an arrangement now

I allow it to visit

But not so often anymore

And visitation time

Is much shorter than before

So we shake hands

And both agree

To this new arrangement

Age is just a number, that I don’t always remember

I have a friend who’s birthday is in a couple of days, but for the life of me I really don’t know exactly how old she is going to be. I know it’s 40- something, and does it really matter? I’ll probably ask her, she will understand. Now if she were in her 20’s, I would imagine my inability to remember her exact age would be considered a slight in our friendship. But honestly, when asked my age, there are times when I start to do the math in my head before I can answer – take the year it is now, subtract the year I was born and recall the month it is too, to figure in if I add another year or not. And I’m not slow on the uptake, I’m not losing my mind, not just yet anyway! But at this stage of my life, 50-something, age really doesn’t mean a whole heck of alot. All I know is that number one, I am glad to be getting older. I most certainly do not want to relive the days of my youth in any way, shape or form. Who wants to make those mistakes all over again? No, I am gathering what they call “wisdom”, and it is very good to have. And number two, I like the eras that I grew up in, and do not wish to be a young person in the new millennium – I’m used to my old ways, thank you very much! And number three, I can say with all honesty that I am not afraid of death. I may be a bit leery of the process of dying – does it hurt? I hope it is quick and painless, what we all wish for. But I believe that life goes on after this “life” on earth, so what is there to be afraid of? And from what I hear, it’s a pretty cool place too. So I welcome each year that I can add on, more wisdom, more experiences, more love and life to gather here until I find out what’s on the other side of life.

Age

The blooms in the blue vase

Transition

Softness of the petals

Drying

But still bright

With color

Some hold their heads high

Others become weary

Heavy and drooping

Leaves fade

From youthful dark green

To the yellowing of age

Transition of form

Yet within each bloom

Life continues to radiate

 

The reality of cloudy days

Just like the rain pouring down on my skylight, the tears came this morning, pouring from my eyes. Grief is part and parcel of the human experience, a great sense of loss when our loved ones leave us, and we feel utterly alone without them. And even though my beliefs tell me otherwise, assuring me of their continued love, life and presence all around me, I fall into the deep despair of wanting to be in the same world. Then I realize that truly, grief isn’t sadness for the one who is not here on earth, but sadness for ourselves in having to be here without them. It helps to think of them in a wonderful place full of love, free of any earthly pain or burdens. But still, grief has its constant cycle, a rhythm all its own, that will play out with me until I am reunited with my love.

The Visitor

 

It wasn’t on my calendar

This appointment with grief

So sure I had cancelled it

But grief arrived anyway

Unannounced

It stands at the threshold of my soul

If I ignore it, will it go away?

I’ve tried that

It always stays

I find its patience intolerable

I give in and open the door

Letting it enter my home

It walks inside with muddy shoes

Such a rude guest!

It shows no manners

As it shoves my heart aside

And proceeds to turn me inside out

I am a tolerant hostess

I weep as it sits at my table

I try not to feed it

Hoping it will leave

I must have dozed off

For now my home is peaceful

Grief no longer sits at my table

In its place

Is a vision of myself

Colorful intensity

Now brilliant

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