Day of Rest

skyfeathersMy mom emailed me yesterday and told me my second grade teacher died. I was a lucky kid. I grew up in a really small town in a rural area of Oregon, but was part of a really big family. My mom is the second oldest of 12 kids and my grandparents had a farm. We all lived near each other and spent a lot of time together. I was as close to my cousins as most people are with their siblings. I grew up with kids whose parents had been friends with my parents growing up. Except for the first few years, I lived in the same house until I moved out at 18. I joke that it was as close to growing up in Mayberry as you could get.

For being a small rural town, I had an amazing school with incredible teachers. Mrs. Simmons was one of the best. We did a lot of writing and creating in her class, took lots of fun field trips, and she was so encouraging, calling me her “little author.” There was a loft bed in the corner of the classroom painted to look like a tree. I spent many hours there reading — I was working my way through the entire library, book by book. It was that same year that I learned that being a writer was a job, one I could grow up and have. Once I knew that, I knew who I was.

I was lucky enough to run into Esther a few years ago. I was home visiting, and as my mom and I came out of the post office, there she was. My mom said hello to her and something like “do you know who this is?” as she gestured towards me and I smiled. To me she looked almost exactly the same, older sure but totally recognizable, but for her it must have been so strange, this little girl she used to know standing before her suddenly a woman in her 40s. I got to tell her that I’m a teacher and a writer, and she seemed so pleased by that. I’m so sad she’s gone, but glad I got to see her again, and hope that she knew the good she’d done, for me and all the other kids lucky enough to be her students, to be taught and loved by her.

I knew as a six year old I wanted to be a writer. I was so sure, and it’s all I’ve ever wanted, but it’s taken a really really long time to land. This morning I was listening to an episode of Elizabeth Gilbert’s new podcast, Magic Lessons. She was talking about being a late bloomer, and mentioned something poet Sharon Olds said, “I was a late bloomer. But anyone who blooms at all, ever, is very lucky.” I’ve spent a lot of time beating myself up for “wasting” the years between second grade and 43, but I got it all wrong. I am so lucky to have ever bloomed at all.

#AugustMoon15: Day Seven

curtainsA garden that looks like a jungle. The sunflowers are so tall and thick, it’s hard to see the street from the window. I also see Eric’s devotion and care — the planting, the watering, the weeding, the picking. I see the inspiration for our neighbors adding two raised beds to the thin strip of ground in between our yard and their driveway, so close to our garden that people often ask, “are those yours too?” I see the ingredients for kale salad, zucchini bread, tomato soup, pesto, black bean & zucchini pancakes. I see being able to share, to feed my friends, and also the bees, along with various other bugs and insects. I see the tall white iris Ann gave me the year before she died, the thick purple and white irises that Jennie and Adana gave me. I see the two lilac bushes grown into one mass of green that almost buries our mailbox and where the neighborhood cats always hide, napping in the shade. I see the strawberry patch that produces more every year, might someday make a whole pie all by itself. I see the pumpkins turning orange and remember the kids from last year, riding by on their bikes, finally getting brave enough to ask Eric, “are those pumpkins?” and him answering, “yeah, do you want some?” and how surprised and excited they were, hardly able to believe he would just give them away. I see the luck of where we live, knowing that there are many places that wouldn’t allow our garden, would be offended by the wildness, would try to restrict it. I see the space where our cottonwood tree used to be, 45 years old with a trunk five feet across, that’s now planted with 12 foot sunflowers and three peonies — one for Kelly, one for Obi, and one for Dexter. I see how so much of it, what doesn’t get eaten or shared, will become the compost that feeds next years garden.

#augustbreak2015: reading, sweet delights, real life, & curves

I’ve been sharing all my August Break pictures on Instagram, but haven’t put them all here. Some seemed too boring for a full blog post, are old pictures I’ve posted before or ones I don’t have much to say about, like the picture of clementines from last winter I posted in response to the “citrus” prompt. There were a couple in the past few days, however, that collectively seemed like they warranted a full post.
one of my favorite pictures he ever took of me, and of course I was readingReading. Always my favorite thing, then and still. This is me at about ten years old, reading, most likely annoyed by my dad taking my picture. Right now I’m reading both Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives and Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time — there’s definitely a theme there.

sweetdelightsSweet delights, for breakfast. Peach and berry season will soon be over, but for now I feast.

reallifeReal life — wherever my dogs are.

curvesCurves. The Buddha who sits on my meditation shrine — I’ve gazed at these curves in contemplation, rest, anger, irritation, grief, despair, confusion, and love, learning both to move and stay still.

Gratitude Friday

giantsunflower1. Our garden, now featuring 8-12 foot tall sunflowers and hundreds of cherry tomatoes.

treehouseoffice2. Back to work at CSU. The work, the people, the benefits, the new and improved space, the opportunity to work with discomfort and irritation, the view from my office which looks like I’m in a treehouse.

3. Sam and Ringo, who are adjusting so well to us both going back to work. I realized just last night that I finally am sleeping better, have stopped listening for all the bad things (someone getting sick, a puppy chewing on something he shouldn’t, someone licking or scratching or whining).

padthai4. Good food. Zucchini Noodle Pad Thai, fresh peaches, tomatoes tomatoes tomatoes, homemade chocolate chip cookies.

bathroomcolors5. Continued progress on our home improvements. Last week was new toilets, replacing a 50 year old electrical panel, new lights for both the front and back porch, picking paint and lighting for the bathroom remodel, and fixing the outlet by the washer and dryer that had been just hanging there for far too long (and he did that last one for free).

latesummerskyBonus joy: yoga on the back patio in my pajamas under a blue sky, teaching yoga at Om Ananda, play date with Pancho and his mom, having the means to pay for what needs done and to do some fun stuff too, getting my office at CSU halfway unpacked, finally getting over our colds, cooking and baking, trying a new recipe and having it not just turn out but wanting to make it again, having the time to really clean off my desk, having a job that is somewhat flexible, walking with the dogs, the way Sam just decided this morning to get in the tub to investigate, the way Ringo cuddles with Eric in the morning, the way Eric remembers one of the funniest things he ever said, dumb tv with an irritating host that grows on you the more you watch, cooler mornings and even some days, good people that do good work that I don’t mind having in my house, the sweetest feedback on something I wrote.

#AugustMoon15: Day Six

twilightaugustmoonLike everything is going to be okay, is okay. I’m not sure why it’s that time of day in particular that makes me feel so, but it always has been. Morning is when I feel safe, but twilight makes me feel content, which is something much deeper. In the morning, the feeling of safety comes along with all the possibility and responsibility of the day, so it isn’t pure. Twilight is a relaxing of effort, a time that marks letting go, releasing all that was done and surrendering anything else that still needs doing, with everything covered in a warm golden honey glow of light that is slowly fading. All that is left is to rest. Tomorrow is another day, another life.

#augustbreak2015: Two

twoTwo. We’ve had just one dog at various times — the long year and a half when our first dog Obi was just a puppy and before we got Dexter, the four months after Obi died before we were ready to get Sam, the six months it took to decide if we would even EVER get another dog after we lost Dexter and Sam was sick but we didn’t know why. Even though we’ve had just one at times — and it’s so easy, so much less work — just one never seems quite right. Maybe it has something to do with Obi having such bad separation anxiety. We did everything we could for him and finally realized the only thing left to try was to get him his own dog, and it was so perfect, exactly what he needed. He was so much happier that we wished we hadn’t waited so long, although I suppose we had to wait for Dexter to be born, the dog that was the perfect fit for him. That set in my mind that dogs automatically are happier if they live with another dog, is where I got the idea that two is always the right number.

That’s not to say two is necessarily easier. It’s way harder to train two dogs, feed two dogs, groom two dogs, bathe two dogs, transport two dogs, calm two dogs, walk two dogs. Sometimes it simply doubles the effort, but there are times when two dogs are three dogs worth of work because you attend to each dog individually but there’s also a third dog, the shadow dog they form together as a team.

One time having two dogs is easier is when you lose one. In your grief, that well of sadness and loneliness, nothing can soothe you like another dog. Some days it’s the only reason to get out of bed, the only thing that keeps you going.

My experience with two dogs has had a strange twist. As much as Sam and Ringo are distinct, they are echos of Obi and Dexter. Sam’s sensitive, sweet nature is so much like Obi’s, and they are similar in shape and color. Obi broke one of his canine teeth in the months before he died, and Sam had a broken canine puppy tooth when we got him, so weird because that’s not a common injury. They are both afraid of loud noises, although Obi was more afraid of storms and Sam thinks it’s the washing machine that’s out to get him. Ringo has the same goofy high energy, the same happy good nature as Dexter did, the same athleticism, and the same body type, which someone once described as a “brick shit house.” Ringo has almost the exact same coloring as Dexter’s favorite toy, a small stuffed cattle dog we called Little D. Sam is content to be lazy, just hang out like Obi was, where Ringo and Dexter were always up for doing something, were either playing or asleep, only have two speeds. Our two dogs now are echos of the first pair, and it makes me think if I keep getting two, they will always be echos of those originals.