Wednesday Wonders on a Friday:The Guts of Grief

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Warning: My dog died. Read on at your own risk.

Last weekend we had to say goodbye to our sweet Cosmo. It’s a sad story with a sad ending that I don’t feel like telling on the Interwebs. In fact, I’m late posting this week because I don’t feel like telling that story, but it’s the one story taking up space in my mind.

I finally came to a few thoughts on grief I do feel like sharing. These are things I’ve noticed after losing 6 dogs since I moved away from my parent’s home. (Six!! My heaven will look like a tail-wagging pack.) I’ve also lived long enough to lose a few humans.

My Observations

In the beginning, I always forget they are gone for tiny moments and then remember with a slap. 

I once read that this feels like climbing the stairs and expecting another step when there isn’t one. The moment of falling into space when I thought something was under me comes closest to that moment when I remember my dog won’t bark to greet me when I get home.

 

I always think about the lasts and the firsts.

I think about how this last summer went by without me knowing it was his last summer. I think about the last bath he endured. I think about the last night he woke me up to reposition himself on the blankets at the foot of my bed.

I think about how my mother-in-law first found him shivering on her front porch on a below-zero February day and how I went out to help my husband take him to the shelter.

I think about looking at those brown eyes that first day and deciding we should help him get over his kennel cough before taking him in. And then how we could never take him into an animal shelter after that.

I always think of the others I have lost.

New grief pulls up memories of other losses. Losing Cosmo reminds me of the other five dogs, of the people I still miss, of the cats who have come and gone. (I know Cosmo would not like me to think about cats, so I left that for the last.)

I always miss the things that annoyed me most.

I miss having to keep the baby gates in front of the bathrooms, so he wouldn’t raid the cat boxes. I miss having to step over him in the middle of the night. I miss seeing him beg at the edge of the kitchen when I make the lunches.

And the other day I was practicing ridiculously high notes on my clarinet. I worked myself up to the G above the staff and then felt hollow inside when Cosmo didn’t howl about it.

I always feel guilty after they go.

Whenever I am grieving, I think of all the walks I should have taken. I think of the times I didn’t stop to notice Cosmo or pet his head. I think of how busy I got and how I snapped at him when he got under foot while I tried to get out the door.

I even regret getting the cats who stressed him out. If I had known he was so close to the end, I would have waited, I tell myself, so he wouldn’t have had the aggravation.

Now when I hear others tell me of their own regrets, I’ve started telling people it’s normal to feel guilty. I miss the one I lost. And I am only human. No matter how much I love someone or some dog, I cannot take all those walks or avoid all irritation.

When I lose my dog, I’ve discovered, it’s normal to see what I did wrong. I still wish I could go back and fix it, but it soothes me to know this ache is a part of missing someone.

And that’s all I have for today. For now, I sit here this morning with a calico cat on my lap ready to love those I’ve got the best I can.

May you make your own way through the guts of grief when it comes your way-

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Rat Terrier Teachings

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rat terrier

I’ve finally revised my About Page. It took most of the week to get the written ‘selfie’ into shape, so I’m cross posting it here. I don’t remember the rat’s name. I wish I did.

 

I saw the rat terrier sometime after I’d been chased by the pig. Or maybe it was before. It was, after all, over 15 years ago and I don’t have a memory that sticks moments to a bulletin board.

But one day around 1994 when I was cleaning the dog kennels at the Whatcom County Humane Society, a dog the size of a ferret sat shivering in isolation without much hair to protect her from the cold concrete. She’d bitten someone. That’s what landed dogs in those back kennels away from the public and the adoptable dogs.

The isolation kennels had a guillotine structure between them, allowing cleaners to put food on one side, open the guillotine and then the dog moved to the other side. Most dogs went willingly. This rat terrier did not, so I had to try to get her to move over. I knew she was ‘in’ for biting but thought something less than 5 pounds wouldn’t be hard to manage and swung open the door.

She slipped out the chain link kennel between my legs before I could bend down far enough to stop her. Then she bolted down the back side of the kennels and turned the average bored barking of the dogs into the frenzy of dogs barking at other dogs – especially loud since she dared to run past their cage door fences.

Shutting the noise out of my mind, I walked the concrete floor in my rubber boots trying to scoop her up. The terrier shivered and, when I finally got her in a corner, she bared her teeth. I was still green enough to think I could pick her up because she would sense that I only wanted to help her. True to all the doggy signals she sent, she bit down hard on my hand the moment I picked her up.

My hand throbbed and, after managing to get her in her kennel,  I shook it, feeling shock more than pain.

My life comes at me sometimes like that rat terrier – it feels like a series of small things that bite hard and teach me lessons I need to learn.

language

My life is also learning languages and then trying to teach them to others, beating my head against a wall when we can’t communicate and then feeling the joyful zing of sudden understanding.

 

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My life is running because it brings me intense joy and then stopping because I’ve overdone it and got tendinitis in my hip, regrouping and building myself back up again.

knitting

My life is wrapping bits of yarn together by clicking needles together. And then pulling that yarn right back out because I have not yet figured out how to carry the colors across a row. The third or fourth time I start to make a square for the blanket that I can begin to love.

And for this blog, my life is throwing things on the page and screen in a first draft, knowing they absolutely stink, reworking them beyond the point where I want to give up more than I want another cup of Earl Grey tea and then reaching a sparkling moment where I think, “You know, I actually LIKE this post. Who wouldda thought?”

Strangely enough, the feeling is like that rat terrier’s bite. Sudden and unexpected, almost like a sharp pain. If I remember right, that scared dog made it home again, like I do every time a piece comes together.

The Grass is not Greener When You Lose Your Kitty

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IMG_2685I was cleaning windows this morning when I saw the cat grass I’ve considered planting for years.

I thought, “It’s spring. I think I’ll do it this year. Seamus will like it.

I started to even go down the path of why I haven’t planted it for all these years: He’d be more encouraged to eat my house plants down to the nubs. I’d have to find a pot, find some dirt, mess with all the water and so on.

Then I remembered. My cat is gone. I took him to the vet for his last time this week, bawling as he always did when I put him in the carrier with the handy opening at the top and then settling down as we waited in the vet’s office, purring in my arms to the very end.

I’ve noticed two painful parts in my last few years walking with grief.

First, I run into this moment like the cat grass. I know he’s gone. But I forget. And I think for a moment of something I’ll do with the missing person or critter.

Then I remember. Like stepping off the stairs to a step that doesn’t exist, I get a jolting falling feeling and the ache opens up again.

On top of that, I hurt for the grass he will now never get to eat because I never got off my duff to grow it for him. This happens with every person or critter I lose, too. No matter how I try to live each day to the fullest, say what I need to say to those I love and do what I need to do for them, I always fall short.

I guess it’s human. I guess it’s a part of life that is sometimes losing. But I don’t like it. I wish I had grown the stupid grass.

Why I Put Fire in My Name

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Like Her Hair’s On Fire: Writing to slow down and warm up to life

The lady in this shot has the feeling I’m going for in my blog. For that matter, she has the feeling I’m going for in my life.

I posted before that I am doing the Zero to Hero 30 day challenge. I’m beginning to wonder if the 30 days will turn out to be a year long process. I’ve now finished posting a new theme and giving myself a new name. It took forever. I’m waffling on it (and may change again if my brilliantly creative niece comes up with something better) but am going with what Gilbert says here:

These bloggers with their catchy names inspired me when I first started renaming.

The Book Addict

Witty or Not, Here I Come

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She’s a Maineiac

I attempted to find my own name by mind mapping, muttering to myself, scribbling in my journal and annoying my teen by asking for his suggestions. My circles fell back on each other because I’m not writing about running specifically or about writing (although I’ve written much about both lately). Instead I’m writing pieces from my life in hopes of connecting with readers who might later like to read my published works. It feels like a crazy idea (writing in general, that is), but I can’t stop myself and as a woman I admire said:

“Whatever you’re meant to do, do it now. The conditions are always impossible.”
― Doris Lessing

Here was my thinking behind the name and the theme that I picked to go with it:

I once read (but cannot now find) a quote from Buddhism that urges you to understand that you have already reached enlightenment and, at the very same time, you need to practice like your hair’s on fire.

The longer I plug away at writing, the more I realize that I need to apply the same feeling to this practice. I am already a writer. And I need to practice like my hair is on fire because I urgently need to get better. The older I get, the more I notice how quickly life flutters by me. If you want a longer more eloquent explanation, here is a link to a Shambala Sun article I found while searching for the original quote. It’s got the fire but not the enlightenment already idea.

Plus, I have been messing with my hairstyle lately, so the bit about hair in my name feels appropriate to my life as it is now. (Don’t worry. I’m not planning to change to flaming red. Yet. Maybe in my 60’s.)

Writing to slow down and warm up to life

My tag line has to do with a Carly Simon song from my long ago days listening to KOMO radio with Larry Nelson as my parents drove me around.

In “The Stuff that Dreams are Made Of” Simon croons to a woman who longs for more pizzazz in her marriage. Simon tells her to open her eyes and see the beauty of the marriage she’s in at the moment.

In case you haven’t heard that song or it is sitting back where you don’t remember it, here’s a clip. It’s sappy. Be warned. You probably need only a few seconds to get the feel or jog your memories if you also listened to your parents’ radio station.

In my best writing moments, when I get myself to my page and type out those words, I am able to see the joy in my writing life right now. Without a book deal or Amazon numbers or Goodreads reviews or even enough writing income to got a 1066 for Uncle Sam last Thursday when I did my taxes. The slow and steady fire. Thanks, Carly. And thanks to the lady I’ve never met with the fiery red hair on Pinterest. You made my blogging day.