Sunday, October 7, 2012
With the dog, we are dealing with an instinct very close to man (or woman in my case). The dog as guide to everywhere in this and the other world in mythology certainly gives dog instinct an unerring flair. But, however much we love them, many of us also suspect that in the case of the actual dog, it mostly obeys its own inner urges. (My husband rubs turkey fat on his hands as part of his demonstration of this theory.) Yet, it is just this illogical, playful, following of their own bliss that makes our dogs vital centers of our lives.
My own dog has been with me for almost thirteen years and never deviates too far from her own pattern and, being a good watchdog, she makes sure I don’t deviate too far from my own authenticity. That’s our deal—she shows me how to live in the moment, how to be aware of all that surrounds me, and how to express warm concern for my own well-being. We laugh about that a lot.
Over the years my canine friend has not only lived up to all the smarmy hype one hears about dogs (you’ve heard it all), but she has surpassed it so many times that, in short, I owe her my very life and I intend to repay her any way that I can.
So now, as she and I are both aging and entering new phases of our journeys, I have become her physical guide and she has deepend my spirit even more. Our once brisk, invigorating walks have evolved into a snail’s pace as she tries to get her bearings by smell alone; our morning forays have turned into long, slow, and cautious pokings around, in which she much prefers to be on leash in fear of getting lost. When getting into the car or up the steps, she confidently places her front feet on the uprise but waits patiently for me to lift her hind legs. My life, in tune with hers, has become very, very slow. Of course, she knows instinctively that is what I need most at this time, a quieting of the mind. And as always she obliges me, mirrors me, and gives me exactly what I need to heal.
Sunday, September 30, 2012
My boat strikes something deep.
At first sounds of silence, waves.
Nothing has happened;
Or perhaps everything has happened
And I am sitting in my new life.
In my reading this week I came upon this little quote by Rumi and was visited again by something not so little that happened to me over twenty years ago. It was October and my husband and I had just arrived in San Francisco following a Napa wine trip; it was our first time in the city by the bay and we were eager to explore. After parking our rental car in an electrically powered garage and checking in at our inn on Union Street, we immediately headed down to the Marina district late on this Tuesday afternoon. Animal lovers that we are, the first thing we did was go to the pier to look at the seals sleeping on the docks. As we stood there we thought it peculiar that the seals began sitting up one by one and looking up at the sky; and then suddenly it felt like a big wave hit the dock and water lapped up onto our shoes. At first we were nonplussed, but then the French tourists in front of us, who had known no English when we had spoken to them a few moments before, began running and shouting “Fucking earthquake! Fucking earthquake!” We were stunned. It felt like only a few seconds had gone by and nothing around us seemed to be changed; we had not even been knocked off balance. Truly, what was all the fuss about?
So, here’s what really happened:
- The property damage price tag for the quake was over $5.9 Billion.
An estimated 3,757 people were injured and there were 67 reported fatalities.
- The Goodyear blimp, present for the World Series game, was pressed into service providing aerial shots of the damage.
- The earthquake is sometimes referred to as the World Series quake, and the interrupted third game of the series was postponed for 10 days.
- The actual quake was broadcast on a live television feed.
- This earthquake lasted 15 seconds at a magnitude of 6.9.
- Although most of the damage occurred in San Francisco, Oakland and Santa Cruz, damage was reported in many other locations in the region, including: Hayward, San Mateo,Monterey and Boulder Creek.
- Over 18,300 homes and 2,575 businesses were reported damaged.
- The quake left an estimated 12,000 people homeless.
- Santa Cruz County’s Forest of Nisene Marks State Park was the epicenter of the quake.
While this was called “The San Francisco Earthquake” by the media, the Santa Cruz area also sustained much damage and required a great deal of volunteer manpower to recover.
As for me and my husband, we were stranded without food or hot water for several days, our car was in the electrically powered garage and there was no power to open the door, the airport was closed, and the owners of our inn flew the coop. But we eventually got out and flew home safely. We had lost nothing but the minute bit of innocence we had left at our age.
Sometimes in our lives the unexpected happens, things startle us and we are shaken to our core. We may go to great lengths to recover and some of us never do. Then there are times when monumental things happen and they just do not register; we feel puzzled but strangely calm. An example here may be the death of an elderly parent who has been sick for a long time; it comes as no surprise and is partly a relief so it does not register as the monumental event that it actually is. But then one day, or on many days, we wake up to the shock of what really happened and we realize we are sitting right smack in the middle of our new lives.
Sunday, September 23, 2012
This print by artist Carol Mothner (appropriately titled “Breakfast”) reminds me of the nature of cats and how that has been playing out in my life of late. Two years ago my husband and I were catless with no intention of bringing those angy cat moods into our lives. Afterall, we had the whole ‘dog by the hearth’ thing with our beloved Lab and felt no need to stir things up. But right before Christmas we found a tiny stray feline on our screened in porch curled up against the hunger and the cold. Of course I fed her and eventually she worked herself into our home; after a short while she was also in our hearts and there was no going back. I know you know what I mean.
This cat was a scrapper and a mouser and had a snaggle tooth that was always visible even when her mouth was closed. She weighed three pounds when she came to us and was almost seven years old according to the vet who noticed the teeth. During the two years we cared for her, she was an avid hunter and torture monster that stuffed headless chipmunks down the shower drain; she got stuck up a tree and my husband rescued her; she got locked in a neighbor’s garage for ten days until I finally found her back at three pounds; we would be working in the home office and see her walking on the roof line of our house; she jumped out of windows, in through windows, and as little as she was, she feared nothing. This crafty hunter walked by herself and surrendered nothing. No one could de-cat this cat nor would we ever consider trying.
One night she did not come home—but she had done this before. I found her two days later curled up in a ball in the rain on the porch of an empty house. She did not know me; I had to chase her in order to catch her and then I had to lock her in the house. She slept for days. We took her to the vet and they gave her antibiotics but it was no use; she succumbed to a feline virus similar to AIDS. Her past life would be indicative of such a fate.
Cats have a way of getting to us, of finding us where we live, and even though this cat never surrendered nor lived with us entirely, we were devastated. Our love for her was as fierce as her nature. She set the terms and we always agreed. Inveterately curious, she left no stone unturned. We can still hear her little cat feet at night and see her full moon eyes and secret smiles. Just ask Alice.
And so…as I reflect on the cat I am reminded of how she can show us the value of spontaneous, unpredictable play and how to hunt in the darker landscapes for the hidden parts of ourselves. Then, maybe, we can walk by ourselves, unapologetically, and carry out our true purpose in the world.