Friday, January 31, 2014

Fridays

There's something about Friday nights.  Herself isn't quite sure what that something is, exactly.  It's something tricky, something nebulous, something nameless and colorless and ever-so-slightly disconcerting.

Normally Herself enjoys a fair amount of solitude.  Every other evening of the week, if Beloved Husband is traveling or working late or out at a function, she's quite comfortable closing up the house and going upstairs by herself.  Not a problem.  She never begrudges him being out -- he does what he needs to do, and she does what needs to be done, as always.

Friday nights without adult company, though, are Very Difficult Indeed.

Why Friday?  She does not know.  She doesn't talk about the something about Fridays, because it is so inexplicable, and so seemingly inconsequential, that it sounds nearly ridiculous to try to describe the deep-rooted unease that appears on those nights.

One of the reasons Herself took up sparring in taekwondo was because there was a Friday evening sparring class.  It occupied the time perfectly, took Herself out of the house long enough that she could avoid the cloud that would otherwise descend in the evening.  It was good.  Now that she's retired from taekwondo, though, the Friday disquiet creeps back. And it is even more enveloping than ever.

Nights such as tonight, Herself is especially grateful for company on a Friday.

Such a blessing.

Amen.



Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Tamed

Les hommes ont oublié cette vérité, dit le renard. Mais tu ne dois pas l’oublier. Tu deviens responsable pour toujours de ce que tu as apprivoisé. - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Le Petit Prince

Je n'ai pas l'intention de apprivoiser les autres, mais ils sont devenus apprivoisés, et maintenant je suis responsable. J'espère seulement que je suis capable de prendre soin d'eux tous.

Une question demeure: ai-je été apprivoisé?

The Little Prince, his rose and the fox were found at 3polkadots.com, here.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

So Much Noise

He began to speak. His voice was soft, and the words were in no tongue she had ever heard. The sound of them came into her heart like rain falling. She grew still to listen. - Ursula K. Le Guin, The Tombs of Atuan

Some days, all the little sounds chafe and grate:  the leaf-blower in a neighbor's yard; the squeak of the chair, the rattle of something in the car, the ka-klonk of the washing machine switching gears. The protective barking of Tiny Dog, so shrill.  Traffic. Ticking of clocks.  Hum of the oven fan.  The mundane eating noises:  chewing, swallowing, slurping, gulping -- those are the worst, an unintended unpleasant unpleasant noise like nails on the chalkboard of the eardrum.  Shudder.

We would love to hear solely the subtler sounds of nature - a light rain, birds in the trees, murmur of a brook.   And quiet voices, not asking questions, not needing answers, but instead, providing thoughts and stories like a warm soothing blanket of words.  We could just listen.  That would be lovely. 

His voice was cloves and nightingales, it took us to spice markets in the Celebs, we drifted with him on a houseboat beyond the Coral Sea. We were like cobras following a reed flute. - Janet Fitch, White Oleander

Photograph copyright 2012, 2014, Mediocria Firma. Used with gratitude.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Bathtime

Tiny Dog was a tad stinky, and so, she was washed.

(Gloves were worn to protect Herself's chapped winter skin. There's no doubt the gloves would be completely ineffectual against Tiny Dog dentition.  Fortunately, Tiny Dog was more a-tremble than bitey.)

All clean.


Saturday, January 25, 2014

Beannacht

On the day when
The weight deadens
On your shoulders
And you stumble,
May the clay dance
To balance you.

And when your eyes
Freeze behind
The grey window
And the ghost of loss
Gets into you,
May a flock of colours,
Indigo, red, green
And azure blue,
Come to awaken in you
A meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
In the currach of thought
And a stain of ocean
Blackens beneath you,
May there come across the waters
A path of yellow moonlight
To bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
May the clarity of light be yours,
May the fluency of the ocean be yours,
May the protection of the ancestors be yours.

And so may a slow
Wind work these words
Of love around you,
An invisible cloak
To mind your life.


-- John O'Donohue

Photograph copyright 2012, 2014, Mediocria Firma. Used with gratitude.

Friday, January 24, 2014

A few words

Herself is working on her book -- a wee bit at a time -- once more. 

I know nothing in the world that has as much power as a word. Sometimes I write one, and I look at it, until it begins to shine.
 ― Emily Dickinson

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Le Serpent

'Où sont les hommes ?' reprit enfin le petit prince. 'On est un peu seul dans le désert.'
'On est seul aussi chez les hommes', dit le serpent.


- Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Le Petit Prince

Baby rattlesnake.  Photo taken in October, 2011, in City of Rocks State Park, NM

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Sit With Me

Sometimes, the best way to help someone is just to be near them. ― Veronica Roth, Divergent


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Leo

Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight,
At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more,
When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death,
And when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.


― C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Photograph copyright 2014, Mediocria Firma. Used with gratitude.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Avis in manu

Once I filled my hand with mist.
Then I opened it and lo, the mist was a worm.
And I closed and opened my hand again, and behold there was a bird.
And again I closed and opened my hand, and in its hollow stood a man with a sad face, turned upward.
And again I closed my hand, and when I opened it there was naught but mist.
But I heard a song of exceeding sweetness.
- Kahlil Gibran, Sand and Foam

What a very fine mustachioed bird.
Photograph copyright 2014, Mediocria Firma. Used with gratitude.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Zoo

We visited the zoo yesterday.  The weather was lovely, the animals were out and in fine form, and everyone was cheerful and most pleasant company.  It was Good, indeed.

The delightful prairie dog.
Photograph copyright 2014, Mediocria Firma. Used with gratitude.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Flora

"You must be an angel since you care for flowers.” ― Victor Hugo


Thursday, January 16, 2014

That's A Wee Bit Pricey

Over the holidays, Offspring the First asked to visit the ginormous beauty supply store while she and Herself were out running errands.  So off they went.  Such an intimidating place, full of approximately eight bazillion products in thousands of shades and scents, many with purposes that were unknown or incomprehensible to Herself. She'd rather visit an automobile parts store; she has a greater chance of understanding the bits and pieces there.

One of the most perplexing items: the $50 lipstick. Why so much? Is it made from unicorn tears?  Does the color come from flower petals crushed under the heels of fairies?  Is it guaranteed to make one's mouth look inescapably alluring? Will it bring fortune and fame?  Or inspire kisses by the wealthy and fabulous?  And who purchases such an item?

The box says it all:  The Lipstick Queen.



Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Friendzone

Those who cannot conceive Friendship as a substantive love but only as a disguise or elaboration of Eros betray the fact that they have never had a Friend. - C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves

There have been several interesting conversations lately in the household regarding the definition of the term, "friendzone," and the circumstances under which which the term is employed.  Offspring the Second and Offspring the Third (just recently having left high school and are currently plowing through the first year of high school, respectively) have provided a fair amount of insight.  Herself is still slightly perplexed.

As best we understand it, the "Friendzone" is a self-categorization, usually by a boy or a man, with regard to a desired relationship with a girl or woman of interest.  (We'll use 'guy' and 'girl' here for convenience, since that is a more comfortable nomenclature for individuals in the age group that employs the term, though we recognize that the words may stretched to encompass older individuals as well.)  Typically, the scenario unfolds as follows:  a guy is interested in a girl in a romantic- or sexually-attraction-based way; the girl in question responds to attention bestowed upon her by the guy in a manner that emphasizes that she is not similarly interested in the guy -- such as, for example, by telling the guy that they should be 'just friends', or, more subtly, telling him what a 'good friend' he is; and based upon his thwarted overtures, the guy proclaims that he has been relegated to the Friendzone.  His male friends groan in sympathy.

We certainly understand that it can be rather soul-crushing when one is informed that a potential love interest does not share the same degree of attraction.  It's impossible not to take that personally.  Why is he/she not similarly interested? What's wrong with me? Did I do or say something to repel him/her?  Is it just the way I am that is somehow unattractive? Even knowing -- as we eventually, painfully learn (usually after years and years of adulthood) -- that the mysteries and foibles of the human heart cannot explain why one person yearns, unreciprocated, after another, we still are hurt, angry, defensive. It is difficult.

Yet the question remains:  why is the Friendzone such a terrible place?  We propose that the Friendzone should be renamed.  Let us call it instead, the "unrequited love zone."  For to use the term "Friendzone" denigrates the word "friend," in the same manner as the word "just" does in the phrase, "just a friend."  We know that the phrase, "just a friend," is typically used to emphasize that there is no romantic entanglement between a guy and a girl. Still, to tack "just" in front of "friend," or to describe a relationship as being in a "friend zone", diminishes the value of the word "friend" itself.  A friend -- regardless of gender -- is a magnificent thing, indeed.

Herself could use thousands and thousands of her own words to describe a friend.  Instead, let us borrow a few fine quotes that answer our questions nicely:

What is a friend?

A friend is one with whom you are comfortable,
to whom you are loyal,
through whom you are blessed,
and for whom you are grateful. 

-- William Arthur Ward 

What happens when you make a friend?

No birth certificate is issued when friendship is born. There is nothing tangible. There is just a feeling that your life is different and that your capacity to love and care has miraculously been enlarged without any effort on your part. It's like having a tiny apartment and somebody moves in with you. But instead of becoming cramped and crowded, the space expands, and you discover rooms you never knew you had until your friend moved in with you. -- Steve Tesich

What does a friend do? 

Close friends contribute to our personal growth. They also contribute to our personal pleasure, making the music sound sweeter, the wine taste richer, the laughter ring louder because they are there. -- Judith Viorst

Why have a friend? 

Friendship is one of the sweetest joys of life. Many might have failed beneath the bitterness of their trial had they not found a friend. -- Charles Spurgeon

In this perpetually self-centered world, a genuine friend is a precious and rare person, to be treasured accordingly.  

We suspect that the problem with the term Friendzone ultimately lies in the relationship between the genders.  The eternal question:  can a man and a woman be friends?  

Herself thinks back to college: on the rare occasion when a guy expressed a romantic interest in her, if she did not reciprocate that sentiment, no matter how much she tried to be amiable afterwards, the guy displayed complete disinterest in having any interaction beyond the minimal amount required by social necessity.  It was a perplexing state of affairs, an all-or-nothing attitude that left Herself wondering whether boys thought a girl had any value beyond date-worthiness (and, in bitter and plain-thinking moments, whether a girl had any value beyond the physical).  The evidence pointed to a resounding "no."  

Beloved Husband was the only man Herself ever encountered in college who, despite Herself's state of unavailability for dating when they first met, nevertheless made conversation with her, invited her to go watch a play in which he had a bit part, and generally behaved as though Herself was an individual with whom it was worth talking or spending a bit of time in a platonic manner.  This quality of his was one (of the many) that Herself found to be extraordinary and wonderful:  she felt that she had value as a person, value beyond the physical.  Because she knew that he would never ask more of her physically than she was willing to deliver, she felt safe with him.  It was a rare, marvelous sensation. Though their relationship clearly blossomed into romantic love later, it was rooted in the core of safety and personhood-value that Herself found in their friendship -- a friendship that continues unabated to this very day.

It was not until some two decades later that Herself encountered another man who displays a similar kind of trustworthiness:  her Cherished Friend.  As Herself developed the friendship with her Cherished Friend, though, she sadly discovered that it was not only the college boys of yore who seemed to hold the belief that guys and girls could not be friends.  Several of her peers couldn't believe that she and her Cherished Friend have a platonic relationship -- or rather, her peers believed far too easily when rumors suggested that there was more than a platonic relationship. There were whispers of infidelity regarding Herself, quiet behind-her-back falsehoods to which she could not respond. In the minds of those who perpetuated the untruths, silence would be seen as confession, and any objection would be treated akin to "the lady doth protest too much, methinks" of Hamlet.  Damned if she denied, and damned if she didn't. 

Herself learned recently in passing during a conversation with one of the Offspring, that the falsehoods were also passed down to children of her peers, and that one of them raised the issue at one point with that Offspring.  Though that Offspring didn't seem particularly bothered, it galls Herself tremendously that one (or more) of her Offspring was subjected to the rumors.  While Herself is reasonably certain that no one specifically stated to them, "Your mother's a whore," she is enraged that her Offspring should have been exposed to such insinuations, and that they may have at some point felt the powerlessness of trying to refute the lies.  Her only consolation is that she knows that the people most important to her know she is faithful.  She tries to let the matter stay in the past where it belongs, and for the most part, she succeeds.  Every now and then, though, it saddens and angers her anew, for that insinuation of her being "more than just friends" with her Cherished Friend, belittles the value of the friendship - a value is, in fact, incalculable. 

As we contemplate the Friendzone, we are reminded again of the precarious dance that is the relationship between the sexes.  It is eternally complex, perpetually confusing. If we can momentarily look beyond the physical, though, we may find that we are able to grow a unique and priceless connection:  a friendship.  Not "just" a friend, but a Friend.  A human being who enhances the quality of our lives immeasurably.  Fortunate are those who can find such a person. 

We are all travelers in the wilderness of this world, and the best that we find in our travels is an honest friend. - Robert Louis Stevenson




Monday, January 13, 2014

Cherry

Ah, January.
Heart of the winter doldrums -
Dry, lifeless desert.

Sun shines and breeze blows -
When will the blossoms appear?
Anticipation....

I want 
To do with you what spring does with the cherry trees.
― Pablo Neruda, Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair

These blossoms were found at beeinformed.org, here

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Where's The Instruction Book?

You will go through your life thinking there was a day in second grade that you must have missed, when the grown-ups came in and explained everything important to the other kids. They said: “Look, you’re human, you’re going to feel isolated and afraid a lot of the time, and have bad self-esteem, and feel uniquely ruined, but here is the magic phrase that will take this feeling away. It will be like a feather that will lift you out of the fear and self-consciousness every single time, all through your life.” And then they told the children who were there that day the magic phrase that everyone else in the world knows about and uses when feeling blue, which only you don’t know, because you were home sick the day the grown-ups told the children the way the whole world works.

But there was not such a day in school. No one got the instructions. That is the secret of life. Everyone is flailing around, winging it most of the time, trying to find the way out, or through, or up, without a map. This lack of instruction manual is how most people develop compassion, and how they figure out to show up, care, help and serve, as the only way of filling up and being free. 

- Anne Lamott, Some Assembly Required


Friday, January 10, 2014

Time To Be Quiet

The hardest part about mourning is that the one who is lost is so often the one who would have brought the most solace to the aching heart.

Nobody wants to hear you cry about the grief inside your bones. 
― Andrea Gibson, The Madness Vase


Thursday, January 9, 2014

Pink Pile

Herself is weeding the files -- a long-overdue (and much dreaded) task.  The file cabinet she tackled yesterday had, among other things, the pet files.  Old printouts from veterinary care for guinea pigs long expired; the folder that accompanied ottoman-shaped dog when he was adopted; and a bazillion pink receipts for Thorbert and Daisy's care.  I suppose there's no reason to keep those now.

They were worth every penny.




Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Change of Routine

Once upon a time, when Herself got up in the middle of the night, she would do so quietly lest she disturb the big dogs.  Thorbert was easily awoken; he always seemed to feel that it would be a good idea to go outside if Herself was already up, and Herself tried to avoid late-night trips down the stairs and into the backyard.  After Thorbert's passing, Herself would nevertheless still tiptoe so that she would not startle hard-of-hearing Daisy.  Daisy was old and tired and her bones would ache; Herself tried very hard to ensure that Daisy could remain slumbering and at ease momentarily from her pains. 

Now Herself need not be so tentative.  The space at her feet, occupied so long by Thorbert (and on occasion by Daisy), is now a void into which Herself can sadly stretch out to full length.  The couch at the foot of the bed looks sadly vacant in the dark without Daisy, all four paws pointed haphazardly at the ceiling, grumbling and sighing in her sleep. There is no black and white dog to be found anywhere. 

When Herself goes downstairs in the morning, she need not let any dogs out - Tiny Dog sleeps with Offspring the Third, and does not appear until later.  The large water bowl is noticeably absent from its former spots in the kitchen. The dishwasher need not be protected from canine licking.  No pills need be hidden in peanut butter for canine administration. The couches are bare.  Herself pauses in between tasks to check and see if any dogs need come in from outside, before she remembers that she need not do so anymore.  Ingrained habits. 

Cooking has lost a bit of joy, for there is no big dog to whom to give a carrot or a slice of apple or a bit of meat.  Tiny Dog does her best to stand near and look interested in case a morsel falls, but her diminutive form is insufficient to be a good food preparation companion. At bedtime, there is no need for one last trip outside, no whistling or calling for a big dog to join us going up the stairs.  No jostling for bed space.  No ottoman-shaped dog attempting to co-opt Beloved Husband's pillow.  No giant dog wanting to burrow under the covers. Their company is so very noticeably absent. 

Daisy and Thorbert provided warm furry doses of comfort throughout the day.  So very soothing.  Where shall we find solace now? 




Monday, January 6, 2014

Stately? Silly.

A picture from Daisy's youth.

She looked so stately, so reserved and regal - you'd never know that she was clumsy and silly and exuberant.

If she was excited or pleased, she'd run and get one of her many squeaky toys and bring it to show you.

She loved to play fetch with a tennis ball.

She once snuck half a bowlful of apples from the table, carrying them away one by one to consume gleefully in private. Apples were her favorites.

She enjoyed biting at the spray from the hose. Water -- except in the form of a bath -- was always good.

If she was embarrassed or perplexed, she'd spin in circles and try to catch her tail. A 70-pound whirling tail-chaser was always guaranteed to put a smile on your face.

Good dog, Daisy.


Sunday, January 5, 2014

Forgotten and Remembered

Herself speaks.

It is harder to write about Daisy than it was to write about Thorbert. It is difficult, with Offspring and Beloved Husband experiencing their own bereavement in such close proximity, to give full rein to my own mourning.  My grief needs to gallop in the open, to trip over the rocks and be scratched by thorns -- to run and run and run until it is soothed by sweat and blood and tears.  Then peace and a quiet emptiness can descend and fill the void.  Such naked emotion, though, is not for the Offspring (or even for Beloved Husband) to witness.  Some sorrow must be experienced alone.

When we returned from the veterinarian's office yesterday, Beloved Husband spent some time sorting through old pictures from when Daisy was a pup.  A mere thirteen years ago - and yet an eternity.  I had forgotten how young the Offspring were, how young Beloved Husband was, and (I suppose) how young I was as well.  The loss of Daisy is the loss of a string connecting us to those times.  The thread is broken, the Offspring are nearly grown and beginning to disperse into their own lives, and we are left afloat, unanchored.

Sad.

Tender-hearted Offspring the Third offered his own words on his Facebook page in honor of Daisy.  I present them here for you. I cannot bear to write such words of my own yet, but perhaps I need not at this time, for his are just right.

This is Daisy. For 13 years, she has barked at people, stolen food off the table, knocked stuff over with her tail, snapped at everyone, defended the house, carried dog toys around when she was in trouble, and was a general nuisance for herentire lifetime. Today, she can do all that stuff in the dog park in the sky. Rest in peace, Daisy. We will always miss you and no dog could ever take your place. I will miss all those times when I cried into your shoulder after something bad happened, I will miss falling asleep on your tummy, I will miss you being excited when I came home from school every single day, no matter what. Godspeed, and never forget us.

Daisy and Offspring The Third, both as pups

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Godspeed, Big Wonderful Dog

We turn the blog over to Herself today.

Ancient And Decrepit Dog was suffering. The new medication, although strong, did not alleviate her discomfort.  She could not rest.  She was alert, tense, hunched.  She whined. She waited, looking and listening for things we could not see or hear.   It became clear that today was Now.

You are at rest now, Daisy.  You can once more chase your tail and roll about on the floor without pain.  You can lie in the sun for hours.  You can slurp gallons of water whenever you like, and snap with glee at the spray from the hose again.  You can have an orchard of apples to consume, and an enormous pile of squeaky toys to squeak.  The angels will play ball with you whenever you would like. Eternal joy is yours.

Godspeed, Daisy. You were such a wonderful dog -- alert, cheerful, giant tail always thumping, your face always smiling.  We were so blessed to have you as part of our family for so long. Thank you for your time with us.


Thursday, January 2, 2014

Do You Hear What I Hear?

We have a prescription for strong pain medication for Ancient And Decrepit Dog. It's a matter of days or weeks now, depending on how much relief she gets from the new drugs.  We shall see how it goes.

Last night, and periodically during the day today, she has looked up, expectant.  She appears to be listening.  Since she's almost completely deaf, it's unlikely she actually hears anything.

Or does she?

For reasons unknown, I have the odd impression that she is listening for ottoman-shaped dog.  She always paid attention when he barked, and it was only after he was gone that we realized how little she could hear by herself. He did pave the way over The Bridge for her - perhaps he's giving her guidance now.  I am sure she would be happy to see him.

It seems silly to write it out.  And I'm not sure it's comforting to me, since it reminds me afresh of our loss of ottoman-shaped dog.  Still, if there is any solace to be gained, it is in knowing that there's that chance, however infinitesimal, that it might, in fact, be true.

I want to believe.  My faith is absent.  Yet perhaps Daisy's is strong, and she understands that she will be with Thorbert again soon.


In The Wee Hours

Stairs - too tricky now.
We stay together downstairs
On the sofa-bed

Like rough sandpaper
Her paw pads, pressed against me,
Warm upon my skin

She woofs quietly
I feel her muscles twitching
Chasing dream squirrels

Ancient, decrepit
Shedding, coughing, well-loved dog
Rest easy, Daisy.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Come To The Table

A quandary to contemplate:  when a child has reached the age of majority, what can one *require* him or her to do?  One can certainly request completion of small tasks -- please empty the dishwasher, please drag the trash cans out to the curb -- that don't interfere with college schoolwork.  One can also reasonably expect attendance at significant family functions such as Christmas Eve festivities or birthday-cake-and-candle occasions.  But what of ordinary every-day moments:  can one insist that adult Offspring eat dinner with others in the family?

Well, one can insist.  But should one do so?

Herself struggles with this question.  

She wants to ensure that they have the sense of autonomy that comes with a certain age and with attending college.  She understands that the sleeping and food-related habits of college students can be sporadic and dissimilar from regular adult schedules. Still, she would like very much if they would participate a bit more in the regular activities of the household, such as by appearing in the kitchen when they are told that food is available, and sitting for a bit with the rest of the family.  That doesn't often happen, though.  

Should she insist?  Is she doing them a disservice by not demanding their presence?  If she does require attendance, what degree of irritation or resentment will come to the table concurrently? What is to be learned? And at what cost?  Family harmony appears to be better preserved by being flexible and inviting, rather than insistent. Yet is this a missed opportunity to teach the lesson that one must show up and get along, however briefly, because that is part of Life?

Herself currently attempts a method of information-and-enticement:  "We are going to eat grilled cow and then watch a Manly Action Movie.  Your company would be a welcome addition, though not a mandatory one."  And she hopes, and waits.

Come to the table, Offspring.  I will not pepper you with questions, but will enjoy your company and your wit.  Time is fleeting and life is short, and these mundane moments of communal meals build small memories onto which I will hold when, so soon, you are living your own life elsewhere. 


Beginnings

May Light always surround you;
Hope kindle and rebound you.
May your Hurts turn to Healing;
Your Heart embrace Feeling.
May Wounds become Wisdom;
Every Kindness a Prism.
May Laughter infect you;
Your Passion resurrect you.
May Goodness inspire
your Deepest Desires.
Through all that you Reach For,
May your arms Never Tire. 

― D. Simone

Picture copyright 2012, 2013, Mediocria Firma. Used with gratitude.