Shifting the Load

Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash

I walked into the closet this morning to hang hubby’s dry-cleaned shirts and sighed in dismay, as I usually do. Our closet is a nice size and though it is not all styled-out and custom-beautiful as in, say California Closets, it is one of the better closets we have had to share during our twenty-plus years together.  It’s organized well enough that there is a clear demarcation line; my side and his side.

His side?  It’s always in a certain state of….well….messiness. Not that I am a neat freak by any stretch. Point in fact; at this very moment there is a visible layer of dust on the coffee table in the living room.   Still, all things considered, the disarray is fairly mild.  It could be loads worse. 

And there is that word.

Loads

This is the reason for my deep sigh, which is (shamefully) sometimes accompanied by an expletive (or two) when I am in the closet.

I’m working on it folks.

Loads.  As in loads of laundry.

Maybe it’s because my knees are particularly cranky today or I’m trying to fight an infection… but today was an expletive day; only one (see, progress!).

“Shit! Again?”

I just did a mountain of laundry two days ago!  How is it possible that his basket is completely overflowing… again!  Moreover, how is it that one man could produce so much laundry on a weekly basis?!  I walk over to my side of the closet.  Peering inside my pretty little laundry basket I count four items in it.

I all but growl with certain annoyance because, well…I loathe doing laundry. 

I go back and grab my husband’s laundry basket and slowly walk down the stairs wincing in pain as my right knee practically shouts its displeasure over trying out a new workout yesterday; eight minutes of jumping rope.

As I angrily stuff clothes into the washing machine with far too much of a edge to my breath I realize two things:

Firstly, I could be on hands and knees washing clothes in a bucket…or a river or dirty lake ….and/or hanging my personal items high from a tangle of wires from outside the window of my ramshackle-of-a-room located on the fifth story of a dilapidated building that often has no electricity…

and, secondly, but for the Grace of God, I could be sans husband, which naturally signifies that my laundry loads would be reduced by more than half. 

That flash of realization causes me to stop for a nano second.   I then feel a perceptible shift within me which causes me to relax.  My jaw softens and my breath does too.  I simply let go of the load that was building up inside me–the one that nearly had me cursing out aloud at my husband who, at that very moment, working from home, was on a conference call.  He’s busting his tail and I’m belly-aching?!

Human….but not admirable.

Gently now–as if caressing a baby–I continue to load clothes into the washer.  I mindfully reach for the bottle of  detergent and even take a moment to breathe in the lovely fresh linen scent.

So yeah.  I passionately dislike the never-ending, often daunting, routine of laundry.  But the alternative(s)–real and imagined are infinitely more frightening.  I’m not saying I’ll whistle while I fold mountains of laundry but what I do know is that with every load,  I’ll breathe in gratitude that I still am lucky enough to have this gem of a guy in my life.

There is bliss in that!

 

 

Say A Little Prayer

“You pray in your distress and in your need; would that you might pray also in the fullness of your joy and in your days of abundance.”  ~ Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

Photo by Mika Luoma on Unsplash

It’s National Prayer Day. I found out only this morning….early….whilst perusing the news on my iPad over my first cup of espresso. Alexa did not inform, which comes as no surprise really. It’s not PC to talk about prayer these days. It’s so unfortunate, I think. There is much value in this simple communication tool between you and God…a Higher Power…or whatever label you want to attach to that which is Infinite Spirit…a Universal Life force that is so much greater than ourselves.

Though I was berated on more than one occasion by my ex-husband because I did not know the Bible from cover to cover (and most likely never will) prayer (IMHO) need not be strictly associated with scripture or religious dogma. Somehow, in my ex-husbands’ eyes this made me less than a spiritual being. Poppycock of course. Nothing could be further from the truth. I consider myself a deeply spiritual soul and my journey on the spiritual path is ever evolving. And yes, prayer is a part of my daily life (and my own various mantras too). My prayers can be as simple as “Please Lord, guide, guard and protect my family,” or my own expressions of love and gratitude for the food that nourishes me, the roof that covers my head, melodies that soothe my soul, or the beauty of the world around me. And, not a day goes by that I don’t pray for more peace and loving kindness all across the world.

Though I was confirmed Catholic I am far from the perfect example of a practicing Catholic. I’ve been known to joke that I practice my own brand of Catholicism, an à la cart practice. Still, I’ll often recite the “Hail Mary” and the “Our Father” when I’m feeling particularly low and in need of a solace that somehow nothing else fills. And yes, most of the time my heart grows lighter, a burden lifted, if only for a moment.

Finally, most nights as my head hits the pillow I silently recite a brief variation of The Children’s Bedtime prayer by Henry Johnstone. It’s what I shared with my children each night when they were wee ones–a lifetime ago, tweaking it for, well obvious reasons; I didn’t want them falling asleep with the thought of death on their young minds.

My version: Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep…now, tomorrow and always. I love my mamma, my daddy, my brother, my auntie….(etc. etc. etc..)…and, all the people in the world. ~ Amen

The Poodle has pulled himself up from his place on the sofa with an old man groan (literally). Ah…yes. He’s telling me it’s time for his bedtime walk. A glance at the clock confirms his expectation. I can see that the night is getting away from me so I won’t prattle on about this whole prayer thing. It’s not for everyone though I wish it wasn’t so often viciously maligned by those who aren’t so inclined. But rest assured, as my head hits the pillow I’ll say a little prayer….for me, for all whom I hold dear, and for you too dear reader. That’s just how I roll.

There is, I believe, bliss in that.



Weeding Through…

Thought of the day: A man said to the Buddha, “I want happiness.” Buddha said: First remove “I”, that’s ego…then remove “want” that’s desire. See now, you are left with only happiness.

The Poodle sat in the driveway patiently waiting for his morning walk as I surveyed for the hundredth time this week my abysmal lawn (or lack thereof).  I could feel a slow boil of my blood as I looked at the sea of weeds, which was then followed by despair.  My Libran inclination towards aesthetic perfection (or as near as possible) is being seriously challenged. 

This mess of a yard is all too much….

I could, on this brisk spring morning, substitute a couple of words in this Buddha quote:

I want all the %$!# weeds in my yard to disappear.

I want a nice lawn.

Yes, dear reader….I see what I need to do….

 

 

Happiness is: A geranium bloom

Later, after our morning walk, I spent an hour or so raking and picking weeds. I decided that I needed music to keep my brain busy from blame and judgement. As I weeded and bagged yard debris to an eclectic mix of Baroque, Sting, Keith Urban, New Age and Gato Barbieri, I couldn’t help but chuckle out aloud: The mix of music genres was as eclectic as the variety of weeds in the yard.

Sigh.

I look at the bags of mulch piled high near the garage. I am seized by a moment of overwhelming fatigue. Still tired from spreading mulch the weekend before, I’m not sure I–nor my back–is up to the task of yet thirty more bags.

I could be doing a hundred other things right now, Even ironing sounds more inviting than hauling and spreading organic dirt.

But wait, says the voice in my head.

You’re outside on a perfectly lovely spring day. So stop your belly-aching and enjoy the fresh air and the sound of those wind chimes gently playing just for you….

Azalea perfection

So I don’t have grass, I’ve got a sea of weeds, and I’ve got a boatload of work to do (both in and out of this challenging house) but I do have color!

As I stand in the middle of my pathetic looking back yard I pull the earbuds out of my ears so that I can marvel in silence over my pots of geraniums and my two supremely healthy azaleas. As the sun peaks out from under a cloud and a gentle breeze tickles the Japanese maple, I spy a butterfly …the first I’ve seen this spring. Somehow watching the butterfly dance over a verbena flower lifts my fatigue and too the feeling of hopelessness over the state of the yard. I’ve just got to “weed through it” as it were…and It’s going to take time but all things worth the effort do.

Remove the “I”….remove the “want”….and happiness remains.

There is bliss in that. 🙂



Happy Pet Day

It’s National Pet Day so I couldn’t pass up an ever-so-brief homage to my poodle-love. He’ll be eleven in November so indeed, he is getting grayer and moving slower with a hitch in his giddy-up. And yet, he can hear me whisper “cheese” from a mile away (I seems) and when he sees a squirrel his limp suddenly disappears and he’s off with the speed of a Cheetah!  He is a bit more curmudgeonly too; just yesterday he snapped at me when I made him get out of the flower bed because he was trying to dig a hole to the next county over!  After a stern (but loving) rebuke from me and a time-out in his bed so that I could finish planting a few herbs I could tell he felt bad.  As I sat looking over the newspaper, he came to set his graying snout upon my thigh with “I’m sorry Mom” eyes.  

Swoon.

Oh, how he has brought so much joy to my life.  I still pinch myself after all these years….

He Chose Me!

I love you Brando.

p.s.  My boy….I know the time will come…as certain as the sun shines and the stars twinkle in the night sky…

Yet, I cannot imagine a life without you!  I will be a mess for certain….

Kind readers…I know I am not alone in that thought. You feel it too, N’est-ce Pas?  (He is a French poodle after all).

It goes without saying; Our pets enrich our lives in a thousand and one ways.  I’ve got to believe that when that Rainbow Bridge time does come, the unconditional love our beloved pets gave us, not matter what, will keep our hearts light with love and laughter as we hold their memories dear… through whatever life throws at us.  Besides, as Helen Keller said:

What we once enjoyed we can never lose.  All that we love deeply becomes a part of us.

There is always bliss in that.

 

The gray is showing and yes, he’s slowing….
Nearly 11 years ago, his first day home in Southern California
My Happy Boy
Guarding our “middle-earth” Alabama home

Meh to Spring? Nah…

Happy Spring

“Happy spring equinox,” I say cheerily to The Poodle as I get ready to walk him out the door. “The sun is shining and it’s gonna be a lovely walk.  Let’s make it a nice long one, around the lake,” I continue as I grab keys and insure I’ve got a poop bag or two.

“Alexa…what’s the temperature?”

“It’s 28 degrees,” was her reply.

“Oh for heaven’s sake…enough of this cold already!” I grumble as I switch to a warmer coat and don hat, gloves and search for my favorite scarf, a blue wool one that hubby says matches my eyes.

The Poodle sits patiently as I get myself together.  He knows the drill.  I look him over as I consider whether to subject him to his Pendleton coat.  I think he rather loathes it.   He’s still looking mighty goofy from his last grooming appointment– so goofy that I’d swear his eyes are pleading;  No photos on Facebook please!   His usual groomer–a lovely Asian woman who had the perfect touch with my boy– hurt her back late last year and now I hear she may not return to work.  A new gal has taken over and …well….she doesn’t have the touch.   I decide to forgo the coat which I’m certain makes my pooch happy.

To keep warm I started out fast, with The Poodle struggling to keep up.  It doesn’t take long into our walk down into the woods to realize that plan B would be in order.  Short walk it is.

As I walk without music on this occasion, my mind wanders… and wonders.

Still holding on to winter…

Some trees are starting to open to the perpetual promise of spring while other trees are late to the party with their brown, dry withered leaves from last year still stubbornly clinging to otherwise bare branches.  And how is it that they still cling after the long winter with plenty of days marked by fiercely strong, bitterly cold winds?

As we round a bend and head up a steep hill back into the housing area my eye catches something blue up in a tree.

Seriously? I say out aloud as I get closer and realize what it is. It’s a bag of dog poop that someone had to have literally thrown from higher up the hill. How is it that someone was this rude? Probably a kid walking their dog. I suppose I should be thankful that the poop was picked up (and I am) ….but still. The poop bag in the trees gets my thoughts on a negative roll. Inexplicably (or not) now I’m thinking of all the recent headlines.

My heart aches for New Zealand while my blood boils over the college admission scandal. And don’t get me started on AOC in D.C. nor Pelosi’s push to lower the voting age to sixteen. I’m no academic on teen brains but I think of my children when they were that age….not to mention all the neighbors’ kids back in the day…or even the teens at the swimming pool just last summer. Lord have mercy I seriously don’t want them voting for our next president! Adolescent brains undergo a crucial development spurt between the ages of 11 and 19. As one author, Sheryl Feinstein, Inside the Teenage Brain: Parenting a Work in Progress, puts it: “…Just as a teen may go through an awkward growth spurt, new cognitive skills and competencies may come in leaps and stutters.” Plainly, the rational part of a teen’s brain isn’t full developed until their early twenties. In the teen brain, the amygdala whose role in the brain is the processing of memory, decision-making and, importantly, emotional responses (such as fear, aggression, and anxiety) is more highly activated during heat-of-the moment situations. The teen’s pre-frontal cortex–the complex cognitive, rational part of the brain–isn’t ready to take control over emotional processing which explains why many teens do profoundly stupid and/or silly things.

Sigh. I suppose I shouldn’t get my knickers in a twist over what goes on in the world. This Too Shall Pass is my favorite mantra these days. And yes, adults do profoundly stupid and insane things too. Lunacy, in one form or another, has been around since time immemorial.

In teen-speak: apathetic, uninterested, or indifferent to the subject at hand

Meh. My senior brain is tired of (most) of it all. So much so that I’m distancing myself more and more from the news of the day. It’s such a tremendous drag on heart and soul. I’d much rather curl up with The Poodle and bury my head in a book.

Ah…but wait! Worry not. I can’t say I’m “Meh” to Spring! The promise of warm days ahead, flowers in full bloom and trees full of leaves makes me happy and thankful to bear witness to all that is good and beautiful.

There is bliss in that.

Mellow Monday

A view in the Woods

Winter continues in my neck of the woods. I won’t complain as we were spared the wintry mix of snow and sleet that had been the forecast over the weekend. However, I’ll readily admit that I am more than tired of gloves, hats and bulky coats. 

Even though I had on all the aforementioned, including a wool scarf, I grumbled during the first few minutes of my morning walk. A cold wind stung my cheeks as I headed into the woods with The Poodle. As we neared the top of the path that leads down into the woods to our two lakes The Poodle pulled, hard. Something in the air had sparked his entire body into keen attention. A soft growl followed by barking broke my focus on the music I was listening to.  The Poodle had his snout practically glued to the muddy path, sniffing like crazy, as he continued to pull.  “Heel,” I said as I looked all around and pulled back on his leash.

Please let it not be the woman with the two Labs, one black and the other yellow.

My boy is as friendly as can be with most dogs…and humans too. But it baffles me that he’ll go all-out Cujo when he sees those two. And it is just those two Labs; he’s happily cavorted with plenty of Labs over these last ten years.

Thankfully, the Labs are nowhere in sight. Perhaps it was a fox that had  him go all Tasmanian devil on me. It’s happened on numerous occasions during our walks in the woods. The first time it happened, just after we had moved to Northern Virginia, it scared me witless. The Poodle was agitated beyond belief, practically pulling my arm out of my socket. For the life of me I couldn’t see what was causing his melt-down. Images of being mauled by a bear (yes, apparently there are bears living in suburbia!) made my heart race as I all but sprinted out of the woods to “safety.” Yep folks….there’s “chicken” in my blood…..

Whoosh. It was over in a flash. The Poodle slowed, as if terribly disappointed, walking once again calmly at my side.  I stopped to pet him rubbing my hands over the length of his back.

“I don’t know what it was that got you in such a tizzy my love, but you are such a good boy.”  He stares at me intently with eyes that are milky with age. For a brief moment my heart is gripped with a certain sadness: my Poodle love will not be with me forever.

But we are here now…together came the thought, as if carried in on a feather.

So yes, the remainder of our walk had me centered inward more than usual.  I’ll attribute my lost-in-thought walk to Hearts of Space (a streaming music service that my brother-in-law got me hooked on several years ago). For the fourth time within a twenty-four hour period I found myself pulled in by this weeks’ music compilation: Specifically program number 1207, titled A Fragile Beauty. This particular playlist features “ambient chamber and choral harmonies for the winter season.”  Eleni Karaindrou’s Love Theme and Johann Johannsson’s  A Pile of Dust https://youtu.be/L1pnayWa4dYl compelled me to stop and gaze at the seemingly weak winter sun as it struggled to shine through a thick haze of gray clouds. A shiver shook me awake. I must have mellowed inward far too long as The Poodle had decided to plop himself down on a mess of muck and who knows what else as I stood in the morning quiet.

Oh dear….we’re gonna freeze if I have us stand here any longer. Let’s get home. Kibble for you and coffee for me awaits.

The serene, melancholy and ethereal playlist was really a perfect accompaniment on a cold winter morning but it made me pine mightily for spring.  And so, the universe delivered for on the walk back towards home I spied the beginnings of tulips and crocuses too, pushing up through frozen earth.  Yes! There is the promise of color in the weeks ahead and this lifts my spirits on this, my mellow Monday.

Then around another bend, there’s a pop of color which seals the morning walk with not a promise but a fact.  Winter, as in all things…shall pass.

As torn as one can be about the nature of impermanence, there is bliss in that.

A sign of Spring!

Love Notes

 

 

Alas, not the written kind folks.   I’ve haven’t gotten too many of those in my nearly sixty-two years.  Lamentable….I know….right?! Not to worry though as I certainly haven’t let it define my life.  In fact, the few I have received (which I could name on one hand with digits left over) were special enough to make up for any perceived scarcity in the love note department.

What I am referring to on this day though are musical notes of love.  I’ve been listening to evocative romantic tunes since before my feet hit the floor this morning.   An eclectic mix of tunes from classical music (Chopin, Debussy and Bizet just to name a few) to Chris Botti and his trumpet, Keith Urban (oh where did that come from?!) and then various cedar flute selections filled the house.  Later, it would be Hearts of Space music with  David Darling’s cello that would accompany me into the woods on my morning walk and afterwards Tibetan Bells helped me to zone out for a few minutes.  In effect, my heart has been all over the place on this day after Valentines Day…from happy to heavy and all the notes in-between.

I’ll attempt to explain but honestly, the right words elude me….

My turning (and tuning) in-ward began yesterday actually, on Valentines Day.  It started early with a doorbell ring, which naturally made The Poodle bark like crazy.  He could see who was at the door and was positively busting with Poodle joy.  I had just stepped out of the shower and was, admittedly, annoyed by all the ruckus.   When The Poodle barks it often rattles my gray matter and tests mightily my patience.  I quickly donned a robe and off I went to see what had my pooch in such a tizzy.

Through the window, I could see a car pulling out of my driveway. The Poodle’s snout was squashed against the window as he whined and barked in happy excitement.

Ah…. Okay.  I see. 

My nephew, on this way to school, had left something on my front doorstep.

I opened the door to find a perfect pink rose surrounded by lovely baby’s breath.

Swoon. My first love note of the day!

My heart swelled and feelings of love kept my steps light as a feather as I breezed through morning chores humming to Coldplay and, again…. Keith Urban.  There was a brief text consisting of a string of love emojis from my husband, who was away on business travel, and even a Happy Valentines text–the first in sixteen years– from my son who continues to be mired in difficulties that make my heart break.

And then a whisper…through cyberspace…broke the spell of love notes….

I was not surprised by the email from my beloved auntie Linda;  sis and I knew it would be coming.  Linda’s husband–my favorite uncle, Uncle Budd, was expected to take his last breath imminently.  He had been under hospice care for some time.  As I read her words I became aware that I was holding my breath….

I closed my eyes and let out a long and slow exhale.  So, I decided to sit for a spell with The Poodle curled in my lap, abandoning what I had planned for the rest of the day.

I simply wanted space to remember….

In crystal clarity I can see the twinkle in his piercing blue eyes…and, I feel his loving hugs–surprisingly strong for a man of his advanced years–hugs that he gave me when I saw him last, in 2014, on the occasion of his 90th birthday.   This man, a loving and devoted husband and father, served in WWII, Korea and Vietnam.  He was the epitome of The Greatest Generation.    A soulful cello piece plays in the background  as I think about that visit with my uncle.  A single tear rolls down my cheek….followed by another….and another….

And there it wasregret bubbled to the surface.

I had too few moments with my uncle because  I had allowed–consciously and unconsciously–the baggage of a wrecked childhood to define me for too long….and then later, as if awakened from a slumber of a hundred years, life and geographic distance got in the way of regular visits.  I wipe the tears with the sleeve of my shirt and caress The Poodle.  “We’re all going to go,” I whisper…”there is no time to waste.”

How blessed I feel to have lovely things to think about…memories forever cherished with Uncle Budd.  There were a string of brief visits we shared in Carefree, Arizona when I’d be visiting my mother and he’d pilot his plane in to a private airport literally around the corner from where my mother lived.  I cherished those visits with my Aunt and Uncle.  We’d imbibe on good wine and catch up on life including their stories of travel and adventures but more importantly, I treasured the loving shoulders to cry on (and cry on them I did).  I hungered for their unconditional love and understanding along with Uncle Budd’s bear hugs that sent rays of brilliant sunshine straight to the ever-present hole in my heart.    And, I’ll never forget that long June weekend some fifteen years ago to the last frontier….Alaska –the place where my aunt and uncle called home for many years.  Rocket-man and I had decided to run  the Anchorage marathon.  I didn’t even need to finish the sentence when I had called to ask if we could come to “hang out” while we ran a marathon.  My aunt and uncle made me feel like a rock star that weekend…

so now….

Before us great Death stands
Our fate held close within his quiet hands.
When with proud joy we lift Life’s red wine
To drink deep of the mystic shining cup
And ecstasy through all our being leaps—
Death bows his head and weeps.

– Rainer Maria Rilke

Uncle Budd and I on his 90th Birthday in Seattle Washington

This gentle giant, in my eyes, has now passed.  His beautiful soul now makes the journey upwards –into the blue skies where his physical body once flew.  Though death had a duty to take him he lives on, I believe, through all the souls he touched during his 94 years on this earth.

There is, through salty tears aplenty,  a certain comfort in that.

I love you Uncle Budd.  Rest assured we will all take good care of your loved ones here as best we can until it is their time to take the journey to be at your side.