Ten But Minus One….

The Poodle at Six

Kind reader, life has gotten away from me.  It’s November already! Seriously?  Where has the time gone?  The thought of Christmas around the corner boggles my mind.  Though I have no pressing agendas or a timetable that I’m subject to, I’m behind in everything, including penning a few words in this here space, at least on a weekly basis. 

Sigh.  Can you hear my groan?  There are not enough hours in a day.

So yesterday was my poodle-love’s tenth birthday. My heart swells still at the memory of that brisk February day in Oregon, well outside of Portland, in the country.  We drove up quite a hill to the modest home that sat on  acreage more than ample enough to allow puppies to thrive and run to their hearts content.  

It seems like yesterday when we first laid eyes on what was then a small bundle of black fluff. I had walked out on a large wood deck and this fellow came running out of the blue, planting himself down right between my legs.  That was it; my head and heart were seized by somersaults of  overwhelming love though I pretended to hem and haw for more than an hour as we watched how the little fellow got along with other pups and such.  Rocket-man had to agree to the new addition of course…and therein was the potential hiccup in my decade-old quest to add the pitter-patter of four paws to the house. Truth be told, initially he wasn’t all that keen on the idea.  In fact he was such a hard sell that it took me nearly ten years to merely warm him up to the idea.  At times I was ever so subtle in my approach.  We’d be out for an evening stroll and I’d make it my secret mission to stop and talk to at least one dog-walker.  Of course I’d be overly-effusive at times in an effort to engage Rocket-man, as in for example: “how brilliant that your dog fetches the paper for you every morning! That’s what we need too, don’t you think?”    At other times I could be more direct…like parking the grocery cart in the pet food isle, vocally sharing the ingredients of a particular brand that I intended to purchase for my make-believe pup, all to rocket-man eye-rolls and a shake of  his head with an emphatic “No!”

Ah, but rocket-man was captivated too on that February day that would bring further internet searches to a halt.  I had found my poodle-love–or rather, he had found me.  As for my husband: he will claim that it was the sparkle in my eyes that did him in.  I submit that he too fell in love at first sight with the ball of fluff that chose me…us.

So as I sit here an type at my desk my shadow–as I often call him– sits on top of my feet slumbering away.  He’s recovering from the trauma of a dental cleaning at the vet’s just last week.  In fact, I am sort-of recovering too…from an unexpected jolt over it all.  The vet called to advise that three teeth needed to be pulled. 

I did not see that coming. 

Okay….perhaps my head was stuck in the sand on this one.  I will admit to a little voice nagging about a certain someone’s recent bout of bad breath…

“Oh, wow,” I cried in disbelief.  “He’s had stellar checkups in the past!”

“There are a number of factors that could account for this,” the doctor said in her soothing, undeniably British voice.  “Age is certainly one factor but also he hasn’t been getting his teeth cleaned consistently and thoroughly enough.”  She noted that I’d recorded his last cleaning a little over two years ago.  Before that, my boy had had three cleanings while we lived in Southern California but those were done anesthesia-free.  I thought I was being a “good” dog-parent by not subjecting my pooch to an IV and drugs.  What I realize now is that it meant that he could not possibly receive a thorough cleaning because he was not put under for the procedure. 

After going over the options with the doctor we settled on pulling one tooth, the worst of the three that was nearly falling out due to bone loss at the site.  “We may be able buy some time for the other two; but let’s be quite vigilent about it,” said the vet.   

“I feel terrible,” I tell her.  “I’m guilty of being lazy about tooth-brushing.  I honestly tried to do it daily for awhile but life got in the way…with my mother…family stuff…moving…Lord, the list could go on!  All excuses nonetheless.” 

“Don’t beat yourself up over this,” were her kind words.  “It’s not easy for most pet-parents…sometimes it’s all we can do to brush and floss our own teeth!  And really, his health is otherwise excellent and overall, the rest of his teeth are in good shape, with minimal tartar and plaque build-up.  The important thing is that you are taking care of this severely wobbly one now which will prevent more health complications in the future if you do nothing.”

$600 dollars later….(yes, indeed that was head-popping)…. I thanked the veterinarian with certain promise that my boy would be on the schedule for a dental cleaning next October.  While he slept in his bed, fortified with antibiotics, exhausted no doubt from the stress of the day, I high-tailed it to Petsmart in search of liquid tartar remover, Greenies dental treats and canine toothpaste.  As I stood looking at all the dental-related choices I was amazed by how much the canine/feline dental products mirrors those that we “uprights” use daily.  Some would argue the canine/feline dental industry is nothing short of a scam…an unnecessary, even fabricated excuse to drain the pocketbook.  After all, as a general rule, for eons, dogs and cats in the wild didn’t go for dental cleanings.  My vet pointed out that our four-legged loves aren’t foraging for food in the wild.  They are not, for the most part, tearing meat from bones or sharpening their teeth on twigs and branches. And, they also don’t live long enough to outlive their teeth.  Our fur-babies snuggle in our laps or slumber in comfy pet beds after eating kibble or canned soft mush.   Baring unforeseen health circumstances, our pets live years longer than their close counterparts in the wild. 

So the consequences of mediocre dental hygiene are essentially no different  between us and our four-legged loves.  Just as we take our own precautions against gum disease by regular flossing, cleanings, and good dental hygiene habits, essentially the same applies to our beloved cats and dogs. Obviously, we cannot floss our dog’s teeth to prevent canine periodontis (inflammation and infection from bacteria in the mouth), but we can pay attention to our pet’s teeth with daily brushing or at least a yearly thorough dental cleaning.   Without proper care, even mildly inflamed gums can progress to full-on painful gingivitis. From there it leads to where my pooch is today…resting in his bed minus an incisor with two other teeth in peril.   Furthermore, doing nothing would exponentially increase the likelihood of developing heart disease as a constant attack of bacteria from the inflammation in the mouth would find it’s way into the blood stream…the sticky plaque substance adhering to arteries surrounding the heart, threatening other organs as well.  Not much different from us bipeds if you think about it!

I look down at The Poodle who is still sleeping on top of my feet.  “Ten years and minus a tooth,” I whisper to him.   His left ear twitches at the sound of my voice.  My heart swells.   His presence fills me with peace.  The world is right as rain when my shadow is with me.  I know our days together are numbered, in every sense of the word.  That’s the way it is of course, the natural order of things.  Impermanence.   But for now I try not to think of rainbow bridges.  I just want my birthday boy to be with me–as healthy as possible–for as long as the fates allow.

Feeling the bliss on a chilly, wet, and overall dreary November day. 

Now, get out and vote if you haven’t already!

Breath strips….really?!! My luck I’d mistake them for my own Listerine strips!
I love you “mom” but seriously…let’s get this over with so I can take this ridiculous coat off!

Sinfully Sloth-full

Is it any wonder why Sloths always seem to be smiling?

It’s that time of year again where–for this gal–there is a short window of pure enjoyment of being outdoors.  I’ve inserted that qualifier (short window) on purpose of course. It’s what comes next that often makes me lose sight of being in the present moment; I am already gritting my teeth in anticipation of the derrière-freezing, frost-bound cold hands, of winter.

But for now, dear reader, I pledge my focus on the many delights of autumn as well as the promise of warm pumpkin bread, steaming hot cappuccinos and the luxury of slipping my feet (beaten up from years of long distance running) into UGG’s®.

I know. There is a certain camp of folks who opine mightily on the subject of Ugg-wear: As in, Ugg’s are ugly. These are the same folks, I believe, who have a particular disdain for Birkenstocks and Crocs too. Oh sure, I’d love to pull on a pair of fashionable European leather boots with fancy buckles and just the right heel that mold to my feet in perfect comfort, but that has yet to happen (the perfect comfort part, that is.). As you can surmise…I’ve thrown in that towel…

My Ugg’s, standing at the ready….

So who knew that today is International Sloth Day?!  I’d never have known such a fascinating tidbit of information if not for Alexa.  If you don’t believe me check out the following link: https://www.daysoftheyear.com/days/international-sloth-day.  Apparently the holiday was drummed up in 2010 as a way of bringing much needed attention to the animal which appears to be in danger of extinction.

Though it took quite some time today for the sun to break through gray clouds (perhaps She was feeling sloth-full as well?) I felt it was my duty to comply with Alexa’s order of the day:  “…so go ahead, slow down and relax.”  And, reading just a bit about International Sloth Day I could only chuckle over the validity of learning from animals…other than the human-kind, of course.  The Poodle, for one, has opened my heart ten-fold more in the nearly ten years he has been with us.

What bliss it was this afternoon then as I slid bare feet into Ugg”s and spent a few sinfully sloth-full hours after yard work out on the screened-in porch reading, enjoying cups of coffee, and generally thinking about–and doing–absolutely nothing.

So, take notice dear reader to consider an excerpt from the International Sloth Day page.  It is sage health advice (nothing of course that you have not heard before):

Excerpt from International Sloth Day page: 

“….Make sure you get enough sleep, take a walk through the park or a long bubble bath, make a real dinner instead of just popping some frozen lump of food in the microwave for 3 minutes. We humans should realize that although we may be the most intelligent of the species, that does not mean there aren’t things we can’t learn from other species. And who could possibly teach a better lesson about how to relax than the sloth? Exactly!”….

They are not lazy, nor stupid....They are creatures who are remarkably tender with each other and they know how to "just hang."
Remarkably tender creatures who know how to “just hang.”

I’m thinking perhaps we should all adhere to a new October 20th tradition and enjoy being sinfully sloth-full, if only for an hour.  Mark your calendars now for 2019!

Feeling deliciously sloth-full on this fine October evening.


‘Shroom Boom

With a late afternoon coffee in hand I’m staring out the window assessing the view.  Unfortunately, it is not altogether pleasing.  In fact, it is borderline abysmal.  I’ve never had such a terrible looking yard. At present, It’s basically a mud pit… well, a mud pit with weeds.  It’s been wrecked by many weeks of rain and although we’ve enjoyed a full eight days of warm, sunny weather we still haven’t dried out. We’ve had our front lawn sodded twice in the year we have lived here and both times the grass has perished. I think of Hurricane Michael and its aftermath on Florida’s panhandle and realize that our struggles to address all the drainage issues are mighty inconsequential of what’s happening there.

Still, early this morning, in jest, I tell my neighbor, Sayed, who lives at the top of our pipe-stem on the main street, that I’m considering getting pigs.  His look is quizzical, of course.

I explain:  “My yard is nothing but mud now. What fragile grass I had has been drowned out…and yet those blasted weeds have flourished.  So now, I’ve got nothing but mud and you know how pigs like to roll around in mud.” 

“Ah!” he says with a chuckle.   He gets it.

His yard has plenty of grass and while he does not have drainage issues he notes something has changed in his yard.  Hmm.  He is pondering.  Yes, he has weeds…but…he can’t quite nail it.  I don’t judge; he is a busy father and husband. 

However, it dawns on me this morning what it is.

Over the course of more than several morning walks with The Poodle I note a strange phenomena….something I haven’t seen in all the years I have lived in Northern Virginia…

Multitudes of mushrooms. Large and small, weird and wild….colorful and mud-colored drab….we seem to have it all.

These snake-like 'shrooms have popped up in various places in the neighborhood.

A Snake – like mushroom brightens up a flower bed…

A psychedelic mushroom stands alone in a patch of muck.

While a psychedelic mushroom, a tiny little thing, stands proud in a field of muck….

And, barely off the beaten path from our walking path, a veritable mushroom city.  I’m in awe because it wasn’t there just a few days ago.

A mushroom city....

Then there is the grotesque, fuzzy variety growing in the middle of the sidewalk that at first glance I mistook for vomit….

Honestly, I thought it was vomit.....

…Not to mention one that looks like a UFO from a galaxy far, far away….

As these surely inedible and likely poisonous  ‘shrooms take over the neighborhood I can only think of those varieties that make my mouth water in lovely anticipation of the deliciousness they assure.  I’ve got risotto ai  funghi (risotto with porcini mushrooms) on my brain….along with stuffed Portobello mushrooms oozing with mozzarella and freshly grated Parmesan cheese or …how about button mushrooms sauteed in Plugra butter, wine, with plenty of chopped garlic and fresh parsley.

Is your mouth watering yet?  Mine is.

There is only one thing to do now, as if you didn’t know kind reader….

It’s off to the store for the edible variety of mushrooms…and wine of course.

A mouthful of bliss is surely on the menu tonight.



One Less Set of Eyes…

The day started in the usual way which is to say, as of late, I’ve had to practically do cartwheels to get The Poodle out the door for his early morning walk. Begrudgingly, he finally gets with the program, as it were, and we’re off up the street, around the block and into the woods.

Luckily we have been missed by Hurricane Florence but we’re experiencing some scant peripheral effects as it is a particularly gloomy day.   We’re due for rain but we’ve not seen more than a few drops, so far that is.  Still, the sky could not be any grayer.  As I listen to a Hearts of Space playlist I’m all to keenly aware of how the music and the somber sky are messing with my soul. I need some pep in my step so I switch to Spotify and decide on something more energizing.  On cue, The Poodle begins to pick up his pace too, although it’s because of a nearby squirrel sighting.

My mind wanders over this and that as we continue down the path. About a mile into our walk I say to The Poodle, as I often do, “We’re almost there so let’s stop for a brief moment to say hello, shall we?”

‘Round this bend….up and over breaks in the macadam path due to gnarly tree roots….then around another bend to the right…..

Wait a minute….

I stop in the middle of the path in a moment of utter confusion.

Was I so into my head that I missed her?

“Let’s turn around,” I say to The Poodle.  We backtrack only three steps. I look right, left…all around me.

Something definitely is not right here.

I turn back in the direction of my purpose.

And then it hits me like a two by four….

I am in the right place… but she is not!

OH NO! This can’t be! I literally cried out aloud. The Poodle looks at me with questioning, clouded eyes.

Drusilla the wood nymph–the name I gave to her– is gone!  I hadn’t taken this route for a while because the mosquitoes were such an annoyance…and now, it seems that she has disappeared! 

I cannot believe that my “eyes and ears in the woods” is gone. 

I stand at the spot where she was once proudly rooted, searching for an explanation.  And then I see her.  She had to have taken her last breath weeks ago during one of the pounding rains.  She’s lifeless indeed, broken almost beyond recognition, split into three or four chunks and covered with a  tangle of debris.  The heavy rains from some weeks ago have drowned the life out of her, washing her away from the sentry post she held for years down into the shallow ravine that was now to be her final resting place.

I stand above the spot where she fell lamenting the loss long enough for The Poodle to decide that he may as well lie down and rest his weary bones.

Dear readers you must think I’m bonkers.  Perhaps so.  But truly, seeing Drusilla the wood nymph on my morning walks for years when visiting my sister and now for a year living in her neighborhood has been a lovely ritual.  Nearly every morning I’d share a moment with her, stopping as close to her base as possible given the terrain to tell her a thought that I held in my heart…then I’d move on to the rest of my day.  It was a curiously magical, divine start to my day.

Yes, you know it…I shed a tear or two.  I will miss her wonky head and her almost sad, asymmetrical face.  I will miss the simple act of saying “Good Morning Drusilla.” My morning walks won’t feel quite the same now that she is gone.

I suppose it just speaks to the impermanence of Every. Little. Thing.

In the words of french novelist Gustave Flaubert:

“The principle thing in this world is to keep one’s soul aloft.”

Through some difficult months a walk in the woods and a Drusilla sighting  was responsible for doing just that.

There was bliss in that.

 

 

Drusilla, the wood nymph.  Eyes and ears of these woods!

Chilled…Not Chilled

I’m staring at the glass before me which contains a splash of a lovely, buttery Chardonnay.  What I’m about to do will make any decent oenophile gasp in horror.I add ice cubes.Lest you judge dear reader I’ve got reason as you’ll see….or not.

So, I’ve had a first world problem for over a week now (eight days and ten hours to be exact).  The refrigerator, a lovely gleaming Kitchen Aid purchased new one year ago…went on the fritz.  Specifically, only part of it died.  It was a curiously slow decline that I witnessed;  over the course of two weeks I noted that the refrigerator was not cooling items very well but the freezer was behaving perfectly fine.

That’s strange. How could this be? 

I checked the settings.  I even lowered the temperature by two degrees.  Nothing.  Well, actually there was something; I was beginning to throw away food at an alarming rate due to spoilage.Well isn’t this just peachy? Not.I dug through my files to find the receipt.

#$%! Seriously?!

Yep.  You guessed it.  We are less than a week past the warranty coverage.  As happens often in my world…what rotten luck.

Grrr.   A one year warranty for a $3200 refrigerator!?   Over coffee, I gripe to my sis about this.  She points out that’s why they try to rope you into purchasing pricey extended warranty coverage.  In all my years of purchasing new refrigerators I never purchased extended warranties. Refrigerators were built to last a long time.  Our fridge in my childhood years is likely still running, albeit terribly out of fashion in it’s avocado dress.

Harumpf.

I call the place where I purchased the refrigerator and they are sympathetic.  They urge me to contact Kitchen Aid to complain about a one year warranty saying that if enough people do so perhaps the company will do something about it.  They also give me the name of the service repair company they refer their customers to.  I’m of the temperament to complain later.  In need of a refrigerator, like yesterday, my energies need to go into getting the problem fixed.  So I look up the referral and the company appears to have good ratings.  I call to have it serviced, which in itself makes me want to spit bullets because, again….the refrigerator is just a year old!  But I grit teeth and breathe through the impulse to be angry.  There are so many less fortunate than me.

The response is not as swift as I would have liked it to be.  It takes two days for a serviceman to come out but I’ve got the luxury of storing items in my sisters’ basement refrigerator.  It doesn’t take long for the repairman to diagnose the problem.  I spit even more bullets when it was determined that the freezer door apparently was not being closed appropriately on enough occasions that it caused the refrigerator fan to fail.  I rack my brains for all of a minute and realize that this problem can be traced back to a certain man-child who had the freezer stuffed to the gills with his junk food for ten months.

I excuse myself to my study for a moment.  I need the time to give my Dammit Doll a good three whacks on my desk.  Ah…better. I’m feeling mighty proud that I didn’t utter one expletive.  And yes, it hasn’t escaped me that for six weeks we didn’t have a functioning kitchen due to the renovation but we did have a working refrigerator! Now the opposite has occurred! How upside-down is that?

The repairman orders a new fan part which may be around $400 and he says we should have it in a week, tops.  “Great,” I say with all the calm I can muster.  The service rep smiles when I tell him: “I’ll chill.  We can go with the flow for one week; it’s just a minor inconvenience in the big scheme of things.” Right?

Hmm.  Maybe I’d lose a pound or two without trips to the fridge for cheese…

So here we are today, a week later.  The repairman is back with the new part in hand. I’m practically busting with excitement that within the hour I’ll have a working refrigerator again.  I’m itching to fill the bins with salad greens and vegetables and of course eggs, butter, cheese, milk and yogurt.  There’s a couple of bottles of prosecco and a bottle of Chardonnay too, not to mention Rocket-man will have his beer back in the fridge and not in a cooler on the kitchen floor.

As I type these words I am mindful that my inconvenience is trivial compared to so many.   Hundreds of thousands of folks in North Carolina are without power as the continue to be pummeled by Hurricane Florence.  Relief washes over me knowing that my elderly aunt and uncle have evacuated Roanoke Island in the Outer Banks to a safer location.  We are lucky that it seems our area will be spared Flo’s wrath.So I’m chilled (sort-of) with the refrigerator repairman–in spite of the fact that he arrived just barely within the service window of between 1-4 p.m.  I’m chilled (sort-of) that he has been downstairs working on the repair for two hours now.

Good grief!  How long does it take to install a refrigerator fan?!

Meanwhile, The Poodle figures it’s his earnest duty to bark…a lot…which of course is doing nothing to keep SHE WHO LOVES and FEEDS HIM calm after a week of hit or miss meals because of not having a refrigerator!Ah…here we go folks!  I hear the repair dude calling from the kitchen below.  I practically dance down the stairs with checkbook in hand ready to pay and then make a mad dash to the grocery store.

Oh…wait dear reader.  I’ve got an update!

Wait for it…wait for it….WAIT FOR IT…Drum roll…..THE WRONG PART WAS ORDERED! 

“Sorry ma’am, but it looks like It’ll be another week before the correct part comes in.Son of a…biscuit.

I’m pretty sure I looked at him with blood-laced daggers in my eyes.  In fact, I noted he winced as he said “I’m sorry” for the third time.A purple minion moment is entirely justified here.  Just saying.So pardon me while I go do just that… Purple Minion Moment: I am not chilled.

Not chilled.

As soon as the repairman was out the door I call and leave an after-hours message for the appliance repair company telling them in measured restraint that I AM NOT CHILLED.

Fortunately, I’ve got chicken stored in my sister’s refrigerator.  That, along with tomatoes, rice, onions, olive oil and garlic means there is hope for a home cooked meal on the table this evening.  And there’s plenty of pasta in the pantry with all sorts of possibilities that don’t require a stocked refrigerator.  Indeed.  What on earth am I carping on about.  We can get through another week.

There is bliss in that.

The Magic of 108

I got a late start on walking The Poodle this morning. Sleep eluded me well into the wee hours of the morning. In a jolt I was up at 6:30, a good hour and a half later than my usual time. In fact, I nearly fell out of bed in a rush to attend to our house guest. That would be the very one who was pacing with pitter-patter perkiness in our room, nails tapping in a sort of syncopated beat on the wood floor as she paced about between the hall and bedroom.   Oh my!  How could I have forgotten that Nica (that would be my sister’s pooch) is still with us for the long weekend?   My old boy, The Poodle, barely opens one eye.  He’s curled up into a tight ball in his bed.

“Nica needs to go out ASAP,” I all but croak in my before-caffeine voice to Rocket-man as I reach for my phone and watch.  He still appears out for the count, as he should be given he’s enjoying a few days off.

I hear his soft groan of acknowledgement and breathe gratefulness that he’s going to do the first walk of the day with Nica.

Over coffee I check for messages.  Still nothing back from my son, I note.  I sigh deeply.  I had called two days ago.  He didn’t pick up (and I didn’t think he would).  Still, I left a message.  I sang Happy Birthday, and wished him the best on that September 1st day, his 36th birthday.

Later that morning I rolled out the yoga mat and inexplicably, without two moments thought, decided on something different from my usual practice: 108 Sun salutations, the graceful sequence of twelve poses or asanas called Surya Namaskar.

Good griefWhere did that come from!? I thought as I stood at the top of the mat.  I’ve only done 108 sun salutations once and that was nine years ago in a tiny studio overlooking the ocean in Southern California.  Typically the practice of 108 sun salutations is reserved for the change of seasons (think solstice or equinox).  It’s physically challenging enough when you perform three or so sets in a typical Vinyasa class; 108 is well, akin to a marathon.  108 is a sacred number in Hinduism and Yoga.  There is also a spiritual significance to the number 108.   For example, there are 108 beads on the catholic rosary and on a strand of Tibetan prayer beads.

courtesy of : https://yogawisdomforeveryday.wordpress.comsalutations-and-the-winter-solstice/

As I stand facing the wrong direction (eastward is recommended) A little dialog inside my head ensues:

So, you know you haven’t even had breakfast.

Okay, I know. So actually that is better. It’s advised to practice on an empty stomach. Check.

What about the dogs?

Yes, I know….I’ve got to do this practice slowly, purposefully, mindfully and with NO DISTRACTIONS. 

I’ll close them out of the bedroom. Check.

What if your daughter texts you?

Phone on airplane mode. In fact, take off your Apple watch too.  Remember, NO DISTRACTIONS.  Check.

And just WHY again after all this time are you considering this?  The autumnal equinox is still weeks away don’t you know!? 

So….my kind seven readers, I’m sure you will understand.  It’s my son’s birthday and my mood is blue.  I’m overdue for a calming mental shift. Estranged we remain despite ten months of him living in my basement.  Nothing seemed to appreciably alter our estrangement.  Not praying, nor purple minion head-popping moments, nor outpourings of love, nor soulful tears…not even family gatherings helped much.  Nothing changed. Well, except my heart is heavier over this second-time-around gentle boot out the door.

And so, with the dogs in another room thankfully slumbering away, I dedicate my practice to the boy I labored nearly twenty hours to bring into the world.  I still pray that he will find his way.

I select music from Spotify to help me through the practice; it’s my Dreamcatcher playlist.

Hands at heart center, I close my eyes.  Inhale, exhale. Okay, let’s begin….

As I move through the poses inexplicably I’ve got images before me which I haven’t “seen” for quite some time.  I’m at the Army hospital laboring to bring my baby into the world.  The nurse attends to a screaming young woman several beds away from mine.  She’s all of seventeen, if that.  I recall my judgemental stare.  It’s obvious she didn’t prepare for the miracle about to unfold!   Even the nurses are impatient with her; she is not cooperating on any level.  I’m doing my best to breathe through contractions and remain calm through her screams and saltier than a sailor expletives.  I’m starting to tire and am fighting the urge to ask for drugs (I eventually caved to an epidural after more than sixteen hours).  At some point my husband stepped out for coffee and my mother comes into the labor suite.  A nurse tells me that she’s not having success with the external fetal monitor.  “We’re going to have to monitor your baby differently now,” she says as she prepares me for the internal fetal monitor. I knew what that entailed.  I had done my homework. My mother barely lasted two minutes in the room.  With a dramatic wave of her hand she announced she was leaving and heading for a good bourbon on the rocks.

How vivid still, that stab of disappointment.  Yet again she could not offer even a smidgen of nurturing support, not even during the birth of her first grandchild.  The sting was over in a flash I recall.  In fact, I was immensely relieved.  But it would be many years before I understood why.  I would have been invisible; If she would have stayed in the room it would have been all about her.

Focus! shouts a voice in my head. What number am I on?!  

Inhale, Love…Happy Birthday son…exhale, peace…I pray you find your way…

And then the strangest sensation overcame me, somewhere around my 30th sun salutation.  As I slowly lowered into chaturanga a song from my playlist punctured thoughts of my son, literally stopping the video of him that was playing through my mind as I inhaled and exhaled through each pose.  It was a song from Coyote Oldman’s album Under The Ancient Sky.  Whoosh! I was transported in time…it’s now four years ago in Carefree, Arizona.  I am at my mother’s house.

Every morning before the sun peeked through the tallest saguaro on the eastern hills I would step out the door for my morning walk-jog.  I’ve no doubt that the task of caring for my mother for over three months would have done me in completely without this morning ritual that became sacred to me.  It was Coyote Oldman’s music that soothed me through four miles of gently rolling hills among cacti, saguaros, coyotes, Javelinas and other Sonoran desert creatures.   The song New Worlds was the first in that playlist.

As I exhale into uttanasana (standing forward fold) I may as well be in my mom’s driveway…I am there, gazing at the rising sun.  It’s still cool in the early morning and yet I walk tentatively down the long pebbled driveway on the look-out for rattlesnakes.

Stay on task girl…..you’re on number thirty-two, I think.

Inhale…exhale…

Just great.  So now thoughts of my mother, gone two years now, invade my yoga mat.  Images of her tirades during those difficult months morphed into other memories that reached as far back as when I was ten years old.

My breath becomes labored, more pronounced, as I worked to shake thoughts of her from my mind.  I do not want to lose my asana count nor the fluidity of the practice so I start to whisper my poses:  “Inhale, circle arms up to reach the sky, exhale fold….inhale flat back….exhale step/jump back into chataranga dandasana, inhale, upward facing dog, press back into downward facing dog….five breaths….

It was in that flow, to the cedar flute of Coyote Oldman, that somehow my mother came to me.  It was a surreal, supernatural experience that perhaps lasted a minute or two.  Honestly dear reader, I am still trying to process it.  It was as if my mother and I were one. 

Oh man…this is weird.  Perhaps I should have eaten breakfast!  I stupidly forgot to bring a bottle of water to my mat.I would not allow myself to step off the mat.

Tears escaped the corners of my eyes as I held to the rhythm of my practice.

Inhale, long exhale….inhale…

The feeling of her presence was intense.

“Are you here mamma?”  I whispered as I stepped back into downward dog.  Exhale…No answer.

“I feel your presence.  Why? Are you here to set things straight?” I whisper through tears now streaming down my face.  No answer.

But I begin to feel an answer…of sorts.  As “we” move through the poses she is exceptionally serene, a trait she never possessed while living.  I feel her amazingly youthful; her bronze skin is smooth, wrinkle-free.  Can it be that she wants to finally bond with me through this yoga practice…and that maybe, just maybe…she wants to feel its benefits too.  How I have advocated for years that she give yoga–any activity for that matter–a try; all failed attempts to get her to manage her bouts of depression, anxiety and mobility issues.

“I wish it would have been better between us.  Did you ever love me mamma?   What do you want to tell me?”

“No more walking on eggshells mamma.  Is it here and now, on this mat, that I can be brutally blunt with my questions?”

And poof…she was gone. Somehow, I managed to keep it together.

Inhale, peace, exhale….It’s Okay…let it go.   

Inhale, peace…exhale…It’s Okay let it go.

Bathed in sweat, the feeling that remained on my mat was pure peace.  Wow.

108 Sun salutations; a cleansing like no other!  In any other situation I probably would have freaked over this visitation of sorts.  The magic of it still affects me days later.

Inhale, exhale….There is bliss in that.

Roadtrip!

A clock on the wall ticks rhythmically. It’s the only sound I hear in the otherwise quiet of this early morning.

I’ve got a cup of coffee in my hands as I take in the unfamiliar space around me. The silence is remarkable, not a peep even from a bird.

How is it that I am awake before the birds this morning?

The Poodle is curled up into a tight ball in front of the kitchen door. He is not home yet still he slumbers completely at ease as if it’s been his spot for years.  He has joined me on this last-minute get-away to visit Miss Cookie, my friend of more than forty-some years.

As I sip my coffee in the darkness of Miss Cookie’s comforting kitchen I rewind to some mornings ago when I decided on my impromptu adventure….

“….and I know you’ve got work and can’t take off so I’m gonna manage it solo,” I told Rocket-man as I laid out my plan.

“What about The Poodle?”  He asked.

“Well of course he is coming with me,” I answered.  Of course he’d be useless as my navigator but perhaps he’d help me stay awake.

The next day The Poodle knew something was afoot. He didn’t let me out of his sight as I went about the business of packing my sweet-green Patagonia duffel bag. Then, when he saw me bring up his travel bag from the basement, he was jazzed beyond measure.

Yee-haw are we going somewhere? his entire body asked as his feather-duster of a tail wagged excitedly.

The Poodle is literally busting with energy as he jumps on me, pawing me with questioning eyes: Where, oh where, oh where are we going?!

Little does he know that it’s not going to be a quick jaunt. He’s in for a five-hour car ride to North Carolina with his nervous ninny upright navigating solo.

I load my bag into the car along with The Poodle’s bag which contains his food and water dish and other canine necessities.  I didn’t even have to say “Go Car,”…he jumped into the backseat before I barely had time to situate his travel blanket.

“How funny you are my poodle-love, I remarked as I took stock of our travel gear.  “You jumped up with the swiftness of a puppy and yet you move like an ancient when I want you to go out for a walk!”

With hugs and kisses to hubby and promises from him that he would keep his cell phone glued to his hip and the ringer set to full volume during my trip The Poodle and I set off on our little adventure.

The drive down was fairly uneventful until two hours in, around Richmond, at which point the heavens opened up.  Heavy rain intermittently followed me for most of another three hours virtually until the turn into Miss Cookie’s neighborhood when the sun returned through a cloudy haze.

I let out a long, slow breath as I pulled into her driveway.  I did it! Praise be to technology; without a good navigation system there’s no telling where The Poodle and I would have ended up.

It was lovely to spend time with Miss Cookie and her husband Steve.  He’s a gem of a guy with the added plus that he rocks a bow-tie for business attire better than any GQ man I’ve seen.  For three days I was wined and dined as well as chauffeured to parts around the area.  For one, I was in search of dinner plates that I’ve had on my mind for a couple of years so we visited ten or more pottery studios around Seagrove, North Carolina, whose claim to fame is being “The Handmade Pottery Capital of the United States.” It’s a must-see stop.

You can see for yourself via this link:  http://www.heartofnorthcarolina.com/cities-and-towns/seagrove.htm

It was both curious and fascinating to meet talented potters living out in the country.

Lily Pond at one potter’s home in Seagrove, NC

One potter had the most amazing lily pond in front of her shop and another young woman with sparkling eyes and a happy glow about her had her dog Lola as her sidekick in her quaint shop.  I purchased a small decorative plate from her that caught my eye because the colors screamed happy to me.

My Happy Plate: Pottery by Dean & Martin, Seagrove, NC

 

We also made a pit stop to an Art center in town.  After a lunch of mixed greens adorned with grilled chicken Miss Cookie took me on a quick tour of a pottery classroom.  I knew that she had recently taken up pottery but didn’t know her husband has also been attending classes.

“Wow, I’m mighty impressed,” I tell my friend with sincere awe. The large classroom was both neat and messy at the same time. Rows of bowls, cups and other items in various stages of completion lined floor-to-ceiling shelves. I learned that potters are extremely generous folks. The Seagrove potters donate thousands to charity. And in this particular pottery studio/classroom in nearby Greensboro, many of tables filled with soup bowls that had already been fired will be donated to soup kitchens.

I watched a woman who looked to be in her late 60’s as she sat etching a pattern onto a mug.  “That’s lovely, I say, adding “the only thing I’ve ever created are two kids.”

“Oh, this…this is just doodling.  You can do this too,” she said looking up at me matter-of-factually. Well I know my sis would be a natural at this….but could I….ever? I wondered.

Later that night Steve managed to grill us up some delicious steaks in between bouts of pouring rain while Miss Cookie prepared veggies and a dessert to die for. In fact, days later, I’m still dreaming of Miss Cookie’s delightfully decadent chocolate Texas sheet cake.   A three-mile walk the next morning didn’t make much of a dent in the calories I consumed, but honestly, I cared not; I’d go face-down in that chocolate dream every night if I could!

I tagged along one morning when Miss Cookie had to keep a vet appointment for her cat Diego who had recently undergone surgery.  The doctor was pleased that Diego was recovering quiet nicely.  He also talked and talked….and talked (in fact, I think he may well be still talking).

There were interesting sights as well on the day before my return home as we spent a lovely afternoon visiting historic Old Salem, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  The town is rich in history and one afternoon was not enough time to soak it all in.  For lunch we stopped at The Tavern in Old Salem. The family restaurant was built in 1816 as an annex to the 1784 Tavern. It is still a family owned restaurant today with a menu inspired by the Moravian families that lived in Salem in the 19th century.  I made a mental note to read up about the Moravians and the symbol of their church, the Moravian Star.  It is my limited understanding that the Moravian religion developed as breakaway protestant religion out of Germany and it’s been around for some five-hundred years.

Moravian Star

For lunch at The Tavern I stepped out of my usual fare and ordered grilled bratwurst over mashed potatoes with a side of sauerkraut.  Rocket-man scratched his head over this to be sure; I’ve always been emphatic about my disdain for that sour cabbage, but it wasn’t bad. I fell in love though with the spicy wasabi mustard; it provided a terrific explosion of flavor that was a wonderful compliment to the wurst.  I left feeling wonderfully satisfied, not to mention proud that I had enough restraint to skip on the pie that was screaming my name from the kitchen below. After lunch, as we walked through more of the historic district I knew that I’d have to make a second trip to this little town.

The drive back home was nail-biting.  Miss Cookie now has a second moniker to her name: “WC”, as in Weather Channel.  The Poodle kept one eye open from the back seat while I drove white knuckled through practically a non-stop deluge of rain.  I missed a turn in the confusion of consecutive eighteen-wheeler trucks passing me causing a moment of near blinding conditions as water splashed the windshield. At one point, I nearly threw in the towel as a voice in my head shouted “Go Back!” because there was so much water on the road. I kept my hazard lights on because visibility was that poor.  WC called several times, keeping me posted on the constant torrent of rain hammering the area.  As I neared Fredericksburg, VA things were definitely better with bright spots of blue sky amongst the heavy gray and only an occasional drizzle to give notice to.  I was feeling mighty fine about everything until WC called once again.  “Where are you,” she asked without preamble.

“Oh, I’m doing just fine,” I answered.  It’s not raining; the worst is thankfully behind me.”

“Are you near Fredericksburg?” she asked.

Hmm.  Is she tracking my car?

“As a matter of fact, I am.”

“What exit are you close to?” she pushes further.

“I’ve no idea.  I just know I’m within five or so miles.”

“Listen, I’ve been watching The Weather Channel and there is a tornado about ready to cross I-95 in Fredericksburg.”

Oh good grief!

I look to my left and see that westward is indeed not a pretty sight.

How is it I’m just noticing how deathly menacing the sky looks?!

WC’s voice cuts through my thoughts.  “They say it is going to cross somewhere around exit 142,” she says.  “Where are you?!”

“Oh lovely….I’ve just passed exit 138!  So…Okay then: instead of Dorothy and Toto, it’s CC and The Poodle flying off to Kansas,” I tell her trying to keep fear out of my voice.

She tells me to be careful and we say our goodbyes.  I step on the gas pedal and throw caution to the wind setting cruise control to nine miles over the speed limit.  “Let’s outrun this!” I say to The Poodle as I change the car radio channel from Sirius XM’s The Bridge to Symphony Hall.

Ah yes.  How about Franz Joseph Haydn to get me through the rest of the drive.

Before I roll into the driveway carrying another deluge with me straight into the garage, I get not one but two more calls from Rocket-man providing “doomsday” weather updates.  Between sis, Miss Cookie/WC and Rocket-man, how lucky I am to have people who care for my safety! 

A good five minutes later, after a welcome back hug from hubby and settling The Poodle with a bowl of fresh water I was out on the screened-in porch with a glass of wine in hand.  As I began to relax from the long drive I called Miss Cookie to let her know I had made it through the crazy weather and to thank her once again for a lovely visit.  Moments later she texted a picture of the downward slope just beyond her back yard.  The non-stop rain had turned the area into quite a lake.  Wowza!

Next adventure you ask?

The beach.

Bliss.  Am I right?  Oh yeah!