Thursday, November 30, 2006

Autumn Haiku 2

A Labrador lopes
into the shrubbery;
rustling leaves

B-Dog's 2 Favorite Ways to Spend a Snow Day

1. Successfully enticing P-dog to chase him around the yard with an old gourd in his mouth.

2. At the sliding glass door--open 6 inches, body inside the warm house, face in the wind.

Monday, November 27, 2006

An old lady question

OK, what's the deal with the phrase, "Peace Out"?

Is it more like:

Far out

Over and out

Let it out

or what?

I'm guessing it's like, "Let's be peaceful and get out of here." But that's purely contextual speculation. And when I refer to context I refer to a dim memory of a boy band interviewee and, like, a muskrat on a cartoon show--as described by my kickboxing instructor.

I'm just so freaking old.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Autumn Haiku 1

My Labrador lopes
into the shrubbery . . .
Squirrel Patrol

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Why my relationship with my dogs is better than my relationship with my husband

No, this isn't one of those postings about sex and toilet seats.

Quite seriously, as my separation replaces my marriage, I'm beginning to see more clearly why I'm more peaceful living with dogs. And I think this is important to blog about because in dogdom it's considered common--and sometimes code--to discuss dogs as intimate family members, and to joke about why we prefer canines to humans, while outside dogdom it's considered eccentric or sad. In both cases when those relationships are discussed in any complexity it seems to me that "gaps" are the focal point: dogs fill gaps left by an absent child, an absent spouse, an inability to relate to humans, and/or a more extreme detachment from human life caused by past (or present) addictions or traumas.

While all those things are often an important dimension of intimate human-canine relationships, healthy and unhealthy ones, there's a lot more happening.

Today, as I sit in my reading chair overlooking the birds in the garden with B-dog on my ottoman I can say truly that my peace in this relationship comes in large measure from its honesty. I am crazy-in-love with this dog, but I am also truly aware that he is a dog. My two dogs have awakened a childlike joy in me that I treasure for its purity, and I believe that is what enables me to be unguarded in my affection for them: I love them from the part of myself that does not anticipate disappointment or cruelty or--more difficult to describe--the kinds of complex neediness that come with intimate human relationships. This is not to say that I believe dog love is superior to human love. (Or that the word "love" means the same thing within each kind of relationship.) But it has a directness that I deeply appreciate and, at this moment in my life, need.

My dogs depend on me in a way that I generally understand and I manage to respond to their needs fairly consistently. Our homelife is somewhat messy and noisy (P-dog is a terrier mix, after all), and my training/communication with the dogs needs lifelong practice, but all that is as much a part of real life as the interludes of quiet and calm.

My dogs care about me in their own particular ways that I'll never understand. But I'm comfortable with that, just as I'm comfortable knowing that when I leave them at the kennel they probably forget I exist and that if I die before them they'll attach themselves to another person or family. When they want my company they seek it; when something more intriguing appears (or emits a scent or squawk), they dash away. And when I project attributes onto the dogs, or interpret their behavior, a part of me knows that I'm expressing myself through that process perhaps more than "reading" them--and that, too, is OK. It's just one more way I'm learning about myself and the world as well as about them. I call all of this "honest" because it comes as close to truth as anything I know. They are what they are, and I cherish them for that instead of wishing they were something else.

B-dog and P-dog are constant companions whose presence brings me tranquility rather than disturbance. This is especially true of B. He would probably prefer that we romp at the park instead of sitting inside working at the computer, but he's content to watch the birds a while and if he becomes bored he will occupy himself elsewhere or request to go outside. After a while, I'll play with him outside because I'll have had a peaceful and productive work session and will feel joyful about sharing his exploration of the park and immersing myself in his world. Or if I end up compulsively working all day he'll be OK with that too.

He occupies his own mind and does not await my actions or reactions to determine how he should spend his day. I am not critical of his lifestyle choices--though I may remove the occasional sharp or putrid object from his jaws--and I do not resent him for wandering aimlessly around the house while I endeavor to build a stable career that will enable me always to bring home the kibble, maintain our health coverage, and connect us with interesting opportunities for lifelong learning and community socialization.

I'd like to think that I could again reach a point in my domestic life when our circle could be expanded to include another human--not because I have any desire to further populate my heart, my house, or the planet, but simply because I don't want to deny or reject the value of human intimacy. I no longer feel a void, but it is not because my dogs are filling one. Rather, the time I've spent alone with the dogs has helped me experience different kinds of wholeness. I'm whole as a solo human accompanied by dogs that are themselves whole. Together, in our house, we are surrounded by a crazy hodgepodge of human and animal life as well as the residential and psychic debris of those who inhabited this place before us. With and without all that, we are whole and we are home.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

So maybe Kerouac really was more of a cat person . . .

A few of his haiku:

Holding up my purring
cat to the moon,
I sighed

Staring at each other,
Squirrel in the branch,
Cat in the grass

Kneedeep in the
blizzard, the ancient
Misery of the cat

Trying to study sutras,
the kitten on my page
Demanding affection

The barking dog--
Kill him
With a bicycle wheel

Monday, November 20, 2006

Ho Ho Hanoi

Thanks to Travisa and to the compulsively globetrotting Poli Sci colleague who recommended it, my trip to Vietnam appears to be moving forward. I was worried that the Vietnam embassy's economic summit restrictions might keep me from getting my visa in time (and, for that matter, my passport returned in time) for my next teaching trek to Singapore.

So what's good is that I decided to go ahead and finally visit my friend in Hanoi for a few days over Christmas.

What sucks is being away from my dogs for three weeks. Hate that.

Honestly, nowhere is as joyful or as fascinating as my domestic dogdom. But the fact that I believe that so deeply is part of why I'm going. I realize I've been coccooning overmuch. And that I need to spend time with dear friends--even those who can't come to my house and hang out with my dogs. She's been inviting me to visit for, like, 10 years. Last time I saw her she was living in St Thomas, shortly after a hurricane nabbed her houseboat.

And she's a writer so I'm hoping she'll get my desire to just sit and write a bit while I'm there--mostly I just want quiet chats over tea and wine and good food and some wandering around. But I guess I'll just go with the flow no matter what.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Two dogz by the fire

It doesn't get much better than this.

It started at 2 a.m. when a transformer blew and I lost all my heat and electricity. I rolled our layers of bedcovers and pillows into a bundle and schlepped it upstairs to the somewhat warmer guest room, carefully unrolling then tucking the dogz and me inside without disturbing the nicely made bed underneath (awaiting my mother's arrival later this morning--God forbid I would have to re-make the bed).

At 4 a.m. a city electric technician knocked on my door--dogz went berzerk--asking me to grant access to the easement in my backyard and replace the transformer. I did; he did; a dead raccoon plummetted into the hedge.

I looked up at the night sky--so much clearer from the blackout--admired the bright eyes of P and B (now flinging themselves at the windows) then gazed farther to Sirius and Canis Major. Felt glad I was up to enjoy it.

Around 8 a.m. P-dog barked me awake. I shuffled out back to retrieve the dead raccoon before the dogz could encounter it. Once I got over the cold and grogginess I began to enjoy hacking my way through the overgrown holly, productively pruning til I found the poor creature who actually looked alot like my favorite childhood cat. I shoveled him into a bag and let the dogs out. (Interesting how many dead things I've handled since P-dog entered my life.)

Spent the morning frantically cleaning house, vacuuming B-dog's blown coat, and berating myself for accepting my mother's invitation to "help out around the house" for a week before Thanksgiving.

Spent the afternoon immobilized by a technician's 5-hour window (from noon to 5; he arrived at 4:55 saying he might not be able to do my installation because all he had was a used part instead of the new one I needed).

Mom came, bought lots of groceries (including the stuff for my favorite comfort food casserole--hooray--and stuff I never bring into the house, like Cool Whip, hydrogenated chips, and fully leaded hamburger meat and a bargain packaged turkey (nothing hormone-free, organic, open range or vegan-fed around here this week, unless I sneak a Shelton's into the oven on Thursday).

After the technician left and the dogz stopped barking and I finished half my glass of Bordeaux and my third helping of Chinese noodle casserole I decided Mom should stay forever--OK, through Thanksgiving.

The dogz are ecstatic because they now get four plates of casserole residue instead of their usual lone dish of peanut butter toastcrumbs. My mother and her partner have gone to bed (it's 7:44 p.m.), and I'm here by the fire with my blogz and my dogz and the heater working and I'm the only one who likes the Bordeaux.

Nighty night.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A Little Less Red in the Bible Belt

I'm so proud of my state for doing the right thing.

I sat up last night listening to the election returns, living as I do squarely in a neighborhood so Red that 2 years ago I worried that placing a Democrat candidate's sign in my yard might get me egged. Not all my candidates made it, but enough did that I feel downright relieved that perhaps this isn't the land of the pod people, that these nice folk really are paying attention--perhaps not to all the issues I care about but at least to debacles like prescription drug "choice" and the national debt and Iraq (at least some aspects of Iraq, such as the young people dying there).

So there it is. And now I'll log off and light a candle for Virginia.