Friday, April 30, 2010
Tiger Lilly was daughter Rachel's 9Th birthday gift. She is the worst dog we have ever had. Yet, we love her. A small Boxer, she is a compact package of badness wrapped in infatuating stripes.
Over the last 12 years she has gotten into countless trash cans, opened gates, opened door knobs (!) surfed counters, broken TWO cast iron skillets and once opened the OVEN to get to a pan full of pork ribs. And then ate them all.
Lately she has been subdued. In obvious pain. A $500.+ Veterinary visit found that she has severe arthritis in her spine. Due to the wonders of modern medicine, she is now pain free with a $30. per month prescription of medicine. She is currently sleeping well, leaping about, barking at every snapping twig or falling leaf, and full of her trademark badness.
One day this week I came home from work and noticed that the cozy quilt that lives on our sofa was covered in something BRIGHT yellow. I assumed it was bile from a dogs upset tummy, and picked the quilt up to wash it. When I lifted it, 4 egg shells fell from its folds.
I put the following story together from the evidence I found:
Lilly was snoozing on the sofa. Then she woke up and thought; "Hmmm. I am feeling a mite peckish!" So, she hopped off the sofa and investigated the house for potential snacks. The dog cookies were stowed out of reach on top of the refrigerator. The trash can was behind the locked cellar door. No food was left in reach of her nimble paws on the counter tops.
Using her larger than average brain, Lilly then exited the pet door and traveled along the deck, down the stairs and across the yard. She pushed up the gate to the hen yard, navigated past the hens and the rooster who is nearly as tall as she is. Then she went up the hen ramp and through the small door. Up on a hay bale, then up on a shavings bale, she reached the chickens favorite nest. And there were eggs.
Ever so gently Lilly lifted an egg and cradled it in her thick lips. Down off the shavings bale, down off the hay bale, across the coop and out the small door and down the ramp she went. Across the yard, up the steps, along the deck and through the pet door she went. Then through the front room and into the living room. One graceful hop landed her on the cozy quilt. Once comfortable, she laid the egg down and commenced to eat it, licking the shell clean. It was delicious! She thought she'd like another, so repeated the entire mission 3 more times.
Although I am NOT happy about her stealing eggs, I do chuckle to think of the effort she took to help herself to a fresh and nutritious snack. She is definitely feeling better!
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
On days when loss weighs heavy I find it helpful to concentrate on moments that reverberate with life.
Things like puppies playing with unbridled exuberance on a sprawling green lawn.
Things like walking into my dining room and finding that the eastern sun has sprayed a thousand dancing rainbows onto every surface.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Our family is made up of many wonderful people.... This week we lost one who was especially dear to us all, Nevada Chapman.
Nevada was married to my husbands sister Brenda for 50 years. He was a father, grandfather, uncle. He was a businessman, a storyteller, a man of deep faith and famous for his talent in the kitchen. He was free with jokes and teasing and passing out folded up cash to visiting children.
My fondest memory of him, perhaps, is from an evening spent watching Brenda and Nevada square dance. At this point they had been married 40 years or so. They both dressed up- him in western style clothes, her in a very fancy square dance outfit, complete with a full skirt and petticoats. I stood on the side lines and watched them dance. They were good at it... stepping lightly to the music and the calls. But what resonates in my mind to this day is the way he looked at her as they danced. This kind and gentle man gazed down on his "bride" as they floated across the floor, looking at her as if she were the rarest of treasures, the most beautiful of women. Seeing them that way was like catching a glimpse of what love looks like.
And though Nevada has left us, the love that he has lavished on those lucky enough to know him will live on.
Monday, April 26, 2010
The ferns are sprouting along the roadside. Curled into fiddleheads, they will soon unfurl to greet springtime. This group reminds me of a huddle of school children, heads together on the playground, planning a game.
Yesterday I planted pansies in bright pots. My grandfather used to bring us flats of them every spring. He delighted in their jewel tones and was especially drawn to the ones that had what he called, "Little faces" on the petals. He is always on my mind when I see pansies nodding cheerily in a warm spring breeze.
Friday, April 23, 2010
Thursday, April 22, 2010
I had planned to haul a big pile of brush from one point in the yard to another after work. But then storm clouds rolled in and rain drops pattered down, so I turned to housework. My kitchen needed some deep cleaning. It needed counters scrubbed and cabinets wiped and windows polished. In the midst of shining things up I glanced out the window and saw a beautiful rainbow.
A little later I looked out a different window and saw this very handsome Red Winged blackbird. He posed for one long instant so I could capture his image.
And then I saw this very fine fox, trotting purposefully through the meadow. He was unconcerned with me taking his portrait.
And despite my frequent pauses to "shoot" the beauty outside my window, the kitchen got spiffed up nicely.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
I groom dogs for a living. And I hear people with poodles or poodle mixes say the following more often than I care to: "Don't make her look like a poodle!" What people mostly mean when they say this is, "Don't do that weird groom with the bubbles on the butt and the funky shaved spaces."
I do understand the feeling. The first time I saw a poodle in a show trim, I felt the same way. But as I learned to groom and strove to achieve the true artistry in my work, I began to appreciate the talent it took to put a poodle into a Continental or English Saddle clip. These are the two accepted styles for adult poodles to be shown in at American Kennel Club breed shows.
Once in a while I attempt to put my own poodle, Dazzle, into what is known as a "Historically Correct Continental." This is a shorter trim than the show dog style, and the coat on the top of the head is trimmed into a top knot rather than left very long and tied up. It is still a lot of work! The biggest challenge, to me, is those "bubbles on the butt." They are called "rosettes," and far trickier than you might imagine to trim and shape.
Standard poodles used to be hunting dogs. They were trained to retrieve ducks and geese in water. Their heavy coats protected them from cold, but also weighed them down when wet. So, their handlers began to cut hair short in spots to reduce weight, leaving hair to cover the joints (poms on the ankles) the heart and chest cavity, (all that hair on the neck/chest/sides) and even little puffs to cover the hip bones. From utilitarian beginnings the modern oh-so-fancy and a-little-bit- outlandish styles were created. (This ends your canine history lesson for the day.)
Usually by the time I get the hair grown in well enough that Dazzle's haircut looks somewhat correct, I am sick of maintaining all that hair and I give her a very short trim. What I mean by that is that I shave her down like a sheep!
I do enjoy attempting to set this groom correctly, and scissoring the coat to a smooth and practiced finish. And Dazzle seems to enjoy the attention she gets when people see her, here in the giggle weeds of rural Maine, running about the yard with the chickens. She reminds of a girl in an evening gown hanging out at a bowling alley.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
This season, I want a clothes line. A simple thing with cedar posts sunk firmly in the soil, and a clean white rope stretched tight and high. I want to hang my freshly washed sheets out on a sunny day and see them snap in the wind, gripped tight by wooden pins. I want to gather the dry linens into an antique wicker basket, then bury my face in the fabric and breathe. Breathe.
The smell of sheets that have been dried by the sun and air and wind is one that sweeps me back in time. I can see my mothers clothes line, aluminum and unattractive, cloaked with laundry from a family of 7. I loved the crisp-rough feel of line dried towels against my skin. I loved the smell of blue sky caught in the fabric fibers and carried indoors. This season, I want a clothes line.
Sunday, April 18, 2010
I work with a man whom I feel lucky to consider a friend. He is an exceptional person; husband, father... a man who excels at his work, enjoys art, boats, reads stacks of books, travels and seems to make the most of every day on the planet. I spend time with him several times a year through business. It seems that each time I see him he finds some new way to impress me.
This time it was with mens jewelry.
We were at a trade show together. At breakfast he told me that his friend, a painter, had died. She was in her 90's. It was plain to see, as he spoke, how deeply he cared for this woman.
Later in the day I noticed that my friend, (who always dresses very nicely) was wearing cuff links. I had never seen him wear them before.
The next day I looked and his cuffs were fastened with ordinary buttons. "No cuff links?" I queried. "I wore them yesterday because it was a funeral," he told me.
He had missed the funeral of his friend because he was far from home on business. But he honored her, just the same. In his own quiet, thoughtful, loving way, he honored her passing. He missed the cathedral and the incense and the prayers and the sharing of memories with others who loved her. But he remembered her with cuff links. A small way to set the day apart. To remember a painter friend.
My friend- he paints the world in his own way. I know he makes my world more beautiful because I know him.
My friend Kim worked some magic. While we were at the Intergroom trade show in New Jersey, she managed to get us 6Th row center seats at Mama Mia on Broadway, for FREE! Not only that, but she arranged for us to be picked up at our hotel, dropped nearly at the door of the Winter Garden Theater (which is beautiful!) and then picked up and escorted back.
I have never been to New York City (other than passing through) and it was a gift to go there with fabulous friends Kim and Barbara. We were all agog at the lights and the people and the vendors and the flavor of the place.
The show was a slice of vibrance with a heaping side dish of song... ending up with the entire audience standing, clapping, singing and swaying. We came out drunk on the music and the lights and the energy of performance. I am feeling so lucky to have had this opportunity... it is a memory that will sparkle for me for years to come.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
I am going out of town for a few days to attend Intergroom, just outside NYC.
And although I love going to this trade show, and look forward to seeing my friends, I hate to leave home. This house, this man, these pets... they anchor me. I find that the older I get, the more I settle. And I love where I am settled and hate to tear myself away. My anchors... they are big and sturdy and make me struggle to leave.
Monday, April 12, 2010
I read something today that resonated:
"Goals that are not written down are still dreams."
My current goals... which I now move firmly out of the catagory of "dream" by declaring them here are as follows:
Increase my daily walks until I am happily circling our 4 mile block.
Lose 40 pounds by August.
Sell more articles.
It is scary writing those goals down. But I did it and I'm glad.
Saturday, April 10, 2010
Poach the rooster is 1 year old. And handsome, by anyones standards.
I had never thought of owning a rooster. They are loud, and have a reputation for being mean spirited.
This rooster, however, is a very nice boy. When a treat is offered, he investigates, then calls the hens over with a sweet voice. They come running when he informs them of a suprise yummy. He never tastes a morsel until the girls have eaten. He keeps watch over his flock, but has never been aggressive to any human here. He knows "us," from "strangers," and keeps a sharp eye out for new humans.
I sometimes wake at 4 am, and hear his voice, muffled by distance and the coop... announcing to all what a fine rooster he is!
Friday, April 9, 2010
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
In winter my horse grows a thick, fuzzy coat. She looks like a bear, but weathers cold winds, snow, ice and rain in apparent comfort. In the spring that hair falls out by the fist full, leaving a short, sleek, gleaming coat behind. January may be the official "New Year," but spring is when life is renewed. Fat buds dot the trees and bushes, brooks swell with snow melt and spring rainfall, birds fill the air from dawn till dark with mating calls. And there are daffodils and crocus springing up around homes and randomly in the woods and fields, where homes probably once were... unremembered but marked by the glow of lingering flowers. I like to think of long-gone hands plopping papery bulbs into cold fall soil. The flowers remain- bright reminders that life renews. I feel the surge of awakening in my veins.
One of the greatest joys in my life is of constantly learning new things.
Yesterday I learned that after a male rabbit successfully mates, he then falls to his side with a thud in what appears to be a dead faint! He lies motionless one amazing instant, then hops up and starts again.(If you are wondering, the female rabbit looks totally unconcerned about all of the activities.) What evolutionary process this serves is a mystery to me, but seeing it happened left me with my mouth agape!
There, I bet you learned something new today!
Saturday, April 3, 2010
People are suprised when I tell them I have five dogs. And though living with this many dogs seems normal and fine to me, I do realize that FIVE is a lot.
Many years ago, when I was in high school, I read a book about a woman who took care of dogs in her home. She had dogs herself, and brought the new dogs in and integrated them into her "pack." No cages, no leashes, no fences. I didn't think all of what she did was a great idea, but one thing she said made a big impression upon me. She said that she believed animals would live up to our expectations to a large degree. It was her belief that if she expected the dogs to all get along, they would.
I tell people that we have a rule at our house that everyone gets along. People think I am kidding, but really, I am not. My husband and I have never had a fight. My dogs live side by side with the chickens, the rabbit, the sheep. I expect that everyone will get along, and they do.
One day our (then) teen aged daughter threw a fit about something. My calm, patient husband said to her, "Your mother and I CHOOSE to keep a peaceful home. You will not change that." I was moved to hear him say those words. It is a choice, I think, to have a peaceful home. Even the pets feel it.