Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Shattered by Love

Fergus 11-1-97 to 11-8-2014

My precious little dog, who was 17 years old passed away four days ago, peacefully euthanized at the vet's office, suffering very little, and very ready to go. That Saturday morning was like a too fast moving series of events that I was not ready for...and in the last four days I've talked and talked about the story when I haven't been sobbing, and all the love and support for friends and family and fellow dog lovers has been enormous. I know I have written for several years about how much I miss the Ice but I loved my dog more and it was my commitment to him to stay with him until he drew his last breath. Now I am glad that things happened swiftly and I got to hold onto his little body while nuzzling in his neck and telling him how much I loved him while he was sedated and comfortable. When the doc inserted the second needle, his little heart stopped before the fluid could have reached him...he was so ready..and I can look at this picture and imagine him saying "thank you for my awesome life!" 

And he did have an awesome life...from all the people on Facebook who remember him and remember our bond, to the incredibly sweet flurry of pictures sent between me & his grandparents (who loved him as much I did, as their house was his second home & he spent all my Ice seasons there), I have gotten to experience something I have never experienced before: deep, hard loss mixed with joyful memories and deep bonding with other pet owners who have lost pets. I am now in that club and I understand. The happiness he gave to me and so many others almost overrides the grief. I am able to keep that feeling with me most of the day. There are terrible moments: driving up to the empty cabin, seeing all his toys and food bowls and meds...but there are more happy ones too: knowing he will never suffer again, knowing that he had the most luxurious no expense spared care a little pound puppy could ever have.

I don't know what his life was like for the first 6-8 months, but when I saw him at the high kill shelter I adopted him from, I instantly knew he was the dog I was going to adopt. I don't remember why I wanted to get a dog, just that I woke up one day & went to the shelter (where I used to volunteer with the cats because I didn't like dogs!) and walked amongst all the big pens with hundreds of dogs jumping and slobbering and excited and then a saw a tiny bit of red, inert fuzz in back of a large kennel, and he seemed so frightened and small. I asked to take him out to the play area and he walked around a little and seemed very tentative. I had never been around dogs and wasn't sure how to act...I think I tried to get him to run with me and he started to respond, ever so little. I went home and told Steve, my live in boyfriend, that I found a dog I wanted and would he come look at it with me the next day. When Steve saw Fergus he said "he's so small!" and he was attracted to the boisterous high energy mutts. I was not interested in looking at any other dog, so we went back to the play area and he was a little more active, still very tentative, but at the end of our petting on him he reached up and put his paws on my knees and wagged his tail...and Steve was amazed and said "I think that's your dog!"...and the next 17 years was basically doggie heaven. He went on road trips, went to parties and stayed at grandmas and flew on airplanes and had many comfy homes in Austin and Oregon. I bought this little cabin for him to spend his final years in...and he got to live here for 1.5 years in a heated bed with baby food daily and lots of comfort.

What I was not aware of until he passed was what was different about me. I feel I did right by him. I took care of him to the best of my ability, and most importantly I sacrificed things for him: mostly a career I loved. And now I see that I didn't sacrifice anything...every day with him was a privilege...every bit of loyalty and love that he gave to me made me a better person. Even when I was cranking on about my lack of "freedom" or feeling "trapped" my actions were of total devotion and care - at least that's what everyone has told me. I would only work somewhere where he wouldn't have to be alone very long...I didn't do many things because I didn't want to come home to a frightened pup, and at first I kind of resented it, and then I couldn't wait to get home to spend time with him. I was lucky that he was utterly healthy and puppy like until his last year. This last year he was like a different dog. His senses were so degraded and he was so disoriented I'm sure his quality of life wasn't optimal. I kept saying he was a happy little dog but people who weren't attached to him saw something else, something the vet and my friend could see that Saturday morning that I was blind to: that he probably wasn't doing that great this last year, and that he might have been suffering a little. But I saw him as happy because he always ate a lot for the one hour a day he was awake.

My friend who I always listen to said this to me: you might regret it if you went to the Ice and he died while you were gone, but you will never regret having spent the rest of his life with him. I always clung to those words...these words from a friend who has experienced deep losses. She was right. 

It seems like some great cosmic joke to me now that I thought I was missing out on something these last 4 years. It shows me that I am so spoiled...I'm so used to getting to do what I want, but not getting to do what I want has shown me what real joy is, the commitment to something that is not me, something that is dependent on me. I would have never known until I had the experience that to sacrifice something for love is not sacrifice at all. Thank you Fergus, for showing me what real love is.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Between Midnight & McMurdo

Over twenty years ago I was watching Star Trek episodes to get through a grieving process after being dumped by I guy I was crazy about. I was living in Austin, 29 years old and weary of my office day jobs and out of control partying weekends. I was also extremely disappointed in the direction my life was going: I had a filmmaking degree and had been praised a bit in college, moved to NYC  the day after I graduated with dreams of being Woody Allen and ended up in a series of low paying receptionist jobs & drinking like Bukowski. The partying became more dark and dangerous (yet I always made it to work every day in the city) and I was seeing that my life was not anything like I had pictured it to be - I felt clueless on how to guide my life in a positive direction. For some reason an acquaintance gave me an old black & white tv (people always wonder why I don't have a tv in my house). It only got one channel, and one night after deciding to dry out for a bit, I turned it on & saw a 60's Trek episode for the first time. As I watched it I felt something blossom in my heart - it was compelling in a way I did not understand yet. Looking forward to this show kept me out of the bars for a couple of months. I remember looking in the mirror after a couple of weeks of not drinking and saw my sparkling eyes for the first time in a long time. So, again in Austin six years later, I'm 29 and going through my umpteenth breakup, still partying but not nearly as hard, and hungrily watching star trek every day. And it wasn't even intentional - it just organically popped up as my heartbreak band-aid...I don't think you could rent the shows at this point so I just watched them on network...and just like when I was lost in NYC, they worked at healing my pain by focussing my attention on things that made my soul happy: camaraderie, complex friendships, a mission, a journey full of challenges, a ship full of people whose lives were filled with meaning an purpose. I did not know at the time that this was why the show grabbed my attention so completely. I just knew there was something going on there and it was trying to tell me something, and whatever that something was was touching some deep an buried part of me that would take another 14 years to crack free...

I got married and my husband also loved the show - we even went to some conventions and actually met George Takei. I never got into the later versions of Star Trek. I tried to watch them but remained a purist; they just didn't have that rawness of the original...nor the qualities I saw in the trifecta of characters in the original: the dark sides, the doubts, the uncontrollable lusts, the petty jealousies and cockiness & bravado borne from insecurities. Spock became my guru. There was a famous episode, "Amok Time" where he was to return to Vulcan to marry his intended. The human side of him was in serious tumult with the Vulcan half - and when he went back to meet his bride, she was in love with someone else because he was around and Spock was always gone. Spock still would have been able to marry her and fulfill his community's expectations, but he let his betrothed go to her love (Stonn), surrendering to the situation and staying true to his true calling. In the end to he turned to Stonn and said:

 "After a time, you may find that having is not so pleasing a thing...after all, as wanting."

When I heard this line the starts aligned, all the molecules of my body lit up and the clock stopped as  my gut had received a truth it had hungered for. My dear old friend Richard came by my house while the credits were rolling (with that incredibly cheesy theme song)...forced me out of the rocking chair I had been glued to for weeks, and dragged me to a nightclub on Sixth Street and that night, I met the man I was to marry. The marriage didn't last, but the whole experience of Star Trek coming into my life at my lowest moments makes me have faith that some ancient and mysterious loving powers might be helping us in our darkest hours. Looking back, my 20's was bursting all the time with this sort of synchronicity and help. I would welcome this sort of excitement now - though I am much more able to take care of my emotional self than I used to be.

My reader may wonder why I have a picture of Antarctica up instead of Mr. Spock. Well I had written an entirely different post an then erased it. It was a long poem inspired by the line "...between midnight and McMurdo..." and I kept working it but it just devolved into my usual story line of missing the Ice and being frantic inside about this place going on without me. I had recently reached a crisis point as I usually do during Winfly time, pumping energy into all the negative feelings that surround me having to stay stateside: helplessness, resentment, sadness, despair, when I finally just told myself ENOUGH! It is time to DROP this story. I watched every Eckhart Tolle video on youtube and forced myself to live in the present and dig into my life here. It is working. My life is getting juicy again, and even though looking at that picture of the far away frozen place can take my breath away, I know that it is the wanting of it that is steering my pleasure around it. I have already had it and will have it again, but for now I can just enjoy the wanting.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Summer Travel Posting

these bad boys hang out on the rock of Gibralter

sweet memories of Provence

a 500 year old bldg gives new meaning to "vintage"

cool peeps I met on the trip

Cadiz, Spain
Cadiz again, I loved it

Joan from Manchester, UK - my new bestie!

There is nothing like travel to thrust you into the present much as I've done it I'm still amazed at how righted & centered & alive I can be once I get into that airport (my "church" as I've jokingly referred to it with a friend) and begin the journey that has a loose itinerary but that is always filled with surprises. And the surprises are not what I discover out there but what I find out about myself - the world always acts as a mirror for me to confront the parts of me that I am not able to see when I am in familiar routine, so travel has never been about relaxing or vacating for me, but more like coming to and hooking up with myself. Not always joyful, often very painful, but always very, very intense and necessary seeming.

I started driving from Mt. Hood to Houston on April 21st and at first the drive seemed ridiculous: carting an ancient dog across the country (to stay with my parents) so I could be free to travel for a couple of months without worrying about him. He is frailer and blinder than ever, so leaving him in kennel seemed cruel. I guess I should look at the positive side that I have the means and freedom to do a trip like this at all...but taking care of creatures is not my wheelhouse - bolting towards unknown adventure is.

The 6 day drive was epic and insightful, as all long solo road trips was snowing when I left Mt. Hood & 96F when I arrived in Austin. So horrid to be in Texas weather! I love my home state so much it hurts, but the weather sucks so badly I can't live there anymore. After settling in at my folks house in Houston I went to Taos for the annual painting/gutting trip. It was good to be in that space, but I felt hard and resistant to the process - very aware that I was still feeling pain in my heart about the miles between me and never ebbs, I can only distract myself from it with work, travel, yoga, lame attempts to have a spiritual life. In the blink of an eye Taos was over, then my month in Austin was to commence.

Initially I thought being in Austin for an extended period was going to be just waiting to go on this mediterranean trip, but my time there was very, very juicy: I felt like the prodigal son returning to welcoming, excited hordes of people wanting to see me. It was incredible. I was home. I was feeling apprehensive about the two weeks in Europe, feeling badly about dumping my pet on my parents, feeling like I hadn't worked long enough to  earn this trip, and that I was just overindulging myself because I could...but what I've learned is worrying about stuff is such a waste of the blink of an eye that trip was over too...and here I sit at 4:00am in Houston, the multi-legged adventure completed, preparing to drive back to my cabin in Oregon. But before I close some words about the Europe trip:

It took a long time to decide whether I would go on this trip...I really wanted to go to Skandinavia & Russia but this group I wanted to travel with only goes to hot sunny places so I decided to do the mediterranean with them. I would just suck it up and deal with my sun exposure headaches with advil and kvetching.

What I always forget & what is always a delight is the intimacy that happens with being in a place where I've never been, exploring the crooked cobblestone streets alone, and being utterly in the present and available for anything. I was with a group...but soon found I preferred my own company to theirs, though was grateful to have them as a safety net of comrades. The beautiful busty lady pictured is my new friend Joan from Liverpool. We met the last few days of the trip and had a blast dancing and tarting around on the ship. I am truly blessed to be able to have such a life.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

So Lame, Using the same Post on two differently themed Blogs. Oh Well...

Taos Ski Valley 2014 - year 8

I came into this ski week with very high expectations. I took my first lesson ever here 8 years ago this same week and have been coming back closing week every year. I had been progressing a little each year & could feel it a lot in my 6 days on the mountain. Two years ago I had gotten about two weeks skiing in on Mt. Hood and had gotten a lot faster so that my 7th year I felt very confident. Last summer I moved to Mt. Hood and got 40 days on skis before coming to Taos this time and expected to be put in a very high level class. I got here a day early and got a big day on the mountain before class started and for the first time did not feel intimidated by this macho & rugged peak. So when I got put in the same level class as last year during ski off (where the head of the ski school watches you do a few turns & assigns you to a class) I was shocked. I saw someone I had skied with for years in a higher level than me. I saw that there was only one class lower than me & couldn't believe what was happening. Did those 40 days not make me better? I was told that just time on skis made a difference but it apparently didn't. I wondered if I had not improved at all & what, if anything, I had gained by doing all that skiing. And it was hard: the decision to move someplace where I didn't know anyone, buy a cabin, buy snow tires & drive up to ski by myself in total fear & awkwardness. I met some folks on the mountain & we would meet up at the resort & ski together but they were at a much higher level than I was. I found one ski buddy & we started going up all the time. He was very fast & I asked him for help & he told me some things & made me feel lame for "not improving." We had some huge powder days & I couldn't ski it, and he would say "then you can't ski" & we would fight & grouse at each other driving down the mountain as I let my ability at this sport control my self esteem while he obsessively texted his girlfriend. What else did I have? I had defined myself by being an Antarctican for seven years. I was no longer an artist, no longer an old Austinite, felt lost in Oregon as it has never felt like "home" and was putting all my eggs in one basket. I really wanted to be an expert skier & felt that I had failed after putting in all those days.  Deep down none of this really felt like "me" but that was also what was so alluring about it - stepping into a life that was nothing like I'd ever been in before.

What is interesting to me now is WHY I want to be so good at this...I had never wanted to ski until I took my first snowboard lesson in 2006. I saw this energy and excitement on the mountain that was intoxicating. I failed so badly at my snowboard lesson that people suggested I take up skiing first. I had to wait til the next year though as I'd broken my tailbone on my one day out. I had never played a sport before. In junior high we had to do volleyball and softball & I was terrible at them. I was so scared in volleyball at how aggressive the other girls were that I made excuses to not play. I only liked track and gymnastics, finding out that I am not much of a team player. I started jogging in high school, started again more seriously after college & fell in love with running. Did it 3 times a week for half an hour for about 15 years. Did aerobics and weight training mixed in there too...and always walked a few miles a day. Discovered yoga about 10 years ago and love it about as much as anything I can imagine. I am not one of those people that hates exercising. I really love it, only if all I can do is a brisk walk around town or through the woods. But skiing is a sport. A very strange and mysterious one in the beginning. And I have never been good at sports. I was always good at writing and art and handicrafts but I was not naturally athletic. When I ran for years I still never got fast in a 5K. I dropped out of track in high school because I was the slowest one. I couldn't stand being the worst at something because I'd been so good at so many things naturally...but I think that is ultimately why I chose to commit to skiing: my first week was so bad, I was so scared and the last one left in beginner school, but that final day when I successfully took turns down the bunny slope I had a breakthrough that I've never forgotten. I have met people who started skiing at my age who do double blacks and I have yet to do them. I am timid about terrain I've never done, and won't do anything new without an instructor. So my class this week started off with us all being about the same with one really slow person...the slow person dropped down a level, we picked up two really fast people, and all of a sudden my class was 3 super fast people who just bombed down the mountain with me trailing far behind. I had never seen this happen in 8 years of ski week (where my class was not a perfect fit)....and the past few years we did moguls & trees and this time we weren't going to do them. I ended up after a lot of drama being dropped to a lower level class that had almost beginner skiers in it. Now I was the fastest person in class but was not being challenged. But I accepted that this was supposed to be about "fun" and not being a superstar, and besides, I have far surpassed where I thought I would have ended up in my ski career.

Something else was off at Taos: me. I usually blossom & dazzle there, but this time I felt this shroud around I had gauze around my heart and there was a hardness, a bitterness that I did not want to look at. Yes I knew I was sad about not deploying for the third year in a row (and now possibly looking at a fourth) but was the cumulative effect of having my dream deferred turning me into a bitter old crone? Or was it something else? A dark veil seemed to come over me when I saw couples interacting in tender and romantic ways. A man turned his wife on the dance floor and his eyes melted with love for her. My life has had none of that of late. I was seared, and wondering if I had used up my boyfriend allotment for this lifetime...I mean, there have been a lot of them....and a lot of them have been awesome, and the one thing I knew is that I would always have one - until now. I'm not going to go into some new-agey tie in about how being single is awesome and one has to love themself first - cuz I'm out her in new territory for me & it is terrifying. I mean the programming that our culture has about old single women & sick cats and fat stomachs - that is not me...I love solitude & doing my own thing, but I like having companionship & a partner too...I'm not sure I'm very good at it, but for some reason I'm terrified I'm never going to find someone - gosh just writing that seems lame - it's not like I'm hideous or anything. I skied today & felt bored - bored because I am tired of groomers & no longer afraid of off piste...I took off by myself into crud & trees & baby jumps all with success. Maybe I didn't turn into an exper skier this year, but I will next year. Grand Masters here I come. Gah am I ADHD or something?

I love my little dog with his bum eye..he is more fragile now & I am more trapped - not being able to leave him alone as long as I used to because of having to be medicated every few hours...I wonder, if when he dies & I can actually try to get back to the Ice, if it will be the same glorious infusion of life that it was for so long...and this time was not wasted..I did some really bold things that I will be proud of but that also increased my sense of isolation. There is no guidebook for a single middle aged woman who still has the same chutzpah she had at 19. But at the same time there seems to be a shallowness, a non depth to the activities that I assign myself. It is like I am walking through mud, painting a smile on my face and living someone else's life. I cannot fall into that unblinking black hole right now - it's not an option with my current set of unprocessed neurosis.

I actually have women friends my age who are besotted with their grandchildren. Now THIS is an alien landscape I want nothing to do with (otherwise knows as someone please shoot me now!)  Effing Hell get me back to he child free work camp! The gritty, dirty dusty world of labor & cold & wild dancing. Take me back when I want to come back is all I ask.