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Dogs like cookies.

Crooked Hank the Young Corgi and Miss Tibbit the Useless Little Black Dog arranged themselves nearby while I put on the Superga kicks this morning. (Note: this is the first day suitable for kicks rather than snow boots, rain boots, hiking boots, or warm-knee-high leather boots in living memory. Sing praise and joy to the kicks.) I held each sock for Hank’s inspection, prior to getting my foot inside of it. Tibbit sniffed shoelaces and inspected soles.

I cleared my throat and leaned back, the aging settee creaked and the comfy pillows squashed around me. I smiled to the congregation before me, and opened the liturgy of the Church of the WideEyedDogs.

I chanted, monophonic, “All the dogs should have cookies, all the time.” In my mind I heard the congregation chant the response, “Cookies all the time.

Hank and Tibbit sat up, ears perked in a participatory manner.

And, “The dogs should have the good kind of cookies with liver and bacon, not the cheap wheat flour ones.” Response, “The expensive liver cookies, all the time.

Tibbit’s eyes strayed toward the kitchen.

Then, “The dogs should have free and open access to all of the food, human and canine.” Response, “Free feeding, all of the time.

Hank’s furry bottom wiggled around, his seat less secure and his attention wavering. This service was too long!

I chanted, “The dogs should get dinner, and walkies, and cookies whenever they want, all of the time.” Response, “All about dogs, all of the time.

Tibbit and Hank, filled with the ecstasy of the service, sprang up and pushed closer for head rubs and chin rubs and twisting haunch rubs. “Go to the kitchen,” I ordered with all of my authority as the only ordained priest of the Church of the WideEyedDogs, “and get some cookies.” Their fervor carried them, light-hearted and innocent, into the kitchen for snackies.

InkedTibbit in the pulpit

Miss Tibbit on the pulpit of the Church of the WideEyedDogs.

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Get to going!

It has been 352 days since I stepped onto a plane. Outrageous. I’m not saying I’m a jet-setting travel-mad wanderer, but I go here and there. Lately, it has been all here with wheels-on-the-ground there exclusively. Two weeks ago the WideEyedSpouse and I were so desperate to get out of town and move at more than 40 miles an hour that we drove 57 miles to a mall in Rochester to return a mail-order pair of pants that fit so poorly I wonder if they were even engineered for humans.

Rochester.

Surely you feel that pain as keenly as I?

Numbed by the inconceivably boring stretch of the 90, we didn’t speak out loud for the whole return journey. Clinka-clinka-clinka every now and again as I wolfed among the the highway herd (baaaah!), signaling my intentions.

Soon though, soon I fly again! Saturday I stood in the attic examining the luggage options as though I were preparing for an expedition. I’m going somewhere for three days. I could take a toothbrush and a credit card. Still, the proper luggage transforms the airport slog into the carefree adventure. Ah, my eye espied the WideEyedSpouse’s abandoned Crumpler messenger bag. I cackled and rubbed my hands together (alone, in the attic, not at all weird). Mine now. Perfect for the conference dresses, jammies, and spare kicks.

My little travel bottles are lined up on the bathroom counter, tiny travel soldiers, waiting for duty. The wee little toothpaste tube stands proud and unsquashed at the back. The tray table and hand sanitizers wait to save me from the flu, mrsa, and crusty human scurf (Personal rule #1: touch nothing unless absolutely necessary). Library books are downloaded to the ipad, noise canceling headphones juiced up…Which shows will I want to watch? Downton Abbey Season 1 or Westworld Season 1? Bring the knitting project or not?

My heart will ache without the Spouse and the Dog-Pals, but I am so ready to move fast, go far, and fling myself into someplace different. For a little while. Until I fling myself back home.

Blog snip

 

Aggressive decency.

Most days I tell myself, today feels good. Birds chirp during morning dog walks. Hankie Smalls the Corgi and Miss Tibbit the Useless Little Black Dog – innocent and protected – are untroubled by politics, economics, or impending societal collapse. They are cheerful and hopeful every single morning. Interesting adventures in the confounding universe await. They smile at me and expect love back. So I smile and feel good, breathing deeply in the cold, hydrocarbon scented city air.

Then comes the newspaper. The morning news on the car radio. The news synopsis emails. The Facebook feeds. From them I learn who died and how. Who was assaulted, harassed, or disempowered. Who has had their legal rights, access to medicine, or control over their own bodies stripped from them in the night as our political leaders sneak sly, lobby-fueled, religion-fired legislation into the system. The senators must be tiring of my letters.

Ugh. I grit my teeth and work through it, distracting myself with the minutiae of academic program management and research.

Time is passing and green stuff is sprouting in the garden. I pruned the pear trees and the blackberry canes. When the snow melts, hah, it is blizzarding right now!, when the snow melts I’ll trim the ornamental grasses.

But it bothers me every day, who am I to take joy in the universe, in the fresh cold morning, and the coming spring? Humans keep on revealing their inherent awfulness, and I feel powerless to mediate the impacts.

Is being kind enough? Is growing a garden, petting some dogs, and writing to the powerful enough? Here’s what I think: these things aren’t nothing and every positive action, every tiny commitment to decency contributes to the greater good. The plan: grit my teeth, carry on, and smile while I shove decency down the throats of the asshats. Er. I mean that figuratively, of course I do.

Here, look at the picture of the happy corgi with me and we’ll all feel better…

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Be mighty. And don’t bite Miss Tibbit.

Maintaining productivity in my humor-joy oeuvre proves difficult lately. Sure, I can see the bees in the lavender, the butterflies on the buddleja, the hostas exploding with late summer flower potential. The aromas of the herbs wander through my tiny demesne, especially when it rains after a hot day. City reek, city stress stop at my front walk. The back garden is a place of peace and joy. Except when Crooked Hank the Corgi Puppy latches on to Miss Tibbit’s tail. Not peaceful then. No how.

But…ugh. Threats of nuclear war. Opioid epidemics. Political machinations. Hatred for people different from yourself. Nasty comments on the social media. Crazed news media. Preaching, proselytizing, vituperation.

It wears a body down, trammels the mind, saps me.

I need a plan to keep a daily balance because under the metamorphic existential stresses of each day, my stupid heart keeps breaking through the soot crust and beating hope hope hope-joy joy joy–wonder wonder wonder.

Why does it do that? It actually hurts.

So here is my plan – each step to be repeated as needed. Feel free to adapt for your circumstances:

  1. Mix a late summer cocktail and play with the dogs. I recommend the gin sour.
  1. Practice a craft, one that doesn’t drive me bananas, like Chinese watercolors or knitting but not lace knitting because the point is to feel good not incite rage.
  1. Smile. To myself. And not because of any establishment discriminatory nonsense about women should smile etc etc. Smiling relaxes the stress garbage and breaks the mean. For me it does. I smile for myself not for anyone else.
  1. Practice saying in a relaxed, non-confrontational way, “I’m not comfortable with what you are saying, please excuse me,” and also practice my saunter so I ooze implacable, indefatigable confidence of purpose walking away. Deploy my hard-won new skills. Be mighty.
  1. Keep watch for someone who can use my help. Help them.

There it is. If you hear a bunch of barking and laughing coming from the WideEyedBackyard, well, I care a lot about the troubles of the world, but I can’t help make a strong healthy society if I go numb or break. None of us can. Peace, friends.

Provisions

We ripped through the night in the Mighty Pathfinder, Enrique Iglesias’ Bailando thumping from the speakers, windows open, warm winds blowing. The WideEyedSpouse didn’t slow for a mad-big construction bump and the Mighty P lurched and waggled excitingly. “Bailandoooo!” the Spouse wailed.

An old man on a porch swing creaked back and forth in time to the song when our crazed journey paused at a traffic light, and a flashing neon sign wanted to be on the beat but couldn’t get there –an electric version of me trying for the rhythm but never finding it. Cracked sidewalks sketchy bus stops stinky gas stations barking dogs blatting broken muffler cars – they are all better in the languid warm of long summer evening.

I smiled out into the evening air, crumpling my reusable grocery sacks tight to me.  My heart felt full and light and easy. Buoyant. Which was nice because there hasn’t been much joy in the WideEyedHomestead since my pal Hamish the Corgi died a few weeks ago.

It’s my big question, my conundrum again, from where does this mad joy come? And why do I feel it best when I’m faced with the outrageous complexity of life in this world?

 

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Garden avatar

With a near supernatural restraint and indomitable force of WideEyed will, I did not buy new plants for the front garden this year. Ok. I did not by many plants for the front garden – only two sedum tiles which I cunningly split into a few pieces each resulting in six new plantings. Hah.

Instead, I hacked bits from the Shasta daisies to fill in holes. These bits are droopy excuses for plants. I stare at them as the dogs and I stroll past them. I am distracted by them as I pull into the driveway after a long day of being Chained To An Office Chair.  They better perk up or I’m hitting the garden store down on Main Street. (Sounds charming, right? Like Main Street is some kind of throwback with interesting shops, flowers, smiling people. Uh. Nope. Major traffic artery right through the city. Lotta red lights and screaming and enormous potholes. The garden shop is nice though.)

I tiled inferno weed zones with flagstone scraps and bricks reclaimed from a sadly deceased neighbor’s defunct garden patio. (No. I did not reclaim these bricks in the dead of night after her funeral, if that’s what you were thinking. Her husband and sons removed the patio and graciously offered them to me. I promise. That’s how it happened.) Maybe pretty weeds will grow between the new stonework. Maybe the nasturtium seeds I threw down will produce delights. The WideEyedSpouse added an inukshuk – or more correctly an inunnguaq I guess – to the garden. The little stone person had dignity and gravitas until the birds visited this morning. Now the WideEyedAvatar needs a bath.

The gardens awaken. The sun beams down on us all. Winter doldrums are fading into a dim memory of something that happened to someone else.

inunnguaq

Cats and Plants

Maranta 2017Yep. That’s a Maranta leucomeura. A scraggly specimen, too. The WideEyedSpouse espied it lurking on the back of a table at the Home Depot. “Special Buy” the tag said. I snorted. What a mess.

The Maranta lives in the WideEyedHousehold now.

You may be unimpressed by this prosaic moment. So would I be except for one extraordinary and upsetting fact. The Maranta can live here because Ancient Wiggins the Cat no longer does.  Old-struck, life-weary, that creaky, foul-tempered and steadfast pal of mine left the building on Saturday morning. By Sunday afternoon the Maranta had moved in, that opportunist.

For eighteen years the household could harbor no plants without inevitable hoorka, hoorka, hoorka noises and slimy green piles on the carpets. Always on the carpet, never on the tile. Eighteen years of raptor intensity attacks on even ears of corn from the farmer’s market left unguarded on the counter. (We once hid them in the oven to prevent the hoorkas, forgot them, found them two weeks later moldering, warm, soft.)

“As soon as that cat goes, I’m getting some plants,” I may have said, staring dark thoughts at his whiskered and smug face. On Sunday I stood among hundreds of lush limbed and tasty looking leaves. My heart ached – I couldn’t do it. Choosing a plant meant admitting that Ancient Wiggins was never coming back. Pathetic and saggy, the Maranta was desperate and sorry enough to be admissible.

I don’t look directly at the Maranta. I approach it sideways, water it here and there, move it around from table to counter back to table because it keeps getting in the way. The Maranta hasn’t made it more than six feet into the house.

This morning several shoots appeared under the torn up, mildew speckled leaves. New growth.

Wiggins for Blog