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Friday, March 15, 2013

Remembering Maddie

I don't know why they call it heartbreak.  
It feels like every other part of my body is broken too.  
~Missy Altijd

Animal friendships must be inextricably linked to human friendships.  For when an animal leaves this world, no matter where the human relationships involved in that animal's life have ventured during those years, they are most always brought back together to mourn the loss. It is as if love has scratched a trail across our hearts so that we may always find our way back to ourselves and to each other. And so I begin with the story of Maddie. 

Super tiny baby Maddie with Warren and Sarah

Many years ago, while going to school and living on campus with my husband, we became friends with Lisa who was the apartment manager in our building. I have to credit my husband, Warren, for the introductions. I tend a bit on the introvert side of things and had not yet made it a point to meet my neighbors. Within three days of my husband moving in with me, he had met most of the tenants on our floor, including Lisa who lived right next door. After a few times of hanging out with Lisa, we discovered, besides a mutual love of cocktails, a friendship that would stand the test of time. 

Lisa, Sarah and Warren

Not long after we met Lisa, we met Jenny, one of Lisa's long time friends. As fate would have it, the four of us bonded pretty much right away. And not too long after we all met, Lisa brought Maddie home. A 'teeny tiny and too young to be away from her mom' kitten. Of course, we all immediately rooted ourselves in this baby kitten's life, establishing our role as godparents, even introducing her to our cats who zealously took on the role of cat cousins.

Lisa, Jenny and Sarah

Lisa had trouble deciding on a name for this little bundle of strawberry blond fur. So for a while we tried out the name Dixie on her. Then for a time she was Montana Poquito.  There might have been more but eventually Lisa settled on Maddie. Once Maddie had her name, she officially began her life as a kitten. A crazy one at that. You know how kittens are, running wild at all hours of the night only to drop like a narcoleptic, sleeping like the dead. In a short time, Lisa was a bit overwhelmed. She wasn't sure this business of being a cat mom was really her thing. She even asked us how we would feel about adopting Maddie. Of course, as much as we loved Maddie, we knew that Maddie and Lisa were meant for each other. We pushed Lisa to give it a couple more weeks. Wanting to really give it go, Lisa tried. Within a few short days, Lisa came by our apartment to inform us that she had fallen in love with Maddie and was going to keep her. We sorta knew that was going to happen!

Warren and baby Maddie

As Maddie grew, we had 'cat play dates' with all of us. Our cats would visit Lisa's apartment where they would teach Maddie how to do cat things like getting up on the kitchen counters, knocking knick knacks out of windows, and playing chase up and down and all over the living room. And we would invite Maddie over to eat catnip and hang at our pad. Just like their humans, the three cats became best of friends. 

Oshun, Maddie and Boozie eating catnip
Maddie even adopted one of her miniature toy kittens as a baby of her own. She took 'Baby' as we now called it to the food bowl, to the water bowl and all around the house with her. There were some times when we panicked that Baby may have been lost.  This was not a phase, for Maddie kept Baby with her for the rest of her days.

Eventually, we all graduated and moved from campus.  Without planning, we happened to move to the same neighborhood as Jenny, and Lisa was just a bike ride away. As we were now in the 'burbs, we began to teach our cats how to be outside. Warren built an outdoor enclosure out of chicken wire where the cats could come and go outside from an open window in the house. When Maddie visited she would join her cousins in the big adventure of discovering the outside world. 

Oshun, Boozie and Maddie in the outdoor enclosure

After a few years, as it happens, the four of us moved farther apart, got real jobs, and began to carve out our own niches in the world. We didn't see each other as much but when we did, it was always a reunion for us as well as expectant updates on our cats. Sadly, we lost Oshun when she was just 5 years old and Boozie when he was 11.  Then we mourned the loss of Jennys best canine friend Frieda.  But Miss Maddie out lived them all. Just recently, at 14 years old, Maddie’s heart grew old and eventually stopped beating. She joined her cousins in the spirit world. We are certain that they welcomed her and showed her around. In fact, we are even more certain that they have resumed their play once again and are now wreaking havoc all over cat heaven! 

Maddie growing up, with Warren
Maddie growing up, with Sarah and Warren

When the news reached me, Maddie was already gone. Brokenhearted for our animal and human friend, I immediately contacted Jenny to let her know. We all reconnected by voicemails, missed calls and texts, sending our love out to Lisa and to each other.  Warren and I pulled out our pre-digital camera/pre iPhone photos (aka: paper photos, remember those?) where we spent a better portion of the evening reminiscing over Maddie pictures. Tears slid down our cheeks even as we chuckled as we remembered her shenaningens which led to us remembering all the great times we all had together. 

Coming together in not only the good times but also in the hard times is the true celebration of friendship.That's when we realized how our animal friendships have made way for our human friendships. Going even more out on a limb, we pondered whether our animal friends choose us so that they may be there with us as we forge a path through life, leading us to people we need to have in our lives; and when they leave us, it is not just their time to go, but also their way of saying they have done their part and can only journey with us so far. They know we will be ok for they will truly not be gone because they will live  on in our hearts forever. 

We will miss you, Miss Maddie and we are very thankful for the friendship you provided us and for the human friendships you encouraged. You took such wonderful care of your mama. Please stay close to her heart while she heals and visit her now and again. I just know she'd appreciate that! 

When you are sorrowful look again in your heart,
and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight. 
-Kahlil Gibran

In loving memory of Maddie,

This post is dedicated to all who have mourned for the loss of their beloved pets.  Our friend Deb lost her cat, Texas; our other friend Deb lost her dog Tobin; my friend Karen lost her dog Buck; my sister Barb who lost her dog Shera, her cat Urni and her dog Chad-Chad; my sister Janet who lost their cat Peaches; my sister Susan who lost her cat Ariel; my parents who lost their dogs Timmy, Freda and Annie; my inlaws who lost their beagles Bacon and Bits; Pam and Dave who lost their lab; my friend Roz who lost her two cats; my aunt who lost her Dalmatian; my friend and sister Gwyn who lost her cat; my friend Kathy who lost her rottie Athena; our friends Irene and Dave who have lost and loved many pugs and precious Goldie; my cousin Sandy who lost Lacey just today; and all those who I have not mentioned - you are loved.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Rhythm and Honey of Words

"To re-create something in words is like being alive twice". -unknown.

I was inspired today but one of my favorite authors, Carolina de Robertis. She urged us writers to "...Read. It’s hard to make the time, I know, I know. But don’t skip it. That’s like a pro athlete who skips exercise. Or a chef with anorexia. Reading is the essential foundation of the love affair with language that lets you make art...".  If you read my blog regularly, you know I've already written about my own love affair with reading. I'll knock back 1-2 books a week, sometimes reading long into the night or straight through a whole weekend. 

When I read, a sequence of mystical events are initiated. The more I read, the better I write. Ideas flow freely, inspiration abounds, creativity jumps at the chance to express itself and then the urge to write is insatiable. Two choices exist, write or don't write. If I write, I am afforded the chance to scribe with the cadence that drives me and for a little while be cured of the fever. If I don't write, I am enveloped in an emotional tormented state, my ambition at war with my purpose. Eventually, as I hold my impulse at bay, my motivation wanes and the next time I feel the compulsion to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), it becomes just a little bit harder to get the words out, almost as if that were punishment from whatever forces demand the words flow.  I might as well obey or suffer the consequences, right?  

My mother says all writing is a kind of suspended mental moment. We can never go back and recreate it, we can't remember how we wrote it, and we don't know where it came fromSo you see, it would be as if I were squandering a precious gift from the gods. It is my sense of duty, my obligation to read countless books, burning the midnight oil. I take pleasure basking in the the rhythm and honey of other writers words and that my friend, makes my words all the sweeter. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

In the Kingdom of the Seasons

Every Spring I find myself in awe and wonder, full of hope, and just a little bit stir crazy. There is always a tug of war in the kingdom of the seasons. Winters are long in the Pacific Northwest. The sun rarely visits, the days are cold and soggy and the nights are spent listening to the freezing rain pouring through the heavens. Evenings become our saving grace. Inside, in the warmth, we wear our winter socks and huddle under blankets watching movies and playing games. We concoct all sorts of soups, stews and big cuts of meat that simmer all day then deliciously greet us after work with edible aromas. We scour our bartender bibles for strong libations. Winter has taken hold, continuing his nefarious rule over the seasons.

However, once the December holidays have been thoroughly celebrated then boxed up and put away, we begin the long descent awaiting Spring. Our rain jackets and rain boots grow mildew from never completely drying out.  The moisture cultivates farms of intricate moss that flourishes on every crevice of our cars, windows, front steps, bare tree limbs and walkways. It seems that every movie has been seen, every seasonal recipe tried and every game overplayed. Newscasters have worn out and overused their synonyms for rain (precipitation, showers, drizzle, driving mist, freezing rain, deluge, torrents, downpours, sprinkles, buckets...). Intrinsically, the desire for Spring takes root leaving us restless and ill at ease.

Then one day, almost imperceptibly, Spring arrives at the heels of Winter with Summer pushing in from behind, poking her head out just enough to encourage the sleeping trees and dormant bulbs to stir, setting in motion the miracle of life. Although she never rushes into things, the magic by which this mysterious season deposes her beauty around us always lures me into sheer amazement. When did the flowering fruit trees suddenly turn pink and the tiny green sprouts pushing through the hardened winter earth become bright yellow blooming daffodils? Birds begin to appear with their morning melodies when yesterday and in the long months before there was only silence.

As we emerge from hibernation, we find ourselves revitalized and consumed with plans. We pour over seed catalogues deciding what to plant in the vegetable garden; when to order mulch to fill our sodden garden beds, when to sprinkle grass seeds over muddy lawns; and what we will grill on the first sunny day. We schedule summer trips to the beach, make reservations at campgrounds and purchase wood for backyard fires.

On weekends, every window is forced open to let the stale Winter air free, inviting in the tasty breezes of early Spring. Rugs are taken outside and shaken furiously. Flowers, although mostly out of season still, are picked or bought and displayed on tables to discourage the Winter spirits from lingering.

Winter may imagine itself to be the more daunting force of nature but Spring is resilient and set in her ways. She will toss Winter from the dominion with a mandate to stay far, far, away while Spring has her corresponding time on the throne. After months of plowing through Winter's monotony, Spring reminds us to slow down and coast in neutral while enjoying her wanton displays of beauty. She puts a spring in our steps, gives us hope and inspires. Just as the withered world around us is coming back to life after a long slumber, so it is as our spirits re-awaken.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Fragmented (or Fermented?) Thoughts

'Wine is bottled poetry.' - Robert Lewis Stevenson

This is not the first time I have felt frustrated by the fragmented thought process of poetry. Where is the wonder and meaning in a poem that everyone delights in? It should be easy to understand given that the verses are anywhere from 1 to 5 words each. Even the words themselves sound beautiful so there must be some profound meaning in these disjointed riddles, right?

Perhaps I am too literal in my attempts to fathom any comprehension at all. But that can't be right. There have been poems that have spoken so loudly to me that my inner being is shaken.

At the pinnacle of my youth, I discovered a book of poems by my then and still beloved Jim Morrison. I was perusing a used bookstore with a friend of mine who shared in my bygone era infatuation of this deceased musician. Eager to delve into the personal world of his strange and mysterious short life, I waited until late at night when I could be alone with just my thoughts and my book. As I read his poetry, immediately I became frustrated with his words. What was he talking about? Was he on drugs? Well, yes of course he was on drugs, it was the 60's. Still, it didn't make any sense to me. Desperate to make some sort of connection, I closed the book and held it close to me and closed my eyes. I asked the spirits to show me what I needed to know. Then I opened the book and read a canvas of words that finally spoke to me. In fact, those words made so much sense to me that it couldn't have been just chance that I encountered them. It's true, those words of his. They described what happened to me the year I grew wings. I read the two poems over and over and pretty much memorized them. I marked the page in the book, copied them down in my journal, then put the book away, forever. Yes, that's right, forever.

Another time, the passionate love poem, Sonnett XVII by Pablo Neruda, peculiarly found its way to me just as I was in the throes of a love affair with the man I would eventually marry. I was reading a book of which I do not remember the name, when the author mentioned Pablo's name. Uncharacteristically curious, I looked him up. The first book I found was the 101 Love Sonnets. And you know the story from here. Of course I didn't read the whole thing. I just asked for guidance. The implication of Sonnett XVII was instantaneously clear as Pablo portrayed for me what true love was, in perfect fashion, what I couldn't put into words. As before, I copied the poem down and memorized those heart felt words. I bought Pablo's 101 Love Sonnets but was never again able to attain that same sense of discovery as I had with Sonnett XVII. Sadly Pablo ended up on the bookshelf next to Jim Morrison. Never to be opened again.

Of course, I've written my own poems*, few and far in between, and usually after a bottle of wine, in which case I would call these 'fermented thoughts'. And these may very well be the only time I can pretend I am ever so slightly poetic. I suspect that there are certain types of people - those who read, write and enjoy poetry and those who don't. It appears I am the latter, most of the time. I know I missed the boat on this one. Some may be aghast at my remarks and I mean no disrespect. I prefer complete sentences with punctuation and thoughts that don't leave me in conundrums searching for hidden meanings. It has become apparent that if a poem needs to speak to me, it will search me out and it will find me. For now though, I am content to leave the fragmented thought process in the capable hands of our world poets or at the very least on my bookshelf collecting dust.

"Poems" I have written but cannot be responsible for: