Blessed be

Blessed be the infernal yard crew that inspires me to put Angelique Kidjo on full blast and DANCE for 20 minutes.

Blessed be the achy, arthritic hips that still like to move and blessed be the feeling of bare feet sliding across the floor in an ecstasy of rhythm.

Blessed be the gloaming and the rain that falls during the night.
Blessed be Blue Ribbon Barbeque! And a weight loss plan that lets me eat this plate load with gusto and still be on track (Weight Watchers; down 6 pounds).

Blessed be the child that is learning to listen to his gut (even if it requires a trip to the ER for fluids).

Blessed be SoulCollage for making the obvious obvious.


Blessed be the mothers that outwait, outlisten, outhope, and outflex the children in distress, even if it takes a strenuous chanting practice and a ridiculous amount of pacing.

Blessed be the husbands who know how to use chop saws and mitre saws and can measure properly and fix things: rotting things, leaking things, peeling things, essential things.

Blessed be the guardians, seen and unseen.

Blessed be the places we find joy.

Heart rash and quiche

A red patch of itch over my heart. Don’t want to ponder its meaning. Just like I didn’t want to think too hard last week about the significance of leaving my power cord at the library.

There’s this: I went to Salem yesterday and it was disheartening for all the usual (mind bending heart rending) reasons. And this: a writer friend sent me an article about self-publishing that harshly critiqued the unreasonable expectations of first time authors and outlined why self-publishing was probably the more likely path to success and then ticked off the fifty things one needed to do to be successful at self-promotion (and I thought selling quilts was awful!). That kept me awake a good extra hour and a half last night.

And it’s still really really hot. We have AC but the body still sweats and suffers walking Finn taking out the garbage running errands. I plan to write swim write today. Maybe Walden Pond for a change? After getting back from China late Saturday night, K is taking the week off.

I’ll leave you with a photo of the quiche I made last night. Hadn’t made one in ages. Oh the steps! The mixing chilling rolling chilling baking one way then another. And that’s just the crust! It was 7:30 before we finally ate. With a filling of egg, carmelized onions with thyme from the garden plus a little bit of Swiss, it was worth both the wait and the gluten cheat.

Why I admire dog people so much

Dog people are stalwart, good communicators, aware of personal and canine boundaries, committed to the task of training. Many of their capabilities are nonverbal and barely register to the human eye, meaning they are sensitive and subtle, too. They tend to be kind. They tend to be patient.

I am not a dog person. Not yet, anyhow.

This post catalogs a few encounters that Finn and I had this morning (plus one remembered incident). If  you don’t have time to read 1,100 words, you might want to skip to the end and at least read about the German Shepherd and his guy. They were kind of amazing.

It’s 98 degrees out now, but even this morning before nine, it was brutally hot. So I decided to take Finn to Crystal Lake where I hoped to exhaust him without inducing heat stroke. To get to the lake, we cut through an off-leash park. We’ve played fetch there on occasion with mixed results. It’s okay as long as the other dogs are far away and their people are paying attention, but it’s always a little bit of a risk.

This morning we happened to get pinned by two incoming dogs, both off leash.

After I alerted the closer woman that Finn was reactive, she immediately abandoned the stroller she was pushing, grabbed her yellow lab by his harness and hooked him up to a leash. She then quietly put some distance between us. A dog person.

The other woman didn’t need a verbal cue because by then Finn was barking his head off. Nevertheless, she sauntered off toward the far side of the field. She sauntered off to the far side of the field while her poodle bounded toward us. This woman sauntered off to the far side of the field, pretend-calling her dog, while I restrained mine using a considerable amount of effort. I’ve done this many times before and have some confidence in my ability to restrain Finn, but she doesn’t know what I can or can’t do. If she bothered to look, she’d see a five foot tall woman working really hard to manage a dog that is hysterical because her dog is bounding toward us.

She kept chirping the dog’s name, as if she was actually calling the animal. But anybody could see that her dog was no more trained to come that I’m trained to do a Simone Biles gymnastics routine.

Most dogs aren’t trained to come, including Finn. It’s a 10,000 calls-kind of thing, with increasing amounts of distraction, so I didn’t judge her on that account. I judged her for acting as though she had trained him. Chirp. Chirp. She knew that dog wasn’t gonna come. La-dee-dah. Did I mention the bounder was a poodle with a pom-pom tail?

Not a dog person.

Needless to say, by the time we got to the Lake, I was a little wiped (that wasn’t the first episode of the walk). The heat was oppressive already and even though I’m practiced at these encounters, they’re still stressful.

The last time Finn and I were at the lake he attacked another dog, so I brought thirty foot leash. The sight lines at our spot are terrible and to make matters worse, I have to keep my back to the pathways to throw the ball. Up until the recent attack, I assumed that Finn’s intense play would keep him engaged. Oops!

He bolted past me that day and went after a dog just past the tree line. In her panic, the owner dropped the leash and backed away, leaving her dog to fend for himself. I got there quickly, of course, and pulled a crazed Finn away. Fortunately, he doesn’t bite in these episodes — just scares the shit out of everyone.

But to drop the leash? Really?

These bursts of ‘reactivity’ are terrifying, don’t get me wrong.  And while I know that his behavior springs from insecurity rather than aggression, no one on the receiving end has any reason to make such a distinction. So while dropping the leash made this woman human, it also revealed her status : not a dog person. I’ve seen a fifty year old woman tackle a golden retriever to interrupt a snarling, teeth-gnashing encounter, for god’s sake. That’s a dog person.

Interceding that day took a few minutes, so there was a delay before I could turn and make an apology. To her it may have felt like an afterthought. I’ll take it as a ‘dog person badge’ that I didn’t care, recognizing as I do now that my primary responsibility in these situations is to Finn.

If I hated the poodle-lady just a little (did I mention it was another god-damned poodle?), it wasn’t because she wasn’t a dog person, it was the way her wilted, victimized response almost seemed like a prelude to a law suit. If you don’t live in Newton, Mass., trust me — this kind of reaction is not out of the realm of possibility. Even absent a bite.

So today things seemed to be working out. The leash let Finn bomb into the water with glee, grab the ball, and come bounding back in that joyful way of his and let me know that I’d be able to restrain him if necessary.

That’s when a beautiful one year old German Shepherd and his guy arrived. Right behind us. As Finn blasted through the water to charge the dog, I had to hustle to gather up the slack. I managed, leash-webbing burns on my hands notwithstanding. It was the usual wild barking, the usual me backing him up, the usual continued wild barking, me being stern and then generally, a semblance of calm. Usually the uproar ends because the other dog gets far enough away and not because of anything I’ve done, but today Finn settled even with the shepherd near.

That guy stood there, calm as a brick wall. Not surprisingly, so did the dog. Not a growl, no hackle peak, no returning volley of barks – nothing.

Then, the man actually asked me, “Do you think they want to meet?”

I was nearly speechless with admiration.

Because I don’t have the confidence to do this yet, never mind the fact that I’d already emptied my adrenals once or twice that morning, I declined. But what happened next was just beautiful.

This guy set up a game of fetch just down the beach a bit, at what, really, was a phenomenally strategic distance. Not so far away as to make the shepherd irrelevant to Finn, but slightly inside his comfort zone. With casual precision, this guy established a session of parallel play that doubled as training. I was so, so impressed.

You might think I’m going overboard, but I’m not. This man probably didn’t have to think overly hard about where to start throwing the tennis ball, but he knew enough about dogs in general and about our situation in particular to respond in an intuitive manner that was both respectful and useful.

Because that’s what dog people do.

Intentional and unintentional crucifixes

This one’s intentional. Hand pieced. Seams tacked open. Only frustration? That red, white and blue fabric (which happens to be from Africa) melts under an iron. Almost ruined the piece twice.

Went to BC library this morning again where I photographed another intentional cross. This is the church that K and I were married in (not by a priest). I see crosses everywhere. 
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I was thinking about Michael Brown when I took the shot of the telephone pole yesterday (the anniversary of his death). It’s not the first time I’ve viewed the black men being slaughtered in American streets as sacrifices.

These are not casual deaths. These are not unintentional deaths.
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african-christ-deemallonIs it possible that if Michael Brown or Trayvon Martin could look down on our streets and read BLM twitter feeds and watch the various federal investigations and reports about police practices coming out (Ferguson’s earlier in the year, Baltimore’s today), they might actually think that their sacrifices were not in vain?

The recurring discovery of crosses in my quilts stems partially and almost accidentally from a tendency to design in thirds. But not exclusively. It also arises out of an enduring resonance with Catholic symbols. It turns out that the rejection of Catholic culture, rites, texts, and even the Savior himself, has not meant a wholesale rejection of its symbols. This confuses me a little but maybe there’s some sort of internal logic there, even if only as evidence of genetic memory.

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That’s me on the left on the day of my First Communion. Nana is probably pinching me. Or maybe she has just scared the shit out of me by announcing that the bees that were floating in and out of the tulips behind us would go right down my throat if I ate any more grape jelly. (This from a woman who said the Rosary at least twice a day and attended Mass every morning in Queens, NY. Imagine what she might have said or done without all that praying). Look at my sister, being such a good girl for the camera. Gawd.IMG_1405

Refuge

Sanctuaries are so important — even in First World lives where aggravations go to comfort and not survival.

The piercing beeping of trucks in reverse and the roar of playground grass maintenance started at 7:30. That would be immediately after I sat down in the cool peace of our deck to write. Even inside, with all windows closed and headphones on, I thought I would jump out of my skin. It didn’t help knowing that in another hour, two house construction jobs within a stone’s throw of my driveway would get going. So, I got in the car and drove around.

Aimless escape of this kind is a luxury since Finn came to live with us. I drove around in part because I could — it’s a doggie play date day (oy – talk about First World) but also because I couldn’t think of a place nearby that I wanted to occupy. Peets is crowded, always. Our town library is not reliably quiet. The coffee shop in Newtonville — also rarely has an empty seat.

And then I remembered my alma mater: Boston College Law School.  A minute or two from the house. With a beautiful, clean, QUIET and nearly empty library. Wow. Wow.

Greeted first by Saint Thomas More and then by a Ruth McDowell quilt, then entering a wing donated by the law firm I used to work at, there was a sense of homecoming (even if I did not feel at home at that law firm for a single minute of my tenure there and even though this library was built after I graduated).

Something curious went on just before noon. Maybe because I was recently ‘followed’ on twitter by a Massachusetts ACLU lawyer, maybe because last night I watched a talk he gave at the Center for Constitutional Rights on YouTube (Carl Williams) and was really inspired, and maybe because when at 11:55 I got up to chant the Lotus Sutra for Mike Brown, for Mike Brown’s family, for all the BLM activists on the front lines, and even for the dumbbells who don’t understand that racial justice benefits each and every one of us, I was tempted into pulling a directory off the shelf that just happened to be at eye level.

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I don’t even remember what you had to do to qualify for the Order, but I know it was kind of a bid deal. It was a weird and unexpected pleasure to reclaim this part of my life, even if temporarily and for no other purpose but to notice.

I’ll leave you with a little law school humor, lest you conclude I am spending all my sanctuary time on social media!

Distracted

The presidential campaign continues to distract me. I know I’m not the only one who feels she is in limbo, unable to read or even watch TV much, because of the driving need to consume news stories and op eds about the candidates.

I have to know the latest. This week it was: has Trump finally gone too far (dare we hope)? Maybe it is true, as some say, that he never wanted the job and it’s only a matter of time before he folds (dare we hope?).

Is there any remedy for ‘post-factual’ politics (George Will’s term)? If in fact Trump’s followers are willing to accept belief as fact when it suits their purpose, what place does rationality have? John Oliver captured this dilemma well the week after the RNC.

Does it help to blame Roger Ailes, Fox News, the Tea Party, our education system, or the ghost writer of Trump’s book, “The Art of the Deal” (who sounds like he’s practically suicidal for his part in aiding Trump’s ascendancy –described here, in a New Yorker article)? Or to call to task all those lame Republicans who have either endorsed the lunatic or remained silent out of fear of messing up their own political ambitions?

Meanwhile, I also collect scathing condemnations of the ‘purity vote’ which strikes me as another form of being unhinged from reality, but from a place of sanctimonious delusion rather than reactionary xenophobia. Who are these people that cannot fathom that sitting this one out or voting for “Jill fucking Stein” (radio host Dan Savage’s name) is to risk turning our country into a flaming dumpster? Maybe Sanders now regrets waiting so long to endorse Clinton, seeing as how so many of his followers do not seem to understand that they are voting ‘in the real world’ (his words).

Occasionally, I hiss in the direction of Lexington, Mass., which is not very far from here, since that is where Jill Stein is from.

Here’s where I need to cite the best article I’ve read so far about the double standard applied to Hillary Clinton, which doesn’t convert her from crook to saint, but does put the unrelenting attacks against her into a serviceable framework of sexism. Too bad the ‘jail Hillary’ folks don’t give a rat’s ass about facts.

It would be like a circus if the stakes weren’t so high. It might even be hilarious if it didn’t reveal the underbelly of our society and just how wide and deep the divides are between various factions.

I hadn’t intended to write this. But maybe I needed to document this craziness as a way to manage it.

Meanwhile, the mundane business of caring for trees, scrubbing scuff marks off of baseboard, making herb butter, vacuuming up dog hair, and a little bit of stitching keep me sane. Good thing, too.

We removed an ailing Rose of Sharon and took some low hanging limbs off of one of our catalpa. I got some quotes for long-deferred tree work. Since we are going from paying two tuitions last year, to paying none this year, we can spring for this. There are big dead limbs in a chokecherry out back. A maple out front with branches tangled in the wires. A four-trunked maple at the side that is compromising our roof. It will feel really good to take care of these trees.

Heat AC politics

Been living as if in a cocoon. The AC on. The surreal RNC. The pumped up DNC. Some watched live, some delayed. Constant watering of the garden and things wilting anyhow. Dog walks in heat blasted air, crossing from one side of the street to the other trying to afford poor Finn’s paws the most shadowed route. Writing daily.

The heat’s broken and maybe this thick silence too.

A couple lunches out and one trip to the Museum of Fine Arts. I won’t tell you how many things fucked up while K. was in Korea (think: wiring and plumbing) or all the things I am worrying about. Let me just say, I am glad to have this body and this life.