Thursday, September 29, 2011

A boy and his dog.

Butters, short for Buttercup, and her "dad" Brian a couple of months ago.

In Oregon, everyone travels with a dog or two, to the grocery store,  the dentist, the beach, even to the work place. Dogs behave beautifully everywhere, on or off leash, waiting patiently  in the back of a pickup. not panicking or attacking anyone who approaches them.
We have come to accept the presence of dogs everywhere.

But Butters and Brian live(d) in Southern California where it is very unusual to see dogs act so friendly and so calmly when they accompany their people. Butters and Brian were well matched in character and energy. Brian fed her a special diet of raw meat to keep her lean and fit, and devoid of allergies. Weekly, he'd take Butters to the dog beach, to chase after balls, or sticks. He walked her before going to work, and after he returned home.

Brian loved dogs. He had lost his childhood companion, a mutt called Woolly, while he was in college. For years after that, as he moved from one apartment to another, he dreamed of a day when he could move to his own house and have another dog. Two years ago, he purchased a house and a big yard. Butters, a yellow lab pup,  joined him three weeks later.

After Brian's death, we looked for someone to adopt Butters.  A young man who had been the house sitter and dog sitter  stepped up. The two of them are well matched in enthusiasm and energy. We were happy for her, and glad the young man's family agreed to the adoption.

Through the weeks when the garden was coming together, Brian's friends took turns taking her to the dog park, or around the block for her usual walks.  Butters is quite strong and energetic, and while she is quite docile indoors, she needs to run and play.

Butters will continue to remind us of what a great life the two of them had together.

(she has a facebook page!)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Read the lines.

Our whole history is written on our faces, our bodies, our ear lobes,hair, skin, gestures.
Whatever lives we live, our bodies bear witnesses to our history, to our parents' history, to how well we eat, how well we manage challenges.

When you were little, you mother could trace the history of the family tree just by noticing how you had grown, how your posture matched Uncle Carl, how your digestive problem was the same as her brother Jim. Your mother could read everything you did during the day by the wrinkles on your skirt, the flush on your skin, the bounce in your step.

She was the clearest mirror you had in your life.

My children are all grown, and if I see lines during our visits, after we have left each other's company, I worry and worry about what I have read. When they were little I could come right out and ask them. Now, not so.
Having read lines, do we respect the other's privacy, or do we involve ourselves in their lives?

What do we do?
How do we maintain boundaries and still support each other?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

If we could live like a cat.

Meet Newkie, our newest pet. I watch her as she adjusts to our new place,  new sounds and new animals all around us.

She is teaching me new tricks.

1. If a place/person makes you feel uncomfortable, move.
2. Rest as long and as often as you wish, in the best possible places.
3. Get up only to play, eat, change position, look for adventures.
4. Listen to your own needs.
5. Train everyone around you to your wants.

Friday, September 16, 2011


Being in one place and taking stock of the situation.
Noticing the random chaos.
Noticing extraneous stuff demanding your attention.
Aware of how things have changed; how you have changed.

But windows need to be replaced before the rains come.
Weeds need to be removed before they choke your roses.
Firewood needs to be stocked for those long winter days.

Unlike words on a page waiting to be shared, moved around, crossed over, replaced, our actions are irreversible, enduring, permanent.

And life, always, demands action.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Illusion of life.

This is the kind of garden space I once contemplated, a bit of green, a hint of water. Southern California had been on water ration for years and years, and when my then teen children took showers, we tried to save water by installing timers on appliances, and by collecting and recycling 'grey' water, shower water.
This kind of illusory water dream was a natural in the desert conditions of greater Los Angeles.

Fortunately for me, we moved to a place that is green all the time. This kind of landscape would appear an anomaly in most of Oregon. Here, it rains seven, eight months out of the year, continuously, and when summer finally gets here-this time it never really came-we welcome it with spontaneous giddiness. We excel in gardens maintained in natural settings, weeds and all, and plant what will survive around wild life.

When I see cactus and rocks, I smile, remembering how silly and naive I was, hording old roses from the Huntington Garden, dreaming of replicating the beautiful British gardens I saw in magazines.

When I accompanied Janet* to nurseries that specialized in native Californian plants, and we picked up a few cactus plants for special effect, I realized how far we have all come. We are smarter and wiser with our resources. We try the understand the natural conditions and natural flora and fauna, and try to live in harmony with our surroundings.  Janet's plan was elaborate, incorporating both hardscape and focal areas that interpreted the dreams she and Brian had.

A garden will nurture your soul and your dreams.
It will tell your story.
Let it speak your dream; and, let it communicate it easily and fluidly.

*Janet is my son Brian's fiance'. After he passed away suddenly this last July, she designed and organized a garden space to celebrate his/their life and dreams as a Memorial Garden. Read the story and see the work she and his friends did, by going to my previous posts.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Garden Inspirations.

I'm back in Oregon, 80% wild and uncharted, where people can go off the grid, get lost and never get found.

I'm searching for inspiration, for my garden, for my soul.

How about this garden space?
How does it make you feel?
Does it tell your story?
Does it make you want to linger and get lost here?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Education under fire.

This is Kim, a friend of Janet, my son Brian's fiance'.
As I review pictures taken during the workweeks around Brian's Memorial, I'm immensely impressed by how competent these young people are, Kim, Janet, and all the men and women jumping in and doing what needed to be done.

They worked in teams, and independently. They identified what needed to be done, and got right to it.

I'm especially impressed on how everyone worked: expertly, willingly, with confidence and efficiency. They cut, trimmed, dug, scraped, carried, painted, constructed, planted, etc.... They jumped in and contributed with all their might.

In my youth, tasks were separated by gender. I never did learn to change the oil in the car, to figure out what to do when a  machine stopped working,  even  how to handle a weed-wacker. I'm the result of a classical education: women were trained for certain household tasks, men for everything else.

Our education in the last thirty years has prepared our youth well.

Boys and girls have had access to tools, technology, science, finance, engineering, etc...
A boy can become a nurse. A girl can become a contractor.
Federal and state laws were put in place to allow equal access and equal opportunities, regardless of gender, regardless of race, religion, or financial conditions at home.  There are laws in Oregon, for instance, that allow a man and a woman to serve as precinct captains for their party affiliation. One man and one woman per precinct. Women had never seen the  back room deals where political pacts were formed, where support was gathered, where alliances were cemented.

Now, how do we continue to make sure education serves our youth's future needs? How about adding finance education, health and nutritional education, contract laws, wills and estate planning, entrepreneurship, ethics?

State Boards of education are struggling to keep schools open with today's budgets, and everyone is worried about the lack of funding. What are we trimming when we cut education? What future choices are we denying our youth?

Are we willing to go back to those times when only the rich had access? How fortunate for them!

Yes, we have made strides to give our youth meaningful experiences and information. We still have a long way to go.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

How one punch...

Remember the movie "It's a Wonderful Life"?
Remember how George, the main character played by Jimmy Stewards,  finds that his life is too hard and considers ending it?
Then, he meets an angel, who shows him how George's life is affecting so many people around him. Yes, yes and yes! So many people are touched by us, by simple things in our midst that we never think about.

I'm looking at our lives right now after Brian's passing.  Even though I will never know what actually happened the night he was hit, many people saw the assault, and they will think about the event and how it could have been different, both for Brian, for his friends, for the very person that gave him that mortal blow.  All those young people will be affected by that event, for days, for months.  They will talk about it, will warn their friends and relatives, will associate the one punch in anger as the fatal blow that forever changed their lives too.

One punch to the face.

The family and immediate friends came together and had a memorial. But, Brian's many co-workers and even his animals were not aware of how their lives would change forever in just a few days.  Projects had to be re-assigned, paperwork redirected, appointments and schedules changed. I know this because I had Brian's daily calendar with me after we picked it up at the police station, and there were reminders going off all the time.  Our boy's high tech phone scheduled, reminded him of times and places needing him, paid his bills, navigated him to places he had never been to, even listed the grocery needs he had.

I'm looking at his life in awe. He had officiated at one of his friend's wedding; he had applied for a patent, had just solved a major problem with a device he was building. He had saved every penny to buy a house. Had done so because he wanted a dog! Then, his nesting instincts kicked in and he looked for the love of his life.  His life was full of exciting possibilities slowly turning into realities.

Hi dog Butters is with a young friend in Long Beach, across the street from her old house. His cat Newkie is with us, in a home surrounded by giant trees and water. She's adjusting, cuddling up on Brian's blankets we brought up with us.

I'm not mentioning the obvious: how his fiance' life has changed! How everything she was dreaming has changed. Choosing a life partner, building dreams and envisioning your future are at the heart of human endeavors. The cost of this loss to her is limitless!

I'm not counting all the expenses that come with this event. Not just for the funeral, for the Memorial, for the settling of his estate. I'm thinking about the cost of investigating, preparing for the trial, court time, legal representation. I'm thinking about all the people who will miss their work, their families, their other obligations.

I can imagine how his neighbors in Long Beach feel every time they see Butters on a walk, at the dog park, chasing a ball.

I know my neighbors here in Oregon all know the fragility of life; they are mostly senior citizens, used to seeing a moving truck disassemble a household after someone dies at 90.

We are not used to seeing a young man's life disassembled!