Dog days


It is summer now. Will I ever stop crying?

Not for the reasons you think. Sure, summer demands an adjustment of time, energy and expectations. It has its own rhythm; it has its own pace; it has its own flavor. It is immensely full. And although there is an illusion that time stands still in the summer, it’s just not so. Everything goes and grows, leaps and falls and my job is simply to . . . weep.

Saturday was Doggie Day here in our small town. Georgia went to the park with her dad and our dog Molly to run a few loops through the canine obstacle course. So impressed was Georgia with her own masterful handling that she came straightaway home and conceived her own summer enterprise: Doggie Daycare Training, her own dog school, offered every Saturday in our front yard on a training track concocted out of a laundry rack and empty boxes. She drew a flyer, she set the price, she meticulously realized a scheme out of nothing but innocence and self-confidence. And then her dad, motivated by love, stammered a word of caution, dealt the mortal wound of a well-meant doubt, and she fell all apart.

When I came home after all of this had happened, she approached only slowly to show me the poster of her abandoned proposition. Without thinking, I nodded. “Looks good,” I said. Her look of incredulity riveted me as she double checked:

“You think this is a good idea?”

And then it all came back, every moment of trembling dread, watching her wobble toward the stairs, teeter toward the slide, totter on two wheels while I had nothing but my breaking heart to clutch and hold, watching and trusting, letting her go, letting her fall, and dusting her off when all was said and done.

We copied the flyers. Her daddy took her around the block to put them on telephone poles.

“Listen up for the phone!” she called back to me as she headed out. She was twelve feet tall.

These are the dog days of our summer. The risks are greater, the flights are farther, the falling is as hard as ever. I weep even before they’ve begun.

And as instructed, I listen for the phone.

Way station


I have an unusual backyard full of old and unusual things. Sometimes when I find out that people need help, that they are struggling with fear or illness, anxiety or worse, I say, “I’ll go into the backyard right now and say a service.” And I just open the door, step into the garden and say a chant, which is a prayer.

It’s the least I can do; it’s the most I can do; it’s the only thing I can truly do.

Then I come back in and empty the dishwasher.

Lately it seems I hear those kinds of things a lot. I hear about women, my friends and sisters, strangers and soulmates, waiting for their children, waiting for the news, waiting for arrival, waiting for a turn, waiting for health and optimism, waiting for benevolence, waiting for a safe haven, waiting to start again.

This is who hears all of that. This is Jizo, a kind of Buddhist guardian of women and children and travelers (because aren’t we travelers all?). She is in my backyard, she stands watch and hears prayers. She does this for you, because who else could there ever be?

Take comfort today. Take comfort always.

Wheels


We’ve had an ambulation revelation. Georgia can ride a scooter. Georgia can ride a scooter to school. It’s not that hard; all she has to do is this:

Puhlease, pooleeze, pleese, pleez, puleeease, Mommy, pppoooleisze, pouleise, pleeease?

She leaves me no edgewise as she straps on her helmet and pops atop the hot pink ride. We set off down the slope with me at a galloping stride just to keep her in sight.

The car! The driveway! The curb! The crosswalk! The bump! The thistle! The nub! The wisp!

I squawk nonstop warnings as her wheels squeek on ahead. And I smile, glad to see that the farther she goes, the smaller she looks in her baby bicycle helmet, Princess backpack and Hello Kitty anklets. In truth, she’s already outgrown all those things, but I’m glad that I get one more private viewing, one more one-man-show.

Her school won’t allow the scooters to stay for the day, so I take the wheels and wobble my way back up the hill. I’m pumping up the homestretch when I see my husband’s car approach. He slows his pristine, all-electric, pride-and-joy to a stop and rolls down the window.

“There’s nothing I won’t stoop to,” I say by way of explanation. He thinks I’m complaining, but I’m not.

Life story

Thank you for your blah blah submission. It isn’t a blah blah fit at this blah blah time.

(In case you think some of us have it any other way. Have it any easier. Have another chapter and verse.)

Blah.

Mercy me


Oh my goodness. We had the most remarkable visitor here at our house this weekend. A peacock.

She was a peahen, actually, and you could skeptically discount her appearance as less than miraculous. We do live a mile or so from the Los Angeles County Arboretum where the birds have their run of the place. Occasionally you see a posse of them strutting around town. But we’re a bit farther above and beyond the typical range.

It was one, alone, flitting amid the bamboo, nibbling beneath the wisteria.

“It’s an auspicious sign,” I said, as I am wont to say about most things, mainly because I love the word “auspicious” and especially love the way it sounds, so round and full in the mouth, so deliciously sibilant. I find it easy to love words, far easier, for example, than loving anything else. “Maybe she’s roosting,” I said, as she squatted atop the garden gate.

And so, later on, after she’d left for the day, I googled to find the meaning. “Chinese symbol peacock” I typed in, and there she was, in plain sight. Kuan Yin, the bodhisattva of compassion, of mercy, of love, she who hears the cries of the world, and responds eternally, effortlessly with her thousand arms and eyes. Kuan Yin, the essence of what we are: pure love, and not just a word for it. I’m like her number one fan!

Sometimes, only rarely, I can see so plainly that the dharma–the true teaching–is not something that I have to find elsewhere. It is not something to study or acquire. It is not something to do. It is not a metaphor for something else. It is all there is! Yes, like all signs we encounter in our life, the peacock is auspicious. “Enter here,” she reminds me. “This means you.”

Roost here, old girl, roost here.

Turnabout

It was, for all of us, a peculiar night. Something about this last gasp of spring: a bit restless, a tad eager, a wee hurried to reach the full stretch of summer. I woke and stayed awake in the deep darkness of the small hours, then submerged into underwater slumber through the 6:30 a.m. alarm. Finally up and walking past Georgia’s door, I see a square of paper on the floor. She’s made a sign in red ballpoint to intercept my morning bee-line to the coffeemaker:

Mommy, Please
come in
I’ve beed
wh waiting
for you all
night!

Is this how suddenly it passes? After only 7 years, hardly 7 years, barely 7 years, she is now the vigilant one? The one to wait and watch for the night to lift? For the sleepers to stir? For the ticks to tock toward morning’s reunion? Later, walking the dog, I found a tiny bird’s nest. It was empty; the baby had flown.

Lucky Penny

luckypennyI’m in the middle of my own meltdown, a tantrum, a typhoon in the kitchen. Cabinet doors slam; the walls shake. Georgia looks up. She’s paralyzed; the storm leaves her no safe ground. She fingers Daddy’s loose change on the counter. Then, with only magic at her disposal, she asks.

“Mommy, do you want a lucky penny?”

Why yes, I do, my love, my saving grace. I will put it right here.

Delinquent to the dance

As I start, I am reminded again that I start late. Late to bloom, late to love, late to marriage (the one that counted) late to motherhood, late to life and all its messy lessons. I come around again on things, come around to a different way of looking at them. And so I’ve come around to a different way of looking at this thing here: the blog.

I start by looking at things from the outside. As though it is for someone else, by someone else, about someone else. And then slowly I begin to see that it is not that way at all. You see, I read a lot of blogs. It is me reading, me responding, me concurring, me finding solace in a shared experience, me finding solidarity in a stranger’s familiar story. It is only me; it can only ever be me. Instead of tagging along on the perimeter, poking a poignant comment here and there, wagging my finger fore and aft, it is time that I began in earnest to blog to me. Because I’m the only one here.

We are so slow to commit to ourselves, aren’t we? Looking always for the external acceptance, the validation, the scattered applause rippling to a crescendoed ovation. I’m reminded of a weekend trip to Taos, a girlfriends’ trip over a decade ago. I was single and living in the painful torque between doubt and expectancy that I would love again. My best friend and I stepped into a jewelry shop (every other shop in Taos is a jewelry shop). I studied the rings in the locked cases. “I will marry myself!” I pronounced suddenly, and bought the ring that I wore on my left hand for a scant half-year before the real deal arrived, right on schedule.

“I will blog to myself!” I pronounce.

As writerly self disciplines go, it is as good as any.

So I am late; I am late to the dance. But I am dancing. I am dancing. I am dancing.

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