The Moon and Summer Gazpacho

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The moon breaking through

 

 

  The full moon broke through the clouds as I  was driving home last night. I had found out earlier in the evening that Liz had died.

  I had to store that piece of news on a shelf in my brain because I was at work.

  But in my car, with the night close around me, I could think about her.

  I met Liz in the writing class given by Jon Katz.

  We liked each other. She possessed a wry, sarcastic sense of humor and a heart that was open and giving.

  She welcomed me to Cambridge and we started a friendship.

  We had coffee a couple of times and discovered a mutual love of cooking. It was last summer and she gave me her recipe for summer gazpacho and I told her about the joys of dill and sour cream in Stroganoff.

  I learned that she had some trouble in her life, eerily reminiscent of my life before I moved to Cambridge. I was so protective of my new life and all the crap I thought I had left behind on Long Island that I didn’t want to see or be around someone that reminded me of that toxicity.

  So I distanced myself from Liz. There is no other word for it. I took steps to remove her from my life.

  I thought I was being proactive and healthy.

  Liz had told us at class that she was diagnosed with cancer. She made a joke about it, called it “ass cancer”. She was optimistic about the treatment.  She dealt with it as she did with the rest of her life; quietly and unremarkably.

  We exchanged the occasional text. I saw her once in the Rite Aid and I could see the treatments were taking it’s toll.

  She stayed in my thoughts and I knew instinctively what I decided was wrong.

  I may be protective of myself as I go about the business of building a new life, but I could not just discard a person.

  I didn’t have the right to criticize her life. I had to be honest with myself and see that our newfound friendship was as important to me as my efforts for a new life.

  I would like to be able to write that I reached out to Liz and things continued as before, but it was not to be.

  Liz had gotten very sick by then and my texts and emails were not returned.

  A week before before Liz died, I was at work and saw she messaged me on Facebook. I clicked on it and I saw that she “waved” at me followed by a ❤️.

  Liz was saying goodbye. It was her way really, no fanfare no drama. And I believe my behavior held no importance for her.

  That’s all on me. Gratitude for a too brief friendship and relief her pain is gone and yes a feeling of disquiet about the way I behaved.

   

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Lost in Forsythia

The forsythia bushes beckoned me on my walk this morning and I veered off the sidewalk and got temporarily lost in them.

 

 

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Sculpture

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Sculpture Garden

She gets up every morning usually before the alarm

She is just that way

Always anxious, her mind won’t let her rest for very long.

She makes her way downstairs

Shirt in hand, zippering her pants,

Socks in the dryer.

Shoes around somewhere.

She looks out the window at the yard

At the perfect spot where a sculpture belongs

She imagines it for a moment

An alter ego, calming and exciting

Simultaneously

A fleeting image of marble dust and hammer and chisel.

Or wood chips and sawdust.

She turns away, muttering

Wondering if she can find an artist

To execute her vision.

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Inspiration

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The Old Store

 

  I drove by the old farm and got inspired. There are plenty of old farms around Washington  County, but this one piqued my curiosity. I felt. .something.

  It wasn’t the almost collapsed barn or the deserted milking parlor or the farmhouse that stood forlornly on top of the hill.

I thought wistfully how lovely this small farm must have been when it was alive and working.

  The proud white clapboarded house overlooking the valley that had a little stream running through it surrounded by the Taconic Mountains.

  I was curious about a building of the property that at one time was a store of some kind. Maybe a general store that sold all kinds of things needed for life in a rural area; food, batteries, cloth, tools, small household gadgets, that kind of thing.

  There was a faded CLOSED sign stuck in the dusty streaked window.

  I wondered how long it’s been since the doors were closed.

  I got more inquisitive and as I looked into the window of that forgotten store, I felt something, an interest in the store and the farm and its inhabitants.

  I got inspired, I felt the spark. I wanted to photograph the store in a way that depicted its old and forgotten character.

  The only way I can describe it is that little store got under my skin, I felt it’s old presence.

  Inspiration is a strange thing. It is usually described as a reason or explanation for creativity. But it is not something that can be quantified or measured. It’s a feeling .

   Something or someone shifts me momentarily, makes me see things in a new way or think about something that is different.

  I reflect sometimes how seeing or hearing or feeling something can lead to creativity. I think about it but not too deeply. I’ve learned to trust the process.

Listening is a big part of it. Looking, really looking at the world around me and paying close attention.

  The hard part is keeping a sense of wonder and honing it to a purpose, to allow me to look at good and bad things equally, with an idea to not close my mind down when confronted with something that is not all surface beauty.

  It matters not whether I choose to see the good or bad. It’s what I do with what I see. I think that seeing all of it, bearing witness to the bad without letting it beat me up or keep me prisoner is important. 

I can complain and wring my hands and bemoan the world as I look around and see the bad.

  Or I can take the bad and stand up to it and be courageous and use it as an impetus for good.

  This is a world view of inspiration. A chance to use the spark in a wider sense; to go beyond myself. To use the awful things that happen as a means to mold my life into something meaningful and honest and soulful is the idea of the journey that I am on.

  To let go of certainty and stand alone, to have the courage to allow myself to be open. To treat a failure as a chance to learn and not as a loss of self.

  How easy it would be to walk through life and skip the uncomfortable hard parts and only focus on the wonderful things in life.

How empty that existence would be.

  The focal point of inspiration lies within yourself. To take the cues of the world and use them to show a determined reality and not a timid facade.

  To be motivated, to see yourself step out and not blend in.

  Inspiration is bred in the simplest of places.  It’s all around. Interacting with the world. Seeing what’s around and using it as a means to create.

  Treating the world with a sense of wonder. To be able to imprint yourself on the world and to be able to determine the shape of the indentation.

  That is a glorious thing.

  

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Bold

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Bold pansies

When I am quiet in my mind

And my heart is steadily beating

My  vision is unfocused

My voice is silent

My breath is loud in my ears

My soul whispers truth

Boldly.

In the language known only

To me.

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Spring Dance

 

 

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The Dance

Crumbling wall of stone

Dressed in mossy emerald

Flanked by lacy pale lichen

 Careful planning by committee

Nothing left to chance

Yet the show goes on

As if by accident

 

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Watch Me

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Me and Sally

 

 

My dog Sally likes to jump and bark at the TV if there is anything on that gets her excited which is  almost everything. I think she thinks that what she sees on the screen is actually real and is coming to get her.

This gets more than a little annoying especially if I am watching something and a part of the program comes along that is energetic and drama filled and my screen is partially obscured by a jumping barking dog.

She is a strange little dog. She is standoffish and  fearful.  She doesn’t like people very much. Most dogs will come up and sniff and get their canine measure of a visitor, Sally runs away. She wants nothing to do with anyone.

She is the result of a backyard breeding, sold as a Shetland Sheepdog  because somewhere in her genetic mix there was a fully blooded Sheltie. She looks enough like a Sheltie except she is way too small.

Probably raised in a cage with no human contact or socialization. She keeps people in her sight, but will not get close to them.

She and I mirror each other. I got Sally at a time  when I was in a downward emotional spiral that lasted a long time.

I didn’t want to see people. I isolated myself from everyone. I essentially was a shut in, only emerging to go to work. Sometimes, when the black hole got too deep, I would call in sick and stay home.

Sally was with me through all of it. She saw the worst of me. The filthy house that got dirtier and filthier because I didn’t care about cleaning it.

She and I would sit by the hour on a broken down couch watching reruns of Grey’s Anatomy and Six Feet Under, me smoking and eating whatever I had delivered that day.

I lived on Long Island, which was a very easy place to isolate yourself, as crowded as it was. It was simple to get lost. Just one person in the teeming masses of people, easy to misplace and forget about.

And that is what happened. I lost myself. Parts of me  were scattered amongst the rolls of dust weevils that barely moved in the stagnant air in my house.

I would leave the house at intervals to buy cigarettes, but most of the time I stayed inside. I couldn’t walk more than half a block without gasping for air. It was easier to let Sally out in the yard.

i sat on my broken couch, and waited for the day when I could stop feeling this way. I didn’t care about myself. But I did care enough about Sally to keep things going. I had to see to her needs. She was the one thing that I felt responsible for.

I hit the bottom of my black hole and realized that I wanted to live. I made the decision in the hospital after nearly dying.

Life became precious to me especially when faced with the very real possibility of not existing. There was no question of  “what if “ anymore. No theoretical wondering of fading out gradually. There were no shades of grey here.

Live or don’t live. The decision was suddenly very simple.

I came home from the hospital and Sally was there to greet me, wildly happy to see me. In addition to my promise to myself, I made a promise to take better care of Sally as well.

Dogs don’t demand anything of us. I demanded it of myself. There is an unwritten contract and I definitely didn’t hold up my end. For all those long never ending days of blackness and inner turmoil, she was around and I took care of her basic needs.

I had thought of giving her away a couple of times because I didn’t feel that I could care for her properly. But I knew she would end up as she started, in a cage in an unfamiliar place, filled with barking noisy dogs. I couldn’t do it.

I am her person. I made my mind up to do better by her as well as myself. I started on a new road and she was right by my side.

I started to walk her more. I knew how attached she was to me, so I decided to try walking her off leash. That worked out really well only because she was too scared to wander off.

Now when we’re walking and she gets a bit too far ahead of me, I tell her to Wait for Me. She seems to be keyed in on the word “Me”. I tried “Stay” and that didn’t really get the necessary response from her. Whatever works.

The next thing I wanted to teach her was not to jump at the TV. I did this at the suggestion of Jon Katz who has written extensively about dog training.

I had treats by me and when Sally would jump and bark at the TV, I would hold a treat at eye level and say “Watch Me”.  Sally’s attention was turned to me and then I would make her sit before giving her the treat. Jon says give nothing away for free and set up the dog for success. Words to live by.

Sally is fixated on food and me so I knew I could get her to do it. It took a lot of treats and consistency and patience,  but now she will come and sit by me when I say “Watch Me”. I give her a treat about every third time.

We are working together and I’m surprised at how smart Sally is. I mean she is no Lassie, but she certainly likes our little training sessions. I enjoy them as well, because they take me out of myself and allow me to enjoy being with her.

We’ve expanded our territory to the edges of forest and pastures. Sally makes sure to keep me in her sight. We walked by a brook yesterday on a beautiful sunny day.

Sally jumps at every sound. The wind whipping through the grass or a distant song from a bird. Sounds that are beyond my range of hearing. I can see her looking, letting her senses help figure things out.

It was a sweet experience for me. I want her to explore her world. She trusts me and it is a pleasure for me to see her just being a dog. She walked ahead of me, stopped and looked back at me, eager and happy, tail wagging.  I heard the words in my head.

“Watch Me”.

 

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Watch Me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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