Friday, August 29, 2014

Organized- Almost!!

Since I promised an upbeat blog this week I won't dwell on the earthquake which damaged so many buildings in nearby Napa but spared me, except for one large picture frame and s dozen or so ceramic objects. I'm now back to sleeping serenely and counting my blessings.
The exciting news is that my garage storage cabinets are now assembled and completed, that is except for filling them with all the trivia in boxes pushed against the other side of the garage. Finding a handyman to do the job was a challenge and I ended up firing the first one when he was half finished.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Death and War

With the deaths from ebola in Africa soaring and so much else painful happening in the world today I’m not sure why I have been hit so hard by the news of the beheading of American journalist Jim Foley. It consumes my waking hours. I imagine I am him, and try to speculate how Id have the courage to face the inevitable, as he did. And with such grace.
What does it feel like to know you are about to be beheaded? At what point does one finally give up hoping for a miracle reprieve? A minute before death? An hour before? A day before?  As terrorists  demand higher and higher ransoms, and sometimes succeed, it seems this vicious practice of torture and kidnapping just accelerates. 

In psychology we call it transference and counter transference, that is when the patient so identifies with the therapist that feelings are merged. I think back to when I was a senior in a country high school, the editor of the tiny school newspaper. I thought I was pretty big stuff. I had vague dreams of being a photo journalist and travelling the world writing stories of far off places and things. I kept these dreams to myself even though I entered the University of Washington in 1948 as a Journalism Major. That dream lasted less than two weeks, as I realized I could never compete with the other 749 freshmen who had elected the same major. Flunking out of school was not my passion. 

Yesterday and today I weigh two thousand pounds. My legs drag., even on the treadmill. Whether I’m shampooing my skinny locks, reading a book for pleasure instead of the one assigned for Book Club, having an ultra sound of my heart as I did yesterday or attending a board meeting where as usual I express too many of my liberal opinions, I can’t seem to shake my obsession. Old as I am, I think of death often, and almost playfully imagine it coming with a gentle ending of the breath followed by quiet oblivion rather than such a violent insult to the already tortured body of an innocent human being as it was for Jim Foley. 

For many years I wrote a Christmas letter ending with 
“and my hope for the new year is one without war”.  Finally discouraged with that, I, an atheist, tried to be a Quaker in my heart, committed to a personal life of peace. I’m afraid I’m pretty much a failure at that, as well. Right now I’m filled with anger and retribution. 

Wednesday afternoon I attended the orientation session here for the new classes to be offered by the Organization for Lifelong Learning from Sonoma State. I may or may not take the one on the First World War. The fine lecturer promised that session six would be on lessons learned to prevent future wars. Hah! 

Sometimes I imagine a world in which testosterone were a hormone exuding peace, and all men (as well as women) would be born with an innate drive against violence. Wishful thinking, Bonnie, wishful thinking. And so I add this protesting  voice once more. What can we do to end war? 

Two weeks of dwelling on death in my blog seems over the top. Next week I promise to be upbeat! 

Thursday, August 14, 2014


Entering the lobby of the activity center at Oakmont one sees two attractive tables spread with zigsaw puzzles. 
Like other folks coming or going  from cards, the gym, the library or the art room stop I often stop and add a piece or two to an unfinished puzzle. But as I studied the  puzzle on the left hand table two weeks ago I let out an audible gasp. 
The uncompleted face of the dog depicted was a mirror image of my last dog, Kodi. I studied the full picture on the box. It was as if Kodi had posed for the artist, and as I gaped at it his eyes sought mine with a heart-tugging look.  For the next several days I avoided looking left as I exited the building, for each time my eyes drifted in that direction tears would spring to my eyes and it would take an hour or so to regain my composure.  Well, now the puzzle is completed but not so my memories. So I am writing the story in hopes I can transform my personal puzzle into a more loving , accepting one.

I think the story goes back to the dog that preceded Kodi. Having lost Gus of cancer at age 13, we desperately wanted another dog.  Gus was unique: all white, except for brown drooping Labrador ears. Fifty pounds of lap dog.  Part pit, part English bull with the classic protruding jaws, and a tail no bigger than a belly button.  Her bulging chest suggested Marilyn Monroe while her abbreviated legs suggested doxie heritage in there somewhere. She was one of those dogs so funny looking folks melted in laughter at the sight of her and she responded by Sinatra-like wiggling of her narrow hips. 
While we knew we could never find another Gus, we thought we could find one who looked like her. Haw!
We searched for a replacement for three months, to no avail, sometimes driving fifty miles to different SPCA’s and dog shelters. At the time I was 70 and Lee 75, both of us struggling to accept Lee’s steady progressing dementia and heart disease; perhaps too old to adopt another rescue dog, but we did have three acres fenced,  had not lived without a dog for over forty years, and did not lack in the ability to give love.
One noon as we were eating lunch in Alameda after yet another fruitless search Lee said, “Maybe we’re barking up the wrong tree. “ “Maybe” she suggested, “ we get a dog that looks the opposite of Gus instead of trying to replace her”. 
Well, the Oakland SPCA was putting out three new puppies at 1 pm. We skipped desert and high-tailed it there, arriving at 1:04. Litter mates, all male, purported to be half registered Siberian Husky and half travelling salesman. Seven week old balls of wool. One had two blue eyes, one two brown eyes, and one had an eye of each. We’d had lots of very large dogs, but knew little about huskies, especially that the command “come” was not in the Siberian language. . So we brought home the blue-eyed darling, a male we dubbed Kodi. We were advised he might 
weigh 40-50 pounds at maturity. 
From the onset, Kodi was a challenge. He had little appetite and so it was impossible to train him with food. His legs seemed to go through a wringer every night so that the next morning they were three inches longer than the night before. He grew to 100 pounds by six months. His coat and posture were magnificent and his wolf-blue eyes certainly terrified every stranger at the gate, something we appreciated living in a remote area of the Oakland Hills. 
Even though I was the one to groom him, feed him, and pacify trainers who kept quitting in despair, it was Lee he bonded with. It was a special love affair, and he would lay for hours by her recliner, nose just touching her toes. As her dementia progressed she fixated more and more on him. If he was out of her sight for more than a few minutes she would call plaintively, “Where’s my puppy?” (the “puppy” word drawn out into three syllables) and several times each day she’d comment “Isn’t he beautiful?” Grateful though I was for her joy in his existence, sometimes I felt jealous. In retrospect, I think I was still grieving for Gus. 
After Lee died, Kodi grew more difficult. Much of the time he was consumed with anxiety. He developed many gastrointestinal problems and cried a good deal. Many specialists were unable to diagnose his problems, though they surely tried. He had always slept by the side of my bed but now he wanted to sleep outside under some bushes. He would have moments of pleasure, but they were few and far between. 
I knew his life expectancy was short but even so when I bought a house in Oakmont I bought one that had a fenced yard to accommodate him. 
It was only six weeks after the move that I made the decision to end his life. I struggle with that decision almost daily. Should I have tried longer? More specialists? Should I never have moved? 
It haunts me. Or does he haunt me? Or does Lee haunt me for having destroyed her little puppy?  I wish I knew how to make this feeling go away. 

Friday, August 8, 2014

Collapsing from the Weight Of it All

August sees an explosion of flowering everything in Sonoma County. Even the giant stalks of the sunflowers bend with the accumulation of weight. It makes for fascinating flower watching, I predict this one, about a quarter mile from here, will groan loudly and collapse in about a week. It must be twenty inches in diameter. I'd collapse as well.
I'm headed into a wonderful, busy weekend, are you? Meanwhile, high smoky skies from the fires in N. California are making all of us breathe a little harder.
Sandy Delahanty my friend and painting teacher is arriving this afternoon to spend three nights and teach a painting class, "Moving Your Painting to the Next Level." It will be her first visit to my home and to Oakmont students.
I can hardly wait. I expect that next week I'll collapse too.

Friday, August 1, 2014

So Much To Celebrate

A profusion of  celebrations! July abounds with color in the Valley of the Moon. In my own garden the cone flowers (echinasia) are peaking as are the yarrow and white daisies. Veggie markets abound and are overflowing with heirloom tomatoes, which I adore both for painting and eating. (Its a tie which I like to do best with them.)

Monday I graduated from Heart Works the 4 month program of cardio rehab I've been doing and yesterday I graduated from portable oxygen. To celebrate I ordered a new point and shoot Nikon camera I've been wanting for eons. What followed was the good news that Sandy Delehanty's class on Moving Your Painting to the NextLevel which I've been organizing to give here for the first time filled up and there is now a waiting list. Yeah, Sandy. She will be staying with me for three nights and French friends Jac and Valerie are driving up a week from tonight  to join us for dinner. I'm so excited. I stopped at Whole Foods to buy healthy and unhealthy snacks and gave the young volunteer outside $5 for Planned Parenthood saying "I thought we fought this battle 30 years ago". Driving home from the Dr. I flipped on the radio to hear the stock market had dropped 300 points. I turned off the radio quickly  and finished the beautiful drive home past the bulging grape fields humming happy songs.