Saturday, January 30, 2010

Road Trip to The Rest of My Life

It's getting close to time for me to head out for the rest of my life. I plan to stay in touch with you for the whole way. I won't be meandering back in my memories as often when I get some new experiences to share with you.

You should know that this step would not be possible with you. When I started this blog in August 2009, two months after losing my mom and husband, I was not even sure how this works, nor why I was doing it. I just knew that if I was ever going to pick up the pieces of my life, I needed to try to gain a forum for expression of my God-given talent and creativity.

With nothing much else to do with my life, I was also looking for a way to use my experience as a writer, photographer, and graphic artist. As I stepped with trepidation into the world of blogging, it seemed like a tremendous effort at the time. The enormous depth and shock of my grief had knocked me down pretty hard,

I will always be grateful to Troutbirder for being the first "stranger" to discover my blog and leave a comment. I was so excited the day I discovered his remark about something I'd written. Prior to that, the meager comments, although greatly appreciated, had been being left only by my loving and ego-boosting nieces.

My little blog had felt like a lone candle burning in a window of my log home in the forests of North Idaho. It was helping me feel a little better about myself, but I wondered if anyone else "out there" would ever see it. I live a long ways from most of the population of the rest of the world, which is exactly thw I prefer it, until it becomes a bit too lonely sometimes.

When I clicked on the mysterious Troutbirder's link, it opened up a door to a whole new world for me. Now my blog is even global! One of my followers, or Flashlight Holders as I like to call them, appears to be from Germany. Now, if that don't beat all, as granny would say. I can't make heads or tails out of their blog and wonder at their interest in mine. Maybe it's my German Shepherds.

When I head out of here I will be going into the dawn, first to the east and then south. I plan to always stay in the path of the Light and look for His love all around me. Should I fall into the darkness again, I will call out for you, and all you will have to do is turn or your light for me, and like a beacon in the night, your kindness will lead me safely home. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Upriver Dawn Beckons Me

Often when I post a stunning scenery shot such as this, someone will ask, "Is that your view?" The answer is, yes. The mountains I've shown you are looking to the south from my deck, and this upriver dawn shot is, obviously, due east.

In 2008 my husband and I built our dream log home overlooking a sparkling river and layering shades of forested mountains in North Idaho. Yes, it is a shame he's not here to enjoy it, I usually nod in fake but polite agreement to that inevitable comment.

Except with those with whom I feel the closest, I refrain from informing anyone that my husband's absence is merely an illusion. He's here, alright. That's been made quite clear to me.

A profound experience hit me yesterday when I suddenly realized that all the weeping, mourning and introspective soul searching I've been doing since he died has all been for me, not for him. I have been so sorry for me. I still am, frankly.

I was driving down the road admiring the January sunshine and blue skies when, like an epiphaney, I fully grasped the concept that my husband is happy now. Boom, like a clap of thunder, I suddenly got it, and tears of joy welled up in my eyes for him.

This has been my belief all along; in fact, it's why my initial major emotion at the time of his death was anger at him for leaving me here and going off, tra la laa la laa, on his merry way to Heaven. "How nice for you," thought poor wittle me.

We've come to terms with that since then, you could say, and I sincerely am happy for him. I sense that he wants me to be happy, too. He worked so hard to provide me with all the nice things around me. If I don't enjoy them, then his efforts will have been in vain.

This makes perfect sense to me, and so with that in mind and a life-insurance check in the bank, I'm Googleing a road trip with Bric the Wonder Dog and my brand-new Nikon D90 DX 12.3 Digital SLR. Yesserie, Bob I me got one.

We're heading to where "the weather suits my soul," as Glenn Campbell once sang. There's an art show, a best girlfriend I miss a lot, and a mini-family reunion with my long-lost Pennsylvania cousins that I plan to indulge myself in enjoying. I can't wait to see the Southwest February desert through the lens of that new Nikon.

Of course I will share with you. I'm really into this blogging thing, which my son jokingly refers to as my "pretend job."

Last year, to attempt this trip would have never occurred to me. For one thing, my mother would have freaked out, fretted herself sick, and tried to tell me I couldn't do this alone. She needed to hear from me at least every-other day or she'd get worried. She didn't really have a life, so's to speak, near the end.

Mom had never in her 86 years ever traveled anywhere at the wheel of  big powerful, shiny pickup truck with a 95-pound-powerful male German Shepherd at her side. The ability and depth of Bric's devotion to protecting me was beyond her grasp. Whatever is the opposite of a dog person, that was my mom. Yes, as a matter of fact, she did like cats, but only one at a time.

She also, bless her heart, lacked much faith in a higher power. More than anyone I've ever known, my mom lived steadfastly in the now. She refused to examine her past and lacked the courage to contemplate her life beyond this one.

Near the end of her years, I sent her a Bible verse in the hope she would look it up and find comfort there. When I asked her later if she did so, she replied, "No. I was afraid to." My mom had a strong aversion to crying. To be seen weeping publicly would have completely mortified her. Yes, I am of Protestant German descent. Why do you ask?

I know I'm not being delusional, nor am I under the influence of anything except Prozac. Not to sound overly dramatic, but I have the feeling I'm embarking on a spiritual quest of sorts. My old pal Jack Daniels is definitely staying in the liquor store where he belongs, Bric will be always at my side, and in more ways than one, I will not be traveling alone.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Border Collies Are A Special Breed

Let's not discuss weighty topics and mope around here anymore. After perusing some of the blogs I have listed here as my favorites, I am inspired to touch on the solid, non-mind-boggling topic of dogs.
Before my husband and I could afford the high-dollar, AKC German Shepherds I now own, we had a variety of mixed-breed dogs. For the first 30 or so years of our marriage, we always had a minimum of two dogs, and sometimes, three.
Many were pound puppies, some were pawned off on us by coworkers, and others seemed to just wander into our lives and never leave. I adored them all. I am, in case you haven't guessed by now, a full-blown, Class A, Lifetime, Fully and Fanatically Dedicated, and hereby Publicly Declared, Dog Person.

I tend to like other peoples' blogs who are dog people, too. I stole this wonderful "Got Stick?" picture of George from Chronicles of a Country Girl's blog to share with you. Hers is very near the top of my list of best blogs; you ought to check it out if you love dogs and beautiful photos, with great graphics and tight writing.
Her wonderful "dog blog" about George got me to thinking about the only dog we ever acquired that was actually worth anything monetarily in the years before we could afford the German Shepherds.

She was a purebred Border Collie our son named Bo. My husband had traded some ranch labor with a neighbor for her when she was an eight-week-old pup. She joined us in the middle of winter in the middle of Idaho.

The photo at the top of this post shows our mini-ranch on 20 acres situated near the Clearwater River in Central Idaho. I think I took this photo in about December of 1983. We had a couple of calves, some chickens, a pony, two other dogs, a cat, and plenty of room, or so we thought, for a little pup who'd been born to herd.
Here is a story I wrote about Bo several years ago that I hope you will enjoy. I reprint it here courtesy of the Capital Press, an agriculture and forestry-focused newspaper based in Salem, Oregon, where it was originally published in about 1990.

The title was, A Good Cow Dog; A Poor Pet:
I recently lost one of the best friends I've ever had. She was a purebred Border Collie, but in Idaho, we just called her a Cow Dog.
A direct descendant of Central Idaho's famed Salmon River Sam, she had herding in her blood. She was 10 years old when she died peacefully in her sleep at our home not long ago. I think she was tired of the confines of city life; it never did agree with her.
I'm not sure why I want to share her passing with Capital Press readers, but I think it's because I know you would appreciate a good cow dog and understand my loss. Most city people don't, really.
As dogs go, she wasn't much of a pet. Next to our affable, sunny-faced, always-smiling Golden Retriever,  this ever-wary, all-black dog came off looking like an evil step-sister. She always preferred to stay under or behind things; she was never comfortable out in the open. She never let her guard down.
It was beneath her dignity to do stupid dog tricks, no matter how hard we tried to cajole or bribe her.
But she had her own tricks. For example, at the words, "load up," she'd spring easily over the tailgate of our pickup in one swift movement, even after she got a bit overweight and on in years. No way was she going to be left home. In fact, near the end of her life, no words were even necessary. Eye contact and a quick nod toward the bed of the truck were enough.

Her greatest skill, however, was moving cows to wherever we wanted them, and occasionally to where we didn't. I remember well the day she learned to duck. She was about six months old when she caught a horse's hoof dead center in her face.
She lost a tooth and got a bloody nose. As she whimpered in anger and pain, I will always believe she cried real tears. Maybe her eyes were just smarting from the kick, but they looked like tears to me. I know my own eyes were puddling up a bit.
From that day on, whenever she worked cows, it was at the low, crouched, quickly darting pace that characterizes good cow dogs. She seemed to develop a sixth sense that enabled her to anticipate a kick.
She was beautiful to watch in action. She'd get the cows moving and if one let fly a kick in her direction, she'd duck and neatly miss the hoof, like a fast ball slipping through a batter's swing. All the time, never missing a beat, she was running from side to side behind the herd, watching everything and listening intently to my husband's commands.
She was happiest when she was working, but I think her second-favorite thing was riding in our pickup. She'd gladly ride back in the bed, but truth be told, I liked having her up front on the seat next to me. We traveled hundreds of miles together; she was good company.
But socializing with her was nearly impossible because her personality was so strange. She was intense about everything in her life and rarely displayed a playful side. She was distrustful of most people and hateful of all other dogs.
Of her complete loyalty and devotion to us, however, there was never any doubt.
There were times, in fits of anger, when she could be quite destructive. Our house still bears the scars of her absolute fury at being left home: a chewed drape, a dug-up board on the deck, a ripped-up section of carpeting.

Other signs of Bo remain as well. There are dirty spots, like shadows, on the walls behind our furniture, where she preferred to lie, wedged in solitude and safety. In my pickup, there are smudges from her nose on the passenger-side window.
I know it's a silly and sentimental mind game that's not really working, but somehow I can't bring myself to wipe away those traces of a quiet, good dog that should not be gone, but is.
It is one of the great injustices of life that just about the time a dog becomes a really good friend, when its communication with you is at a nearly telepathic level, it up and dies.
One of these days, the pickup window will steam over and someone will unwittingly wipe away her nose smudges, which are somehow still of small comfort to me. As long as they remain there, it almost seems as if she's not really gone.
But in our house, there is one corner of the living-room wall, hidden behind my husband's recliner, where a small, low-lying, sweetly rounded shadow, almost like catching a brief glimpse of Bo herself, will always remain for as long as I'm around.
And for the rest of my years, wherever I go, there will be a special place in my heart where it will remain, protected, forever.