final forty.

March 30, 2015

god how i loved my forties. they were gorgeous years, full of knock-you-to-your-knees sorts of lessons, moments of beauty so pure and unexpected it actually felt painful at times, and losses and a sort of internal stretching i wasn’t sure i would survive. fifty is here, i am in it mere days now, but already my forties seem a part of something behind me. the realization last week as i moved away from my forties and said hello to 50 that i had to say goodbye to an entire decade brought up a sadness i hadn’t expected. i am not lamenting 50 – quite the contrary, i see the amazing work women in their fifties produce and i see their beauty and that seasoned sort of grace and knowing, and i feel positively celebratory. mine is a family of late bloomers, especially the women, so i just know know know this will be a decade of kicking ass. but i wrapped my arms around my forties late last wednesday night, just as they were being whisked like a whisper in to my past, and let myself visit for a moment all they took from me and all they brought to me and how strong i am as a result, and then sent them off with my gratitude and humility, in to the atmosphere.

between the pain and the beauty is the myriad of thousands of moments. and for me, in my forties, there were words. words are so powerful, and i am so in awe of what they can carry both as we create them and as we ingest them. i have been looking recently at all the images i have created as a designer these past years, and though they too carry their own power and import and there is SUCH JOYFUL DELIGHT in creating recipes of form and color and content, i have realized that for me, images don’t contain the tenderness that words can construe. through words i have had the fortune of mapping a terribly important journey, the one that encompasses those key elements of a human life lived. love, loss of love, learning to parent and so in turn, selflessness. our life’s work, the success and failure we discover within it, the shift that occurs as we move away from the preoccupations of our younger selves and in to a kinder, more graciously expansive set of priorities. i feel very lucky within this framework.

mostly. i do admit that when maya followed her happy birthday last week with a ‘you’re a half century old!’ i got snagged for a long moment on the coffee i was drinking as i drove her to school. The strangeness of looking back on my time here is just that: i am Looking Back, and my life suddenly seems organized in to clusters of tens. here are some visuals, and trust me, seeing myself at ten year intervals is doing nothing to clarify any of this for me either; i thought of adding a word or words to help us all understand what it all means, but this is as far as i got: 10, 20, 30….

tenBW

 

 

twenty

 

 

thirty

 

 

fortymaybeBW

 

 

kl50BW

it is not surprising to those who know me even a little that i tend to be a linear thinker, but this strange and unexpected compartmentalization is a lot, even for me.  i just haven’t paid that much attention to numbers, or what they represent. i welcomed my thirties with gusto, and moved in to my forties with a sense of rightness and joy wrapped around me like a delicious cashmere coat. for the first time ever, the numbers side of things is resonating, so i can only imagine this may be an inherent part of moving past this threshold. tina tells me the moon and stars and planets are all where they should be, my houses are in order, and i can breathe deeply and continue doing my work. seahags you know what i mean here. maybe this nickel of decades under my belt is simply here to inspire review, reflection, appreciation. in this wash of look back and a bit of uncertainty, i will go with that.

finally, forty deluxe has been for me a place to process, expose some of my greatest fears and joys, vomit emotionally when the need arose, and find my center among a safe and carefully chosen audience. the fact that this little blog has had over 12,000 hits since its inception in 2009 has me utterly befuddled; for those who have been here without an invitation, i hope you have enjoyed the ride or gleaned something that brought insight or joy. i don’t know that i’ll be here any time soon, or at all, again. seems like it may be time to try on a different sort of blog. so for now forty deluxe, and my sweet friends who visited occasionally, i bid you adieu. until we meet again, whether here, or somewhere else. time will tell.

in the meantime, and to further the poetry of numbers, this is my 50th blog.

xo

reasons for happiness.

December 3, 2014

for a longish week i’ve been posting pictures to facebook, black and white pictures. it is exhilarating and scary to put work in front of people  – even the smallest group of people – that i’m not used to sharing. it’s a bit like that here in this beginning wash of words which {hopefully/maybe} will have a beginning, middle and end that make sense somewhere and maybe even slap a nerve or a head or heart. i am not generally a nervous writer, and to expose myself in words is something i’ve grown accustomed to as i have spilled the beans online for the better part of six years in some of the hardest moments i’ve known. but this year has been particularly flattening at the same time it has been utterly delicious and life changing, and besides being painfully short on time, i haven’t known how to grapple with the riddles of getting older, and all that it brings with it, in writing, and in public. even a little tiny public.

i miss things. i miss my dogs, i miss painting, i miss my thirty year old ass. i miss my daughter as a four year old. i miss being in school. i miss my plump face and that plump line that stretched out in front of me for forever it seemed. 50 sits on the horizon but as much as i joke about it and lament it and screech with horror, it isn’t a looming, foreboding event that i am worried about. i am grateful to be here. god i have friends that are gone and they just fucking wanted to be here. so in the midst of my long fading youth and torn rotator cuff and the fact that i no longer want to work myself to the bone every day, i am peaceful. mostly.

i have written about my father in recent posts but since i have been here, my family and i signed the paperwork and packed up his belongings and moved him in to a senior/assisted living center. we searched for over a year to find a facility we could imagine him in, and though this lovely place is filled with amazing staff and wonderful residents who get to keep their pets with them and come and go as they need to, it has been a sobering and endlessly sad experience to watch the man who guided my life and taught me to foster uniqueness and my fierce need for independence, sink uncomfortably in to a life in a place he did not build and most importantly did not choose. reconciling his discomfort with the knowledge that this is where he needs to be, that he is safe and eating two meals a day and only fifteen minutes away, does little to assuage his sadness and our feeling of helplessness.

i want to twinkle my nose and zoom us all back twenty years to when i had moved home from san francisco to complete my illustration portfolio while i lived in the apartment on my parent’s property. my mom was still teaching, my father was driving to work in his old vw bus with his dog girl in the front seat, and tomatoes bloomed madly under his care in the stone planter boxes of their padua house. i was running baldy road and painting every day in the studio at the back of the old farmhouse that was his office, and he and i would drink coffee mid-morning in the front office while girl slept on his feet. it was a suspended set of months, the magical ones in southern california between january and june when the sky is azure and the mountains look like perfect cardboard cut outs and the air is crisp and fresh. i had been gone for a long time at that point – dropping down occasionally from other places but never for long – and so the slow work and quietude of those months of living simply amongst my parents and witnessing them in their day-to-day life after kids was one of the softest times i’ve had as an adult.

i try to remind my father of the importance of simple pleasures, but in a way it seems he has moved beyond them. reading the newspaper from front to back and relishing a gorgeous meal or gorgeous conversation appear to be out of his realm of desire; he is content instead to sleep too much and spend his waking hours revisiting his childhood growing up in iowa. this may be the natural course of things but i find it devastating. especially at a time when life is so crazy and packed with obligation that the idea of languishing over an entire newspaper is a fantasy i visit often, and the times that i get to spend hours with friends and food and drink can carry me for weeks i treasure them so much. i feel his disconnect acutely, as well as the fear that the years will scream by as they currently are doing and so much time will be taken up by the must-do’s that the perfect, enticing, beautiful things of life will be lost in the shuffle. my valentine and i talk about living in a house on a lake, where the birds are your alarm clock and the cycles of nature the movie you watch every day. my dad in a small way has such ease at his fingertips, but he is so preoccupied by the life he left behind {years ago, before circumstance dictated the need for him to have care} that he fails to see the gifts that surround him. though he sits literally in the fold of family, and we work daily to love and anchor him, he is unmoored, and terribly unhappy.

my rules for happiness seemed to have changed drastically over the course of the last decade – namely, my forties in their entirety. at what moment does the need for accrual become replaced with other, more compelling urges? some of the shift must be parenting, that set of moments that take place again and again over time that demonstrate how a heart can be filled  and a mind preoccupied with the delicate care of a little human being. but that cannot be the only factor, for i have friends without kiddos experiencing the same evolution away from self indulgence and toward a broader view of the beauty and need around them. i like to think, unless one is deeply entrenched in their own ego – and i know a few of those, don’t we all – that the glorious underbelly of growing older really is about finding balance, and a sense of humanity.

those of you who know me well know that the wrongs i feel committed to righting have everything to do with dogs in need. it wasn’t a plan exactly, but after years of having and finding and rescuing dogs, the mind-numbing, outrageous numbers of euthanization, disregard and abuse make it impossible to turn a blind eye. social media helps enormously in getting the good word out, but the flip side of such a huge platform on which to network and post is that you start to see everything. i have friends who rescue and do amazing things to make a difference where animals are concerned, and 95% of them are far braver than i am. from them i receive videos and petitions and a stream of reminders of the terrible atrocities inflicted upon animals, and some of it is so heinous and cruel that i literally cannot sit down and watch, the suffering is so painful. and yet if we don’t walk the brave walk and acknowledge it, how will it ever be fixed?

i write about this because i have struggled so deeply with the natural instinct we all feel to create happiness, and the reality of the world’s hardships. months away from 50, i know that life is not fair, even when i can look back at the thread of my own, and see how graced and lucky i am and have been. still, the work of reconciling the divide between what i want personally and what is needed universally can feel daunting and huge. last night in my sweet house with the heater chugging away and the rain hitting the windows, i watched maya’s long fingers writing as she finished her science homework, watched the dogs playing on their bed, took in my lovely old furniture and plants thriving in front of windows along the built-in and candles flickering inside their own scent. my thoughts turned for a moment – what about the homeless animals outside with no shelter from the wet and cold? i had to still the thought, and allow myself to turn back to breathing in the moment of peace i was witnessing while it existed.

maybe the reconciliation has to do with being present – allowing for joy and pain at the moments they are happening – and trusting in the idea that while you are immersed in one, the other is out there waiting for you. i believe in balance, that we are exposed to dark and light in mostly equal measure so as to fully appreciate their counterpart. and if there is balance, and we try with all our might to infuse the darkness with light whenever possible {because isn’t that impulse the brilliance of the human spirit?} then maybe, just maybe, i can sink in to the moments of sweetness fully knowing that they, like the work that most of us do somewhere to make a difference, are reasons for happiness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

light & dark.

July 22, 2014

midnight. quiet house, the chirping of crickets wafting in through a multitude of open windows, coffee to my right and kcrw keeping me company. very cliche and very sweet. these moments are few and far between, so i relish each one when i stumble in to a cluster of them.

i have been stumbling through a lot lately. maya’s final month of elementary school arrived and then swoosh! we were down to days and she was being promoted and was so lovely in her skirt and french-girl striped tee and then bam! we were bundled in blankets at the farewell bonfire, drinking wine in the big red plastic cups and watching the gorgeous kiddos make smores and then suddenly it was the first morning of summer vacation and i was so sideswiped by its seemingly instant arrival i felt compelled to drink iced coffee. you know, the first day of summer and all.

the passage of this year has marked a lot around here. in a heartbeat my girl has moved from little kid to adolescent, our beloved lucy lost her fight with cancer, my father has lost more of his memory and sense of reality, and my sister and i are still buried in the fight to keep our parent’s estate and integrity intact. i was laid out flat when my house was broken in to, but awash with relief that my dogs weren’t harmed. i welcomed new love, said goodbye to old dynamics, and have struggled to stay afloat with so much time consumed by family and obligation. i have met deep physical pain for the first time and cried myself to sleep as it shows up again and again like an unwanted house guest. i have received flowers and gifts and a thousand strokes of tenderness on my cheek, but in the recipe too are moments of temper like a flare gun going off, and a moroseness that, while it’s present, consumes and darkens.

and so i am faced with difficult decisions. self-preservation versus selflessness; being cared for versus being taken care of; a simple life that is mine versus a crazier life that is not. breath, joy, and light versus sadness, weight and darkness. of course there are a million in-betweens, beautiful ones, and as i sit in a quiet set of days, figuring out what i can and can’t do, what i want and don’t want, my mind begins the measuring of goods and bads. it is love-math, the weighing of definitives and abstracts. the value of connection, the scary depths we travel when we are smitten, and the equally beautiful heights. the blurring of lines, the necessity of compromise, the give and take, the loss of singularity. the sweetness of new history and sudden fits of laughter, the safety of a hand hold and sharing of sleep. the rewards of love, the costs of love.

we brought my father out to visit today so he could be with us and see the five week old puppies at my sister’s house. we all gathered there for dinner and then owen came back home with maya and me to sleep in the extra room at my house. my father has never done this, and though we heard the same zillion stories for the zillionth time, and he fell asleep at dinner more than once, we also harmonized john denver songs through the open windows of my car on the drive home, played with molly and piper on my couch, and sat with our feet stretched out on the coffee table for an hour just being together while maya sang monster high songs from her perch at the computer in the studio. my dad is still so damn handsome even at 81, with those amber eyes and ernest hemingway beard, and listening to him speak with one arm stretched along the edge of the couch and the other wrapped around a sleeping molly, i was instantly transported to the father of my childhood and teens. this charismatic creature, who could walk in to a room and instantly command attention while the atmosphere there actually shifted, was the man who came home from his office and sat with me in the backyard having a scotch and soda while i sipped frozen apple juice, asking me about my day and telling me about his. he has been an infuriating and bullish father at times, but his love for my sister and me is deep and constant, and i miss seeing fully the man i respected and knew had my back. there are glimpses there, and they are glorious, but often those glimpses come only as a set of moments in a wash of fog.

there is an echo there of what i am experiencing with my love, in a long-reaching and utterly different sort of way. we are from opposite ends of the earth, i am western and he is eastern, and after almost a year together (in the way that two self employed single parents can be together) we’ve begun to feel the cultural differences that exist between us. i have never been so tenderly cared for by someone, but that care is hard in moments to receive; sinking in to it goes against the grain of my independent, i-can-do-this-alone-if-i-have-to constitution. for me relationship pivots around a fairly balanced platform, where two people sit within reach of each other and within reach of the rest of their lives. a sort of i scream you scream we all scream for ice cream where we are on an even keel, juggling kids and jobs and home and creativity, stealing kisses where we can, and supporting and validating all we go through separately and collectively on a daily basis.

i don’t know that this holds true for my valentine, and what on earth does a modern, western girl like myself do with such a possibility about the man i love? i worry that this man, who has only ever been with women who share his culture, knows love as the experience of a woman moving toward his life, immersing herself there, with the knowledge (sadly or joyfully, i can’t be sure) that she will move to meet him, take on what is his, lose a piece of herself to have the rest of who she is cared and provided for. such an expectation creates an unease that is subtle but stalwart; and i, of wide vision and many projects and a child to raise and friends to nurture and dreams to follow and a need to be blissfully alone at times, am steeped in the overwhelming sadness that a person i find beautiful and compelling may be lost to me because i don’t know how to turn myself over. indeed, i don’t know that i can. or that i would ever want to.

and yet…? and yet. love is love. we can long for it but cannot anticipate it. we can imagine what it may be like but ultimately we are only one part of what shapes it. and when it is there, sitting in your lap with its highs and its lows and its arrogant sense of ownership and belonging (as you scramble to make room for it and accommodate it and nourish it), we analyze its nature and its traits and whether it really deserves a place in our life.

so in that vein, i invite my valentine to be in my house with me, to share the deep green couch and strong coffee and instead of the talking i am used to doing, i listen. and i wait, allowing for the silences that mean talking is foreign territory to him, and the silences get bridged and more words come. there are surprises and honesty and inferences and from this man who said early on he would rather stick a knife in his eye than talk something out, i begin to see a picture of what love looks like to him. it is more gesture and fewer words. it is time spent together in person instead of texts and phone calls. it is family – a vast family – made up of old men and the kiddos and fishing buddies and the former client who is down on their luck and us. all gathered around a big table, where big pots of food keep coming and the kids get special drinks or maybe dessert and everyone leaves well-fed and cared for. love is watering the garden and folding laundry, an afternoon of steam behind a locked door, venturing out only for milk tea because it’s such a comfort. love is building things and fixing things and buying things, too many coffees, a movie at midnight because we can, and because it is delicious to be out in the world when darkness silences the city buzz and the streets are mostly empty.

finally, love is learning. learning to stretch and feel scared and trust and dive deep when the need is there. it would be safer to sit on the surface in a little boat, paddling to shore when things get rocky. but in my heart i know if i miss the dive, i will miss the colors and wonders of all that beauty that exists below. so i dive in, and my body floats in the sun while my head does the love math, and when all my equations are summed up, i decide to stay in the water for a bit longer. if i go down deep, and the beauty is gone and there are only sea monsters and sand storms, i will know to push to the surface, where the water is calm, and distant trees sway their branches, and home waits for me on solid ground. i can get there – i’ve become a strong swimmer. but I hope I don’t have to.

 

one small question.

April 24, 2014

Last month there was an email in my inbox with the subject line ‘is your life meaningful?’ it came from donald miller – or at least the people who are the public persona/email sending engine behind donald miller. yes, the very same donald miller i wrote about a million years ago. because donald miller had a dog named lucy like i had a dog named lucy and sought truth and meaning like i seek truth and meaning and lived in cool portland, oregon and just seemed dreamy and hungry in all the right ways. and it is true that donald miller is a big serious christian and i am not a big serious christian but it was just a computer crush anyway and in my crush-drunk brain i thought, well if mary matalin and james carville can do it, certainly donald miller and i can. in the end that reasoning didn’t matter for my crush was short-lived as i ran head on in to a very tall man who became a real crush in the real world and then a very lovely friend. but i think i’ve already told that story here somewhere.

so there in the junk folder is this question. and it catches my eye because as much as i try to do, and to help, and to avail, and to listen, and to parent, and as many things there are to do on a daily basis – responsibilities and chores and friends and desires and volunteer opps and dogs to rescue and coffees to drink with gorgeous like-minded coffee drinkers, i had to ask myself, is my life meaningful? more importantly, i had to ask myself, do i ever ask myself that question? my answer? i don’t think i do.

i look for, and try to find meaning, everywhere. for those of you who have read my blog, or who know me even a squeak, i imagine that is no surprise, FOR I WRITE ABOUT IT ALL THE DAMN TIME. my day to day life is an attempt at a fluid, eyes-wide-open, truthful embrace of the people and circumstances that make it up – yet a simple question in a mass email caught my eye and sort of…halted me. it seems contrary, this search and this surprise. and then it bonked me right on the head: as much as i value and search for meaning, that doesn’t mean my life is meaningful.

i am fifty. well not really but i may as well be. in truth i just turned 49 last month and so this is the last year of my forties and i’ll be damned if it isn’t the most beautiful thing ever. i wish i could bottle this calm and this experience and this knowing of things and give it to my younger friends so they could know in their thirties what i know now as i near the end of a half century of life. i spoke tonight with my gorgeous friend stephen who will turn 50 soon also and touched upon how forgiving the lines of youth are, but how beautiful it feels to be here. we talked about the relevance of age, and how the physicality, the actuality of it need not be counted when one lives their life with a spirited and curious heart.

i find this such good news as i take stock and see that the people i choose to be with and get to be with run the gamut from twenty to eighty. my valentine has this magnetic pull toward old people – and they to him – and i must admit the utter charm of it and respect exhibited there fills me with happiness and inspires me to love him more. but it is more than etiquette – he learns from them, and they from him. can we learn our whole lives, ask the big questions of our elders, those who have been here longer and know so much more than we do? god i hope so; we have so much to learn.

but back to meaning.full.ness {if you are reading this addie, that was my ode to you}. how do we know if our lives have meaning? meaning is personal, it has to be, and varied. it is our history, what we’ve been taught has meaning and what we’ve run in to on our own. meaning, i think, must be the force that drives our heart and makes it feel fuller than we thought possible. and in my experience it can come from the most surprising and unlikely places. i don’t assume that meaning for everyone necessarily equals goodness, but for me i can at the very least say, it does. and to courageously take it a step further, meaning in my heart is about a certain selflessness. the choice to get out of my own way and move away from my own preoccupations and do something for someone else.

for when i take a deep breath and the extra two minutes i really don’t have to spare, just to watch something my daughter absolutely insists i must see, and her eyes shine and her words come staccato fast, there is meaning. and when my new friend and neighbor dorothy – the pretty old woman i’ve seen for five years of neighborhood walks but just recently introduced myself to – blows me a kiss from across the street in her bathrobe, there is meaning. when my yoga teacher walks by me as i stretch in down dog and places a light hand on the small of my back just to connect and encourage, there is meaning. when one dog out of a zillion in shelter gets pulled to foster or a new home because a hundred emails and facebook shares and blog posts were networked by the good dog people, there is meaning. when i manage to do something for my sister, who does so much for everyone, there is meaning. finally, when i let the world drop and the to-do lists fade for a bit, and surrender to a thousand possible moments every day of love and embrace and kindness and need and tenderness, there is meaning.

so to you donald miller, my enigmatic unfriend, i say yes. meaning is everywhere, swirling in great waves of grace and possibility, and within it, my life is full. of. meaning.

meaningful.

 

 

 

 

the year in pictures

January 7, 2014

pipershawl

mayacampos

roadtrip

laughlincrow

blimp

michaelmad

overtheshoulder

wiltonsky

water

bluedress

movingsky

michael

parkread

mayaandtree

crazyheads

JAT

stairs

board2

mollywithfish

crown2

cupstack

mayakite

starfishmaya

lifevest

roses

karate

sophiemaya

mackey

spiderman

supergirlsqueeze

workgirls

porch

pipersasleep

oldfriends

pedi

sidewalkchalk

swim

pumpkimpatch

esmewedding

milkmaid

 newshark

grassandsky

piperlucy

tree

mollyreallyasleep

buster2

safe

maccup

gardenia

rings

dogbowl

bookends

hug

losing oneself.

November 20, 2013

six weeks ago my house was broken in to. it is easier saying ‘broken in to’ than robbed, because when i say it like that, there are a few seconds of hopefulness built in for both me and whomever i am telling my tale to that maybe it was broken in to but nothing was taken.

sadly, that is not the case. i had an appointment on a wednesday morning and was gone for less than two hours. in that little space of time, someone or ones twisted the screen off of my daughter’s window – a window that i had forgotten to close – hoisted themselves in to my house using a sprinkler pipe in the flower bed, and took almost every piece of jewelry that meant something to me, had been handed down to me, had been found scouring antique and silver shops in foreign countries, had been slid on to my finger in love and commitment, had graced the neck of my great-grandmother sara, my grandmother audrey, and eventually me as a token of love from my parents when i turned thirty. all of the history and beauty and symbols of love, gone. just like that. the abrupt loss hit me like a train.

what struck me as the day wore on is that as my house was being ransacked, i was sitting across from my sister, talking about my beautiful new love and my joy and overwhelm within it. how new love meant the last vestiges of old love were tucked away in photo albums and boxes of keepsakes and that piece of your heart where you place the ones who have been with your memories and gratitude so that the one who now is has a place to be. this man that i found and who found me occupies a very different place in the world than i do – and i have been learning to allow for his tender, funny, arrogant and gorgeous ways. it is a big lesson for me, learning to receive him and his heart-driven generosity. that morning loreen asked me if i could just breathe and let it in, to surrender what has been for this new place. i told her i would try. an hour later i was standing in the middle of my house with what felt like all of the air sucked out of my body, looking at drawers opened, closets rifled through, bags turned inside out, the contents of my wallet on the living room floor, and the box which holds my pup jaxson’s ashes upside down on my bed. the hardest part? strangers were in my house with my dogs, my epic-failure-as-guard-dog pups who probably invited them in with their respective pit bull and chihuahua tails wagging, then offered them coffee.

it seems like a lot, surrender and robbery all on a random wednesday. that’s so much for the universe to ask of someone, to allow things in, and allow things to go, in one condensed set of hours. but it’s just the beginning, and before i go on with my story, i just would like to acknowledge: my god it has been forever since i have been here. writing. alone. letting thoughts swirl and ruminate and land. i have missed you words. missed you friends who i send this to. miss you quiet process of being in the center of self without interruption {hopefully} and allowing everything to leave my scattered mind and make sense on a quiet white background. oh how i love the quiet, white background. but you all know that.

so the robbery happened and i was flattened for two days, and on the morning of the third day i woke up and everything was..soft. my heart was soft and my mind was restful and i thought of the beautiful pieces that had been taken from me and i was okay. i was so lucky to have what i had for as long as i had it, and like everything i have cried over and mourned and held on to with my fiercest grip, the act of opening my hands and releasing and saying goodbye contained its own sweet poetry and sense of movement forward as i made space for something new. i adored my wedding set, the engagement ring i designed, and i had planned on giving it to maya once she was older, for she is the most beautiful gift that came from the years ricky and i were together, and she rules our hearts. the vintage necklace that was my great grandmother’s, well there are no words for how much i loved it and how much mystery it contained. who was it exactly that brought it to my great grandmother from germany during WWI and why? we’ll never know.

i work to let go and stay grounded and let go some more and a month passes and my father is admitted to the hospital in the most frightening of circumstances and we are scrambling to make sure he is okay all while he has no idea really what is wrong and why he is there. there are phone calls to doctors and social workers and case managers and meetings and still he is no better off than he was two weeks ago and will the insurance cover this and will he ever be home again? maybe not. what does that mean? that he’ll never hold court from his favorite mid-century teak chair in the dining room. that the stack of newspapers he reads daily begins to diminish instead of growing ever higher until my mom forces him to clear them out. that his cat misses his lap as he misses her. that instead of reflecting upon his life from the cool comfort of the quiet house he redesigned, he is looking at the sterile corners of his hospital room and wearing clothing made from paper. certainly we can do better than this. certainly we haven’t lost him to his failing memory and an imperfect system of health care, both of which are full of holes. certainly this won’t be the final chapters of a complicated, fascinating, ego and kindness driven life. we are fighting with all we have to make it okay, to carve out a dignified and gracious existence. but god this country makes it difficult.

and finally, with the words dignified and gracious hanging still in the air of that last paragraph, i arrive at lucy. my brave, sweet, tender-hearted dog who brightened each of the days i was lucky enough to share with her. she fought the feistiest battle and held on longer than anyone could have imagined, almost two years from her diagnosis of cancer. she laid on the grass and watched the world of wilton street move before her. she barked at birds and passersby and skateboarding kids from the house across the street. she played and talked and snuggled with piper all from the pillow that was her home almost exclusively once her arthritis couldn’t be treated as aggressively as we wished due to her tumors. with a rousing round of barks and play time at our heels, we left the house last week for a quick dinner out and came home to lucy struggling to breathe. we calmed her and called her doctor and i laid with her and looked in to those deep brown eyes and right there, in those seconds, we said goodbye, lucy and i. from the moment she was abandoned in a parking lot at eight weeks old and we were lucky enough to get her, until spooning with her a final time, her life had been surrounded by love and she handed it all back to every person who knew her ten-fold. i am so grateful to have had her. i am so grateful she didn’t suffer. i am so grateful that she went when she was ready. we should all have a path blessed with such grace and closure.

on my table here in my studio are two pictures. One is a swirly picture of my father and i getting ready to dance at my wedding.  i am wearing a silk slip of a wedding dress and my great grandmother sara’s necklace is hanging from my neck. my wedding rings sit of course on my left hand which is folded in to my dad’s right one, and there is just the hint of a smile on my dad’s face. the other picture on my table is lucy bean on top of jaxson when she was still a pup; she used to sleep there and when we lost jaxson a decade ago she started sleeping on the end of our bed, a really bad idea. i look at the pictures and i love them more than ever even though the ideas and moments in time they represented are in large part not there anymore. yet i am okay. i have lost and am losing so much in these days and moments it seems, and though i thought without the physical reality of the objects and souls and relationships i adore surrounding me i would lose myself, i am here.

i am here with my laugh lines and my seasoned heart and my wiser soul. i am here with all i have learned from all those i have loved. i am here with a thousand shadows of a thousand doggy kisses on my cheeks, and the memory of being rocked to sleep by my father etched in to my bones, and the feeling of the symbol of my love for ricky wrapped around my finger. ashes to ashes and dust to dust, we carry every experience and sparkly moment and deepest heart pain with us. so i say thank you golden rings and silver baubles and vintage beauties for making me feel special. thank you lucy bean for showing me unconditional love. and thank you dad, for giving me the one thing i cannot lose. my sense of self.

my favorite-owenandkl

jackson&lucybean

amaryllisclose

amaryllis

apples

apples

applepeel

apples naked

artichoke2

artichoke

beads

beads

artichokebottles

bottle tops

blender

breakfast

claraclose

clara

clementines

clementines

clouds

clouds

coathook

coat hook

cup

cup

dogsinshadow

dogs

sleepypiper

dog sleep

gardenia

gardenia

gerbers

gerbera

moth

goodbye

feltheart

heart {felt}

house

houses

jacaranda

jacaranda

mayahat

kid hat

sleepymaya

kid sleep

mayafeet

kid style

lemons

lemons

lilies

lilies

lime

lime

littlecar

little car

loquat

loquat

play

play

purpleswirl

purple

tree

refuge

rooftops

roof tops

sky

sunset

talking

talk

nectarine

tangerine

orange

tangerine walls

wine

wine with twins