For years, I’ve wanted to own a dog – as an adult – in order to experience for myself the joys and rewards of canine companionship known to so many others. Bringing this little guy, our sweet, sweet Coco, into our lives has been a revelation. A challenge, yes. Great frustration at times? Most certainly. Regret? If I’m honest, yeah, once in awhile.

He, however, gives us so much in return for our trouble. Like a bucking bronco, he tears up the living room, his exhilaration palpable as, one by one, he trots out each of his growing collection of toys as Bill and I go about our morning preparations. We delight at his antics, his simple puppy gestures, his whimpers and growls, his wagging tail, his dark eyes and black button nose, his soft wavy coat, his cherubic countenance as he (at last!) curls up for a mid-morning nap and most of all, his love and devotion to us – his supremely lucky humans.

Puppyhood is likely not for everyone and I’ll be both grateful and sad when he sheds his youthful exuberance for a more stately and dignified – restful – manner. Every day brings new smiles and laughter and a deepening appreciation for the happiness and glee he provides. I can only hope he is as pleased to have us in his life as we are that he is a part of ours.

Life.

Sometimes it slows down, so much so that our days can feel stagnant but otherwise moving along at a leisurely pace – nice! – and at other times we find ourselves being pulled along and/or pushed into activities, events, changes that leave us gasping for air.

One thing is certain, however; life keeps moving on. How we react to what it brings is ours to decide. And that can make for quite the astonishing difference.

Daily Prompt: Astonish

I want to daydream of spring.

Snow blankets our backyard and the golf course beyond. It is beguiling but also cold and foreboding, not warm and easy like a lovely day in May. So, I’ll contemplate hosta shoots poking up through the ground, their green and purple tips an extravagant delight, a wondrous discovery amid the decaying remnants of last year’s growth.

Come spring there will be teases of color: pinks and reds, pale green – so many shades, dizzying at times – yellows, lavenders and purples and scrumptious bright whites, all beneath an azure sky and a glittering array of budding trees and shrubs. The heartbeat of new life, new growth, fresh air, fresh beginnings. Promise. Longer days. Extended daylights. Warmth.

But, while I savor my daydreams, I know there is awhile yet to go before we can bask in spring’s beauty. Winter teaches us patience. Our hearts quicken though in rapturous anticipation.

Last night I read one of my poems for the first time, behind a microphone, at a poetry event in downtown Des Moines. There was a large gathering, more so than I’d expected. The crowd was diverse, eclectic and punctuated with young folk, some high school age, most in their twenties and thirties. A few oldsters such as myself were in attendance. At 60, I had to wonder if I wasn’t the oldest person in the room. No matter. It was exciting to see so many young people, ardent devotees of the written and spoken word: the beauty and angst of poetry.

The readings were, in large part, tributes to the cadence of hip hop and rap, speaking universal themes of love, discovery and acceptance with a few jabs at the current administration thrown in for good measure. And while there were some very good offerings, I cannot help but wonder how these young talents might translate to broader topics, interests beyond transgender discrimination, rape culture and lesbian love. An observation, mind you, not a critique…

As for my own experience, I was only a little shaky. I belong to three groups, two of which are devoted to the process of writing, the other to poetry. Each is unique in both their format and their focus. All are made up of wonderfully gifted and interesting individuals. Sharing my poems and writing is somewhat the same at these venues, sans the microphone and stage. At our group gatherings, we sit around a table, made up of known and friendly faces. Quite different from standing slightly elevated with dozens of pairs of eyes sitting around the room before you. But – doable, indeed.

It was an interesting evening, something quite different from the basketball game we’ll attend tonight, to be sure! I enjoyed myself and hope to engage in a repeat performance.

On the 13th of December, an XPressPay invoice email appeared in our Inbox. My husband, Bill, uses XPressPay to pay our Norwalk utility bills. Nothing unusual here except I noticed the subject line on this particular email (which I chose not to open and read so as to not ruin the surprise anymore than seeing this had already done!) read 2018 Dog License Application.

Holy Cow! I thought. Bill did it. He got me a puppy!! We’d just seen a gorgeous cock-a-poo a few days earlier while walking at Gray’s Lake. The owners gave us the breeder information and later that day Bill made the comment ‘maybe we should get you a puppy’. I said nothing at the time so when I saw this email my heart soared!! OMG. A puppy!!

I started to prepare myself for impending puppyhood. I read articles and posts about the first 24 hours home, the first few weeks & months and how to train, feed and care for my new puppy. I was STOKED and looking forward, although somewhat anxiously, to opening our home to a new companion.

Christmas morning – crickets.

I waited patiently, wondering how Bill was going to spring it on me. Was he going to give me a dog leash or the license tags wrapped in shiny Christmas paper? Or maybe he’d wrapped the crate we’d use to bring our new puppy home from the breeder. Bill said nothing. At noon we headed to Kent & Kim’s for dinner and gifts. Perhaps he would present me with the accoutrements of dog ownership there when we exchanged presents with family. Or – OR!! Maybe Kent & Kim actually had my new puppy waiting for me at their house!! OMG. My tummy was doing flip-flops. I was nervous, excited and anxious.

We get there. The house was pretty quiet. No furtive glances. No coy looks. No puppy sounds emanating from the basement (maybe that’s where they had him?!?) I continued to wait. Lunch was a little delayed so we decided to open gifts before we ate. OMG. Here we go!! I waited. And waited some more. And then – it was over. Time to eat.

Nothing.

What the heck?!?!

Later in the day, Bill and I sat off to the side on the couch in the living room, family busy elsewhere in the house. Quietly, I told him about the email and wondered out loud ‘what gives?!?!’ Bill had no idea what I was talking about. “Dog license? You think I bought a dog license for someone?” Then: “Oh. You thought I got YOU a puppy?” He truly had no idea what I was referring to. Finally, I realized he was sincere. He felt bad. No, he hadn’t gotten me a dog. “Let’s go get you one tomorrow”, he said. “If you really want one.”

So.

No puppy. Somehow a huge mistake. I don’t know why we got this email. When we got home late last night and opened it up to read it, all that it contained was a blank application form. NO clue as to why they sent it.

This morning I told my husband that maybe winter wouldn’t be the best time to get a puppy. We’ll revisit this discussion come spring.

Sigh. No furry little friend – for now.

And still, I wait…

Steve placed the King James, opened face-down, on a three-legged stool, not far from the searing heat of the roaring fire. Revelations had nothing to reveal to him. It made no sense, no matter which way he sliced and diced the thing. He felt as if he’d lost his way over the years, finally unshackled from the orthodoxy of indoctrination that had gripped him at an early, impressionable age and that was, he thought, fine by him.

Religion had lost its luster. The hold it had on him had become looser and flimsier in this, his eighth decade on the planet. Nature was his god now. His mind was sound, his 75-year-old body still fit and trim. Daily walks on the beach, gathering driftwood, sifting through tidal wrack to unearth man’s middle finger of careless disregard for the beauty and awe of the world, had taught him many things, not the least of which was the propensity of humans to look outside themselves for solace, for answers, for comfort. All that was required was within. Steve understood this now.

Majestic nature, the silence of being, the grandeur of it all inspired his devotion: oceans, mountains, streams and fields and hills, lakes, creeks, ponds and marshes. The diversity of plants and animals, the glorious and changing seasons, the powerfully awesome forces of the skies – these were no trifles. They were his all. These spiritual elements comprised the core of who he was and what he believed in. More importantly, they inspired him to live in the moment and to be grateful for every morsel of this beautiful cocoon that enveloped him in its tender, ferocious arms.

At one time, he felt torn about his evolving views. No more. This was Life and he would cherish and nurture and enjoy it for as long as he was fortunate enough to do so.

Daily Prompt: Torn

I watched a tractor through the magnifying magic of binoculars this morning. Unaided, I was just able to make out his high beams (why they were on I haven’t a clue as the day is bright, despite the heavy blanket of clouds in the sky) but through the lens, details began to emerge as the tractor ran its errands. To the side in an adjacent field, I saw a white pickup and a newly-clear view of what is normally admired via a quick glance out our sunroom windows. Canada geese flew into my line of sight and, setting the binoculars aside, I noticed a squirrel scampering across the third hole, skirting the bunkers. The pond on the far end of the second fairway patiently waits for the geese to land, arboreal sentinels keeping watch. Purple finches, closer to home, approach our feeder, happy I’m sure, that only yesterday I refilled it with the black sunflower seeds they so heartily crave. There is no snow – just yet – and we’ll enjoy temperatures in the 40s and 50s the next several days but make no mistake: winter is coming.

The hospice bed occupied a large portion of the living room. Ha! — the living room. Dad was dying and it wouldn’t be much longer now. I hadn’t realized the stillness of our melancholy would be punctuated by the sounds of Dad’s death rattle. Nor did I know that he would slip into a coma-like sleep as the cancer, coursing through his body, began shutting down his internal life support systems. It unsettled us all.

We took turns sitting alongside him, holding his hand in ours as we memorized the lines in his drawn, shrunken face, the twinkle in his brown eyes long since extinguished. We sought reassurance every few minutes that he was indeed still breathing. Once, when my mourning asserted itself in a low, wretched wail, the depths of my anguish more pronounced than any grief I’d ever known, my mother scolded me.

“Stop it. You’ll upset your father”.

A memory, unbidden, startled me at that moment. I was reminded of the time my mother visited my kindergarten classroom. Thrilled that she was there, I eagerly twisted my small six-year-old frame for a glimpse of her sitting behind us — a small group of little ones seated on our colorful nap rugs — happily expectant that she would return the huge smile I offered her. Instead, she shook her finger and sternly admonished me to turn around and pay attention to the teacher.

My father was leaving me and now I had two conflicting states of mind to grapple with: this paralyzing, numbing sadness and the frustration (and hurt) of yet again being shamed for expressing my emotions, each time having been inspired by love.

We were doing rope work at Dutton Cave in northeast Iowa, almost thirty years ago, when my son was not quite yet in his teens. He was, I think, about ten or eleven years old.

The maw of this cozy cavern is perfect for rappelling as the top of the opening is accessible via a short climb through brush and bramble on either side of the cave proper. At the crown of the vertical granite face, overlooking the drop, is where the ropes were set in place. Playtime prep work was done by the (far) more experienced members of our merry band of adventurers. My son and I, neophytes to the world of spelunking, were simply along for the ride.

Prior to the free-fall exhilaration of gliding down a nylon rope – climbers dutifully attached to said rope wearing only an awkwardly cumbersome but oh-so-necessary corded harness to aid in their ascent or descent – the group elders decreed that one must first successfully climb from the relatively flat, rock-strewn bottom to the sloping, rock-strewn top of the cave wall – an upward span of forty agonizing feet. Doing so, peering into the darkness of the cave or looking out at the tops of the trees in the park, relative to one’s orientation while suspended from the rope at various height intervals, climbers rise slowly up the rope via a stepping motion using a mechanical device known as an ascender.

My time with the group was short-lived and I don’t claim to possess even a modicum of expertise or the skillful ability to correctly employ the appropriate jargon of the sport. So I ask more diligent readers to please bear with me. I will tell you, however, that rope climbing using these ascenders is both a difficult and a most satisfying endeavor.

Once a climber cleared the cave opening, all that stood in the way of reaching terra firma was the delicately demanding act of pushing the ascender up the rope while maneuvering it up and over and then past the rock-lip of the surface where the rope lies. This is not an easy task given the weight of the climber enhanced by the pull of gravity, which makes for a very tight surface connection of rope to rock. However, once achieved, this climber – and this climber’s son who was not at all happy with his mother for insisting he do this! – were both rewarded with instant euphoria. That satisfying bite of the rope as the ascender cleared the rock and slid its way up the track of the rope allowing first me and then my son to summit the top of the cave entrance made the physical and mental challenges of completing the task entirely worth the effort.

Now, at last, we were able to enjoy rappelling back down to the spot where we began our incredible little climbing adventure. And it was all good.

Daily Prompt: Bite

American citizens — weary of the bluster and outrage, indecency and greed and the mockery of the traditions we hold dear and the ravaging of our democracy — seek a leader to emerge from the chaos, someone to shine a light on injustice, someone to provide hope and guidance and someone to restore a sense of pride and compassion that has, until recently, been heralded and lauded around the world.

We are looking for that special someone who is:

  • Pragmatic and progressive-mind
  • Intelligent and well-spoken
  • Authentic
  • Earnest
  • Well-informed
  • Kind and compassionate
  • Honest
  • Cognizant of the worth of ALL Americans
  • Appreciative of the merits of discussion from both sides of the aisle and all those in between

Recognizing that saints are in pretty short supply these days, we nonetheless prefer a leader whose character and background are beyond reproach, one who has a record of commanding respect and affording it to others in equal measure.

Timeliness is of the essence. Your skills and leadership are needed NOW. Please: Make yourself known.