Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Week AFTER Christmas

Really? Already? Another year passed?

I started this year mourning. I had ended a meaningful relationship with a good, sweet man and embarked on a journey towards being comfortable in my solitude. In my solitude, I worked at creating more meaningful relationships with the friends in my life and seeking the company of those I have wanted to know better. I ended a job I loved, only to start one that I love even more. I looked for a new version of myself among new clothes, new hair and long walks in the woods. I reconnected with old friends within new-fangled electronic mediums and found bliss in the written word all over again.

I picked up my dusty camera, played with pastels and allowed my creativity to flow for no other reason than for the sake of flowing. I sang songs, both from my heart and from someone else's. I cooked for myself instead of others.

The fire in the wood stove is blazing hot, the kettle is steaming with the aromas of fresh clementine peels and cinnamon sticks, the tree is beautiful in soft white lights and funky ornaments and my three incredible children are sound asleep upstairs.

The cats have staked their claims in the warmest, comfiest spots in the house, tails curled around their bodies and my old, sweet dog is snoring in his bed by my feet. As I sit in my orange tweed covered chair, drinking tea and feeling sleepy, I can't help but feel so grateful for my life.

Outside, the virgin snow in my backyard is powdery soft and waiting, quietly, for children to mark it with their boots, angels, forts and sledding trails. The moon is full and bright tonight, glowing softly behind the clouds.

I am looking forward to the new year.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Running with Dog

Carol Bean and Squirt are farm dogs who live down the road--and I use the term "farm dogs" loosely as they don't have a working bone between them. Carol Bean is a boxer mix, with a body made like a granite boulder and accompanied by a fierce bark. This intimidating countenance belies the sugary sweet personality reflected in her soft brown eyes or in the soft mumbling growls and whines she uses to talk to us. Using her powerful front legs, she will pin down a small child, licking and nuzzling until her "victim" can wriggle out from underneath. Even then, she will proceed to softly talk to you, hoping you will let her do it again.

As you may guess, she is a hit with the kids.

But this story is not about the sweet Carol Bean. It is about Squirt.

Squirt is the physical opposite of Carol with a lean, light-as-a-feather build. Her long muzzle is used to lift hands, enticing their owners into petting her. Unlike Carol Bean, Squirt prefers a bit more distance between herself and all others. You may pet and snuggle her, but only for a little bit before she gently noses your hand away or inches toward her escape route. She is a sweet, quiet dog, rarely speaking unless she is caught up in the frenzied barking that Carol likes to do on occasion. All this means the kids crave her the way they crave off limits holiday candy, hugging and stroking her fur until she is loved into a corner, but I often remind them that Squirt needs her space.

Years ago, when I worked for The Farmer, it was just Squirt--or Squirty as I call her--who kept me company in the dusty office on the farm. It was during my time there that she and I would go for leisurely runs on the backroads of our village. Squirt is graceful and companionable. I had only to look at her and say "run?" and she would turn and squiggle with joy.

The run itself always started slow, warming up as she wandered the roadside, one eye on me while I fished around my iShuffle for the right tune, stretching my arms as I walked quickly. Sometimes, during this 5 minute start, she'd wander away up a small slope and circle a tree or disappear down an embankment to check the river, but she was never gone for more than a few moments - something I appreciated and voiced to her with a "good girl" while giving her silky ears a rub.

Then the run. My stiff muscles would squeak a bit with the effort, but as I broke into a jog, Squirt was right there beside me, keeping pace. We moved like this for awhile, enjoying the rhythm of each other, listening to music or sometimes the slap of my shoes on the dirt road. If this run was in the beginning of the season, I would usually slow down to a walk half way through, her cue to wander off again to explore, running back every couple of minutes to check my progress. Eventually, I would pick up my pace, searching again for that perfect rhythm and silently, without fanfare, she was beside me, as if she never left.

These runs would continue for an hour or so, keeping each other company before wandering back to the farm or going for a quick dip in the river. Then she would either crawl back under my desk or wander off to the greenhouses looking for The Farmer. I would either get back to work or head home, back to my family and the familiarity of humans.

Years later, Squirt and I do not run together as often as we did. I no longer work at the farm, our daily life has changed and our bodies too (arthritis for her, achy knees for me), but sometimes in the spring, when the green around us is still new and the running river is cold and full, I'll go looking for Squirt in the dusty farm office.

With the evening light easing away the cold that still lingers from the snowy winter, we begin with stiff legs that gradually loosen and fall back into the rhythm of the run as if we never stopped.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Dear Grandma

I was driving the other day, between my house in Craftsbury and my office in Hardwick, feeling quiet and at peace. The music is playing, my mind is at ease and the car moves smoothly through the S-curves of the road. Those stretches of quiet time are when I am most apt to think of those I have lost. Your memory looms large during those drives, especially now.

I miss our chats on the telephone, our email exchanges, the cards. I miss your laughter and your smile, your stories and your songs. I miss you. We all do.

I wish you knew my kids better. They are so full of giggles, with a sense of humor that is like your own. Peals of laughter fill my house most days and their happiness is thick.

Oh and the chatty-ness! Wow...they are a chatty group, striking up conversations with most anyone. Again, so joyfully like you.

Songs are sung most waking hours. We all like to sing. Recently, Mason came home with a note from the teacher, explaining that his penchant for singing at all hours of the school day were proving to be a distraction from the class' school work. Apparently, sometimes, all the kids join in. See? Even now, I can hear you chortling with laughter over that one.

I was glad to know you differently as an adult. We developed a friendship that I cherished and now miss. I'm thankful for the comfortable conversations, loving advice, stories and songs these past several years. I'm thankful, that you left in your wake, a group of strong women from who I continue to draw my own strength from. I'm thankful, that in spite of your absence, our family continues to gather and celebrate.

I don't believe in God or heaven, at least not yet, but I do believe in people and that is a belief that you had a large part in nurturing in me. I believe in the energy of people touching the lives of other people and having that carried on through the generations. I see in your children, my children and in myself, pieces of you that will continue to live on beyond all of us. Pretty cool, eh?

I love you Grandma. Merry Christmas.

Love always,