Fragile as we are.
Joy is always within view.
Open up your eyes.
I pondered before making the decision, but only briefly.
I hadn’t intended to visit the beautiful cemetary before me today, but my plans had changed.
Though the remains of my parents, brother and husband rest elsewhere, my grandparents ashes are in this sacred spot.
The lush, green rolling hills are striking and it’s been decades since I’ve visited.
Yet an additional draw for me today was the arts.
And there was plenty of it.
Music sang from all directions. The local police band played the traditional patriotic songs, but also offerings were made of gospel, classical, folk, and swing.
And there was poetry, including a poetry writing class with critiques available for all.
There was also drawing sessions with guidance, paper, and pastels freely given by professional artists.
Photography, too, was represented with creative and technical tips being shared by instructors.
With white doves soaring above and shiny horse drawn carriages trotting along side me, opportunities for subjects to shoot were everywhere.
Unfortunately my digital camera, currently short a memory card, peacefully rested at home missing the events.
But in the camera’s honor, and also that of my sweet caramel loving grandmother, I did pen one short poem in my poetry session that reads:
My memories are like caramels.
Savored and sweet.
Melting on my tongue till they’re gone.
Maybe I can freeze them?
All right, I admit I was really hungry and hot when I wrote it.
I’ll try again next year.
I’m no expert, but sometimes I think animals were put on earth to send us messages.
Take Floyd here, for example. I don’t know his real name but that’s how I greet him every time I walk past the bookstore window. He lives inside along with a couple of roosters and an occasional chinchilla.
Floyd looked quite disgusted at me early this morning and directed me over towards the gardening book display and a message.
“Dig in!” the sign proclaimed.
My friend Floyd’s right as usual. After our recent rains, my weeds are totally out of control.
Yet I dismissed his advice and continued walking towards the lake and through the park’s gardens.
That is until I noticed the ornate statute in front of me, with thick clouds behind as a backdrop.
Right atop the statute was another sign just for me from the animal kingdom.
This time from the noisy resident blackbird.
I call him Billy.
So Billy, perched on that old masterpiece, kept bobbing his head up and down. First, towards the ominous cloud, then down towards the exact location of my cottage.
I got the message and traveled home to pull my weeds before more raindrops give birth to the first mosquito.
I surely don’t need that tenacious creature bugging me with his biting comments.
“Get your ducks in a row,” the polished silver haired woman seated before me advised.
A few months after my husband Richard passed away from dementia, and a year after my Mom did the same, I thought I better see a grief counselor.
“Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do?” I’d asked myself one night in the mirror.
Previously I’d attended a group session for family members of those who’d passed while in hospice, but I left feeling worse then when I went in.
I no longer needed to share my tears and grief over Mom and Richard, but instead wanted to move on with my life. After a decade of caregiving responsibilities related to memory loss for both of my parents and my spouse, I was ready.
Yet I was still mourning what I saw as the loss of ten years of my life.
I felt I’d gone from middle aged to old with the snap of an arthritic finger.
So as I sat with this wise woman before me for my two sessions, I took her advice to heart.
I knew I wasn’t getting any younger, but getting my affairs in order so I could fully enjoy the rest of my days made good sense.
As I sat down by the lake this morning watching sailboats and the family of happy ducks before me, I reflected on the changes I’ve made in the last eight months.
I’ve swapped both houses and communities.
I retired early from my corporate career, and I’m now working in the non profit sector with children.
And I believe I am at peace.
Sharing a muffin with the ducks, I thought too of a former co-worker from my corporate days who experienced rough patches in her own life. She is now an accomplished and very talented poet.
I believe she’s very content and proud of a new book she just published that I finished earlier this morning.
She should be.
And I thought again of contentment as I greeted another former co-employee later at the farmers’ market, a few blocks up from the the lake.
This bright fellow’s become a farmer.
It was an unplanned lifestyle change, starkly different from his corporate life in the city, but it seems to agree with him.
Buying a bunch of red radishes from my friend, my eye caught a basket of colorful notecards with photos he’d taken on his beautiful farm.
An expression of pride immediately spread across his face as I selected the shot of a cheerful and smiling pig to send to an ailing friend.
“You know, these aren’t at all easy to capture on a pig’s face,” he told me, smiling wide as well.
After I left I was thinking how different ships come in during the course of our lives as we venture to different ports of call.
And we always encounter storms along the way.
But in the end, perhaps what provides us peaceful passage may just be those very smiles we give and receive.
While balancing 55 hour work weeks and caretaking responsibilities a few years ago I came to an important realization.
Mom and my husband Richard were both suffering from late stage dementia at the time, and I also had a teen and grandchild at home still needing support.
I was running short on sleep, and even shorter on spirit.
Then one Saturday morning I slid down to the kitchen floor to scratch my corgi Maddie’s belly. In response, she licked my hand and looked up at me with soulful eyes full of love.
Then and there I realized this sweet corgi and the rest of my canine crew were there as my own caretakers.
Specifically caretakers of one very shaky spirit and soul.
I was not alone.
As a result, along with Alzheimer’s non profits, dog related causes have been a yearly recipient of my annual donation dollars.
But this year, those dollars given to the dogs have been less than I’d like due to unpredicted expenses.
I’d been feeling a little guilty, until meeting up with two spirited grade schoolers at a neighborhood festival last weekend.
They both had a love for animals, and a vision.
The first shy brown eyed brunette sat at a table with her father collecting dollars for dogs found roaming in Costa Rica that they’d met on a recent trip. She made brightly colored candle holders out of paint and canning jars to sell for the cause.
I emptied my left pocket and added all the coins I pulled to their bucket.
A few tables down, I met another sweet girl who had a different idea to help out the dogs.
She was busily selling dog toys she and her Girl Scout group assembled to support the pound where I adopted my dog Rex in December.
After asking her to pick out a special toy for my boy, she did so proudly selecting one of deep burgundy and blue that she had made.
I emptied my right pocket this time, knowing these pups needed the donation more than I needed the grilled hot dog I was smelling from the stand behind me.
Driving home, I was happy I’d been able to help the dogs some. Yet I was still a little regretful I couldn’t do more or had the vision to help in a creative way like the two young girls I’d just met.
But then after looking at a newsletter I pulled from my mailbox after pulling into my driveway, I reconsidered.
The rescue group that I’d adopted my chi Grandma Greta from republished a post in it that I’d written in early December right after she passed. I’d talked in the piece about what this old girl meant to my spirit and that of others. https://quiltofmissingmemories.wordpress.com/2015/12/02/christmas-story/
In the same issue, the group mentioned a total of over 700 dogs that they helped last year.
If even half of those new owners donated only a dollar in honor of a second hand dog, maybe I have helped in more than a minor way.
And also in a creative one.
I thought the same as I also looked back on another post that the local pound republished of mine on Facebook in late December after I adopted my pup Rex. I wrote about what this little guy is doing for my soul and spirit today. https://quiltofmissingmemories.wordpress.com/2015/12/19/handsome-man/
The pound received over 700 likes on the piece. If even half of those readers donate as well, perhaps I’ve made more of a difference for the dogs than I’d ever realized.
Though arthritis limits what I contribute by hand, perhaps I can continue giving with my words and as many coins as I can muster.
My canine caretakers have given me so much.
I owe it to their legacy to try and do the same.