Beauty blooms in January

“Beauty is so quietly woven through our ordinary days that we hardly notice it. Everywhere there is tenderness, care and kindness there is beauty.”

-John O’Donohue
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Perhaps it was a little crazy to take on a hospice cat over the holidays, or was it?

I was asking that potentially depressing question to a friend earlier this week since my husband passed away in hospice right after Christmas a few years ago.

On this gloomy bitter cold Sunday I’ve been watching Mr. Bojangles curl up on a cozy cat bed right beside me.

And I’ve actually been finding myself smiling.

Mr. Bojangles is holding his head up high, but not quite as high as he did when he first joined me.

Still he does so with grace.

Sure the fellow’s estimated to have only 2-5 months left at this point, but who really knows when our time is up anyway.

Three days ago Mr. Bojangles had stopped eating and didn’t seem to be drinking water. Yet by the next evening, I discovered he was back in the game.

However, it’s clear his appetite isn’t what it once was no matter the type of food given.

I’ve also noticed Mr. Bojangles is moving a bit slower, still every step he takes is deliberate. Though I no longer find him climbing the stairs to join the dogs up in the kitchen for breakfast.

Instead he prefers I join him in his private room and hold him as he tenderly takes in every flake of his tuna meals.

It seems Mr. Bojangles likes this extra one on one time.

I do know that I love providing him the extra attention he deserves along with some extra warm blankets.

Mid January can be especially cruel here in the upper midwest and this week has been no different.

Sub zero temperatures, icy roads with 20 car pile ups, and what looked like the loss of my hospice cat 3 days ago was beginning to play havoc with my soul.

Yet as I smell my beef stew now simmering in the crock pot while watching fresh snowflakes dance out the window to the sounds of that hospice cat still purring softly, I know it still is a beautiful world.

Yes, even in January.

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Dignity, with a dose of joy

Grief is a funny thing.

Or maybe not.

You think you’ve got proper protection then something bites you in the backyard.

Just like a big old mosquito.

I was outside playing with the dogs tonight when I got stung.

There laying on the freshly cut grass before me was my loving corgi Maddie. My girl’s close to 14 now and she was looking lethargic with her head down on the ground.

One of Maddie’s backlegs is lame, and now the second seems to be slowing down as well.

I joined her on my stomach anyway right next to her, and started snapping pictures.

But that usual magical spark was missing in Maddie’s eyes which was bringing me down even lower.

My girl’s expression reminded me of the words my paternal grandmother shared with me in her eighties.  “It’s hell getting old,” Grandma would often say before she passed from Alzheimer’s a few years later.

I stopped and thought for a moment about about those I’ve lost in in my life, particularly in the last 3 or 4 years.

There once was a mother, one husband, and three sweet senior dogs.

Mom, my spouse Richard, and even one of the dogs had dementia. And yet they all managed to keep happy in spite of their illnesses.

Perhaps even happier than my late corgi Mariah and chi-doxie Greta who held on to their cognitive skills till the day each of them passed on.

I began to scratch Maddie’s soft belly for a while to calm her and to calm me.

Suddenly a mourning dove began to croon on the weathered fence post behind us, but it wasn’t a sad song at all.

Then a monarch darted and danced right past Maddie’s black nose demanding her attention before taking off for the barbecue next door.

Soon I saw joy and dignity return to Maddie’s face.

And I felt a growing smile on mine as my camera hooked just the shot I was looking for.

It’s definitely a keeper.

Death and resurrection

Morning rain on another chilly holiday was dampening my spirits some.

I awoke thinking how my family’s whittled down to just a precious few after the fairly recent deaths of my husband and mother.

So I marched myself over to the desk and self-prescribed a heavy dose of nature and one brisk walk.

Before leaving the house, I grabbed some jelly beans for fuel and packed away the family pictures and memories on my lap for another sunnier day.

I drove to a nearby area of hills and marsh land that I hadn’t explored before. As I started to walk I was struck by the vista right before me.

There stood a tree.

Or at least part of it.

Once tall and proud.

Now it was brittle.

And old.

I walked up the hill for a closer look.

The tree was dead.

I took the lens cap off the camera and took a few shots anyway.

But I wasn’t sure why.

The image haunted me.

Turning, I returned to the path below to continue my walk until the northerly winds picked up and the rain increased.

The walk wasn’t helping my mood much anyway.

And the sweet signs of spring my camera had been searching for remained hidden.

Maybe under the fresh snow received earlier in the week.

Returning back to my car, I noticed my lens cap for the camera was missing.

It’s probably up on the hill, I thought.

Over by that old dead tree.

I retraced my steps and finally found my lens cap.

But something had changed.

Or maybe it was me.

I noticed the brittle branches of the dead tree were extended. And they were reaching out to those just beyond.

Perhaps the seedlings of the dead tree once provided life to the smaller and younger ones nearby.

Death and resurrection in nature.

What a sacred gift.

Climbing back down the hill again to leave, I saw a red wing black bird fluttering.

And then a happy robin hopping.

They were my first sightings of the season.

And both birds were fully in song.

I soon was as well, once I turned on the car radio.

Handel’s “Messiah” was in concert on the public radio station.

How could I not join in with the choir?