Winter’s grip takes hold.
At least there’s light.
Hope will warm your soul.
I’m a contrarian.
When others go east, I go west.
And that’s the direction I traveled Friday.
Nature was calling and so were the country roads that follow the Mississippi from Minnesota into Wisconsin.
The drive always picks up my spirits which have been dampened some by recent winds and rain.
I consider myself a spiritual person, and when I’m ailing the river bluffs provide the right dose of medicine.
It’s just past sunrise when I arrive at my first destination. It’s typically a beautiful sunny beach, with a handsome sand bar and a flock of resident white gulls.
My husband’s remains lie just beyond, and I’ve stopped by to check in.
But this damp, gray morning the sand bar is flooded and the gulls are gone.
I shiver in the freezing temps as I return to my car in search of hot coffee.
As I drive, I soon notice an overlook resting higher on the bluffs. I stop to take a look as a hint of sun melts through some of the gray.
I notice a flock of eagles soaring higher and higher above me.
And I suddenly find my spirits soaring as well.
I follow the flock’s path and continue to look up while turning to admire an even higher bluff behind me.
Eagles are considered birds of prey, but I choose to label them ‘birds of pray’ instead.
I honor their courage, strength, and inspiration.
Smiling, I later drive back home after a warm breakfast dodging a flock of wild turkeys and then a speeding car club of 47 vintage Thunderbirds.
I’m sure they’re on their way to admire the autumn leaves and sample some autumn brew.
But I pray they slow down just enough to be blessed by those same vintage eagles.
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.
I believe my senior girl Maddie’s a lot smarter than I am.
She’s 13 now, so she’s had plenty of years to work on that wisdom.
This morning I bent down to slowly to pick her up and carry her outside. Maddie’s lame now in her back legs.
I found my back ached more than usual from the lifting, as did my shoulder from shoveling heavy snow a few weeks back.
I ‘d also awakened with a cold and fever that seemed to sail in on the breeze overnight.
After gently setting Maddie down on the grass, I went back inside. I soon noticed her watching me through the kitchen windows as I made my coffee, swept the floor, and washed up the breakfast dishes.
She was smiling and never took those big brown eyes off me.
It seemed Maddie was beckoning me to come back outside.
I finally did.
And I found a day once gray had turned a beautiful blue.
It was full of sunshine and twenty five degrees warmer than normal.
And my old girl didn’t want me to miss it.
Maddie’s never let a little discomfort get in her way.
After spending the first four years of her life living on a porch with a questionable breeder in frigid northern Minnesota, she’s come to appreciate simple gifts.
And she still does today.
We spent much of the afternoon relaxing outside. She on her dog bed, and me in a rocking chair until she had another message she was determined to share.
It was spelled D-I-N-N-E-R.
And once again, her eyes said if all.
Somehow they always do.
My dog’s got spunk.
I rarely see Maddie feel sorry for herself.
And she’ll bust any pity parties I hold in no time.
She’ll just look up at me with those big brown eyes, button nose, and give me her widest smile.
Then she’ll race over with her front legs in record time to greet me.
Her expression seems to say, “So what if I’m lame. Life goes on.”
Maddie reminded me of that fact as I slowly entered the house after work, nursing a sore leg from lifting heavy boxes earlier in the week.
Maddie, of course, was right.
A little pain medication and I’m now back to packing boxes tonight for our move next month.
Once we do move Maddie will no longer have to try and tackle steep hills in back to keep up with her brother Tucker, the terrier.
Instead we’ll be blessed with a flat, and fenced, back yard.
Maddie can’t wait to start digging her 12 signature holes in that green grass.
Before Maddie, I once owned a corgi named Maggie.
Maggie had a different disability that also resulted in her going lame. She too was a very happy girl.
“You ought to put that lame corgi down,” a dog walking neighbor yelled out to Maggie and I one night.
I gave the woman a limp ‘neighborly’ wave and bit my tongue.
I knew much better.
Maggie was a dog full of spirit.
And so is my girl Maddie.
She’ll tell me one day when the joy is gone, just like Maggie finally did.
For now corgi Maddie proudly remains my muse.
She’s looking up at me now, as if to say, “Now get back to packing.”
“Hey, and don’t forget those raw hides!”
I guess there’s nothing like a spirited corgi cheerleader to help you get your move on.