Let’s Talk About Beds

I love my bed. I love being in bed. I still have a button that a girlfriend gave me in 1987 which says, “I have no idea what I’m doing out of bed.” I can no longer remember if that had amorous undertones or was just a commentary on my preference to be resting under soft cotton sheets, but the sentiment is still funny and true.

Bed is the ultimate sanctuary for me. My safe place. My retreat. Actually, the entire bedroom feels that way, but it starts with, centers on, the bed itself.

The wrong mattress can ruin your life. That’s not a joke. And good linens can be transformative. The right pillows, too, are essential.

I spent most of my sleeping adult life on a metal frame. The kind that comes free with a mattress purchase. Easy set-up and lightweight. Perfect for the person who moves a lot. It wasn’t until I bought my home that I finally committed to a wooden sleigh bed. It’s not the highest quality, but it feels incredibly grounding. It is, undeniably, the center piece of the room.

I think our beds and our toilets are the most intimate places of our homes. Our most vulnerable and purely human places. The places where our masks come off. Where the good and the bad, drool, farts, and radiance are intertwined. There is something incredibly profound, even holy, about that.

I spent a lot of time in bed as a kid. Under the age of 10, I was sick a lot. Of course, we all spend time in bed when we are sick. Bed rest is the only way we heal.

We have this ridiculous notion that resting is doing nothing. That we need to constantly consciously be doing something. We completely forget that the body is always at work. It is incredibly active even when we’re not paying attention. Blood is pumping. Cells are regenerating. Toxins are being purified. Life is happening. Our psyche, too, is integrating information and change. In other words, resting is not a passive act.

A friend recently said beds are great because you can do almost anything in them. You can read, talk on the phone, watch TV, eat, play, and yes, sleep, all from the comfort of your bed. She said being a writer is the one occupation you can do from the comfort of a good mattress and firm pillows. Well, certainly another occupation comes to mind, but as a writer herself, I think she was channeling Edith Wharton.

Except that I don’t want to do those things in my bed. In a hotel room, certainly, but not at home. Watching TV, eating or working while in my bed doesn’t feel right to me. In fact, it feels very wrong. Like wearing flip-flops and a t-shirt to church on Sunday. Yes, people do that these days. But I don’t. I can’t.

My bed is a sacred place. Where I say my prayers. Where I record my dreams. If I’m in a relationship, it’s where I make love. None of these activities distract from the bed’s true purpose: to support me. To reconnect me. To restore me. It’s where the splintering of my daily life is healed. Where my broken, cracked, and bruised parts are mended. Where I am strengthened. Where I am made whole.

One of my favorite parts of The Odyssey by Homer is when we learn that the palace in Ithica was literally built around the king and queen’s bed. In Book XXIII, Odysseus tells us that on their land was an olive tree and around that tree he designed their entire home. From that tree, he carved their bed. The bed can never be moved. To remove their bed would be akin to cutting out their hearts – completely destroying their lives.

Trees, with their roots deep in the ground and their branches reaching to the sky, are an axis mundi – the place where heaven and earth meet. They are a conduit, allowing movement, communication, and nourishment between above and below. They are an intersection between the worlds. Where the ordinary, the mundane, reaches and connects with the divine. The world turns and this axis remains. It is constant.

Consider this meaning from The Odyssey: the heart of the home is their bed, built from an olive tree, the most sacred of trees in their world. Their bed is infused with the power and energy of this tree, the most stable and solid trunk. Everything they do in that bed is rooted to the earth and reaches to the heavens.

I like to think of my bed this way. As an axis mundi. As the place that grounds me and lifts me. A constant in the storms of life. An ordinary place, a basic necessity, that is transformed—and transforms me—when I surrender to it. The bedroom is a holy place. The bed, a container for communion.

While the kitchen is symbolically the hearth of the home, where the fire literally burns and our bellies are fed, the kitchen nourishes our mortal selves. The bedroom nourishes our souls. It is the beating heart. The purification of our blood. The regeneration of our spirits.

I spend a lot of time in bed. Since Covid, more than usual. Long naps are a daily routine. Previously, a short power nap would restore my energy. Not now. These days I need more. Big change is happening. Like a caterpillar that retreats to a chrysalis, I am transforming my life. And that takes energy. And lots and lots of rest. I still struggle with not doing “more” – things that allow me to see immediate results. And then I remind myself, resting is not a passive act.  

Maybe this is what most of us need right now. More time in our beds. Less conscious doing. More resting. We are all going to need our energy for the changes to come.

Doggie Dad: The Archetypal Father

My rescue dog gave birth to 5 puppies one week ago and the congratulations poured in. “You’re a grandma!” was the most frequent. Very sweet sentiment. But it doesn’t feel right. The puppies won’t be staying with me. And I won’t be spoiling them. If anything, I feel like a dad.

My heroic save of the firstborn aside, there’s not much I can do right now. Momma does all the work. And, at least for the first few nights, she wanted me by her side.

I spent 10 hours on the floor watching the puppies after they were born. Really. I had a blanket and a pile of pillows, but mostly I propped myself up on one arm and watched. Finally, I decided it would be best to sleep in my bed. Twelve feet down the hall. Door open, I can hear every mew from the whelping pool.

But Momma had other ideas. Barely two hours after closing my eyes, Momma woke me. She had left her pups to come find me. I walked her back to the puppies, hung out for twenty minutes or so, then went back to bed. Two hours later, Momma was pawing at me again. Again, I got up and went back to the whelping pool. All the puppies were good.

What did Momma want? For me to look and admire? Each time she did this, she would crawl into my lap for a moment and together we would view the sleeping offspring. Then she’d jump back in and gather the pups around her. Licking them as each one came near, their rumps in the air as Momma cleaned them.

Momma knows what she’s doing. And she’s doing it well. I just can’t help feeling that what she wants is constant assurance that she’s not alone.

Archetypally, home is the realm of Mom, not of Dad. Mom nurtures those inside this safe place while Dad straddles the worlds and exists mostly outside of the home. To put it another way, Mom is responsible for providing home while Dad is the bridge to leaving home.

In myth, the archetypal Father often lives in the sky, not on the earth. Earth is the realm of Mother. Father moves between the earth and the heavens.

In Greek mythology the Father is Zeus. He sires dozens of children with multiple consorts while playing on earth but always returns to Olympus. In Judaism, God the Father is creator of all living things, sitting on a throne in the sky. This same Father is the first aspect of God in the Christian trinity. Similarly, in the Hindu trinity, Brahma sires the universe and then is basically never seen or heard from again. In the Navajo tradition, the great sun god Jóhonaa’éí, is father to Monster Slayer, the son who will rid the earth of destructive monsters. All of these fathers are at a distance, far away. Responsible for creation but not involved in daily life.

Movies echo this archetype of the distant Sky Father. In the 2014 blockbuster, Guardians of the Galaxy, the father of the protagonist, Peter Quill, was “an angel”, from another galaxy who left earth before his son was born. Interstellar, also from 2014, features a father who leaves his children to save the world and spends the rest of their lifetimes in space. Yet his distance is what motivates his daughter to study science and ultimately save the world. Thirty years prior in the film The Terminator, John Connor—the boy who will lead humans to victory over machines—was sired by a man from the future. He comes from another time to create a son who will be a modern monster slayer.

Then there is George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life. While very much a loving father, George is not grounded in the home. Every time he touches the knob on the staircase it comes off in his hands. George belongs in the office. When he comes home, he is distracted. When he tries to take care of family issues that his wife already has under control, he makes matters worse. George Bailey is a father who lives in his work. His actual job is, in fact, to assist others in finding new homes!

The role of the Father—at least archetypally—is to encourage the child to leave home, to have an adventure and discover a new world for themselves. He prepares the child to become an adult and find or create a home separate from Mom.

When the actual father is deceased, a substitute may step into this archetypal role.

In the Harry Potter series, Harry’s father dies when he is a baby. The great wizard, Albus Dumbledore, headmaster of Hogwarts, is Harry’s Father figure. While Hogwarts is Harry’s home, Dumbledore does not concern himself with many of the internal details of the school. Instead, he is active in the wizarding world and often away on business. He allows Harry freedom for his adventures and provides sage council as he needed. His influence eventually convinces Harry to leave Hogwarts and to embrace the power of who he is.

In some cases, when there is no Father to inspire the child to leave, the child will remain at home. Again, a surrogate Father is necessary.

In Ben Stiller’s 2013 film adaptation of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Walter’s father dies when he is sixteen, leaving him to take care of his mother and younger sister. For the next twenty years, even though he does manage to move out of his mother’s house and into his own apartment, he is so bound to home that he only leaves in his imagination. Every day, multiple times a day, Walter “zones out” as he imagines himself being a hero, being bold and doing extraordinary things. Despite being incredibly responsible, has never really grown up, he has not come into his own. His father gave him a backpack, encouraging him to travel the world, but didn’t live long enough to push him out of the nest.

Eventually, the world-renowned and mysterious photographer Sean O’Connell steps into the Father archetype. While O’Connell and Walter have never met, O’Connell chose Walter as the only person he trusts with his photographs. As Life Magazine prepares to shutter its doors, O’Connell sends Walter what he believes is the best photo he has ever taken, one that he hopes will be on the final cover. Along with the photo negative, he sends Walter a gift: a leather wallet with a personal dedication and Life’s motto embossed inside. To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, to draw closer, to find each other and to feel. That is the Purpose of LIFE.

This gesture is a classic father’s gift. What every young adult will need in order to leave home. A place to hold their currency (not only money, but metaphorically their personal power), along with the urging – the push – to go out into the world.

Because O’Connell hid the negative, Walter is forced to leave home in search of it. He must find his archetypal Father and discover his gift. This quintessential hero journey transforms him. He returns home a man.

The critically acclaimed film, Good Will Hunting, is another powerful example of the need for a Father to push a child out into the world. Will is an orphan who suffered severe abuse in foster care. At twenty years old, he lives alone in a run-down apartment, works as a janitor, and hangs out with three best friends doing much of nothing. He is also a genius who refuses to embrace his extraordinary intellectual abilities. Instead, he intends to be a labor worker his entire life and never leave South Boston, the only home he has ever known. Eventually Will bonds with Sean Maguire, a therapist that the court orders Will to meet with regularly. Sean steps into the Father archetype for Will. The rules which he makes Sean follow are not arbitrary; rather, these rules are for Sean’s own good and assist in helping Sean take responsibility for his life. At the end of their last court-appointed therapy session, Sean hugs Will and tells him “Good luck, son.” After this, Will is able to move past his fears and leave on an adventure to become the man he was meant to be.

The Father archetype can appear in anyone.

In the novel (and subsequent movie of 2015), Brooklyn, Eilis’s sister, Rose, embodies the Father archetype when their father dies. Rose continues to live with their mother, but she is also an independent woman who plays golf and works as a bookkeeper in an office. It is Rose who arranges for Eilis to go to America, buys her new clothes, and provides her with money to survive until she is earning her own way.

In the hit musical Mamma Mia!, daughter Sophie is getting married but intends to keep living with her mother, helping her run the bed and breakfast. But, not knowing who her father is, she has always felt like a part of her is missing. When she sends wedding invites to the three men who slept with her mother, they all attend, and each pledges to share her as their daughter. Now the archetypal Father is finally present in her life and Sophie decides not to marry. Instead she insists that she and her fiancé should explore the world. The presence of Father has released her bondage to home: she is now free to leave.

Mother is home. Our first home and our connection to home. She is the comfortable womb, the place where we are taken care of and where we can just be. Father disturbs that comfort. Father calls us out of this safe place and requires us to think, to become conscious, to become.

My role these days is the archetypal Father. Mazie will always stay with me, but the puppies will not. At eight to ten weeks old, they will each leave the nest and find new homes. My role is to prepare them for life away from the comfort of Mom. Every day I agitate them with low doses of stress by performing neurological stimulation exercises. All of this is to help them adjust. To build their strength and immunity to be successful in the world, in their lives. Maybe a bit irritating in the moment yet done with love for a greater purpose.

LOL! Definitely not puppy grandma. I am a Doggie Dad!

Bobbie and Billie: The Twins

The puppies are growing! Only six days old and I’m amazed every day by how big they are getting.

Blessing, as you know, was born first. As I was still attending to her and making sure she could breathe, the next two arrived in short order. For that reason, I’m calling them the twins: Bobbie and Billie.

They have similar markings as Blessing and Baxter. Bobbie’s markings are darker, closer to black, while Billie’s are brown. Auburn. More commonly called “red,” though I’ll never understand that.

Here’s Bobbie

And this is Billie

Momma Mazie is continuing to do great. She’s eating a lot, which is good, cuz her pups are too!

Meanwhile, I’ve started “early neurological stimulation” on all of the pups: five daily exercises that studies show benefit in multiple ways, including 1) improved cardio vascular performance, 2) stronger heart beats, 3) stronger adrenal glands, 4) more tolerance to stress, and 5) greater resistance to disease. I have a professional dog trainer with tons of experience advising me. (Including years of experience raising therapy dogs.) These are going to be very healthy and well-adjusted pups!

I’ve you’re interested in adopting, let me know! All pups will be adopted through Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF) Tulsa. Great organization. You can read more about them by clicking on the link above (click on ARF).

The pups will not be ready until 8-10 weeks, so the very earliest you can pick one up would be October 7th. Two of my cousins have already laid claim to Blessing. But the boys, Bruno and Baxter, and the twins, Bobbie and Billie, are still looking for good homes! 😊

Bruno and Baxter: The Boys

My new dog, Mazie, gave birth on Tuesday. Rescued from a hoarder with 91 other dogs, there was no telling who the father was or what they might look like. The only good news was that all the other dogs had been small, like her, so at least there wouldn’t be a crazy combination of breeds.

The first three puppies were born quite quickly. One after the other. A little space after the first, which was good considering that birth was rough (see Doggie Doula), but then the next two popped out easily. All three in about 25 minutes. All five in under an hour.

For the sake of this story (because everything is ultimately a story), I’m going to say the first three were girls. I know the first one was because I spent a lot of time saving her and held her up close. The next two came as I was still attending to Blessing (instinctively named in the moment when she finally caught her breath and started mewing) so I didn’t have time to check their gender. (Plus, the umbilical cords are distracting, let’s be honest!) Momma was still cleaning up these “twins” and attending to Blessing when the fourth started coming. After all my time with the first, I didn’t want to intervene. Just let Momma do her thing.

The fourth was different. Bigger. No wonder it took him a little longer to emerge. All chocolate brown, with a small patch of white on his chest. From the very beginning I could tell he was a bruiser. He scrambled to Momma’s teat with gusto. The others, mind you, were still acclimating to being born. Too stunned to be hungry. But this brown one went for Momma’s teat immediately. Impulsively I called him Bruno. Later I waivered. Maybe the association was unfair. Was naming the biggest and most assertive of the bunch such a masculine—even macho—name too sexist? But you know, it feels right. And Bruno is actually an old German word meaning brown. In the English folk tradition, it’s bruin meaning brown bear. So yes, it’s appropriate.

Baxter came next. The last of the litter. Also a boy. Also big. It’s fun to see them together. He has the markings of his sisters. I like that. Baxter is a Scottish-English name meaning “baker.” I like that too. I like to think he might turn out like Rolly, the always hungry plump pup in 101 Dalmations. 😊

The two brothers hang out a lot together. Pretty cute.

Yes, the entire brood has B names. Why not? I come from a family of J’s. 😉

Photos of the sister “twins” to come soon.

Doggie Doula

I took Mazie home knowing she was pregnant. In fact, I knew before I met her. The idea was to check each other out and if we were a match, I’d wait for her. I think. I mean, maybe. One date and a three month wait? I’m not sure I’m that kind of romantic. But her eyes were compelling. So I drove south, breaking my Covid19 quarantine to see if I might be her human and she might be my new companion.

She appeared so traumatized. Her eyes were big and sad and wide and her tiny body shook violently when they brought her to me. So when the vet assumed I would take her, when after being corrected she suggested I could take her, when I waivered and she told me the arranged foster mom worked 8 hours a day, when she called the rescue foundation and told them she felt good about me and she had convinced them I should take her, and when, by this time, Mazie has stopped quivering and her body softened in my arms, well, yes, I said yes. Without any preparation, without any supplies, without even a leash, I carried her to my car and took her home. Pregnant belly and all.

I’ve never had puppies before. I’ve never given birth. I had zero experience to draw on. So I read a bunch of websites. I talked to a bunch of friends. I watched a bunch of videos. I did my research. I made my list. I worried about things like hemostats and lubricant, thermometer, teat bottles, and dental floss. When her due date approached, I had a pot of water on the stove for warming the towels stacked in a bucket next to the whelping pool. I had my blue latex gloves. I paid careful attention to all her behaviors and everything she ate.

Still, over and over again, I was told not to worry. Momma knows what to do. Even if she’s never done it before (and I had a hunch that she had), her instinct will kick in. Don’t worry, everyone said. She does all the work. Sit back and watch. I shouldn’t have to do a thing.

Except that I did. Right from the start. The first pup to emerge couldn’t get out. Feet first, then body, but her head was stuck. Momma cleaned her up, licked off the sac, but the head was still stuck. I knew from the videos to pull. But still the head wouldn’t come. I pulled again. Still the head remained inside her mom. Frantic, I found my phone and called the woman at the rescue foundation. Pull harder, she said. I did.

Pup #1 emerged with the membrane covering her face and not breathing. Momma cleaned her off and still no sound. Her mouth opened and nothing came out. Her paws were purple not pink.

“I’m sorry to tell you this, but she looks like a preemie and she doesn’t look good. You’re probably going to lose this one.”

Momma licked, doing all that she could, but already a second pup was emerging. Momma needed to attend to that one while I did what I could with the first. Stick my pinky in her mouth and check for obstruction. Turn her over and pat her back. Rub her belly. Breath into her mouth and nose. Again, the rescue foundation told me, “It’s not your fault. You’re doing a great job. But 5 puppies is a lot for such a small dog. You’re probably going to lose this one.”

No! No! No! No! No! My heart was screaming! Not the first one out!! Not the one I almost missed because I finally took a break from my vigilant watching and ran an errand. Not that one. Please God, no.

Truth be told, I struggled to stay calm. I almost burst into tears but that was a luxury and there was no time. I needed to focus. I didn’t have enough hands. Still on FaceTime but I couldn’t hold the phone. I was watching Momma with the second born, cleaning her up, eating her sac, and preparing for the third. (They came out fast, y’all!) Meanwhile, I needed something to warm the first. Not willing to move, to leave Momma’s side, I was panicked. I placed her on my chest, between my breasts against my skin, patting her back with my finger and every 30 seconds or so bringing her back up and breathing into her mouth and nose. I had no idea if I was doing it correctly. How do you give mouth to mouth to something so small?

The third puppy was emerging before the first made a noise. Now Momma was back involved with the first as the little one began to squeal. Checked her paws. The purple was fading. More squealing. “It looks like you saved her” said the rescue foundation. Meanwhile, she warned me, there could be development problems. She might need a bottle, she might not take a teat. She might be slow. There was a chance she still might not make it.

But she did.

Everyone, meet Blessing. Puppy #1. My first little miracle.

Within an hour of being born, after all five pups had arrived, Blessing was at her momma’s teat sucking like a champ. And her paws were bright pink.

Yes, she’s slightly smaller than the rest. But not by much. She’s tough. She’s experienced. She’s a survivor. And, like her momma and me, she’s gonna be just fine.

Three born and the fourth one emerging

more photos with the rest of the litter to come!

Me and Mazie (Dog as a Reflection of Oneself)

Mazie is not the cutest dog I’ve ever seen. I mean, she’s adorable, absolutely. But not the cutest. Her proportions aren’t quite right. Obviously, she’s not a show dog. She’s a mutt. She has a long neck and a long nose (like me) and small ears. And beautiful big black eyes with prominent brows that she sometimes furrows, making her look pensive or sad. Other times, she curls her mouth. A kind of Mona Lisa secret and quirky smile.

When I stopped by the rescue foundation last week, there was an insanely cute 5-month old puppy scampering about. OMG! I was smitten. She was perfect! I dropped to my knees and wanted to scoop her up. But only for a moment. I definitely admired her. I was happy just seeing her exist. But she wasn’t my Mazie. Cute as that dog was, she wasn’t the dog for me. I still want my Mazie.

Research shows that people do tend to choose dogs that, at some level, resemble themselves. We’ve all seen this. Dogs and their humans who look hysterically similar. But did you know that researchers also  discovered that the front view of cars tend to resemble their owner? And the cars even resembled the owner’s dogs when they were purebreds. Bet you never expected that!

Ultimately though, I think it’s more about matching personalities. You know those dogs that love to run? The ones that have endless energy and can be seen next to their humans on the trail, seemingly never getting tired? Yeah, that’s not my dog. That’s not me.

The first dog I adopted on my own was Dixie. Dixie was rescued in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. She was only ten months old when the storm hit. Thrown out into the big scary world, separated from her family, forced to survive on her own. And she was exactly what I was looking for. A mid-sized dog, about 45 pounds, a husky-chow-lab mix, white with caramel tipped ears and a tail that curled. She was social and playful with other dogs but had zero interest in sharing her home with another furry friend. She could entertain herself for hours. Sit on a snow bank and toss her toy in the air or sit under the tree and watch the world. Perfectly content. We were living in Idaho then. In the Wood River Valley. Famous for skiing and hiking and mountain biking, fishing and hunting. Anything you can do outside, people do it. And they do it with their dogs. That’s why folks live there. Except me. I lived there because it was beautiful. It was peaceful. It was enough for me to walk in nature and hike just a bit. Nothing too taxing. Dixie was happy with that too.

The real give-away that she was my dog, however, was at bedtime. Dixie liked sleeping in the front room, on the floor by the couch. This was when I was so happy to be sleeping alone again that I even bought a full-sized bed, downgrading from a queen, because I had no intention of anyone sleeping next to me. And when someone did, I wasn’t inclined to cuddle. Dixie was the same. In the morning, she would come when I called and allow me to say hello and scratch behind her ears. And then she’d leave. Not sentimental one bit. I loved that about her. And I was devastated when she died suddenly.

I always say it took two dogs to replace Dixie: Athena and Leo. Athena is a heeler-boxer mix. A sleek redhead with a white chest and white paws and a crooked tail. Leo is a crème-colored lap-sized mutt. Looked like a miniature Golden Retriever until he got groomed. And always looks like a puppy, no matter how many years go by. As a Pisces, I like to think they represent two aspects of my personality, swimming in different directions yet intimately connected and balanced.

Athena is the homebody, preferring to stay in her crate while Leo explores. Leo is Hermes, always on the move, always into mischief. He’s the charmer. Athena is the protector. Leo is curious. Athena is cautious. Leo is quick to take off, quick to wander. Never worried. Countless adventures and a lot of close calls, but it always works out, he never comes to harm. Athena is reticent. She’s interested, but not enough to take risks. She stays close and never wanders. She’s loyal. And fierce if she needs to be. They’re both over 12 years old now and still live in Idaho with their dad. Leaving them was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But they’re happy there. Taking them with me when I moved would have been selfish. Instead, I visit. I get regular photo updates. And I grieve. I miss them terribly.

I swore my next dog would be non-allergenic. And portable. Small enough to carry on a plane. Maybe a toy poodle. Smart and cute, with curly hair. But choosing a pup is a bit of a misnomer and a mystery. There’s some magic at play when a dog comes into your life. And I’m not sure how much we actually “choose.”

Mazie’s eyes looked back at me on Petfinder and, well… it’s almost cliché… She needed me as much as I needed her. Yes, she is small. But she’s not hypoallergenic. Of course, I think she’s smart, but she’s not revealing much these days. She’s still recovering from her rescue. From being one of so many. She’s still finding her voice. Learning to trust. Disinclined to socialize. But I have a feeling that will change with time. She doesn’t mind her harness, but she hates the leash. (I can relate.) It took over three weeks of sitting on the porch, sniffing the air, and taking in the view before she ventured down the stairs for a brisk walk. Just like me in Covid19 quarantine. Now she’ll walk daily, but she’s not inclined to go far. She prefers to sit and observe. To roll her back in the grass. To pant in the sun. She growls but doesn’t really bark. She’s a hybrid of sorts: a mixture of my last two furbabies. The size of Leo and the face of Athena. But more than that, more symbolically, I think the different aspects of myself are finally coming together.

Mazie is pregnant. I knew that when I got her, but you couldn’t really tell. Now her belly is big and you can see the puppies moving. Any day now, any hour, she’s about to give birth. She’s creating something new. There’s a metaphor there for me too. Magic is afoot. New life beginning. At the moment, still mostly in hiding. But it’s coming. So we’re preparing, as best as we can, and we’re napping. Napping a lot. Birthing is hard work. Whatever comes will be demanding. Exhausting. And exhilarating.

Me and Mazie. Reflections of each other. Just like every fur-friend I’ve ever had. Together on this journey called life.

Home Infestation

Bugs. We all have issues with bugs. As in, I’ve never met a person who encountered bugs in their home and thought COOL!! The few who do think this are scientists. Or kids that will become scientists. If there’s anyone else out there who is not a scientist and greets bugs—particularly in their home—as a delightful encounter, well, I’m not too keen on meeting them. And I definitely don’t want to sit next to them at dinner.

Hey, if you live outside, like in a tent in the woods, you have to expect some amount of bugs. This of course, is the reason that some folks don’t like to camp. Years ago, when I backpacked in Venezuela and stayed in a small community along the Brazilian border, every abode was open to the elements. Most only had three walls. Others, three and a half. No windows with glass, just open or non-existent walls. Yes, they had intentionally built their homes that way. And yes, I got bit on the butt by a spider while going to the bathroom one day. But overall, I adapted. Because I had to. It was the norm.

Those of us in the Western World who live in houses and apartments expect bugs to stay outside. It’s part of the idea that our homes are safe and secure. Spiders? Nope, not welcome. Even if they do eat flies. Rollie pollies? Weird. Like where do they actually come from? Silverfish? Gross. Ants? A nuisance. An awful nuisance. And cockroaches – sorry, I can’t even go there. And, at least we can see these things. We can vacuum them up. We can catch them and escort them back outside. Or we can squash them. Depends on your personality and temperament. Or your religion.

Someone in my family had to deal with bedbugs a few years back. OMG!! That would have traumatized me for life. I was traumatized just hearing about them. Eradicating them was exhausting, expensive, and intense. And lice? Yes, that too is perhaps the worse thing ever. Luckily, I’ve never experienced it. So I’m sure I shouldn’t be complaining.

But fleas. Are you kidding me? FLEAS??!!??!!!

Last week my vet told me that my new dog has fleas. She also determined that she has 5 puppies that will be born in a few days. So the need to eradicate them was urgent. The vet gave her a treatment and told me no problem. Really. She actually said that. No problem. They’d be gone in a day.

Not quite.

Within hours, those little buggers were everywhere. Crawling on her belly, jumping on the couch. Crawling and jumping, crawling and jumping.

Bowls of dish soap and endless scraping with a flea comb. Everything laundered in hot water. Linens, pillows, beds, toys. Anything that could be washed in a machine, was. Other things were taken to an outside laundromat. I vacuumed floors and vacuumed furniture. More laundry. More vacuuming. Wiping down everything in sudsy water to suffocate and kill them. (Remember, she’s having puppies – I can’t use toxins that might hurt her or the pups!) Lawn treatments in the front and back yards. More laundry. Baths together, both of us fully soaked, drenched in dish soap, and sudsed up. Yesterday I even spent hours on my butt scrubbing my hard wood floors – ALL my floors! I was drenched in sweat, soaked in soapy water, scrubbing floors and furniture. Followed by more laundry in hot water. And a very cold shower.

My house is CLEAN!! One full week of cleaning kind of clean. A full container of laundry detergent clean. And I’m exhausted.

Are the fleas gone? Goodness, I hope so! And, I guess, only time will tell.

Meanwhile, her whelping area is prepared. And Mazie seems much more comfortable.

Puppies are coming!

Summertime

I LOVE Summer. It’s my favorite season. I’ve always preferred to be miserably hot than even slightly cold. Cold makes me irritable. Heat just makes me lazy. I can live with lazy. Especially in the summer.

My love of summer goes back to Michigan when I was a kid. Long days filled with sunshine. Long nights filled with mosquitoes. Finding ants inside peonies. Chasing fireflies in the evening. Picking raspberries. Eating blue gills fresh from the lake and fried in butter. Spitting watermelon seeds as the juice ran down my chin. Sticky fingers. Sticky skin. Peeling legs off plastic furniture. Humidity. The frequent banging of the screen door. And one thing you just don’t hear anymore: the rattle of big square fans.

I don’t particularly like air conditioning. Of course, I am extremelygrateful for it. I mean, I’m not a sadist. Summers have gotten hotter and A/C is a life-saver. Only, I find it’s often set too low and too cold in most places. And there are so many days when really all you need is a breeze through open windows. If not days, at least nights. A breeze. And a fan.

My home in Tulsa is filled with many windows. Only problem is that until yesterday, they had all been painted shut. Endless coats of white seeping into the cracks and onto the glass. Years of warping wood. So, while I get plenty of light, I get no fresh air.

Yesterday a handyman fixed that. He pried open six of my twelve windows. And then came the rain.

Falling rain heard through open windows is a treat. And a soft breeze always seems to come with summer rains.

For the first time in years, I went to sleep last night with my windows open and a ceiling fan twirling above me. Just one thin sheet over my body. Just like I did as a kid. Slightly sticky in the warm evening air. And I slept well. Really well. With my little, warm-bellied, softly snoring dog snuggled against me.

This morning I woke to birds chirping and reached for my phone. The morning song of birds has long been my favorite alarm. Only, I hadn’t set my alarm. The birds weren’t coming from my phone. My windows were open. The birds were outside.

I laughed. Such a delight. I missed this. Summertime. Open windows and fans. And birds announcing morning. It truly is the simple things that make life so good.

Duomo di Nicosia

The Cathedral in Nicosia, Sicily, built in the 14th Century, is dedicated to St. Nicholas of Bari, which is said to be how the town got it’s name. Yes, this is the same St. Nick associated with gift-giving, but he is also the patron saint of sailors and merchants, which would make sense if he was actually from Sicily. But he’s not. He was born and died in Myra (Turkey). So this is the same St. Nicholas of Myra of Lycia. (Hope that’s not too confusing.) About 800 years after his death, Italian thieves stole some of his remains and brought them to Bari. And eventually some of those bones made their way to Nicosia, where they are on display under his portrait. But I digress. Knowing this history, it’s not surprising that Nicolas is the patron saint of thieves. But why prostitutes and students also call him their own, I haven’t quite figured out.

Like everywhere I visited after Covid19 lockdown was lifted and restrictions eased, I didn’t see much of the town. I wasn’t comfortable mingling with people on the street. But I did see the cathedral. I love visiting churches. Particularly when they are not full. The art, the history, the stillness. Containers built specifically for communication with the Divine. The entire building is a portal to something beyond ourselves. An axis-mundi where the sacred and the profane intersect; the center of the world, the center of all creation. And during the pandemic, they were particularly quiet. Exceptionally safe. As they are meant to be. A refuge. A Sanctuary. So I parked my car, walked briskly through the streets, and arrived here, at Duomo di Nicosia.

My two favorite photos from inside. Doors. I always love doors.

First, I want to note that all churches are doing what they can to prevent the spread of Covid19. Hand sanitizer is always at the entrance. Signs are posted. Chairs are set at a distance, in most cases. In pews, small squares mark where you can sit safely at a distance from others. You can’t see it very clearly in this photo of pews (the tiny white square) so I’m including photo from the cathedral in Cefalu as an example that I see everywhere. (For context, these photos were taken on 16 June 2020.)

St. Nicholas, looking surprisingly modern. (Ok, it’s not a surprise. But keep in mind he lived during the 3rd Century Common Era – which is to say, 200 and some years after Jesus. In the early 6th century, he is listed as a participant in the Nicene Council, which took place in 325 CE, which would have made him quite old at the time.) Below his portrait are his bones. Holy relics.

In the square outside the cathedral, life was returning to *normal*. Men gather on the street to talk. I stopped at a cafe for coffee and to watch.

16 June 2020, one month after lockdown ended and restrictions began to loosen. I wonder what it looks like today.

Finding Home – With a Dog

There’s a lot being written about staying home these days. Discomfort. Anxiety. Isolation. Depression. The truth is, many of us struggled with “home” even before the pandemic. I don’t have the answers. But I can tell you how having a dog makes a huge difference. At least, for me.

In The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life, Thomas Moore explores our ability to be at home in the world through a present and connected consciousness of where we are. He writes,

We need to leave home, be away from home, find pieces of home in hotels and tents, and maybe move from house to house in quest of home. . . . Like turtles, we carry our homes with us as we move from place to place, all homes mobile, because home is ultimately located in a deep recess of the soul, a cornucopia that pours forth endless gifts. (p 84)

We are all ultimately looking for home. To feel at home. Home is a human need. Many of us wander for adult obligations, others for pleasure, still others because we have no choice. Always, we’re trying to find the place that fits, the place that is “home.”

Yet, even for those of us who are, seemingly, home, we fall asleep. We stop paying attention. We lose our connection.

I agree with Moore. Home does exist in “a deep recess of the soul.” Establishing itself there from our childhood. From our young experiences of being loved and belonging and having our most essential needs met. When we were free from worry. When we played. When the only thing we were aware of was the present.

Children have very little concept of time. Children play for hours, unaware of how tired they’ve become, only wanting to play more. To stay awake and not go to bed. To stay outside and not come in for dinner. To stay in the water and not dry off. Children live in the present. “Are we there yet?” is their constant refrain from the backseat of a car. “Is my birthday today?” the daily question when parents are planning for a party. We learn how to read clocks just to count the minutes in a classroom until recess or until the final bell rings and we’re free to go back outside.

Those places where we were truly present as children – ensconced in laughter and love and play, when we knew no fear and no worries, blissfully and fully in the moment – became imprinted in us and settled deep into our soul. These are imprints of our homes and our neighborhoods. The landscapes of our daily lives or those from special trips – vacations or camp. Of rituals and routines. They are even imprints of adults – our parents, grandparents, teachers – the people who cared for us and whose lives were bound to locations, to the places where we experienced joy and contentment, value and worth.

I was truly comfortable in Sicily during the Covid19 lockdown and found home there because I was present. I wasn’t longing for Tulsa or Picabo or any home of my past. Yet I was profoundly aware of home imprints from earlier times. Knowing what those imprints are – what imprints reside in me – makes finding home less haphazard, less of a chance encounter.

I was able to find those imprints in Sicily because I knew where to look. In the land and the landscape. In the buildings and houses. In the people that I met. And inside my own soul.

The only thing missing, I repeatedly said, was a dog. A canine companion. A fur baby that made me laugh, that demanded my attention, that needed me. Dogs, more than anything else, remind me of my inner child. Dogs reflect the playful part of me.

Dogs are very much like children. They have no concept of time. They exist in the present. Five minutes is the same as five hours. When you return, they greet you with exuberance, gratitude, and joy. When you play fetch, they can always keep on playing. You just rubbed their belly? Here, rub it again!

Home is the realm of the child. Where our inner child is activated. For me, in my daily life, I am best able to be present to my child when I’m present with a dog.

Four out of the five basic human needs – as defined by Maslow – are met in our homes as children. At least in the archetypal home – what home is supposed to be – what we all expect home to provide us. Shelter, safety, love and belonging, a sense of worth and value. It’s the role of the parent to provide these things to us when we are young. Whether or not we actually did receive these things from our parents – or from home – we will always long for them as adults. Only, when we grow older, we become responsible for providing these things. Not just to our own children (if we have them), but to ourselves.

We must actively attend to our child within. The child we thought we outgrew but who still resides deep inside us. In our soul. Our inner child holds the keys to home. Our inner child knows how to engage the “endless gifts” that connect us to place: wonder, laughter, play, and the use of all our senses. Suspending time. Being present.

Thomas Moore suggests that adult depression may arise not from childhood experiences—those painful memories that we tend to assume have harmed us irrevocably—but from our adult neglect of “the soul’s eternal childhood” (p 54). Please don’t misunderstand – this is not in any way to minimize adult depression. I, too, have suffered. And honestly, returning to the States as a single woman, in the midst of a pandemic, when emotions are high, and tensions are taut among everyone – I feared depression might be waiting for me. Not sitting on the couch, but maybe hanging out in the closet, or hiding in a drawer.

Adopting a dog was preventative medicine. Mazie keeps me present. To laughter. To play. To home as viewed from ten inches off the floor. To wonder and curiosity.

When we stay present and engage the gifts of a child – our inner child – we become intimate with our surroundings, wherever we are. When we recognize the needs of our soul’s child, when we nurture the child still within, we open ourselves to a visceral, authentic, sense-filled connection. Comfort. Joy. Awe. These become our companions.

Wherever I am, I find myself home when there’s a dog at my side.

Contact your local shelter. Dog, cat, ferret, rabbit… chances are there’s a furry friend out there that needs you just as much as you need them. Together, you can find home.

Why I Broke Quarantine

Less than 7 full days after I returned home from 4 months in Italy and 3 days of traveling through 5 airports and 4 cities, I broke my self-imposed 14-day quarantine. I left my house and entered two businesses. With a mask, of course, and trying to keep a 6-foot distance from others. I took a risk. A risk to myself and to others. And I didn’t do this lightly. To some, who don’t know me, my actions may appear impulsive. To others, it was a long-time coming.

I broke quarantine for Mazie. Or Carlee, as she was known at the time. But if I’m honest, I broke quarantine for me. For my emotional well-being. I wanted a companion. Could I live without one? Sure. I have. And could I again? Of course. Only, now, back in a country experiencing so much turmoil, I know my emotional health requires something more than sleep. More than prayer. More than solidarity and friends. It was time for a dog.

Pets are a relationship. Not possessions. They have personalities and needs. They require trust and bonding. They complicate our lives. And make them better. So much better.

Mazie was rescued from a hoarder. Two years old and only 11 pounds, she is a red & white Terrier mix. Now truth be told, I was hoping to find a non-allergenic dog. Cuz yes, I’m allergic. Not as bad as my allergy to cats (where I struggle to breathe), but years of taking allergy meds and cleaning up furballs made me committed to a different breed – something smaller that wouldn’t make my eyes sting. But as with all relationships, we miss out if we keep our search too narrow, if we insist on “perfect.” As Katherine Hepburn famously said, “You can’t pick who you fall in love with.” I wouldn’t say it was love at first site, but look at these eyes. This was her profile photo on Petfinder.

Still, I needed to meet her. To spend time with her. To see if we were a fit. So I was surprised when ARF (Animal Rescue Foundation) called and said my application was approved. She was mine. I could adopt her that day. Like in 3 hours. Pick her up at the vet. But but but but but… I was in quarantine! And the only supplies I had were a water bowl and some dog treats. But I had beat out other applicants. I felt some pressure. Or was it destiny?

Ok, fine. I drove south to the vet and met this sweet, small, trembling, pup. And this was her response to me:

The vet convinced me to take her home. There’s a slightly longer story here, but, bottom line: I did. I carried her to my car (where I still have a dog hammock for the back seat), and took her to Petsmart, where she picked out her bed.

A cat bed that she seems pretty happy with.

She bonded to me pretty quickly.

And made herself at home on the couch and in my bed. (Which is a new thing – I’ve never let a dog sleep with me! But on the fourth night of her jumping up into the sheets, she broke me and I let her stay – lol)

Still, her imprints are deep. Being one of 100 dogs in a house (yes, seriously – just found that out today), undoubtedly caused some trauma. She wasn’t too fond of the yard at first. She needed to be carried out and carried back in. (Maybe she had never seen stairs? Now she comes more willingly, enticed by belly rubs and treats.) And she needed to be trained to “party” outside. Forget about walking – she won’t do it. (We’re working on it!)

On the fourth day, she started carrying around her toy. On the fifth day, she started tossing her squeaky in the air and playing fetch with me. Then her crate came. With a very excited introduction (from me, of course), she’s taken to it. Goes in there by herself regularly.

It’s been one week now that Mazie and I have been together. And yes, I’ve fallen in love. She’s found her forever home. And I feel pretty damn lucky.

As relationships go, I’m committed to her – however long our lives may be. Which is a good thing cuz Mazie has a big surprise coming. One that’s definitely going to require my time and her energy.

Damn good reason to break quarantine.

Palermo, Capital of Sicily

I only spent one evening in Palermo, the capital of Sicily, despite spending eleven weeks in Covid19 isolation, only thirty minutes away. Palermo has a population of 673,000 – which to some folks may feel small. Certainly small compared to Rome or Florence or Chicago. To me, it was a big city. More traffic and more people than I wanted to navigate. Yet, undoubtedly, a gorgeous city with a rich history. My Balestrate host (and now, friend), was kind enough to take me there for my last night in Sicily, just before I flew back to the mainland. I didn’t see a lot, but what I did see was lovely. And yes, I look forward to returning!

See the flowering bush behind us? They are everywhere – EVERYWHERE – in Sicily! I made Nino take this photo with me, specifically in front of these flowers. Love them!!

The Feast of Santa Rosalia, patron saint of Palermo, is a BIG deal. Planning the annual festival is apparently one of the most important duties of the mayor – and can make or break a political career! The celebrations begin on the evening of July 14 with a procession led by a vessel (a float? a chariot?) which carries the statue of St. Rosalia. This vessel is constructed new every year and remains on view for the remainder of the year. This was the chariot from 2019.

Rosalia died alone, as a hermit, in 1166 CE. In 1624, during an unprecedented plague in Palermo, she is said to have appeared to a hunter and told him to bring her bones to the city. When he did, and her bones were processed around the city three times, the plague ended. Today, as you might imagine, everyone is praying to St. Rosalia for another miracle in ending the spread of Covid19.

In Italy, police are allowed to stop vehicles randomly, for no reason at all. It’s a check. Do you have insurance? Is your car running properly? As an American, I was stunned and a little bit unnerved. But it does reduce the number of uninsured motorists!

We picked up Nino’s good friend, Fabio, and headed out to dinner. Along the water. Appetizers of mussels in tomato sauce, calamari (I didn’t partake), and a couscous that incorporates breadcrumbs – sooooo yummy!!! Nino’s favorite dish of pasta and clams. I went for the whole fish special. Can’t remember what Fabio ate. Great bottle of wine.

Then back into the center of town for a nightcap.

So wonderful walking at night, when the buildings are bathed in the glow of the lights.

The annual festival celebrating Saint Rosalia didn’t happen happen yesterday. Cancelled due to Covid19. And then the flash floods happened. Maybe she’s angry. ? More than ever, at least in 400 years, the people are praying for her help. Me included. 🙏🧡

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