dependence

This is almost an unknown anymore. No one wants to need anyone or anything. Self-sufficient, self-reliant. No one needs anything or anyone.

Until we do.

I know next to nothing about cats. I have never shared my home or my life with one, nor have I ever developed a long-term relationship with one. I had seen a grey tabby wandering our neighborhood street once or twice and though most of my neighbors have dogs there could be someone nearby with a cat.

proxy.duckduckgo.jpgexemplary photo, not my picture

I know that cats are reputed to be aloof, independent. The very few encounters I have ever had were mostly friends who had cats that would deign to allow me to pet them, or not, and a lovely white cat, one blue eye and one green eye, who paid an occasional visit when I lived in a small condo years ago. Then one afternoon this same cat came running on its hind legs frantic, clearly having recently given birth to a litter which I was never able to find.

The cat disappeared as mysteriously as it had appeared.

So this grey cat. When the dehumidifier was going in the crawlspace one of the guys installing it came out and asked if I had a grey cat.  I replied I did not (rescue dogs Lily and Lulu I am sure would not permit this), but I had recently seen one in the neighborhood.

IMG_0889.JPGLoropetalum, a favorite landscaper’s shrub, in full bloom now

Well, it’s in your crawlspace.

Not fully understanding whether I was now meant to go in there and flush the cat out or this was simply information being conveyed, I was relieved to learn it was the latter when he continued, “We got out of its way and it ran out.”

So the installation was completed and they left, promising to return at a later time to finish attaching the door frame, assuring me the crawlspace door was tightly secured.

IMG_0892.JPGpremature coreopsis bloom

That night I was awakened around 2 by a plaintive, faint “meow”. I guessed the cat was passing by and talked to itself.

The next night my son who was visiting for the weekend heard it, too.

Again Monday night I heard this, persistent now. I decided this cat had maybe had a litter that the installers somehow did not see and it was trying to get back inside. So I went outside and walked clear around and found nothing.

IMG_0893.JPGGaillardia (blanket flower) setting buds

An hour or so later I heard soft thudding noises from under the house. Clearly somehow this cat had got back in unnoticed while the installation was going on and was trying to get out. In the light of morning I unscrewed the door and cracked it open, leaving it that way for about 30-40 minutes. Then closed it. I did not hear any more cat.

I called the people who’d installed this thing and explained about the cat. I spoke with the lady that scheduled jobs and she clearly had heard nothing about a cat but assured me she would send the person out who was to finish the door. He came in and inspected everywhere finding the cat had shredded the sealants (thudding noises I’d heard) that had been installed to close the vents so he had to replace those as well.

IMG_0894.JPGClematis vine with early buds

So this cat, feral, wild and free, absolutely needed help when it found itself trapped under my house, which I happily gave it.

I guess we all need a hand now and then, even from a perceived enemy.

 

IMG_0896.JPGLily sleeping peacefully, no cats to ward off

IMG_0895.JPGLulu sleeping happily, cat-free environment

 

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nourishment

Before rescue-mix husky Lily’s surgery 3 weeks ago she relished her food. No sooner had I put her bowl down for her than she had vacuumed up every morsel. Even during the 2 weeks before her surgery after the injury. She ate everything.

She has always been all about food.

So part of the reason she tore her acl was her weight. This is my fault and I need to correct it. After all it’s not as if she can get her treats out of the cupboard. So I have been trying to be careful.

But her regular food? Completely turns her nose up at it. After her surgery the vet changed her food which might be part of the problem. She’s never been picky though, so I had no concerns when they sent me home with an enormous 30-pound bag of kibble that this would be a problem.

Most days though, later in the day she will go to her bowl and quietly eat her food. So maybe she just wants me to think she doesn’t like the change.

When I was little every Sunday after church my grandparents who moved from New York to be nearby would join my family for Sunday dinner. These were my mom’s parents (I never met my father’s, they were in Colorado, a long way from North Carolina), and I adored them.

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I was a picky eater. After everyone had finished, even dessert there I’d sit, my plate with remnant peas or whatever it was I did not care for staring back at me and as everyone else left the table I was told I had to sit until I finished my plate. My grandfather always sat with me.

He would not berate me, maybe offered a word or two of encouragement, but the important thing, for me, was he thought enough of me to not want me to be ashamed. Or alone.

This is something I think many of us do not understand. We have our comfy homes, our lovely friends and we do not see the ones who are alone. In our comfort we simply don’t see them.

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Nourishment comes to us in so many ways. Our physical food, the joy of a familiar voice, the wag of a dog’s tail, a favorite symphony, an unexpected note in the mail, a good book, a phone call from someone checking in, the family member who remembered something and wanted us to remember, too.

There is a hunger though, deep in each of us that no one else and nothing else can fill but God. His love that has known us since before we were born. He is with us every moment. In our fast-paced lives we may try to fill this empty need with many things… human attention, any number of substances that are bad for us or, at least, in excess are not good. All of which are fleeting, inconsistent at best and capricious at worst.

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So we move forward, day by day. We make our plans, work at our jobs, all the while knowing ultimately it is not we who are in control.

I know this for certain when I put Lily’s food in her bowl.

healing

When people are hurt we are likely to seek help in a way we can find solace. When people are sick we see a doctor. We develop a bond of trust that the doctor knows how best to help us.

Animals are different.

When rescue dog Lily was ready to come home after surgery and they brought her to show me how to care for her she very tentatively entered the room until she had assurance that I would not reject her. I praised her for her bravery and she could barely contain her delight to see me.

When I was younger I was very fond of a little terrier my dad had given me. One summer vacation in high school I worked in Aspen, Colorado. My parents and I had written letters occasionally but they did not tell me that one evening when they’d had friends to dinner my father and the husband of the other couple got into a political argument. The man and his wife left in anger and no one noticed my little Piper had got out of the house until she yelped when he ran over her. He stopped immediately of course and they took her to the vet. The accident had broken her leg, thankfully it wasn’t much worse.

I came home from this job and called for Piper. No response. At this point my parents let me know what had happened and I began to search for her. I found her under an arm chair in the living room. She wouldn’t come out. I got on my hands and knees and, lowering my head so I could see her eye to eye and telling her how glad I was to see her only then did she come out and let me see her injury, cast and all. After that she clumped around happily, knowing I loved her all the same.

Attachment-1.jpegWe have to learn to trust. Some have little problem with it having been treated honestly and well in their lives. Others who have not are continually testing their faith, filled with doubt. Lily knew, when she realized I love her and will care for her that she had no reason to doubt or fear. God has never given me reason to doubt or fear Him, either. But there are times when I confuse what I hope to expect from people on the same level I trust God.

Doesn’t work that way.

This is why I think people have told me through my life not to hold too hard to stuff. To take others and myself lightly. Being dependable is so important but, being imperfect it’s not possible. Not always, and maybe even not as others interpret dependable.

But Lily. She only knows she is injured. I know she will heal. When she arrived home she immediately responded to the familiar with attempts to behave as though there were no injury at all. So she had to adjust to her limitations.

Even today, though each day she is incrementally better, she expresses frustration at not being able to take off after a squirrel like she would have before. She looks at me as if I could do something. I pet her, reassure her that it is ok that she can’t get that squirrel. I convince her that her very commanding presence is enough to put great fear in this little squirrel and that is sufficient. Well, I like to think I do.

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not the pumpkin

I can remember when I last participated in Hallowe’en. Fall 2008. I was living in northwest New Mexico. I had just adopted a new rescue dog, husky-mix Lily. She was the ideal dog! She knew all her commands– sit, stay, shake, lie down, treat, ride, walk and she could give you “five”.

Until Halloween night. I bought a huge amount of treats. I was so ready for this. Then the doorbell rang. Lily was apoplectic. She raced to the door, clawing at the door frame snarling, saliva flying– she was her own night of terror.  I had to find a way to hold her back, open the door and stick the bowl of candy out the door. Fistfuls were taken I am sure but I was so relieved to shut that door. Half a minute later the entire scene threatened to repeat but, though I heard Lily she was not at the door. I opened the door, gasped at the little monsters waiting their cavity-inducers and closed the door to see Lily standing on the baby grand piano barking in a complete frenzy.

Ok so this won’t work. I took the bowl, poured the other bags of candy and set it at the end of the walkway, turned out the lights and went to bed.

Lily was at peace.

So this year my son called me walking on his way home from work to let me know he would be nearby this weekend for a meeting and would like to come see me. I was so happy! But he sounded a little hesitant. The only reason I can think is because his live-in girlfriend and I have never actually found a common ground. Except my son, which she seems to lord over me. Why I have no idea because clearly, the relationship each of us has is vastly different. But the tension is there all the same. She is ‘New Age-y’, I am conventionally traditional. My son is stuck in the middle.

So we chatted about the weekend and he explained he was juggling a bag of groceries, the phone and a large pumpkin for Halloween.

That stopped me. The image I had was not the literal items he mentioned but the other things in his life– his girlfriend, his work, and me. So I said, “I don’t want to be the pumpkin.”

“What?!” he said.

I explained what he was doing right at that moment was kind of exemplary of other things he was also juggling in his life and I did not simply want to be something superfluous in his life that he would eventually throw away.

Sometimes my worry fantasies are a bit far-fetched. I guess this one was.

A little history: My parents were traditional in that they belonged to the country club, took the family to church (most) Sundays, every major holiday, saw to it we had a good education. Beyond that their lives were consumed with (Dad’s) executive jet-setting, Mom’s golf, book club, junior league, garden club, DAR, bridge club and travel with Dad. I do not take after them much at all. They were unconventional in that we the children fell in there somewhere but inconsistently. We weren’t the pumpkin but we were sometimes rather incidental unless and until we had trouble. My brother? Never. Me? often.

Anyway, sadly my son has nothing whatever to do with the life I knew growing up. He is innocent. Yet I carry this baggage around and sometimes say or think things totally irrelevant to a situation. Because of that history.

Insecurity factors in I suppose, but still.

I do not ever want to be the pumpkin

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Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written,
The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them.”   
 –Psalm 139:16

inspections

So this week my car’s annual inspection was due. This never takes long and I brought a good book for my wait. I’d not read a full chapter when I heard someone whispering my name which was strange because whenever my car is serviced they holler my name like an assembly line. So I turned and said “That’s me,” and a young man turned and gingerly walked toward me.

Uh oh. Car failure? No. He smiled sweetly, leaning in very close like they do at nursing homes when they ask the residents what they want for lunch and said quietly, ” I understand you’d like to discuss a new car?”

“No.”

I remembered someone calling the day before to let me know I’d be given some literature and they’d like to discuss this even though I’d declined this offer then, too. “I think I’ll keep this one a while longer.”

He smiled, nodded and disappeared.

Somehow when there is an apparent vast age difference the older person is either treated as though they might break or are impossibly hard of hearing and difficult to deal with. I remember my dad, well into his 80s, ordering a pizza for my son when we visited one day.

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I have no idea what the delivery guy said to Dad but it threw him into a rage and I came running when I heard my father yelling at this kid who was totally unaware of what he’d done or said to set Dad off like that.

So I begin to understand why that happened. We are not old! Our bodies do not in any way reflect who we are. I understand there are many who, though young at heart and mind do not appreciate who they see when they look in a mirror. Looks change. Metabolism changes. Science tells us incessantly how our bodies stop or start doing certain things “due to advancing years”. Botox, body sculpting, face lifts, plastic surgery. Who wants to look like a Barbie doll at the age of 63?

Yet we have younger people who see old people, not who our minds are or our hearts, but the effects of aging. They see grey hair, wrinkled brows, thin, dry skin on arms

th.jpgand hands, age spots. They see watery eyes, baggy necks, slower pace.

 

 

But they don’t see wisdom. Understanding. Grace and patience that come from pushing hard through life, hitting walls, breaking them down, productive, fruitful years.

So rather than go off like a cannon as my Dad did I smile. I thank God that I have made it to a point in life I only saw before from the outside. I understand one day this young man will see through the looking glass from the other side.

I only hope he can appreciate what it took to get there.

 

Lord, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is: that I may know how frail I am.”    –Psalm 39:4

 

Garden

Most everyone likes a garden. Whether they enjoy getting their hands deep in rich soil, sowing seeds, or simply admiring someone else’s toils, flowers are pretty.

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Working in a flower bed is like cultivating a friend. Some think if they want to move a flower they simply grab its stem and yank it out by the roots, dig a new hole and put it in.

Not exactly.

You need to consider what it comes from. What if it’s a bulb? a rhizome? a root system, large and well-established or a taproot? What if it has bulblets, or plantlets sent out on separate shoots? You need to find its foundation first. You need to gently work in and around the soil and its roots taking care not to break or injure them. Tenderly help the roots release from the soil, watering now and then as you work.

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As it comes away from its former place prepare a new place digging in the soil larger than the plant root system. Place the plant centered on its base carefully filling the soil back in loosely so as not to pack too tightly or suffocate and cramp its feet. Continue to cultivate it with water, nourishment, pruning where it has useless, dying leaves or stems. Encouraging the healthy plant to grow.

Friendship is the same. You meet someone you would like to befriend. The friendship is nurtured carefully, fed with interest, attention, and observation. Laughter, listening. Thoughtfully tended. The foundation begins with kindness, gentleness and warmth. Water with love, consideration, grace, peace.

And prayer.

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Small towns, big cities

After quietly listening this past weekend to my son and sister-in-law debate better, faster routes through the city for several minutes I said, “I can’t imagine living anywhere that people talk more about streets and highways than each other.”

This stopped the conversation, and the car remained silent for the rest of our drive.

So that was it? Their most important conversation consisted of whether 290 was faster than some other road, how to get to 610, or which exit would be less congested than another?

Evidently. With no more words forthcoming, nor any laughter at my observation it became sadly apparent to me that people hide from each other behind the trivial. It is so much easier to talk about the objective or inanimate than what we think or need. About our hearts. Our souls.

Why?

I moved to a smaller town a year ago and immediately felt the non-claustrophobic closeness, that it would matter  to me if someone preferred a balsam tree to a spruce. I really do not care how I get anywhere so long as I do eventually get there, and whatever I encounter along the way though it may be frustratingly slow or congested gives me opportunity to hone my maneuvering skills or think about comments someone made, a friendly conversation, or simply to notice wildflowers that might be growing on the roadside. No one here I find is the least bit concerned about speaking their mind, or giving an opinion solicited or not, or simply pontificating on the virtues of Florida oranges over California ones. If I miss a church service and happen on a friend later that week they wonder how I am, where I’ve been.

It matters.

I have heard people comment or complain about a new road being built and the trees they took out for it, or some landmark now gone and that it was where their grandfathers greeted each other of a Saturday afternoon, on the porch or over a woodstove. But not about travel routes. People here are not afraid they might impose if they show that they care.

We each make our own way in this life and hopefully help each other. Our strengths and vulnerabilities make us who we are, not what we do or how we get there. We share our stories and laugh at our foibles. But which highway or short-cut does not matter.

The journey is not about the conveyance but we who convey.