Monday, June 28, 2010

My Mom is in My Everything

It’s been six months since my mom died and I miss her every day. I’ve noticed lately though, she is in (my) everything.

For instance, there is a nest of baby blue jays in the night-blooming jasmine that grows along the side of our house. Every day, several times a day, mama blue jay forages the ground and tree foliage on our property for food, bringing it back to the verbally-boisterous young mouths of her babies. The first baby was born Monday, June 14, with several more born over the next day or two. Now we hear at least six babies in the nest at feeding time. The nest itself is quite intricate, though we can’t actually see the one mama blue jay finally settled on. She had constructed two others lower in the jasmine, only to abandon them in favor of a hidden spot where a thick bunch of the flowering plant reaches under the eaves. I suppose a mother just knows when preparing for a family what their needs will be and how to keep her babies safe.

And this week, I was preparing for a photo shoot with my Dalmatian for the website homepage; The Honorable Dalmatian is putting finishing touches on the site before unveiling it to the public (please stay tuned)! I had to decide what to wear that would compliment Henry but not take away from the star that he is. I knew instantly when I saw the lilac-colored sleeve peeking out between other sleeves in the closet – it was one of the last blouses I bought for my mom, and she only wore it once. I remember the day she did; she asked me “Are you sure it’s not too young a look for me?” “No way Mom!” I said. “You look beautiful!” Wearing her clothes, I confess, makes me feel good – a sort of “adult dress up” I guess you’d call it. My mom will now share the homepage spotlight with Henry and me.

Yet another example, and perhaps the most personal, is the coffee cup I drink out of most every day. It belonged to her. It’s a big, cornflower-blue ceramic cup with the name “Maryland” in raised capital letters along the side. My mom was born and raised in Maryland. She never spent the time she wished she could have with her family back at home, though she talked about them often and they were very dear to her heart.

As I sip my coffee in it now – under a canopy of redwood trees and Henry by my side - I know the importance of family, the depth of my mother’s love and that she will forever be in my everything.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Power of Lucky

Lucky was the name I gave to a yellow shepherd-collie mix with the honest-to-goodness face of a deer that my friend Debbie and I rescued from a freeway onramp. This was back in 1994 when the two of us, fresh out of college, went to work in San Jose – or as we Santa Cruzan’s often refer to it – over the hill. I remember that day like it was yesterday: we had just finished lunch at Mr. Chau’s Chinese Fast Food and were heading back to the office when we spotted her. Debbie had driven that day so we were in her little white Fiat with the top down, and before you could say boo she had brought that car to a dead stop in the middle of the intersection of First and Burton. It seemed like time suddenly came to a standstill. There were no sounds of lunch-hour traffic, no voices – just a sweet and scared, angel of a dog standing there – and I got out and scooped her up.

She was wearing a collar with the name Lovey and a phone number. Upon calling the number from the payphone at a gas station on the corner, a boy’s voice answered (in what seemed like cruel sarcasm to me at the time), “We don’t have a dog.” So Debbie and I proceeded to put fliers up around the intersection, called the local humane society, and placed a classified ad in the Mercury News. When our attempts to find Lucky’s owner failed, I kept her. We had brought her home to Santa Cruz after work the day we found her, her honey-colored ears flapping in the wind over Highway 17 in Debbie’s sporty-little convertible. I’m quite sure we captured the envy of most other commuters that day, if not the rewards of attention – two girls in a convertible with smiles plastered on their faces, and between them, the luckiest dog on the planet!

Lucky was the first dog I’d had since being a teenager. I renamed her Lucky and we made stories up about who might have named her Lovey, and joked about Thurston Howell III from Gilligan’s Island calling out for Mrs. Howell, “Lovey… oh, Lovey.” I still giggle today thinking of calling her that. I secretly wonder, however, if Lucky belonged to a sweet-little-old lady (or man) who died or was in a car crash, accidently leaving “Lovey” to fend for herself. Lucky had been well trained by someone – she had, hands down, the best manners of any dog I had known prior or have known since.

Not long ago I wrote about how people who rescue animals are they themselves rescued. Lucky was the first dog to do that for me. I’d had two dogs before. One was Shoni - I’d brought her home from the Santa Cruz Spring Fair when I was 13 years old. The other was Sinbad and I was 17 when an old boyfriend and I got him, though I honestly don’t remember the circumstances. Shoni and Sinbad were both brown, black and tan lab-shepherd mixes. Shoni, unfortunately, spent most of her life tethered outside to a dog house, her care provided for by my parents. Sinbad, sadly, died on Christmas morning 1978 of Distemper – he wasn’t even a year old. Lucky, bless her angelic heart (and the magic of grace), taught me through our unconditional love for each other that I could eventually forgive myself for not loving Shoni and Sinbad the way they deserved. Through caring for Lucky properly, I was able to let go of not knowing better how to care for animals when I was younger. It wasn’t easy though.

I recall a time I was walking Lucky at the old Scotts Valley Airport in the days before there was a dog park and sobbing (loudly) for Sinbad and Shoni – agonizing over their cheated lives, steeped in guilt over any and all pain either dog experienced. It was Lucky who assured me, in that moment and day by day as the years ticked by, that I am a good person, a loving dog mother and deserving of a dog’s love.

Lucky lived to the ripe old age of 17, assuming she was four years old when we rescued her like the vet estimated. The years I had with Lucky helped mold me into the animal rescue advocate I am today, a testament to the power of Lucky.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Precious Moments

The long-awaited spring sunshine lights my path and warms my skin as I merrily gather dandelions in the yard. My basket is almost full now. As I pick each one, dust off the debris and toss it in, I imagine and wonder.

Is this sense of satisfaction, of wholeness, felt by the organic farmer who selects his crops for market each week? Could it be the way a medicine woman feels gathering flowers and herbs to heal the sick? Is this the pride of a mother as she harvests fresh vegetables before a family dinner in the country?

I like the way it feels. The dandelions are a mainstay for my rabbits and they grow so plentifully here – usually thought of as weeds. I can remember my dad teaching me how to weed. "Push deep" he would say as I flimsily held the trowel in my hand as a child, "you have to get under the roots." I wonder what he would say now, as I leave the roots behind hoping for more "weeds." It's not just the bunnies who enjoy the dandelions!

Yes, my life and mind have expanded once more from choosing to adopt again, to allow two more beings into my heart. I do love them, you know, and will care for them as children for the remainder of their years.

As I rest to write this down I feel a surge of emotion – a sense of awe at the miracle of life. The lavender blooms crisp and fragrant about me, its aroma promising the consistent welcome of new days. I believe I’ll go back to picking now, changed ever so slightly by these precious moments.