Saturday, July 24, 2010

Life and death

The blog "One Bark At A Time" has a final accounting of life after the passing of "Stella" & it can be found here. I happened upon this final blog posting by accident (As Stella's life ended the blog came to a conclusion and as the days passed I was no longer checking back in to read readers comments since they too had died down). Like many of this blog's regular readers I hoped there would be a new posting of dogs up for adoption-replete with Fred's usual character filled photos that never failed to make one want to head to Toronto to adopt-now.
This latest & last chapter is filled with the emotions one is always left with when a well loved pet passes and when, as is usually the case, an owner is left making the hard choice of when , precisely when, to euthanize. You never fail to doubt your choice once it has been made-despite the suffering that has so clearly been put to an end.
I can recall all of my pet's death's. In the "old days" the family vet -a very reserved man whose practice could be found in a fairy tale like brick house-was the last stop in all of our animals lives. I vividly remember him shaving cat Spooky's leg for the injection. The next memory that follows is of him touching her open eye to show us she had indeed passed. It was so hard to believe life was there, one second, and completely gone forever, the next.
I remember us putting the cats in plastic bags and returning them to their carrying cases. Then you had to pull yourself together and stop crying because the bill had to be paid and you were going to have to walk out to reception where everyone else waited with their dog and cat and you did not want to do that while crying. Perhaps vet's offices should have a private back door for the families of newly deceased pets so we can exit in tears and not feel the need to make ourselves presentable...
We always picked wooden wine "boxes" as final resting places for our pets-my dad must have kept them for that purpose. In those days wine came in glass bottles with real cork ,stored in wooden boxes and these small crates just so happened to be the perfect size for a cat.
Some of our pets were buried in our backyard, the first under a tulip tree, it's grave marked by a stone found by my grandparents home in Cupsaw Lake, New Jersey. Others found their final resting place on a ridge amid the oak & maple trees of Forest Park . One burial took place in the pouring rain, at night. It is funny what you remember, years later.
As Fred mentions in his post-there always was the post passing sightings. Those heart stopping moments when , out of the corner of your eye, some shadow had a form that tricked you into "seeing" your pet. These sightings faded as time passed but they did have the poignant effect of giving you a second's respite from the grief before reality quickly set in-much the way a dream about a dead loved one does-until you wake up and realize it was all just a dream.
Fred's writings about life with Stella & Rocky-and his readers comments-drive home the universal nature of our deep and lasting love for the animals in our lives .
As I read the last post and felt the wave of sadness crash-a combination of grief for Stella,Fred, Rocky and family combined with the pets in my own past-I turned away from my computer screen to find Nicky silently sitting on the bed's edge while Sandi sat by the chair. How did they know to be there?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

A garden

I have always wanted a garden. My parents had gardens and that translated into fresh sorrel soup in summer, pungent herbs,fragrant Lilly of the valley in early spring and roses all summer long.
My memories of my paternal grandparents garden revolve around the trees they planted-apple, peach,pear and a mulberry tree that might have been "planted" by local birds.
Summers were spent on Long Island and the farm stands there gave life a definite and predictable rhythm: strawberries, then corn, melons ,red and yellow tomatoes,followed by squash, potatoes, brussel sprouts, cabbage and the last green tomatoes.
My own gardening attempts were organic-lots of compost (even in winter-just dig a hole ahead of time and have the dirt in buckets, along with some leaves to layer with and you are ready to build compost through the cold and frozen months.) I also found "Seed Of Change"-back then the only company I could find that sold organic seeds. Now-a-days ,with organic farming in the mainstream, is so much easier to do!
Since I live just outside of a city, urban gardening fascinates me. Community gardens (like the one at 6 and B-one of this city's outstanding gardens-they offer arts programs and gave me the amazing opportunity to teach silkscreen, out of doors one summer! ) involve so many issues but fill such a need . They become backyards for folks who have none and allow people (and most especially children) the chance to grow plants and learn about the seasons in a very basic way.
A story about a unique farm ran called "Brooklyn Grange" in Queens Crap today. How wonderful! It gives me hope... and makes me hunger for getting my hands dirty is rich, earthworm laden soil. It also brings back vivid memories of just how backbreaking weeding is!
Read more about their flourishing roof top garden here.

Monday, July 5, 2010


The bathroom is as finished as it can be -until next weekend. As I removed the blue painting tape I examined "the lines" again, so hoping there was a way to fudge the brown trim and make it look good. The lines are even worse than I originally thought. It even looks as if 2 different widths of molding was used and if the trim is brown one's eye will be drawn towards that fact.
Life is not always what we wish it was. Life is not always what we hoped it would be. Life is often not what we would want or like. Much as we would wish the lines in our life to be aligned they are often so terribly out of place -irrevocably so.
And then...
As I made a mad dash to get some last minute groceries-the old reliable 24 hour place no longer exists and the local market closes by 10p.m.-I spot a cat and a young woman on the sidewalk by the train overpass. The cat is worn, tired and possibly sick. The woman reminds me of a younger version of myself. She has found this cat, disoriented, and brought it here to eat and drink -she saw another cat at this well known local stray cat hang out (and feeding spot) and brought it food earlier and upon seeing this cat, brought it here too. She is mulling over the cat's condition and weather she should take it home with her. Today has been very hot and the cat does look the worse for the wear. It seems happy to be picked up, held, spoken to and pet. It sits cradled in her arms like a rag doll and it's eyes are, as one famous writer once wrote, as big as tea cups. We talk vets-we share the same man and go to the nearby pet food store. She is a dog person. I clue her in to what she might want to do-keep the cat in the bathroom for the night in a bed of old clothes . Best to keep the cat and her dog separate until she knows if the cat has fleas . She lifts him up to carry him home and I ask her if she needs help -her arms full with the water bowl, cat food can and limp cat but she is fine. I wish her good luck & tell her she is doing a very good thing. She thanks me and I watch as she walks around the corner and out of sight. I hope this story has a good ending. In a way, it already has. A homeless cat has found a home-even if for one night.
I turn to head home, in my heart saying a little prayer of thank you for those rare but important times when the lines do indeed align.
postscript: As the above happened I thought of Fred of "One Bark At A Time". He lost his lovely Stella last week and ,for the moment, has taken a step back from his blog. I came to Fred's wonderful blog about shelter dogs, his dogs Rocky & Stella and life -just a few months ago. A local dog was in harm's way and as I read the different threads to that story I somehow came across "One Bark At A Time". If you love animals (and life) his blog is wonderful reading and his photos are amazing. They capture the essence of each dog and make you wish you had the ability to take each and every one home. Fred has , with his work at the shelter and his blogging -accomplished what I wish we all would do more-make this world a better place for all who inhabit it. You can find Fred , Stella and Rocky here.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

a pink, white and blue 4th on the 4th floor

Ceiling DONE (and not a single dead bug found stuck to it!) I did my last coat of spackle late this morning. I can't say enough about this relatively new pink stuff-it helps enormously to see where you have already applied spackle and once dry it turns white taking the guess work out of the process. For an artist-the color can be a bit seductive ...hope you are having a wonderful Independence Day!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Happy 4th of July!

Red, white and blue...I begin a full time job in just 29 short days (taking over an artist-in-residency for someone who'll be going to China for 3 months!) and on my list of things that must get done before August 2nd is the bathroom. It has sat, semi-painted (Due to a leak from the apartment above) for too long and tonight I finally returned to this hot job. I'm hoping for the best and should know by tomorrow's early morning light if the ceiling is done. That leaves me with the walls, windowsill and door and just a bit of annoying plaster work...I had planned on brown trim but the lines of absolutely nothing about this room match up and painting trim in another color might just highlight that fact. As for the "red" of the first line-you can count my flushed cheeks -partly due to the summer heat but also very much due to the bug that seemed to very much want to stick itself to the ceiling. Frustrating!