Monday Can Be Delightful

Monday has a bad reputation – back to work, back to the grind, back to waking up with the alarm clock, back to dressing to please someone else perhaps.

But catching delight can shift perspectives in a second. This morning, for example, I came to my desk early to sift through slush at Gyroscope Review, where I’m a co-editor. Our reading period for our summer issue ends this week and things are piling up. Authors need answers on their submissions, we need contracts for publication acknowledged, artwork for the front cover still has to be done, editorials must be written, and layouts must be done within the next couple of  weeks. When I’m working, I’m not playing with our dog and my occasional office companion, the indomitable miniature dachshund Truffles, and she let me know her displeasure today by peeing on the dog bed in my office. Even though this wasn’t as bad as the time she ate an entire leg from the pantyhose my daughter left hanging over the side of her laundry basket, I was still mad. Damn dog, I thought at the same time as she slunk away to hide under our dining room table, no doubt thinking, I showed you.

Well. Her misbehaving landed her in her crate for a minute while I stepped outside for one of those aforementioned perspective shifts. I had my cellphone with me, since I was waiting for a callback. And there it was, waiting for me: a swallowtail butterfly, its yellow and black wings in high definition against the purple blooms of meadow sage in our garden. I stood still, watched, and the butterfly fluttered upward and around my head, back and forth, until it landed on the flowers again. I was enchanted. It had done its job.

I captured a tiny bit of its magic with my iPhone. Maybe it’ll make your Monday a little bit more delightful, too.

And Truffles? She’ll get an extra walk today. Clearly she needs something more to do.

A Little Extra About Delight:

My fellow blogger and photographer, Audrey over at Minnesota Prairie Roots, had a post today about finding delight in small moments, which is just what I’m talking about. Go have a look: https://mnprairieroots.com/2017/06/12/patio-art/.

For more about shifting your focus, you might be interested in my series, 52 Ways to Shift Your Focus, which ran on this blog in 2012-13.

 

On the Eve of the Winter Solstice

Yes, my blog this week is a day late. And there is one very important reason for that.

Yesterday, we had to say goodbye to our old friend Ruby. Ruby was our 14-year-old Irish terrier who spent her life in our house, watched our kids grow into amazing adults, stood by us when we each lost our fathers, welcomed our granddaughter, took our second dog Truffles under her wing, and paced the floor around 5:30 every morning in her old age.

It was a bittersweet day, as any pet owner will know. Ruby told us she was done by refusing to eat and drink over the weekend. She was tired. She had lived long enough.

And so we did what we needed to do: took her to our vet, whom she loved, and helped her leave us.

Ruby the Irish terrier

Ruby

Even though I had to get a box of Kleenex to keep in my office yesterday, today I am thinking about how Ruby made us better people by forcing us to slow down once in a while. She had a way of backing up to us wherever we were sitting so that we could pause and pet her. She was good at being insistent. Pay attention, she seemed to say.

Dogs are good at that.

As we move on to the Winter Solstice, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and the New Year, taking a moment to pay attention to whatever is there in front of us might be a really nice idea. Turn off the news, put away the screens, and pause.

Happy Holidays, everyone. One Minnesota Writer will return in January 2017.

happy holidays from one minnesota writer

Winter, Old Dogs, Motherhood

The line leapt at me: “The art of the drought is to reduce all things to their outlines.”¹ Yes, I thought as I read a lovely micro-essay about drought and life, that’s what winter does, too. The cold reduces everything to its essence, the essential structure that generates heat, life. Bare trees, milkweed pods with mouths frozen open and silk stripped away, ice probing cracks in the bird bath basin.

My mind went further.  Drought. Cold. And aging. The winter of our lives. Things left to dry up, lose warmth, die. Chapped hands and lips. Neglected houseplants, relationships, dreams. Absence as artist, sketches that are crisp, blunt, unmistakeable. Revelation of inner structures.

I think about nourishment. Sustenance. Care. Skeletons hold up the living flesh, the mass that teems with warmth, blood, heart. When all is stripped from a skeleton, bones rattle and clank against each other.

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Our old dog Ruby, clearly in the winter of her life, is slowly losing her mass. I feel her bones beneath my hands on her haunches, notice how much more pronounced they are of late. She still prances like a puppy when there is new snow and the temperature hovers in the upper 20s. The rest of the time, she drags herself along, so slow to move around our block that we have cut back the length of her daily walks. She tries to sniff nearly everything, sometimes refuses to step into the garage as if we were trying to shove her off a cliff. She growls at things that aren’t there, hears ghosts. She has begun sleeping by our bed now for the first time in 13 years. With our kids gone to their own apartments, Ruby has no one else to shepherd except for Truffles, our eight-year-old dachshund. Truffles usually obliges, barks when Ruby barks, whines when we take Ruby to the vet, looks for her at bedtime.

As I write this, soft, fluffy, end-of-the-day snowflakes fall and make me long for dinner guests, a pot of good stew, a fireplace. Ruby waits at the top of the stairs near the front door, Truffles right next to her. Mick will be home soon, and we will cook dinner. A cornish hen thaws in water in the sink. One hen will feed both of us and I cannot get used to cooking such small meals. I miss my kids terribly at this time of day; feel like this house holds a skeleton of a family without them here. I did not know that I would be incomplete without my children when I had them, but know it now that they are grown and my mother-self has lost part of its substance.

Ruby seems to understand that. She finds me every morning as I think about the day’s work. She puts her paws in my lap, looks at me with her cloudy old-dog eyes, and insists I pay attention. As I scratch behind her ears and notice how pronounced her skull has become beneath her fur, I mourn how time speeds up. I have so much to do before my skeleton is laid bare. Ruby is right to insist I pay attention. She sits nearby while I write things that make me cry, contemplate droughts, miss my kids, try to find the beauty in winter’s icy art.

 

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¹”The Art of the Drought” by Catherine Jankovic. RiverTeeth Journal’s Beautiful Things blog, January 25, 2016.