Sunday, June 30, 2013

A Hot One

Summer came upon us gradually this year. It seemed the hills browned a little earlier than usual, and the coastal eddy flow of early morning overcast lingered through the month.

This morning Manna woke me at 5:45. (An early beach run with her is most likely). And as I stand on the front porch, it is the kind of morning that begins its song low and deep, afloat on the stillness of the hour. As the eastern light ascends higher, the song grows in intensity, like a choral of voices slowly rising, hinting that the cool air of dawn will not linger long, and will be replaced with the kind of day that will call for any respite we can briefly hold. Summers' song will ring out loud and true, and greet us with the solid grip of a hearty hand.

We have no choice but to flow along in this stream of season. Wether we are revelers of the sea and sand, waders in cool streams, seekers of shady parks, or dapplers of deliverance in cool icy drinks, together we are parties to nature's grand scheme, and the long Summer ahead. Manna is certainly ready for it, as she waits impatiently for me to finish the paper and head for the beach. It will still be cool for a time there, a lingering fog hesitating to leave, the water curling pea green in glassy reflection of the rising sun. Later we will come back home and be alive to this Summers day. I will find my refuge in a shady spot under a tree with an icy drink in hand, she will find it lying on the cool tile of the bathroom floor.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Manna in the Morning: SEE YOU DOWN THE ROAD

Manna in the Morning: SEE YOU DOWN THE ROAD


A late March morning, Spring turning and raising a hand for one last farewell to Winter as she disappears around the bend in the road. We will find her again in due time, maybe she will be sweeping up some last autumn leaves into a pile. She will invite us in, as if we are old friends. Maybe a cup of steaming tea in front of a warm fire will do to break the ice as we discuss the wonders of last Summer's sparkling sea, and how good Autumn in the local mountains tasted, like a slice of crisp apple pie mixed with cinnamon laid over with an ample helping of gratitude . We will laugh as she brings out a plate of cookies laced on top with white icing and silver sprinkles, about why Spring had to show off so much this year wearing that dress so loaded with flowers, and how Summer played hard to get by giving June Gloom only a passing nod well into July.

Manna has gone to sleep by Winter's fire. I take her leash in hand and bid Winter goodnight, thanking her for the foggy glass we will note in the early morning kitchen windows, the stark play of storm clouds from the sea that will leave the drape of night cold and dripping for us to wake to at the tip of morning, as well as those few balmy December days to come that I noticed entwined in the tapestry she was knitting while we talked, the ones that remind us of the Summer's long lazy days sometime ahead. As we take our leave, she hands me a bag tied  closed with string, telling me not to open it until the light begins returning to the earth. I pull my coat around me against the coming chill as Manna sniffs the air,  stepping out under a sky of wheeling stars, out on a path lit with the mystery of moments.

A late March morning. Manna is now waking at around 6 AM instead of 4:30, so we celebrate the new light and time with a freeze dried chicken strip on top of her breakfast kibble. It is the simple things you see. One does not always need to travel far to be in paradise.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Manna in the Morning: IT'S THE NOSE, STUPID

Manna in the Morning: IT'S THE NOSE, STUPID


I think a dog collects scents like a child collects memories, storing them up in the tumbled attic of the brain to pull out for future use. Probably white shelving is used as support for clarity and easy cleaning, each item catagorized and neatly aligned. I suppose that some attics are a little more cluttered than others, some a wee bit more carefully arranged, but all seem to get the job done.  It must be a huge space I imagine, as when a dog is walked, or running free, it's nose is the constant rudder of it's hull, steering sharply from here to there in quite an unchartable course. Never mind the tall buildings downtown seen across the canyons, white and new as if just sprouted overnight in some celestial garden , or the lacy spring trees  sporting a  transluscent coat woven of light and air soused with the aqueous air of morning. Nope, but this bush once had a rabbit brush by it and boy, I just cant get enough! And over here, in this patch of grass that looks just like any other to you, theres one spot here that I'm just about to die for. Whatever THAT is, i'm taking that puppy home!

OK then.
I will bide my time tightly holding on to the straining leash,
Allowing you your fill of olfactory stimulants.
I will note that bird knocking awake the trunk of the tree with its beak,
and savor the look of this pine needle strewn trail ahead,
Pretending for a moment we are on some high country mountain trail.
But leave me a moment to sit on this green bench
While you enjoy the heady aroma of what's underneath,
so that I can collect a few trinkets for my own shelves
that sag heavy with the reels of image.

I do agree though, that new mown grass smells delicious.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Manna in the Morning: One Step at a Time

Manna in the Morning: One Step at a Time

One Step at a Time

Mornings. Our first step into a new world. One different than all the others lived before. Either tentative or bold, all creatures must draw a cloak of courage about them, opening a door to a new chapter however it may play out. The day shouts promises of life and love, the stars passively give way of their hold on our dreams, and we find the next turn in the road paved with new light, new vision, new hope.

This early spring has more than most delivered the fine wine of creation's bloom to my thoughts. I find myself  with eyes that want to listen more than see, and to hear through the light of life presenting itself in all it's glorious delivery. The old oak is greening now with starts of leaves in the highest reaches of its crown, the wine-red stars of buds on the Japanese Maple begin to unfurl from their cocoon, like dancers slowly unfolding their limbs to a low upwell of music, each morning more of them appear to fill the stage. The first steps of beginning anew, one step at a time.

Last evening C and I took Manna to the beach. I remember the first time not long ago, when all was new for her. A creature tasting the first food from Earth's morning table, which we sometimes take for granted. The white sand different from the black loam she was used to, the crash of waves and the unfurling skim of surf and foam running up to her and chasing her back up the sand. She, not wanting to go near this strange blue thing alive and beckoning. And yet, over the days she became one to the wet and salty rhythm. Testing it with a paw or two, tasting it, a back and forth dance of combat at first, then giving in to the luxury of its wildness.
Now, she and I find ourselves running together knee deep in a frothy dance of celebration. The water expoloding around us as we run, and I can't keep myself from laughing out loud. It all starts and finishes one step at a time.

And so this morning, after the sky knows the first watercolor brush of light, we will go outside and listen to the changing pallet of Spring, watch intently the upwelling music of life, and feel the binding  crossroads of time that link all of us, and all creation together. Striding into a new world, just one step at a time.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Manna in the Morning: ALL IN GOOD TIME

Manna in the Morning: ALL IN GOOD TIME


Tonight the clocks spring forward while we sleep. A savings of time they say. Since there are no more lines to add or take away in a circle, it's just turning the circle a bit, our point in time unadjusted. Six when it used to be five. Just the lighting has changed. If Manna's internal clock stays the same, we may wake tomorrow at six instead of five. I can be hopeful anyway.

As we balance on this ball of earth, we all experience our lives in time so differently, depending on our position on it. As the bread is browning in the toaster in this kitchen at 5:50 AM, our daughters in New York and Washington DC are already well into their morning. Possibly a late breakfast with friends at a corner cafe is in the works, or maybe heading down an avenue still lined with the snow that fell yesterday, to a bookstore or the grocery. Friends in St. Louis left an hour ago to take their daughter to  an early Saturday morning volleyball practice. They now sit on the cold wood of the gym bleachers sipping coffee from a yellow paper cup, talking with another parent or two as the squeak of a dozen pairs of busy shoes on the hardwood echos around the walls. My Brother in Santa Fe is already at his University office high on that hill, looking out the window that overlooks a tall skyed New Mexico landscape of long morning winter shadows that wake the sleepy adobe eyes of the town, and sweep all the way to the smoke blue hills beyond.

So, let the sun come in its own time. It will eventually drop by, no matter what the round clock on the wall indicates. Let's pour the coffee and butter the toast as Manna sits at the back door, watching through the fogged glass for that first hint of light. And when it comes, I'll stand here in my robe and socks and be glad I'm not one of those poor devils in Virginia who already have to be well into their work day. It's damn good to live somewhere where there is so much extra time.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Manna in the Morning: TURNING WEST

Manna in the Morning: TURNING WEST


I was hesitant on opening the door to morning. Knocking ever so quietly I almost hadn't heard it through the fogged pane of my awakening. I first took a finger and moved it across the glass to clear a spot for looking out. Not finding anything in the darkness beyond of more interest than the warm curl of the bedcover and the dent in my pillow, I tried to ignore it, but like a determined salesman it kept up it's rattle. So, giving in, I put on my bathrobe, heading to the kitchen where Manna waited impatiently to start her day, the warm curl of her kennel long minutes ago losing all it's flavor for a pre sunrise romp in the yard.

Had I known the script the sun was beginning to write while still hiding behind that eastern curtain of dark, I maybe wouldn't have been such a reluctant breakfast guest. While watching the high half moon running with the scattered clouds, and listening as the mockingbirds discuss there promises in different languages, I noticed just the slightest tint of red on the underbelly of the clouds to the west. It wasn't long before the flower bloomed in a spectacular fashion; a pallet lit with crimson  and purple against a pearl blue sky. I envied some friends who live high on a hill to the east who's windows must be filled with a spectacular panorama of light, our front porch being the best place I can catch the show. Holding onto the porch column with one hand and leaning out affords the best alternative for viewing. But, It was beautiful anyway. Manna was happy just to sit in the doorway, more than ready for me to come back in to tend to important her breakfast.

What was interesting is, as I was in Zen mode absorbed in the increasing change of the spectacular to the east, I turned for a moment to the west. There, waiting like the patient eyes of a dog ready to play, was a more subtle, but beautifully arranged fusion of sky, clouds and reflected red sunlight. A wet juicy watercolor running down the paper of heaven. It lasted just for a few moments, then faded as the eastern sky became more intense. I was glad to have noticed such an unintended surprise.

I do tend sometimes, to only see what's played out before me, without making the effort to turn around to see another view, missing possibilities of new horizons. It's easy to to do, to be absorbed in the present picture of things, whether the picture comes from an external or internal source, it's essence being positive or negative. I will try to turn around more often, whether it's to the waking knock and ever changing surprises of Nature,  the open door of a loving family, or the outreached hands of a friend. I will need to be reminded of this from time to time I'm sure.

I think Manna is reminding me now that it's time go out and throw the ball.
Sounds good to me.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Manna in the Morning: A SIDEWALK STIRRING

Manna in the Morning: A SIDEWALK STIRRING


Deep as I can go this morning is about half way into a white chocolate mocha sitting before me on a little iron table outside "Capt'n Kirk's" coffee kiosk. The logo for Capt'n Kirk's is a multi hued Amazonian parrot. I assume the owner named his coffee business after his bird, as I don't remember the Captain of the Enterprise sitting on the bridge of his space ship barking out orders with a parrot on his shoulder, though in thinking about it, it might have been a good addition. " SCOTTY, WE'VE GOT TWO KLINGON SHIPS ON OUR TAIL..I NEED MORE POWER!"  "I CAN'T DOOO IT CAPTAIN! SOMETHUN'S BI'N DEPLEEETING THA DELITHIUM CRYSTALS, IF AYE POOSH IT ENY HARDER SHE'S GOIN' TA BLOW!" Then the bird on Jim's shoulder..."WAAAAK...DELITHIUM CRYSTALS..DELITHEIUM CRYSTALS..WAAAAKKK..DELICOUSE..WAAAKK!"

Manna and I wait a while more to see if the Captain shows up, thinking maybe he will stop by to drop off some beans for later grinding, or water the plants out front. I could maybe drop a question to him on what's up with the bird. He doesn't. Disappointed, I grab what's left of my coffee and we wander down the street.
 Fern Street in South Park at 7:00 in the morning is not exactly a hub of bustling morning activity. I'm not seeing any delivery trucks double parked throwing stuff out the back to waiting customers while taxi's lean on their horns. The sidewalks are not rattled with the countless footfalls of busy folks madly rushing to their work. No construction workers, window washers, street sweepers or shopkeepers setting up wares on the least not this early.  I do see the man who manages the grocery store standing outside wearing a blue hawaiian shirt having a smoke. The little french cafe on the corner has a customer sitting under a red patio umbrella. I'm sure they are preparing his crepe right now on a black griddle shiny with butter, as I am tempted by the aroma as we walk by. I say a brief hello to the pizza guy, who is carrying a box into the side door of the restaurant. Manna pulls on the leash wanting to give him a hearty greeting, one that would most likely involve a box of expensive wines crashing to the sidewalk. I hold her back. The local exercise gym that took over the old fire station has a few intrepid souls inside. I did that for a while last year, and I will do so again. At least I keep thinking that, but first, I'm going to go check out those crepes.

A quiet morning in South Park. Everyone is moving at their own pace, heading in their own direction, following their own compass...just like you.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Manna in the Morning: Just to Dance

Manna in the Morning: Just to Dance

Just to Dance

An early hour this morning spent at Dog Beach. A rapturous time for a dog, where all the energies of life distill into a pristine combination of sunrise, sea and sand. Manna pulls me earnestly to the point where she can be let off the leash, and speeds without fear or hesitation into the fray of the leaping, running, splashing canine heaven. Dogs of all shapes, sizes and breeds seem to be as one as all joyously cavort at the edge of earth and sea. Spontaneously, a celebration of life and being alive, as if this moment was all there is. I watch and learn; they are right. This is our only moment, because life has no guarantees, no promises to keep. The time we live, moment to moment , is all we really have.

As I have grown older, this concept of life and the transience of it has come more to the forefront of my being, as I suppose it does for most people. And yet, it does not scare me, or make me anxious in living my life. As I watch Manna play with the other dogs wholeheartedly, without  even a a crumb of misgiving, I learn again how important it is for us to put away those fears and anxieties that hold us back from being truly ourselves. Of the joyful pursuit of life. Living on the edge of sea and sand, between sky and earth, within the space of ambiguity that makes us both human and spiritual, bringing us together in amazing ways under a universal umbrella some of us may call God, or Nature, or simply just being in this wonderful universe we call our home.

I still have a lot to learn as I watch Manna simply be a creature on her own terms, one that does not dwell on what can be, but simply what is, and finding a true, unbroken, and evolving happiness in just that. Living in the rhythm of life that manifests itself in total love. I have a lot to learn. I have a lot to learn.

As C and I watch the playful dance of the dogs, running, jumping, interrelating with each other, I admire their honesty and purpose. Souls that communicate in ways we cannot comprehend, but seem to work for them. The heartbeat of each moment becomes the wisdom of their being, and their capacity of relating to the world and each other. I will think on this, and hopefully gain something from it. Maybe, if I take what is in front of me to heart, I will learn just to dance.

We will soon walk back across the sand, leaving this beach to others, and maybe, just maybe, I will pick up a shell along the way, put it to my ear, and listen for a song to dance to. Then the three of us  will dance all the way home.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Manna in the Morning: TRUE NORTH

Manna in the Morning: TRUE NORTH


She runs ahead of me this morning, a rolling clear sheet of sea chasing her up the black sand. A beach to ourselves except for the couple wearing matching red vests, who's Great Dane is tentatively testing its feet in the water. The first soft reach of an approaching storm due to hit later this day, but already the surf is voluminous with foam, the sky leaden and dark in the first eyes of dawn.  The wind has cold and bracing fingers.  I'm not sure what possessed me to leave a warm house for this, but Manna seems indifferent to the chill, so I will move along for the exercise, a hooded sweatshirt being a warm shell of sanctuary.

As she runs, sniffs and rolls in the sand, I wonder if somewhere deep inside she is still a creature of the wilderness, a descendant of wolves, cautious in her bearing yet free and confident in her own being. Running silently with the pack along a deserted beach that stretches for ten thousand years, and an eternity of wolf-song passed down through countless generations.

At one point, she lay on her belly on the sand fifty yards or so from me. She stayed there and starred out toward the boiling surf. I watched and waited, and then turned my gaze to the horizon. A fishing boat was making it's way toward the mouth of the harbor, running lights still bright in the half light of dawn, dancing on the surface of the black swells.
I don't know what so interested her, but she stayed motionless for the longest time watching the boat churn its way north. Whether her keen ears could hear the distant cadence of laughter and talk of the fishermen as they made their way to port, or the call of the seagulls that dove and swirled around the stern, I could not tell. She was intent on it though, and her interest drew me into wondering what it was like in that warm cabin, maybe a first cup of morning coffee cupped in both hands as we make our way to safe port before the buffeting storm.

Time to go. We take the long walk back along the sand to where the car waits to journey us back home. C will probably be up, and Manna and I will have stories to tell. Stories of cold wet sand that still clings to us, and a sharp white light of new sun that happened to cut a crease briefly through the clouds as we walked, illuminating the sand in a bright shingle of stars. Of a long cast of bleak and lonely beach that we brought back in silent thought, and the transient running lights of the boat that carries us over seas of light and darkness heading true north, always bringing us home.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Manna in the Morning: A LITTLE WILDERNESS

Manna in the Morning: A LITTLE WILDERNESS


The canyons and arroyos that intertwine the developed portions of this city seem to me to be the brush that paints the seasonal picture of this place. It is within these creases of land where autumn extends its arms in the muted colors of the turning sycamore, crisp blue shadows dwell under the dusty green of twisted live oak, and the coastal sage waits dry and thirsty for the first taste of rain it's had for months. Late winter and spring bring the seasonal stream beds to life, the storms that roll out of the north Pacific or come crawling up the Mexican coast are the welcome relatives to the table, as they bring the gift of much needed rain. The first blush of green begins to cover the hillsides, an emerald backdrop to the scatter of  wildflowers and blushes of red round berries.

Spruce, Bancroft Creek, Los Penasquitos, San Clemente, Jamacha, Little Sycamore, Mission Trails and Oak. Names that can express the wildness or particular eccocentric aspect of a canyon's natural heredity and location.

There are a number of canyons within a short walk from our home, which I have spent countless hours through the years with our dogs. I especially like the early morning or time right before sunset in these places, as the pointed slant of orange light and shadow conveys an additional dimension to everything that thrives within these hidden pockets of solemn beauty. The trails that wind within always bring a surprise around a bend, whether it's the nonchalant coyote sitting in the path ahead, and then dissolving slowly into the undercover growth, a lone hawk on a fencepost, quiet dappled shade of an arching oak, or just the low hum of bees tagging the powder blue bush flowers smiling brightly to a hot summer sun.

Wilderness can mean a lot of things depending on where you find yourself living. To some, wilderness can be found only in the far reaches of mountains or deserts, truly removed from our urban landscape. To others, a sense of one with nature does not necessarily need a long trip away from our normal routine. Wilderness and the personal pleasure it brings may be found in snippets of time, and the most mundane of places if we seek out the layered sounds, the multi hued song of nature, and the amazing  tapestry of living things we share this earth with.

Manna and I just came back from a snippet of time in the canyon. She came back with the halo of new scents and experience, I brought back a pocketful of wilderness, the sun on my shirt, and a smile in my hand.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Manna in the Morning: PEARL OF MORNING

Manna in the Morning: PEARL OF MORNING


With the  smallest hush of light , I'm beginning to hear the song of morning chanting it's low cadence far off in the distance. The first crackling of dawn. As I have come to savor this early time, I will try not to disturb the night too much from it's rustling sleep.  A cup of coffee at the table hopefully will not jiggle its shoulder too sharply. An egg or two in a pot may not arouse it too much. I will take Manna outside for a moment, my bare feet keeping light  so not to ruffle night's feathered back.  Anything to extend this silent time, before all of the day's ebb and flow over runs me.

Manna now snoozing, head on lap. Rumors of possible invisible squirrels or rabbits to chase through the light and shadow, and the leaping joy of a frizbee in the air may be running through her half awakening state. Like a baby shark, she will later be cruising  through the house, eyes intently tuned to her next prey of a nice chewsome shoe, mislaid approachable sweater, or a table cloth that's easily pulled to send whatever is on top askew across the kitchen floor.

Reluctantly I will soon have to turn over the reigns of repose, and check out of Hotel Kanji (Japanese symbol for tranquility). But I will try to hold this quiet pearl in my hand as long as I can this morning, and maybe slip one into Manna's paw while she's still sleeping and see if she holds on for a while.

I doubt it though, she has busy things to do.

Saturday, February 9, 2013


I love a fire in the morning, like the one I just lit in the old fireplace with a little leftover kindling and a couple sheets of yesterday's New York Times. I think it was a portion of the weekend arts section, with a photo of a bright blue toy train on a track. Need to take the chill off from last nights rain. Manna seems to enjoy it as well, as I sit here stroking her head waiting for today's issue to be delivered to the front lawn by the lady in the red pickup. It gives me time to think about how the elements of this old house, at least for me, have a life of there own. How many fires have been lit in the hearth the last 87 years, and who were the people who lit them? Did they feel as I do a strange comfort when walking on the hardwood floor, listening to the creaking chorus of time inlaid in it's bones? A mother who, in the early years of the depression kissed her two children goodnight in the back bedroom and closed the door with the glass doorknob, the one with the purplish hue. Those children now well into their age if they still live, do they remember at this time of year how the 7 AM sun broke through the east living room window, the distorted and diffused light cast diagonally on the wall through the wavy glass? A son, home at last after a long and harrowing 18 months in the Navy in the south Pacific, 1944, sits quietly alone at an old wooden table in the kitchen, a cup of coffee in hand, looking out at the oak tree. He senses the importance of coming home as he rests his arm on the window sill, the same one I sometimes rest against. The man who lived here alone in 1959, his children grown and gone, would open the glass paned door to the side porch and collect the two bottles of milk delivered there every morning about this time. Now books are installed in the glass cases  on each side of the fireplace, replacing the vast collection of blown glass animals and figures that once was proudly displayed by the lady who lived here before us.

I wonder if Manna, her heightened canine senses alert to all that surrounds her, subtly inherits these ghosts of time. We certainly do, though what and who they were is actually a mystery, the above caretakers of this house coming mostly from imagination. But that in a way provokes ever more wonder and mystique to these surroundings. You could say this house is nothing special, a small bungalow set in the midst of hundreds of others, but I think that would not be present to the way lives unfold, as down through time we live so much in the pockets of those that came before. They made this house special from their presence in it, within their own pocket of time as we now do..

 The children we raised here have gown and gone too, but their running feet and laughter will somehow always sing within these ancient boards, along with the ticking feet of puppies. After we move on to other places, someone else will sit by this fire, and instill their own legacy within the fabric of this house.

The sky has lightened, last nights rain has moved on. A chill lingers outside, but not in here.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


I am being still this morning. Staunchly set under an afghan on the couch, superbly defending myself against the onslaught of day. Being still, silent, in a crease of folded dawn, the time before true light wraps the world and disturbs nights gentle song. Be still. Be still and listen. Be still and listen as the last blade edge of darkness glints with first light, and wants so much to run away and hide its cloaked and shadowed face. And yet it strains with the feeling of mourning the thought of giving up itself again, of being over run under the rolling tumble of day. But I will remain still. I will remain still and quiet to catch both the last easing sigh of night, and the first pillowed sounds of a new world beginning to bear fruit. "Catch me if you can!", I call out to the relentless sun, as I will stay as small and fine as a seed until its warmth penetrates me so far as I am compelled to split, drawing out the reluctant new growth planted in the warming earth. Be still. Be still as long as waiting shall have me. Silent. Listening. Until I hear the first soft footfalls of dawn moving up the stairs.
Be still.
Be still.
Be still.


Manna has not read this yet, so she doesn't quite get it. I'm working on her though.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

A spectacular sunrise broke open the morning at first light. A sunrise that seemed it would have been more comfortable calling in a new day across a desert landscape, as it came accompanied by a slight dry breeze from the east. It's times like this when I wish our house had a large picture window and a view to match it, so that I could sit comfortably at the table with my coffee, maybe a slice or two of bacon could be at hand, Manna happily curled at my feet, and sit back and enjoy the spectacle of nature laid out before me. Our house does not however, have such a luxury, so to see this serene event I had to walk out our front door and stand bearfoot on the lawn in my bathrobe, and watch the crimson light chase across the cirrocumulus clouds silhouetting the palm trees, telephone poles and overhead wires.

I had Manna on a leash, hoping she might enjoy this wonderful revelry of light and gift of nature that is thrown at us with such abundance. She didn't seem impressed. She was more interested in the old mustachioed fellow who walks briskly by around this time every morning with a backpack strapped on and defiant look of determination on his face. I used to think he might be in training to embark on some great personal quest, such as scaling Mount Mckinley. But I have seen him walking by for years the same way, with the same backpack, his eyes focused steely ahead. I think the quest he is on is one that involves a more inward and intimate goal. I do wonder what he carries in that pack though.

This reminds me that we all sometimes wish for the opportunity to obtain grander scales of experience. That large picture window would certainly afford a grand view to enjoy. That trip to Europe we've had simmering in the back of our minds would be nice.  For now, I will take the more intimate view of things and store them up. That sunrise will forever be coupled with the feeling of cold wet grass under my feet, and Manna's curious eyes intently watching that old fellow walking by. And there is something that lingers with a feeling of solemn stark repose in the black skeletal form of telephone poles against a searing red morning sky. It is all enough for now.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Giving Voice

One of my favorite poets; Billy Collins, writes in a poem called "Le Chien": "I remember late one night in Paris speaking at length to a dog in English about the future of American culture."  He goes on to describe the intricacies and delicacies of his conversation. In this house I can safely but somewhat embarrassingly say that our dog is not only spoken to in human terms, but also speaks back very clearly in perfect English, her words channeling out of C's mouth so that I find myself answering Manna's statements as if...well, we will leave it at that. Truth is she has no idea what all this bantering is about. Her eyes are fixed only on the box of snack treats sitting on top of the washing machine. I do wonder though, that just maybe our connections with other living things in this world may transend the limits of our understanding. I read that research has begun to describe this phenomena in many different species, and time will tell as science moves forward in a further quest to understand these connections.


"What are you looking at?"
"Those treats you just slyly tried to slip into your pocket. But I know..I'm not stupid."
"What a good dog!"
" Don't try to change the subject. Don't you see me cocking my head and staring at you? For God sakes  man, what does it take?"
"Maybe we can go to dog park later."
"That's  later, how about right now."
"Good dog."
"There you go again. If I'm so good, how about those treats?"
" I've got a surprise for you today Pup."
"I'm waiting."
" We're going to go see the Vet and get those last shots you need."
"Is this a joke?"
"You haven't ate your breakfast kibble yet sweetie."
"Yeah, well..., I'd rather slip a lip over some of that bacon your having."
"Here, look. Eat your breakfast."
"Yeah, and as soon as I do your going to shove that pill down my throat. Has anyone ever done that to you? No walk in the park, I assure you. Now, let's get back to those treats..."
"What a good dog!"
"Let's go out and play ball."
"Now your talkin'."
"First, I want you to sit."
"I am sitting."
"Good dog, here you go!"
"I play you like a fiddle, but these treats are pretty good actually. Ok, let's go. I have to work out the pain in my neck from sitting there with my head cocked trying to look cute."
" You are the best!"
"Back at you, dude."


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Morning Leftovers

A morning made of leftovers. A beautiful leftover moon still hanging in the western sky. Black saturated clouds left over from last night's rain, suspended in front of a rising sun with edges afire in silver light. Leftover stars slowly closing their eyes. Manna gnaws her leftover steak bone from last night's dinner, though for her it is perfect in it's chewy goodness. These quiet moments that seem to be leftover from our busy lives, they must be made whole to ourselves as well. These are the moments when we find ourselves balancing on that knife-edge of being, taking a full look at things we are usually too distracted from by work, family, daily decisions. Though these moments may not be the ones that will pay the bills, mend a problem, or resolve some daily issue, they are no less important as any other moment we have lived, or will live. Manna, like most of our animal companions, is in each moment fully and completely, and that is one of the things we see that draws them to us and makes us smile. We humans are drawn to it because we silently wish that for ourselves. 

The air is chilly and damp. Back into the kitchen where its warm. Manna jumping up and down wanting to play. I just feel like going back to bed and finding some leftover sleep.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


5:40 Am. Sitting on the back porch looking at the empty wooden planter tub where just yesterday C planted 6 new California Poppy plants. Manna had a better idea; pull them all out with her teeth and deposit the chewed remnants at the back door. How proud she must have been!  C was not amused."But just think," I said with tongue in cheek, "what joy she must have felt in that." This did not appease the situation.

This reminds me that we are all constantly planting things along the road of our lives in the hope of something better taking root. We plant our dreams in a soil turned with hope, under a sun we look to expectantly to keep the seed warm and full of life. We raise children within the garden of our own keeping, nurturing and watering with both tears of joy as well as tears generated by unexpected storms.
Planting the saplings of forgiveness in hope of a larger tree built on trust. Planting seeds painted with the glow of love and celebration that blow in on the wind and happen to catch upon our sleeve, as well as those that come to us dark and unaware, slipping through under the door and accumulating in some corner of the room. These we may not know of their genesis, but we will plant them anyway in the optimistic take we have on life, that all must ultimately bear good fruit.

And yet, with all that, as Manna so ably demonstrated, we can do all with such good intentions, but our own visions of tubs full of golden flowers can be interupted so easily. I think today I will surprise C and go to the nursery and buy replacements, plant them and keep Manna at bay. Then, for sure they will be the ones we were intended to enjoy. The patchwork of golden light from the kitchen window that spilled out on the deck is starting to fade now with the new sun. Best to take Manna in for breakfast.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Through the Back Door

The sun has yet to appear, but we are out in the back yard for a few minutes after I let Manna out of her crate. She runs around in the darkness, and I stand here with nothing to do except be in the moment. Shortly we will return to the kitchen and I will put on a pot of coffee as she scurries about. I'm looking at the yellow light spilling out from the back door, and thinking about how we all come to so many things in our lives "through the back door". In other words, the lives we finally live, how many of us can say we had it all planned out? Not to many I suppose.  And yet, when I think of all the decisions in my life that led me one way or another, I think how many choices there really were. More than I knew at the time for sure, but that seems to be the way life takes us; we make a decision and we go with it, and there goes the next chapter whether we like it or  not. I watch Manna at the door, she will make a decision whether to come out or not, or return to her crate and chew on her toy. In the long run it makes no difference to her. Or will it? That is the paradox of living, of being a living thing on this earth. The choices we make draw the map of our lives, for better or worse.

 Manna just decided to go back in the kitchen, through the back door. I will follow, and make the morning based on that. That was not a planned act, just one that followed the situation. I, for one, have not really been smart enough to plan out my life so it takes a particular turn. But for the most part its all been good. I'll walk in the back door, and see Manna sitting there in the yellow light. We will see countless mornings ahead doing the same thing, but each will be a little different, another chapter of days leading to who knows what. But she seems to take it in stride, so must I. Those things that come through the back door may be more valuable and immensely more interesting than anything we could have willingly brought through the front.

The Kingdom of Now


This refers to a quote from a book by the Monks of New Skete, an order that writes about and trains dogs as part of their tradition. "Dogs are subjects in the kingdom of now, fully present to the pulse of each moment". Boy, is that true. The early morning dawn hours seem to be a time to let one's self be present to this thought as a temporary respite from the day ahead's many challenges. When I look at Manna sitting there while I pour my first cup of coffee, here eyes wide with an expectancy i can't fathom this early, I ask her out loud; ""what is it puppy?" Is it food, play, or some other need I'm unaware of ? It turns out that it really doesn't matter, because whether I feed her, take her outside and throw a ball or stick, or just pick her up and hold her for a moment, she has a positive response. She's not worrying about whether or not that Client's late check finally comes today, or how much hassle is this afternoons meeting going to bring, or if I'm going to meet a certain project deadline. She's wrapped in the moment for only its own sake. She is lucky enough to enjoy that particular time for all its sacred wholeness, being of one with it and only it. And then of course, after that nano second of sweetness, she is off to the bedroom to grab a shoe or some other object that is laughingly suppose to be banned from her puppy jowls. The sun is just now coming up, but I can still see a few bright stars through the reaching limbs of the tree as I stand on the back porch, Manna rooting around in the large jade plant tearing off large chunks, and I worry a little what this yard is going to look like a few months from now. But, there I go again thinking about tomorrow. Maybe for the moment I'll just stand here and feel the warmth of my coffee mug in my hand in the cold morning air, the frigid concrete on my shoeless feet, listen to the caw of that large black crow that comes every morning and sits on the roof of the back garage, and join Manna for a little time in the Kingdom of Now.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Manna in the Morning

After many months of research and discussion with breeders of Flat Coat Retrievers, my wife Christie and I brought home a new addition to our home; a 16 pound 11 week old bundle of high energy wrapped up in coal-black fur. We have not had a dog in our home for over a year after our last golden retriever passed away, and I was a little leery about bringing a puppy into the household. We had raised a puppy before and new what we were getting into, but at the same time, like many things, you tend to forget about the negatives of such a venture. That said, on a trip to Oregon to see family, we picked Manna up and flew with her under our seat in a carrier to her new home in San Diego, California. We live in a small 1926 bungalow near downtown and Balboa Park. It has a fairly good size back yard useful for dog play, and a wonderful dog park a few blocks away. Our area of South Park is a wonderful walkable neighborhood with a small quaint commercial area of restaurants and specialty shops, surrounded by mostly early century craftsman and bungalow style homes. Since bringing Manna home, we have created certain routines (as routine as you can get with a new puppy), and experiencing the many joys and frustrations of puppyhood. One of the sort of routines we have entered into is my early rising with her (around 4:30-5:00 AM) as this seems to be her limit of sleeping. We have been crate training her from the start, still experiencing a few frustrating nights, but over all she seems to be settling in just fine. This Blog is just my thoughts, experience, and wonderment of the morning hours she and I share.