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.