Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Company We Keep

If we are the company we keep, then I am often old, arthritic and make weird sounds when I walk around the house. I also flap my lips in my sleep, have fur between my toes, and sniff strange things in the grass. (My children could tell you which of these apply - but I have them bribed.)

My ancient Goofy Pooch is my most frequent companion. She snoozes behind me while I work at my desk. If I move to another room, she heaves herself up, mumbling, and follows me. Once there, she again flops down to nap. Days when I clean house and go from room to room are a marathon for the poor dear, and she eventually opts for going outside to lie under the crepe myrtle bush. She can spend hours wallowing in the dust and leaves, intermittently sleeping and enjoying her friends, i.e. the local squirrels, birds and other wildlife who seem to know that she would never do them any harm (a moot point at her age, but true nonetheless.) Every so often, she'll stir long enough to get a drink or check out the contents of her food dish.

She is nearly 16. This is what she does.

That is, until the leash comes off the hook. At the first hint that a walk might be in order, my geriatric canine channels her inner puppy. Her mumbling becomes an excited whine punctuated by an occasional rusty bark. She dances from side to side. Her head bobs up and down. More energy is expended getting ready for a walk than during the walk itself.

We have two routes, mapped out for their relatively flat terrain and sidewalk ramps. Goofy Pooch can no longer navigate curbs. Both routes take us beside a neighborhood pond. The other day, as I walked in slow motion beside my dog, I noticed a slight movement on the shore of the pond. A large bird (a heron perhaps?) stood alert in the shallow water a little ahead of us. If GP had seen him, she would have instantly wanted to add him to her collection of pets. She was distracted, however, by children playing on the other side of the street. The Ancient One dearly loves children, especially from a safe distance.

I, on the other hand, watched the bird. He seemed like a courtly old gentleman. As I took a step, he turned and slowly began to move ahead of us, down the side of the pond, keeping perfect pace with my dog and me. I took out my cell phone camera and got one shot (not that he's very visible in it - unlike some of my friends, I'm not a very good photographer.) He hesitated. But when I took another step forward, so did he. So did Goofy Pooch, still intent on the children. We must have been an odd sight, me facing the bird, my dog facing the people, slowly making our way up the sidewalk. Just as we got to the end of the pond, there was a burst of laughter from across the street. I turned my head - just a split second glance - but when I looked back, my stately companion had disappeared.

As we meandered back to the house, it occurred to me that I am blessed by the company I keep. Even when that company is a geriatric canine whose snores could rattle windows, or we share an unexpected walk with a dignified old bird.

Friday, April 2, 2010

The End of Lent

I have to be honest: giving up bread as my Lenten sacrifice didn't turn out quite like I expected it to.

At first, the sacrifice was indeed sacrificial. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are pretty lame (not to mention messy) without bread. No french toast, no hot cornbread, no bread pudding. I had to change my shopping routines. And occasionally the smell of fresh bread at a restaurant made me salivate like a Pavlovian dog.

But who knew that just beyond those well-worn patterns lay a whole new comfort zone waiting to be explored?

It started out in little things. Trying new dishes that didn't need bread. Getting a little more creative in the kitchen. (This, from the woman who put a home-baked cake in front of her children once only to hear them exclaim, "You mean you don't HAVE to buy them?")

Then it became deeper, as I reflected on how the smallest of changes can offer new possibilities. Or realized that I am more a creature of habit than I would ever have wished to admit.

And finally, during this past Easter week as I pondered events from long ago, I realized that the absence of bread had become as significant to me as its presence.

Lent did not end for me this year at sunrise on Easter morning. It came to a close during the Eucharist later that day with the pastor's words, "The bread of life - take and eat..." And I did and the circle was closed.

But in the continued interest of honesty, I should also admit that Monday morning found me at the store, feverishly stocking up on sourdough rolls...

Thursday, April 1, 2010


In honor of National Poetry Month, I thought I'd recycle an old one of mine to which I can still relate:

Looking through the glass,
I find you backlit by the setting sun:
the far-off breeze
that gently
lifts the skirts
of willow trees
rustles pages of your
half-read book,
touches on your picnic
packed for one.

The early evening calls of
nesting birds -
the quiet murmur
from a pond;
the picture-polished
tears an ache inside
and leaves no room for words.

“Mom, did you sew -?”
“Where’s my shoe?”
“Honey, I invited- ”
“Didn’t you pick up-?”
“Can you finish-?”
“Why didn’t you-?”
“I’m sorry”
“I need you”
“Hold me”
“Hear me”
“I love you”

You look at me and wipe a tear:
I look at you and in my
chaos, sigh.
But who is in the glass-suspended wish?
and is the Dreamer you -
or is it I?

C. Shaw copyright 2001