Loving Wide Open at The End of an Era

Her Days Are Numbered. That's Why We Make Them COUNT.

Day 282 – Still Here

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We’re still here.

Izzy’s still here.

I’m still here.

I don’t know how it’s happened, but I’m grateful. In October, doctors told us she’d already passed her expiration date, and though she could surprise us, it wasn’t likely. We prepared to fully live every day we had left, and started this blog to count her days, and to make sure her days count. And then suddenly and out of nowhere, our family was struck with another tragedy. My sister Robin was infected with a rare bacteria after a minor family dog bite and life was thrown into chaos. My every waking moment was spent with thoughts of Robin: being there for her kids, praying, wishing and ultimately, fundraising.

I was prepared that at any moment Izzy could pass and I’d have to deal with loss on top of loss, pain on top of agony. And yet she didn’t. She stayed by my side on the red couch day after day, sometimes as many as 20 hours a day as I reached out to the world in hopes of helping my sister. As the months passed, my own life went from horrible to unimaginable, in a turn of events I have told no one outside of my family. I can’t go into details, but suffice it to say there have been moments in 2013 that nearly cost me my own life, and certainly my sanity and vitality.

Seven months later here we are. It feels as if the worst has passed. I am often dazed, looking at my life from the outside, wondering whose hands these are on the keyboard, who this woman is on the couch, staring into the cyber world half dazed, somewhat confused. They say trauma can do that to you, leave you in realms of shock that help the experience become softer, more easy to manage.

And here in the often-fuzzy realms of aftershock, I gaze down and the one thing I recognize completely is the little wispy-eared head, the freckled face, the tiny rib cage moving in and out with soft wet sounds of labored breath.

She stayed here for me.

I can’t help that thought. It comes without warning, throughout the day.

When I thought it was over, when I thought the end had begun, Izzy surprised me once again, staying by my side through my own endings, through my losses and devastations. She remains. Proving, once again, life is full of surprises. Blessings. Mercies. Grace.

And this makes me shed soft tears of compassion, like feathers falling gently from heaven’s rafters. When I learned of Izzy’s condition, I set aside my plans and ambitions, and determined that I’d live right next to Izzy for the rest of her life. I resolved that my life would center around the life left inside her heart, the air left inside her lungs.

I stayed here for her.

And now what I have done for her, she’s done for me. Every day, once tragedy struck, she spent right next to me, going nowhere, yet traveling the roads of tenderness, the pathways of companionship.

I fear in my tumult and crisis that somehow I failed her. That I wasn’t really present for her. And yet, we’ve shared the same couch. Breathed the same molecules. And maybe sometimes that’s all you need. That sense of not-aloneness. That quiet gift of presence, and its aura of purpose.

She’s still here. As I write this, her uneven breath makes little ragged snoring sounds beside me. She’s curled on the red couch so that I can feel her rib cage–in, out, in out, against my thigh and the short, sweet coolness of her breath on my knee. I’m coming through one of the darkest, most treacherous roads of my life, and I’m still here. My own breath–in, out, in, out–is affirmation that life goes on. Im not sure what’s next. A little broken. Somewhat bruised. Sometimes reaching for for the light through a chest of jagged breaths. But still, we reach.

And life reaches back.

We’re still here.

Day 276

Izzy has a new haircut. Where else to celebrate that than at the coffee shop? With an Iced Italian Cream Soda! Izzy loves the whipped cream.

Look mom, I have a neck! Who knew?
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Day 272 – Scenes from a Coffee Shop

Izzy and I are no strangers to coffee shops. Most mornings we go over to see Kit and Carol at Coffee Cats in downtown Taos. For three years we’ve been sitting at the same blue table, on the same white bench, gazing out the same glass windows over the same trees, sometimes green and pliant, sometimes yellow and quivering, sometimes bare and achingly still. Those trees, we know them from root to branch as they converse with us on the wind through the open window. Izzy lifts her head to sniff out tidings carried on the breeze: of sap and soil, petals falling, bird nest weaving, squirrel games of hide and seek, ant parades.

I order a latte for me and a little dish of water for her. I sit. I write. Or I try to. As Izzy listens to the leaves and reads the wind’s tree mail, she moves from dog bed to table to bench, to get closer to the window. She leans into my lap for a lick of whipped cream. She kisses my face. She lays across my journal. She sits on my laptop. When I relocate her back to her own chair, she’ll take a nap, or, if she’s not sleepy, fake me out with semi-asleep poses designed for maximum cute-overload attack, hoping to seduce me away from my writing.

Pretty much every morning, it works. I put the pen down. I pick the chihuahua up. Until recently…I’ve started picking up the camera so you can see what I see.

This is a first in a series entitled Scenes From a Coffee Shop

Scenes from a Coffee Shop Volume 1
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Day 270

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Some laptops never go out of style.

Day 100

angizpozesnowdoggiesnowkissdaddy

Day 90

We love our bone so much we fall asleep in mid-snuggle.

Gnaw. Chew. Yawn. Snuggle.

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Day 88

Helping Daddy with the holiday cookies.

cookies

Day 86

A blanket

wraps you from the cold

Hands and paws

we two enfold

Wrapped inside

this winter song

Wrapped in my heart

all life long

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Day 84

Presents

I.
presents
not a single one under the tree
nothing shopped for, trussed up, unwrapped.
it is a lean christmas, and as the days go by
we think, “soon. perhaps soon.”
but the days go by and the bank account
has other needs
mom flies into town from Austin
and we decorate the tree
snip pine boughs from the spruce in our yard
and fill the house with the scent of solstice
and the easy silly laughter that comes only from
years spent together under a common roof.
on christmas eve we drive up Taos Mountain
to the authentic bavarian lodge, brought over
piece by piece from Germany
at 10,000 feet
we indulge
sausage and goulash soup
made by the hands of someone
who remembers the Old Recipes
beer stein froth makes mustaches of our lips
pulling the corners of our mouths
skyward with giggles and goofiness
and i’m thinking WOW.
this indulging the moment
this loving what is
this celebrating of life
this is fun. this is free.
this is why we’re here.
we sing carols all the way
down the mountain
izzy hangs out the window
snoot full of icy wind
she doesn’t care
she was born for this
she loves the ride
no matter what.
again i think wow.
this is why we’re here,
to enjoy the ride
to be in The Presence.

II.
christmas eve
the weather channel predicts
a sixty percent chance of snowfall
gazing into the teal-dark night
we’re giddy at the prospect
yet guarding our hope with gargoyle talons
for the snow queen has been stingy
in taos
for two years.
snow on christmas?
almost too good to be true
but we are believers in and proponents of
The Too Good and True
and so we chant incantations
and light candles
singing to the Old Man in the Moon
and his Mistress of Clouds
“Im Dreaming of a White Christmas”
as we sit around the green table
cutting crunchy orange, red, blue and yellow
construction paper rings
for a paper chain of gratitude
suddenly we’re all back in kindergarten
playing with glue and pens and paper
simple wonders. simply wonderful.
on each link in the chain,
a phrase, a name, a prayer
all blessings that have made
this rich life richer
a green ring bears the name
of a little grey mouse
a red ring carries a name
from Neverland
“grama” on the purple
“soulmate” on the orange
“life” on the yellow
others bear the words of sufi poets
prophets and mystics from
another age
they’re strung one by one
a delicate forgery
of steel-clad hope and thanks
to those who make of our life
a present
round and round the tree
we drape them like a necklace
an offering
to the angels of appreciation

III.
I wake at 6am to discover
a dream fulfilled
the wish-keeper  has
come in the night
and filled our stockings with
white christmas
the sage is covered in
a rich blanket of icing
the eyes of the fir trees
peer out at me
as they hide inside
white coats fluffed up
around their shoulders
the horizon is solstice elixir
nature magic wielding white spells
suddenly I am seven years old
running through the house
toward my presents
trailing a wake of dreams-come-true
with my brightly checkered socks
“snow! snow! snow!”
stepping outside in nightgowns
and pajama feet
we feast our hungry eyes on winter’s cape
and howl with joy
at the Old Man in the Moon
and his Mistress of Clouds
in thanks for The Present.

IV.
afternoon finds us at the Taos Pueblo
oldest native endwelling in America
a thousand years of footsteps accompany ours
as we stand in snow and mud and wind
to witness ancient sacred ceremony:
the Dance of the Deer
and i am reminded of the first moments of
Julie Taymor’s The Lion King
in the darkened theater
as musical notes rise with the savanna sun
dozens of huge puppet creatures
half man, half animal
sway and prance down Broadway aisles
to take their place on stage
i sit in the audience, over and over,
to laugh and cry at the same time,
so overcome
with raw power,
with a presence
unnamable and shimmering with power.
and today?
i think Julie was a fan of the Deer Dance
and her million-dollar spectacle
bows down before muddied authenticity
and fades into obscurity.
The Procession approaches:
a crowd of deer heads,
antlered all
stalk toward us silently
on cloven feet
two human legs
two deer legs
in the hands
of Native men
transform every creature
into something Other
pelts hang down dark backs
slick with sweat
it is difficult to discern
where human ends
and animal begins
Buffalo is there
and Mountain Lion too
Donkey and Cow and Fox
move in royal unison to the sound
of Elders chanting
and the pounding of hand
on drum, thousands of years old.
we’re cold, our fingers and toes are going numb
but we’re melting in The Presence.
and in the circle, in front of the church
of the First Mother
the animals dance
the Koshare with their hawk feathers
whoop and call and race and dive
and we, the observers,
we are hushed to a hum
cards and carols and wrapping paper
abandoned
toys and traffic and turkeys
forgotten
we are a hymn
silently swaying in trance
a rhythm of grace and wonder.
and up above,
surrounding us all,
lining the rooftops
of mud-bricked adobes
older than memory
are Grandmothers and Grandchildren
Sisters and Aunties and Great Grandfathers
side by side they stand over our heads
each wrapped in a hand-woven blanket
serapes of cornsilk yellow
sunset orange
wide sky blue
pine bough green
and
the tears
clear and bright
as a new year
stream again.
for these blanketed beauties?
they look like christmas presents
crowded together under the Earth Tree
each tied with a dark ribbon
of silky black hair
each offering their wordless soul
to the dance of hooves and tusk and antler
surrendering their hope
and silent songs
to prosperity, to growth, to Spirit
human presents offering
their most sacred gift
of Presence

V.
Christmas night is a bowl of silver
the moon is almost full
and dazzling each snowflake
into liquid diamond radiance
we stand in the kitchen
warm golden fire in the kiva
we’re making cookies from a recipe
that came from mother’s mother’s oven
no metal or plastic shapes for us
we’re kicking’ it old school
hearts and stars and circles
(and one Silas-creation fashioned after the
shape of my bum)
lovely awkward shapes
made from hands
our hands
full of ordinary magic
hands used to wipe a stray hair
from a loved ones brow
hands used to build a fire
to keep one another warm
hands that shape paper chains
into a christmas tree necklace of hope
hands that hold each other
for warmth, for kindship
for presence,
for the solid comforting
reminder
that we are here
and we are together.

VI.
cookies cooling on their tins
bellies full of yuletide dinner
we gather around the tree
sinking deep into the red couch
and deeper into an enchanted
silver-gold light
the conversation quiets
and sweetness settles like a sigh
upon the shoulders of night.
no one speaks,
but everyone hears:
there is a heartbeat
inside each of us
and tonight
it is singing a lullaby
in five part harmony
the words are hard to catch
but the tune is merry
and filled with moments
that will soon become memories:
snow filled whiskers
and goulash soup
howls at the moon and
white-shawled sage
foamy-moustached laughter
and cookie bottoms
crunchy construction paper prayers
and deer-clad raven haired wonder
there are ghosts
from christmas’s past
lined up like sentinels
in a paper chain
the space under the tree
is empty of presents.
not a single one fills the void
yet we gaze at the tree
hearts filled to bursting
a lullaby carrying us
onward
into the night
windows down
enjoying the ride
arms and lives
overflowing
with Presence.

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Day 80

palace

Queen of our Castle.