Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The time of year has come when my heart crawls into my throat and stays there until summer. Each day meets me like a lover in whose presence I revel. I am undone.

Love took me be surprise this weekend. It was a cliché story. I had loaded my white '90 Dodge Shadow with dirty laundry and was on my way to the Laundromat. Outside, the sun shone bright in a cobalt blue sky, white clouds, crisp air; beautiful. The thought of sitting enclosed by cement walls, surrounded by swishing washers and steaming dryers was somehow less than enticing. The Shadow, almost of its own accord, leaned to the left toward a walking trail near town. I was looking for something, I didn’t know what. She found me. Unfolding her fawn like legs, a waifish black and tan pup with pointy ears and startling, steady blue eyes staggered from the brambles alongside the trails entrance. She was unsteady on her feet but followed me (not without encouragement) nonetheless.

“I haven’t any food,” I confessed, turning my empty hands upward. She stared and continued to amble alongside me.

“If you finish this walk with me I’ll take you home,” I told her.

Twice she got sick, going into the woods and digging a little hole for privacy and cleanliness. After the second time she seemed too weary to continue.

“Ah man, forget it,” I scooped her up, turned around, and took her home. Driving home I knew I was falling.

My fortune today said, “When in doubt, let your instincts guide you.” It was the last from a box of fortune cookies I had bought when preparing a Chinese Chicken dinner for a family at church. ( I try to encourage racial diversity by being stereotypical, the results are ambiguous at best.) Some of the fortunes included such priceless nuggets as, “You have strong spiritual powers. You should choose to develop them.” “You are inclined to enjoy life.” and “Your love will never want to leave you.” What is most comical about these random phrases is the way in which I allow them to effect me. I treat them as mini-horoscopes somehow attached to my current state of mind or circumstances. For instance, I was fostering a once forgotten crush when I cracked open the latter and for a moment had a glimmer of hope that he’d not really given up on me as he said. Today’s gave me a feeling of affirmation regarding my puppy, though, only yesterday I’d lamented, “I only make big decisions on impulse and I only decide to adopt broken things (i.e. the Shadow and Sheila).” Depending on the way I choose to think of it, both my car and my puppy can be seen as a blessing or a curse. Both found me. Both have fulfilled a need—the Shadow gets me to and from work every day, whatever its problems; Sheila, though an “unnecessary expense,” brings me joy and an opportunity to nurture.

All my careful calculations about how long it would be before I could responsibly own a dog, how old it should be, what requirements I would demand, flew out the Shadow’s manual crank window before the puppy and I even got home. She was very sick with the disease of the least, lost and lonely of the canine realm; Parvo. The vets have a great deal of hope and so have I. Despite a day and mass text of calling her “Grace,” I wrote her name “Sheila” on the intake form at the Animal Hospital. Sheila is doing so well. I’ve allowed myself to start dreaming of our future together, blazing trails and being discovered.

Since the new addition to our Commerce Drive Community my thirty minute writing attempt begins later than usual. What was becoming my schedule, all of my industrious plans for exercising my body and mind, are severely diminished in the black and tan face of Sheila. Even now I cannot just sit and set to work. In mid-sentence I jump up to catch her peeing right beside the back door, or sneaking up the forbidden stairs. She is sitting on my lap now, watching in wonder as my fingers run across the laptop keyboard. Another inhibition, as far as writing goes, is that we try to keep her downstairs. Not wanting to leave her alone, I keep myself downstairs too. I set up my computer in the kitchen on a circular end table--our apartments only piece of furniture--where I am able to keep an eye on and interact with her. This has it’s pros and cons. The majority of the pros and cons can be summed up in a single sentence, “I spend more time with my roommates.” In other words, “getting things done,” downstairs, amounts to doing very little.

Amblyn and I both woke this morning to Sheila’s petulant cries. I feel that I can empathize better now with the parents of cranky children with chronic illness. As a parent, you allow them to be whiny and demand, in fact, you invariably foster these characteristics by responding to their cries with eagerness and elation. Any sign of life, of the will to live, is a cause for celebration that the caretaker cannot conceal. I didn’t plan on having a puppy, certainly not a sickly sassy one. But she found me and I found a way. This place is becoming unavoidably home.

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