wide open spaces

Friday, February 29, 2008

sweetness - Miss Winnie Dixon

When I woke up in the middle of the night last night, I did do mild battle with my nocturnal demon thoughts. But they did seemed weaker, it was easier to push them away because I had been pondering their existence all morning while painting my final painting in a series of pre school cuteness.

J. left an interesting comment, a question, yesterday later in the day on this blog, Oprah's guest was Marianne Williamson, and I was also thinking of the significance of it being 15 years ago today or yesterday that I packed up my life and moved to this tiny village from downtown Toronto. I was coming to a good job, I bought this house while still in Toronto and I didn't know a soul when I arrived. I didn't find it scary at all, it was exciting, a new chapter full of possibilities.

I realized that my moments of insomnia don't bother me so much because I'm tired during the day, nor do I really mind being awake in the middle of the night. When you're self-employed and working from home, a nap is always a possibility if required. The issue at hand is that when I am lying awake in the middle of the night, snug in my nest ... I'm afraid. I feel fearful. And that is ultimately a choice that I am making.

Last night as I pushed those bad thoughts away I thought instead to make a list of 5 things that at that moment I felt grateful for.

  1. Winnie Dixon snoring soundly in her bed underneath my bed
  2. Val from customer No. Uno who is my biggest creative fan and continues to give me an endless list of freelance assignments
  3. The comfort, warmth and security of my flannel & down nest
  4. My healthy self & body
  5. My incredible 12 year relationship & adventure, pure love, with my big red lug- Jake
Being grateful, most recently inspired by Pherenike, who posts a sentence of gratitude at the end each post on her blog Sunshine Dew.

I can't really type as fast as my thoughts are coming this morning. I woke up an hour later than usual ... such a sound and grateful sleep I had. Smile. I feel like the Universe is blowing little spit balls at me. Little chewed up bits of paper, blown through the empty shell of a Bic pen. And I am just beginning to feel them. The recent death and subsequent absence of my hero dog, my best pal, my everything dog - Jake initially felt like a giant void, a hole so deep and dark that it would never fill up again. Now it's beginning to feel more like a wide open space. Like the empty rolling pastures and the endless sandbars that we enjoy each morning.

sleep disorder

Thursday, February 28, 2008

yesterday's early morning walk in snowness

scenario #1
  • 5 am-8pm - coffee (ahh!), blog, bath, walk, busy work day designing cute things, post-office, afternoon walk, dishes, small chores, etc.
  • 8pm-9pm - watch Jon Stewart & Stephen Colbert, laughs and smiles with clementines
  • 9pm - retreat to the Nest with books, magazines and CBC radio Ideas
  • 9:15 pm cats (all but Gus) begin the bedtime swarm and Winnie's gone to her bed under my bed (I have a very high old antique bed).
  • 9:30 - read 2-3 pages of current you can fix your life book and feel oh so cozy and snug and then suddenly, very sleepy - so lights off
  • Midnight - 2am - always in that 2 hour time slot (Bing!) eyes wide open and big, bad, ugly monster thoughts are circling the bed (worry, fret and anxiety are now joined by grief and sadness, where did my big red dog go ?) I turn the light on beside my bed and they retreat a bit, scurrying to the darker corners of my room (big sigh), I feel panicked many nights, I get up and go to the washroom, I read, I listen to CBC radio's overnight programming. Radio Checkoslvakia or radio Australia. I turn my light off again and listen to voices chatter away. A radio documentary about Benazere Bhutto or a radio play about cats living in a chateau, anything, other words and sentences to replace the ones that are picking away in my head.
  • 2-3 am - The witching hour seems to be over, kinder, gentler thoughts appear. Hopeful and optimistic arrive tagging along with you can do this (whatever this may happen to be) and sleep, thankfully, comes too.
  • 3-5am Lovely sound sleep often accompanied by movie dreams, rich and interesting with lovely settings, and beautiful cinematography
  • 5 am - hear the last gurgle and sputter of my coffeemaker and smell that wonderful aroma of morning. Housecoat on, coffee poured, yawn.
scenario #2
  • 5 am-8pm - coffee (ahh!), blog, bath, walk, busy work day designing cute things, post-office, afternoon walk, dishes, small chores, etc.
  • 8pm-9pm - watch Jon Stewart & Stephen Colbert, laughs and smiles with clementines
  • 9:00pm - retreat to the nest with books, magazines and CBC radio Ideas
  • 9:15 pm cats (all but Gus) begin the bedtime swarm and Winnie's gone to her bed under my bed (I have a very high old antique bed).
  • 9:29pm - place tiny magic pill under my tongue to dissolve and wash the taste away with a swig of water.
  • 9:30pm - read 2-3 pages of current you can fix your life book and feel oh so cozy and snug and then suddenly, very sleepy - so lights off
  • 9:31-4:59 am - a kind of coma sleep, sound, deep and condensed - it feels at 5am like I've only been sleeping for an hour. I feel slightly heavy. I don't like this sleep either and I don't like taking pills.
  • 5 am - hear the last gurgle and sputter of my coffeemaker and smell that wonderful aroma of morning. Housecoat on, coffee poured, yawn.

afternoon walk through pastures toward the sea, mild + wind = melting


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Jake and endless sandbars at daybreak one morning this past summer

I love the contrast in this photo and if you look closely, and tilt your monitor just so, you will see Jake strolling along the middle sandbar.

I am tired this morning, I feel exhausted, that little voice in my head has been chattering away to me non stop for what seems like forever - days and weeks. My mind has been running marathons, running up and down hills at full tilt, stopping only to do the dishes, scoop kitty litter or fix the open basement window. I know that I'm the one who's supposed to be in control, to have the option to not think everything to death. I always seem to forget that I have that choice. Sigh. For the next couple of days (at least) I think I'm going to try and pretend that nothing is of an urgent nature in my life. Because nothing in my life is really that urgent ... I want and need to slow the pace down. I do desperately need to breath, deeply and just chill out.

Just read that first paragraph - I think I'm going to try - such commitment and enthusiasm.

One of the paintings that I just completed was of a little girls bedroom. On the wall of this bedroom were three paintings, a landscape, the word "dream" and this portrait of my sweet Noodle dog (smile). And speaking of paintings got another call from Val at customer No. Uno at 7:30 last night. Just in case I was thinking that I might begin tackling the de cluttering project again or maybe do a little housecleaning today - more design work. More paintings (smile) and this time with a sensible deadline (even bigger smile). So I actually can fit in a little de cluttering, a little housework, and oh yeah and I have to paint my office closet, trim & floors. Can you see why I might want to move. I want a bed sit in a historic building, or a teeny tiny house with a little back garden in a small city. So that my days are not continually filled with shoulds and instead can be filled up with wants.
  • my coffee this morning is delicious.
  • everything is covered with a perfect blanket of fresh snow.
  • I'm finding the upcoming US election and specifically the Democratic race absolutely fascinating, riveting.
  • I still heart Stephen Colbert ! and he's SO handsome. Really smart is the new handsome.
  • Rick Mercer, laughter is the best medicine
  • and hey Universe, this is where we'd like to move to.
nothing too urgent in those thoughts ... smile.

thinking while painting cuteness

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Gussie on his favourite window sill

A short post this morning ... I have another busy day today drawing & painting cuteness for customer No. Uno. She called last night at 8pm as she was driving home with one more painting idea and could I have it to her by noon the next day. Of course. Yes ! I never ever say No to work, I never have, and likely never will. So this morning a hot bubble bath and Miss Dixon and I will stroll the village as the sun comes up. I tidied up my desk last night, than goodness. That's such a great habit to get into, especially when you're busy. As much as you'd like to just leave it, the mess, the paintbrushes scattered everywhere the papers strewn about. It's so lovely to sit down at a tidy clean surface and begin my day of churning out cute.

Some things I'm thinking about.
  • moving
  • HSP the highly sensitive person (makes so much sense)
  • decluttering, getting rid of my shit ... as if I am moving
  • what do I want ?
  • my sweet Noodle dog, endlessly
  • true friendship
  • my sister, who really doesn't get me, but seems to loves me anyway
  • spring

a new life

Monday, February 25, 2008

Winnie Dixon from her tourism Nova Scotia campaign winter 07

Painted cute cars and trains and trucks with gouache until 7pm last night. Managed to complete 3 paintings and had a quick email from customer No. Uno (which I opened with bated breath) she's happy with them and they can make subtle adjustments in Photoshop at their end. Phew!! I'm not that pleased with the finished paintings because I know I could do so much better if I didn't have to think and paint and plan and design all at the same time ... but such is the life of a your wish is always my command freelance designer. And please do not interpret these words as whining or complaining because I do need and want the work. The good side of tight deadlines is you're forced to make a lot of money in a very brief time - and that's never bad. I just was feeling very fragile Saturday. The weekends are more difficult. I guess I still expect something different from a weekend, from a Friday night. And my days and nights all just kind of blur together into one very similar pattern.

So 4 paintings down, I did do one on Friday. 4 more to go and I'm saving my two favourite for last. Another trick of my freelance life. Always do the most difficult and unappealing first and save the best for last. This helps pull you along through a big project.

After really crashing and burning emotionally Saturday and early Sunday. Of just feeling so tired, so tired of missing Jake and being sad. Feeling empty and lonely and that it all, everything, seemed so futile. And wishing I could wave a white flag and give up. All the while madly painting cuteness in gouache on watercolour paper and thinking and pondering, me and my life, I realized that I don't really want my old life back ... I would love to have Jake back there's no question there, but what I really want, what I need, what would be SO good for me ... is a brand new life.

That's what I need to create ... as daunting a task as that might be. A new life.


Sunday, February 24, 2008

clementines and milk chocolate bunny parts

The food of choice when strapped into my desk working on a very tight deadline. I had a terribly day yesterday. Terrible crazy panicky sadness just snuck up on me, out of the blue when I thought I had been feeling pretty OK. A giant front of bleakness swept in and try as I might I couldn't seem to outrun it. A combination of sad and lonely and of feeling generally overwhelmed by everything, by my life. My messy, cluttery house, money worries, my gigantic yard, my scary basement, and the totally unreasonable amount of work client No.Uno had asked me to do in a blinding flash length if time. A super tight deadline to complete 8 gouache paintings that will be made into 5x7 children's photo frames. So much work in so few days that I’m not able to really stop and ponder what I’m doing, to think about my art and craft. I have to rush and rushing is never good.

I don't have the time to stop and look at my work and think Hmmm should the cute racing cars be all cool shades of blue and purples or should they be primary colours. There's no time to work a design out in my head, or God forbid on paper before I rush to the FINAL. I don’t like working this fast. And I’m a pretty efficient designer/artist (what ever you want to call me). But when you don’t have time to think about what your doing ... well that just sucks and I fret about not doing a good job ... I hate not being happy with the results of my endeavours. I love feeling proud and satisfied with the job I've done. I have 2 more days of this breakneck speed design/draw/paint schedule. Clementines and solid milk chocolate bunny ears have kept me fortified.

The other thing that really hit me yesterday is that I’m lonely. I'm very lonely. I feel all alone. I've never really been lonely before. It’s a new and strange feeling for me. Even though I've been checking off the single box for years now and most people would say "Oh yeah she lives alone, by herself" True, I suppose technically ... by myself in a home filled with canine love and purpose and care. It feels like my life suddenly has become someone else's, a life I don't recognize and a life I don't want. I meant it when I said Jake was my comfort and security, my everything, he was my reason for never ever feeling lonely. He gave my life so much purpose. With his stick fetching training and trials all spring, summer and early fall. Big long walks twice a day in winter because he needed lots of exercise. Nursing all his itchy parts with lotions and potions (he had ongoing chronic skin issues), blow drying his fur after each trip to the beach, having him there always to help me cook, clean or do any chore around this house. His lovely faded red snout in the midst of everything Hey what's happening ? Hey what's going on ? Is that for me? He was a very high maintenance dog, a huge multi layered personality, mostly all silly & goof but also a sweet chunk of tender and gentle and he kept me busy, kept my days full and in return he gave me nothing but constant super love and only the best companionship. I felt strong with him ... for 12 years.

Winnie, sweet Winn loves me too, but she's just a quiet well behaved little dog that demands nothing from me. I'm SO glad that she's here. I don't know, especially now, what I would do without her and I do love her lots. But sadly, she only fills part of the gaping hole that's left around here. At this point I know that another dog is not the answer because I only want Jake. I don't want this new life, I don't know how to live this new life. I want my old life back. I'm lost.

winnie & me

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Winnie Dixon

Winnie's been wearing Jake's collar and tag along with her own tag and pewter guardian angel. I picked his other collar up this morning on my way to the coffee maker and put it up to my face, to my nose, hoping that it would still smell like him ... if it does it's very faint. Woke up around 3:30 am with that (bing !) eyes wide open, bad thoughts banging on the door loudly. Sweet Oliver, the softest cat ever, came up on the bed and distracted me for a bit. I finally gave in ... if I'm awake I might as well get up and the clock said 4:30, practically my normal time anyway.

Winnie and I have been walking early in the morning. Under cover of darkness. The two of us walk down along the harbour's edge and along the row of boarded up cottages that looks out onto open water (or open ice at the moment) and back around again. It takes about 40 minutes. Then at lunch time we pile into the car and stop at the post-office on our way to our beach. Cold and sunny most days this week, she and I walk through the pastures and along the edge of the icy shoreline and back to the car.

I was thinking yesterday, as Winn and I trudged along the cliff edge at the back shore, that everywhere I go - I've been before with Jake. And that thought is mostly comforting because it reminds me of what a great rich life he and I had together (smile) and also I have always believed that a bit of you is and remains wherever you have been in this world. I can't help but feel heartbroken at the thoughts of this first spring and summer and walking along our beach without him. I just have to continue to remind myself that he is there. That he is, always, everywhere that I am.

wide open spaces, the big back shore pasture

Jake and Winnie November

the back back shore from the top of the bayberry & wild rose pasture

for Noodle

Friday, February 22, 2008

my sweet Jake ... from not that long ago

Maybe this is kinda hokey. But hey, love's kind of a hokey thing. I tried to find a link so that you could listen to this song. Youtube didn't have the original artists, only a homemade video with this Seals & Croft song as the soundtrack (a bit of a choppy recording but the full song none the less). If you live in the US listen here

A great song for my hero dog. I love you Jake.

Life, so they say, is but a game and we let it slip away.
Love, like the Autumn sun, should be dyin' but it's only just begun.
Like the twilight in the road up ahead, they don't see just where we're goin'.
And all the secrets in the Universe, whisper in our ears
And all the years will come and go, take us up, always up.
We may never pass this way again.

Dreams, so they say, are for the fools and they let 'em drift away.
Peace, like the silent dove, should be flyin' but it's only just begun.
Like Columbus in the olden days, we must gather all our courage.
Sail our ships out on the open sea. Cast away our fears
And all the years will come and go, and take us up, always up.
We may never pass this way again.

So, I wanna laugh while the laughin' is easy.
I wanna cry if it makes it worthwhile.

We may never pass this way again, that's why I want it with you.
'Cause, you make me feel like I'm more than a friend.
Like I'm the journey and you're the journey's end.
We may never pass this way again, that's why I want it with you, baby.

We may never pass this way again. We may never pass this way again.

Seals & Crofts - album Diamond Girl (1973)

I'm going back to bed with my coffee this morning, something I haven't done in ages. Had a busy, busy day yesterday. My 2 paintings assignment turned to 8 paintings (fantastic) with a super tight deadline - so I'll be drawing and painting all weekend, such is the life of a freelance designer. Fine by me. It's great to be very busy but for right now ... it's coffee in bed.

more red

Thursday, February 21, 2008

red gerbera daisies

Oh my ! I wish I could say I felt like this photo. Maybe it's like the power of positive thinking. You know how they say if you put a smile on your face you will eventually feel happy, your mind will eventually catch up with your grin. It's not that I'm un-happy. It's melancholy, I'm longing for times gone by. I've planted my feet in the past and I'm staying there for awhile. I just can't believe how much life can change, in what seems like an instant, how nothing ever stays the same. Sometimes that's a good thing I suppose and sometimes you just wish you could stay cozy and snug in that one perfect spot, curled up on your bed with your big red dog.

I wish I could report that I watched the lunar eclipse last night. It was a cold crystal clear night here in our little village. Perfect viewing conditions. It's been such a long time since I've set the alarm on my clock radio I forgot how to do it ... and my attempts to wake up again at 11:00pm were foiled by sound sleep.

BFF Harry took me with him to town yesterday, we drove in his pick up truck. We each had lots of little errands to do and we finished up at one of my favourite places in the world - the Superstore. I love food and I do love to cook and grocery shopping is never a chore for me, especially at a place like this. They don't call it the Superstore for nothin'. A place where you can buy organic baby arugula, meyer lemons, vidalia onions, fresh cilantro & big long stalks of lemongrass. There's a bakery, a fish market and a florist's shop. The florist shop area has a big sky light above it and yesterday a huge patch of blinding sun was shining down on an area just bursting with spring. Bundles and pots of tulips in every colour, yellow and white daffodils, the air heady with the incredible scent of hyacinths, the scent of spring and lots of little pots of cheery, happy gerbera daisies.


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

lilacs #1- a polaroid from the archives

There's a big huge moon this morning hanging over the harbour and shining in the windows upstairs, making big patches of moonlight on the floor in my almost empty office. Empty because it's awaiting paint, the walls are finished but I need to paint the trim and floors, and the inside of the closet. Someone suggested I just keep the closet door closed ... but I know that every time I opened the closet to get something I would think to myself why didn't I paint this closet. A clean creamy white.

Oliver and Gus are in the midst of their we just had our breakfast so we're going to peel around the house, busting with energy, up and and down the stairs like a wee herd of elephants. Lots of crashing and banging and thumping. Bleet's gone out to wander around in the moonlight, Lulu's lying on her pillow on my desk and Miss Dixon is curled up here on the sofa beside me waiting patiently for me to make a move.

Winnie and I have been skipping the drive to the beach these last few days. It's the place that makes me the feel the most sad I think. I was looking through photos last night and came across some of my sweet Jake when he was very young, soon after he arrived here at 29 Black St. Fetching sticks, his purpose in life, in the water of his most favourite place, our beach at the end of the dead end road. It's comforting in a sense because I do believe their spirits and souls, both Em and Jake, live there. It was the place they loved the most - it is and was their place and my place of pure joy. Hundreds, thousands maybe, of hours spent lost together at that place. Wandering way out on the sand bars, stopping to peer into tide pools looking for creatures, starfish and hermit crabs. Collecting smooth and polished beach glass and tiny bright orange periwinkle shells. Throwing sticks endlessly in the water for my boy to dutifully swim out and collect. He always preferred I throw two sticks, sometimes even three, he liked the extra challenge. Em and Winnie would lie in the wet sand and chew a perfect stick into little bits of wet wood, spitting the pieces out all around them ... while Jake and I fetched sticks. Often it was just me and my three dogs, then two and now one. It's just so strange to drive there now without Jake, to wander those snowy pastures and along the ice covered beach without him just Winn & me ... but we will go back, maybe this weekend.

lilac #2


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

lots of hugs and kisses, hearts and pretty red wrapping

The remnants of my Valentine parcel from MLou, fellow designer gal, amazing friend and co-appreciator of all things aesthetically fine. Inside Starbucks coffee, a Tim Hortons gift card and two flashlights (an inside joke) one of which doesn't need batteries - it's a hand cranked flashlight (another inside joke). I love red, I love tissue paper and I love hearts. Red is my favourite colour.

I'm going to be brief this morning. I'm going to go have my hot bubble bath, walk Miss Dixon around the village in moon lit darkness and get an early start to this day. Have two full colour paintings on the schedule with a very tight deadline of end of day. So must get in a groove, and get in that groove early.

I read something last night in bed about surrendering, of not having expectations and trying to control things, of just letting things be. I've decided that I am surrendering to my sadness, my missing, my loss. I am no longer trying to make myself feel better, to snap out of it, to just get on with things. I will, and do cry whenever I feel like it. I will think about my best friend Jake as much as I want. I will dwell on him and on how much I miss him and my feeling is if you can't handle my grief and sadness along with me, well, I guess I'll see you later sometime. I know that the only way that I will ever be better ... is to feel this, completely unfettered. That's just who I am.

I just poured my second cup of coffee and went upstairs to start my bath and realized I feel very relieved. It was a relief to write that last paragraph. A relief to decide to be OK with sadness. Why is it we've decided sadness is such a bad thing, something to move past, something that must be gotten over quickly and efficiently. Why do we pile guilt and disappointment in ourselves on top of tears, aches and missing.

grief out loud

Monday, February 18, 2008

blue skies and perfect clouds

Monday morning, 5:30 am and I do feel determined to have a good week this week. Last night for a few hours I really felt back to normal, like everything would be OK again. Another friend called, another brave friend willing to face my tears head on. I had an opportunity to talk about it, at length, to speak out loud my sadness. What a lovely relief, a release. To get it out of my head and into the air around me. With a friend who knew Jake his whole life. Who understood the leading role that he played in my life and who was fortunate enough to know well, his larger than life personality.

It's been my experience these last few weeks that the worst thing that you can do if you have a friend suffering from grief is to not say anything. To pretend it's not really there and to hope that eventually in time it will just go away. That experience, which unfortunately has happened with most of the people in my life, many who I consider to be very good friends, makes me feel angry at them and ultimately much more sad and lonely.

There's always a lesson lurking in every experience it seems. As difficult as it is to speak of grief with someone's who's in it, someone you know who will cry as soon as their first words come out. Someone who's holding all that sadness tightly inside. Ask them how they're doing ? Ask them if there's anything that you can do to help ? Tell them your favourite memory of the person or animal that's gone and missed.

Talk about their grief with them, and let them talk about it, it's important ... please don't pretend it's not there.

call it wallow if you will

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Jake he truly was my hero dog, the love of my life for 12 years

Sunday morning - fresh coffee from my new sparkling white coffee maker. Just recently awake from a solid sleep with Winnie and Oliver curled up on the bed through the night with me. Sound sleep thanks to the tiny magic pill that you slip under your tongue and let dissolve. A suggestion from MLou, best friend who lately is always brave enough to call and face my sadness with me. Such a kind thing ... sadness which makes you want to hide and retreat when really you need the kindness of friends, the kindness that you're too hurt and afraid to seek out. The kindness that has to come and find you ... buried under the covers or crying in the bathtub praying to God please make this all not true. I want him back please. That terrible feeling of panic through your whole being when you realize that there is nothing that you can do, you can't change it and you can't fix it. You can't make this go away and it's tainted everything around you with that same stain of sadness. What's good in life when my big ol' Noodle dog is gone. Everything sucks. I am mad and sad, and it's a deadly combination.

11:15am what a freakin' handsome dog. Just heard this happy sounding Talking Heads song on the radio. Here's the video for Nothing But Flowers. Eating a toasted white bread sesame bagel smeared with butter and honey, It's sunny and cold outside and we're all cozy inside by the fire and I'm finally all cried out.

bad day

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Jake, Em & Winnie Dixon from a few summer's ago

Woke up an hour late to barely warm burnt coffee. I smashed the carafe to my coffee maker late in the day yesterday while washing it and attempted to rig up the machine with a spare carafe (wrong shape, wrong pause and serve lid). Was awake for much of the middle of the night. Sigh. Yesterday was a very bad day and I've decided to try and delete it from memory, to scratch it, to not count it, we've officially skipped a day - it was a wasted day.

I declined an invitation from BFF Harry to get doodied up a bit and go out for an hour to a village social event (the grand opening of our new curling club), said yes initially and then realized that it would take way too much effort for me to feel confident enough to mingle and chit chat, my enthusiasm hovering deep in the minuses. So I called him back and said No, I'd much rather stay home in my What Not To Wear clothes and feel sorry for myself. I did do a very tiny amount of design work, and then spent hours on end eating raw cookie dough while watching daytime TV through tear filled eyes. Just waiting eagerly until I felt it was safe to go to bed.

I'm sad, and I miss Jake
People, friends don't want to talk about it.
I can't believe that he's gone.
They think I should be getting over it.
I keep thinking he's still here that I hear him.
Maybe they just don't know what to say.
People don't know how to deal with sadness.
I know that I need to let myself be sad.
I said goodbye to the best friend I've ever had.
I miss him.

I'm going to go wash away my tears (for now) with a hot steaming face cloth and start today off on a better foot. It's Saturday, I have tons of design work on my plate this weekend with lots of tight deadlines. I will keep busy. Maybe I won't delete yesterday, maybe I'll be kind to myself.

Of course I feel sad. It's loss and missing sadness
and I know that it needs to come out.

9:00 am We're back from our walk, Miss Dixon and I, in frigid cold air. We stopped for a few groceries and picked up a new coffee maker from the hardware store and we're planning to have a very good day today. It's Saturday, it's not Friday anymore.

contact sheet

Friday, February 15, 2008

a large ship being escorted into the harbour

These three images this morning are all from the same contact sheet. 12 dreamy Holga black & white images from my past. I would guess from the summer of 2003 maybe earlier than that. A contact sheet found while in the midst of attempting a big declutter session of my living room/dining room.

So you may be wondering how did that battle go anyway Susan ? (Big deep sigh). Well, as I sat on my comfy sofa last night, Winnie curled up beside me snoring, watching my new fav Stephen Colbert and surveying my immediate surroundings ... things were definitely neater, cleaner and dusted. Piles of magazines were at least sorted and organized and I did come across a few treasures in the process. Very little made it to the recycling, donate or yard sale boxes (yet) ... but overall I ended up feeling that it was a very good beginning. I need to learn accept my foibles I think ... and one of those is, my ever sentimental nature needs at times to really dwell on, examine, and remember many of the items that I am considering parting with.

The act of decluttering can be a terribly time consuming activity for someone like me. I'm almost never ruthless in my pitching-out abilities (when cleaning out the fridge or my closet - yes maybe, I'm much more strong and decisive with food and clothes). But not so with books and magazines (all of which in a round about way I've convinced myself are somehow related to my creative endeavors she says sheepishly), or with the things I've collected and accumulated over the years... like this contact sheet. What a lovely find.

my handsome gentle red dog Jake

Oh my. 3 weeks today we said goodbye to Jake, retriever extraordinaire. When I think about him being gone it makes me feel sick with sadness. I try to push those thoughts away and replace them with happy thoughts of him racing into the waves at the beach - his most favourite thing in the world or him putting his big red head in my lap, many times a day, so that I could thoroughly rub and scratch every nook and cranny of his head and shoulders and all around his ears. He loved that, he loved me and I love him so much.

a young Winnie Dixon sitting on a sandbar

Sweet cheeks, Miss Dixon, she's my comfort these days. It's Winn and me and our brood of cats now. She sleeps on my bed every night. She's watches my every move. She certainly helps me feel much less sad, she's a perfect dog, she has cheeks of sweetness and I love her.

the battle begins

Thursday, February 14, 2008

more kitten love

The ever elusive, nocturnal tabby cat Gus and his buddy, sweetness, Oliver taking a much needed break from kitten ness. Tearing around this house, up and down the stairs like a small herd of elephants, pinging off the furniture like little extreme sport fanatics and pausing here and there for a round or two of crazed kitten wrestling. They make me smile, a million times a day.

Had a busy day yesterday finishing up a few more jewellery concepts for new big fish company. Monday and Tuesday more cute baby thumbnails for photo frame company No. Uno. Today I am taking the day off from design work, or at least the beginning portion of the day because today is the day I begin, today
I am decluttering my living room.

Any activity like this, something major like painting walls or floors, or a big reorganizing project it's essential that I begin early in the day when I'm in tip top energetic, invincible, there's-nothing-I-can't-do form. My first Peter Walsh (Organizational and De-Clutter guru) book arrived yesterday from the library and tomorrow is recycling pick up day - which means piles of magazines could be put in grocery bags and placed curb side.

Woke up to +10 temperatures (warm and balmy) after a night of heavy rain falling on top of drifts of snow. The temperature is plummeting through out the day and the roads are icy and treacherous. I'm not sure if Miss Dixon and I will drive anywhere this morning we may just go for a walk around the village, then home to have our breakfast and I will begin ... my battle with clutter ...


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Jake in the late afternoon golden sun at our beach this past December

* The thoughts, opinions and feelings found on this blog are not necessarily the thoughts, opinions and feelings of it’s writer, me. They are the result of me processing my life, thinking out loud, sometimes just trying thoughts on and testing them out. Thoughts that pertain to a specific time of day (early morning most often) are not necessarily thoughts that stay with me the remainder of the day. Sometimes the feelings seem very exaggerated, sometimes they’re diluted. Sometimes I feel hopelessly optimistic and sometimes those thoughts feel quite bleak and dark. Any one who knows me well, knows that what you see or hear at any given moment is not always what you get. It's most often, just a sliver.

Very deep Sigh. A sleepless worry filled night. Thank goodness for the sputter and gurgle of my coffee maker which automatically comes on at 4:45 and is my signal that it's time to get up. Thank goodness also for CBC radio's overnight service listened to in my bed at midnight and 2am, people chattering away quietly in my room, something to distract my mind from exploding with big bad and negative middle-of-the-night monster thoughts.

Mostly memories of the last few days and nights with my dog Jake and the tremendous guilt I feel now about deciding it was time to say good bye to him not 3 weeks ago. Making the judgment call, with our vet, that he wasn't going to get better, that his quality of life had become forever compromised. I keep thinking, wondering, if, maybe, he might have felt better, the bad spell thing might have past. Maybe if I'd waited ... he could've lived a few more weeks, days, or months. No matter how your intellectually self may come to terms with the decision that you make, I don't think your heart is ever OK with it. It's the worst decision I'll ever make. I know that.

He looks old in this photo today I realize and I didn't mean for the bottom photo to appear so much like a metaphor for a senior canine life - an elderly dog standing, in a somewhat stiffened position, surveying his youthful, stick fetching summer kingdom with the cold icy setting sun of winter as a backdrop.

It's a sad morning this morning, it's one of those days when I wish could crawl back into the nest of down and flannel and disappear completely but I won't, I never do. I know that this feeling will pass, it always does.

And I also know ... it will be back.

Jake - I miss you

puppy talk

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

gerbera daisy polaroid 1

Miss Dixon
and I have been considering adopting a puppy. One of a litter of 10, the mother a Border Collie mix, the father unknown. Little fat squirming blobs of beautiful, soon to be dog-ness born on Feb o6. The puppy that I, tentatively, have my name on is a boy. A beautiful black and white puppy, mostly black body, white tips of paws like white shoes, white collar or shawl around his chubby little neck and some white on his face. I've never had a puppy. I've always adopted adult dogs and I've had so much luck and success, love and joy from these older dogs why would I change that 29 Black Street policy. I've always believed that I would continue to adopt dogs that need a second chance, sometimes even a third chance. I was Jake's third and final home and he had just turned 1 and as you know ... what a dog he was.

wants a puppy, the shelter will have a long waiting list for these little guys. They'll be able to pick and choose from the long list, the absolute best homes for them. Many other dogs arrive at the shelter and linger there ... because so many people would rather have a puppy and because so many people still do not neuter and spay ... puppies are a dime a dozen especially around these parts.

Late in the day yesterday I called my chief advisor for big things in my life, my friend MLou in Halifax. Someone who's known me forever, and the person who single handedly helped me through the agonizing sadness of those days and weeks recently of Jake's decline and death.

She reads my blog and knows that I post most mornings before 6:30 am and she would have her coffee while reading that days post and judge by the tone and words whether or not a phone call was in order. It seems she called almost every morning for a stretch ... someone for me to talk through my fears, my panic, my grief, my not knowing what to do when he was obviously failing, and unable to stand or to walk. She called again many of those mornings after I'd made the decision to say a goodbye to Jake, knowing that it felt to me like I had said goodbye to my husband, my partner, my everything, she knew that I'd wake up each morning with tears in my eyes, feeling lonely and desperately sad. An incredible friendship, I still can't believe. Caring & love when I needed it so much. And I trust her opinion completely ...

So we talked yesterday afternoon, about me and Miss Dixon and a puppy. About 4 cats, an old behemoth of a house and my huge double lot and garden which continually overwhelms me both emotionally and financially, my struggling small business, an overall lack of financial security. Of lingering sadness and moments of pure disbelief that the big red lug of my life, my comfort and security is gone ...

By the time we'd spoken on this topic 10 minutes I knew in my heart that the answer should be no. We'd better wait, Winnie & I, for an older dog, we'd be the second chance once again. We wouldn't rush into anything, it's too soon, it hasn't been three weeks since losing Jake and I am trying, I think, to plug up the gaping hole in my heart left when we said goodbye to my Noodle dog.

This morning as I woke up to the smell of freshly brewed coffee, turned on the light beside my bed and looked down at Winnie spread eagle and snoring, all four paws in the air, at the foot of my bed I thought ...

Yes, I think we'll wait, Winn & I. She and I will just hang out together for awhile.

gerbera daisy polaroid 2

I can, I will

Monday, February 11, 2008

citrus green, cream and chocolate - from this past summer

We've woken up to a winter wonderland this morning. Lots & lots of snow down. Every branch and twig frosted with a thick layer of fresh, white, new snow.

I woke up with a flash at 4:00 am this morning worrying and fretting (sigh). About money mostly. It's a terrible habit that I have and everything always seems a thousand times worse in those wee hours of the morning. My solution is to get up, put the coffee on and begin the day and to remind myself, to chant to myself, as I pour my lavender and orange bubble bath ...

I can create the life I dream of. I will create the life I dream of ...

I must also remember and be grateful ... that in many ways I'm almost there.
Thank you.

fish cakes

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Maritime Fish Cakes

1 tin of chicken haddie (or two cups flaked rinsed and soaked salt cod
and two medium fillets of smoked fish flaked - I used mackeral, a local delicacy)
4 cups mashed potatoes (8-10 medium size potatoes)
1 large onion
1 egg beaten
1 Tbsp. of butter
summer savoury
salt & pepper
3-4 finely chopped green onions
cornmeal for dusting

optional seasonings - Old Bay seafood seasoning, chopped fresh parsley, dill, chives

Sauté onions gently in butter until soft and translucent. Mix all ingredients together except cornmeal. Shape into patties, dredge in cornmeal and chill in the refrigerator for an hour or so (to firm up the cakes). Fry fishcakes in a large frying pan with a bit of vegetable oil and a small amount of butter until browned and crispy on both sides. Serve with fried eggs, home fried potatoes and a jar of Chow Chow relish. Reheat fish cakes in a 350 degree oven on a wire rack until hot and cornmeal coating is crispy

I do love to cook, I'd rather cook than do any other household activity. I do enjoy washing dishes, I like having my hands in warm sudsy water and I do enjoy doing laundry (especially hanging clothes or bedding out on the line to air dry - they smell so fantastic). Cooking has always been quite therapeutic for me, and I come from a long line of good cooks. Lately it's become yet one more thing that's just not the same without my boy, Jake.

He was always in the kitchen with me, he'd follow me the short distance from the sink and counter to the stove and back again, over and over. I never cooked or prepared any food without his sweet face watching every move that I'd make, he was always there just in case I might need his help. He loved food. He loved fresh peaches, fresh pineapple, clementines, broccoli and cauliflower. Didn't care for bananas, apples or carrots. He could lick a bowl or a pot clean in an instant - I used to tease him and call him my pre-rinse cycle. My kitchen has become a very lonely place without him.

I feel that if I don't mention Jake, each and every day here on my blog, that somehow it means that I'm forgetting about him everything reminds me of my dog. I miss him so much.

Our (Winnie and my) latest driving in the car, to the beach or to the golf course, song and this one makes us cry ... every time ... Alicia Keys - No One

a favourite breakfast of sunny side up eggs and fish cakes

true confessions part 2

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Miss Dixon, her snout in the snow, breathing in the heady aroma of field mouse

I live in a house that is terribly cluttered, piles of this and that, a billion magazines, lots of just stuff, some junk and many treasured items - all kind of mixed in together. Please refer to True Confessions part 1

I hate it, I always have hated it, it is the bane of my existence. Yet for some reason I seem unable to deal with it, to overcome this problem. I mostly feel, after severely analyzing the situation, for oh, about 7 years or so - overwhelmed. I don't know where to begin.

Another Oprah show this week, mostly listened to, as I sat at the big black table in my living room that's been my office since early January, putting the finishing touches on my meticulously neat and compulsively tidy production drawings (I am a total neat freak when it comes to my work ??) of my first jewellery collection with new big fish company - Oprah's guest Peter Walsh Clutter Guru. Organizing expert from the TLC show Clean Sweep and author of several books (all three of which I just ordered from the library). His new book Does This Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat draws a direct connection from My No. 1 Issue in life to my No.2 Issue - extra pounds (at least 20 of them and that's probably being kind) that I've been carting around for far too long.

Last night I dreamt that Peter Walsh was in my house, following me around from pile to pile asking me questions like "when was the last time you looked at those piles of dusty Gourmet magazines ?" (sheepish smirk). My friend MLou recently told me about her own efforts to clear the clutter from her home office. Just in time for Chinese New Year, so that the luck of the new year could easily flow into her life. She made an appearance in this dream as well, cheering me on, as she so famously does. I am attached emotionally to stuff ?? and most of it, for no good reason that I can come up with. What happens when your home is like this is that treasured items become lost, they just become part of a pile - muddled in with all the other stuff and junk. I do fear that my dear boy Jakes ashes might fall into this same predicament - stuck in a pile somewhere keeping company with a bunch of meaningless things. That would be so sad.

* speaking of Jake, I dreamt about him last night (sigh, relief, smile). Our famous chase dreams, once again he was on the run, happily galloping away from us like a young canine stallion, teasing us (Winn, Em & I) with glimpses of his beautiful red coat disappearing just up ahead, around the next corner. We miss you and we love you always.

I do love a deadline so I have given myself 16 weeks - until the end of May. 16 weeks to go through this entire house, pitch, yard sale or donate and keep track of my diet in a food journal. My mantra ...

Action = Motivation = More Action

and one of the two New Years Resolutions that did gel in my mind.

Just begin ...

Every Sunday morning for the next 16 weeks I will report my progress here in a line at the bottom of my daily post

icy shores, Winn's walking pal Channy a 10 year old black Lab


Friday, February 8, 2008

gerbera daisies blooming in my upstairs hallway

I feel strangely quiet this morning ... a rare occurrence for me, for sure. Another lull. 2 weeks today without our boy Jake - how can that be ? How is it life has just gone on for 2 whole weeks, how is it that life without him in it ... is slowly beginning to feel normal ?

My upstairs hallway is large and very sunny. There's a big comfy arm chair positioned in front of a large window which had been a favourite spot for all of the dogs Em, Jake & Winnie Dixon over the years. Either to sit, eyes closed, basking in the sun or to keep watch at the most perfect look-out spot. Bark ! Someone dares to walk on our street ! or Bark ! Bark ! A courier just pulled up in front of our house. No need for a doorbell.

I have a jungle of tropical houseplants and small trees crowded in the corner near this large window and one pot of gerbera daisies, bought at the supermarket one day last spring. Miraculously they've survived both the summer in their pot outside and being brought back inside, cut back severely and plunked down in this spot in the upstairs hallway ... and pretty much forgotten about. Yesterday, when I remembered I should water the plants. These perky yellow blooms greeted me. Is there anything more happy and cheery than a gerbera daisy ?

a new leaf

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Oliver hanging out in his cave of fabric

vervour an exaggerated version of ...

- meaning great warmth and earnestness of feeling.

The sweetest cat there ever was, and I've known and loved a lot of sweet cats - soft and affectionate, curious and enthusiastic to the Nth degree, with an exceptional zest for life - that's my Ver or Oliver. He does love a cave, and loves at night to be tucked in under the covers with me. Smile.

I watched Oprah yesterday, a show that combined the philosophy of The Secret with the opinions and writings of Louise Hay famous for the, life changing to many, book You Can Change Your Life and Oprah's new book pick by Eckhart Tolle - A New Earth.

The theme of the show - the power of positive thinking. I think it was serendipitous that I watched this show yesterday because it made me realize that I have been having moments, I do believe, that I am wallowing in the pit of sadness left by the loss of my soul mate dog Jake. I know it's only been a few weeks (2 actually, tomorrow). This show made me realize, that perhaps it would be much more honouring of his amazing soul, to not be so sad and grief stricken. To not feel continually haunted by the few horrible moments from those last days, but instead, to really rejoice in all the hundreds, thousands, possibly millions of amazing moments and memories of an incredible dog. A dog who was most definitely meant to be in my life (near his first birthday, I became his third and final home). My best and most excellent friend for over 12 years.

It's amazing to be reminded that we do have power over our thoughts and feelings. We have a choice of how we want to feel. If you're a thinker (and I am desperately so - my mind chatters away to itself non stop all the live long day ... and often night) it's so easy to get swept away in the raging river that's going on in your head, it's such a relief to remember that you can just touch your feet to the bottom of the river bed and walk on out of there ... I don't want to feel sad, I know that. And I know, for sure, that he wouldn't want me to be sad.

So ... this morning I am pushing those aching thoughts away and out the door, of my ever busy mind and replacing them with memories & thoughts instead, of my hero dog. Incredibly kind and gentle, goofy and silly, very, very handsome, athletic and always hungry Noodle.


Wednesday, February 6, 2008

senior retriever stick fetching in deep water trials - his reason d'etre

My boy came home in a small wooden box with a latch yesterday. Inside, grey ashes in a zip lock bag, labeled Jake. It looks like cement. It's weird, it's strange and I can't decide if it gives me any comfort. I guess it must. I did place the box beside me as I worked at my desk yesterday and wrapped the box in the same scarf that was with him his last day, the scarf that still smells of me, the scarf I love, now even more. I did touch the box many times throughout the day, and I kissed the box goodnight and told it, him, that I love you and I miss you so much.

The box is plain, unfinished, cheap wood, and the sides and front have recessed panels. I won't be sprinkling him in the air at the beach, his most loved destination. And I have no plans to bury him in the shaded back garden near Em & Ernst. I need him with me, I do know that. I don't think I'm an urn kind of girl. I think instead I'll paint the box glossy black, decoupage images of him in the recessed panels and change the cheap latch to something silver coloured.

I have a beautiful long lock (like a small tail) of both his & Em's red & pale golden ringlets that I kept in the inside breast pocket of my coat my last trip to Paris. They stayed in a kennel (with Miss Dixon) while I was away and I missed them terribly. Having that lock of hair with me as I happily strolled the narrow streets of Gay Paris with best friend MLou, so far from home and so far from them, was a comfort. Winnies's hair too short to add to this tail of retriever fur tied up with a ribbon ... but of course I missed her too.

I'll add this lock of soft beautiful fur to the box and I'll place the box in a spot by my bed, along with the photos of Emma Jane and Flo. And maybe then it won't seem so weird.

Jake, sleeping on my bed where he belongs

dreaming of tulips

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

LuLu and the tulips

I had to stop at the hardware store yesterday because we were out of Niger seed, the seed of choice for all our little avian friends that flit merrily around on the other side of the large flat screen kitten TV we've installed in the kitchen. Niger seeds bring the sweet small birds to the feeders, a variety of finches (goldfinches, purple and house finches ) and the rose crested kinglets, little tiny birds who chatter to each other non stop, occasionally squabbling with a dramatic flurry of wing flapping and beak pointing. We've been out of seed for over a week and if there is no Niger seed they disappear, they go off to find some other feeder. The TV's been dead, someone unplugged it.

While in the hardware store I noticed that the gardening section has arrived at the front of the store. Moved to the back are the snow shovels and ice scrapers, the bags of salt and sand for walkways & roads. Replaced with racks of seed packets and big bags of potting soil, and my favourite, flattened tiny discs of peat that you simply pour water on and they magically rise up and turn into little pots of earth. Like those kids toys, the little blob of orange sealed in plastic - Grow Your Own Dinosaur - just add water.

I miss my dog, I miss my boy, how weird will spring and summer be without him, how weird will it be to stroll the beach in June without the Senior Stick Fetching in Deep Water trials in full force. I still have three of his favourite sticks on the floor in the back seat of our wagon. Sticks that were always carried by Jake back to the car, sticks that were saved for the next day. Perfect wood, smooth and rounded and light in colour so they were easier to see in choppy waves. I want to hold those sticks, and hug them and kiss them ... it's one more thing for me to treasure. And now I have a whole year of days and seasons ahead of me, to try and get used to my life without Jake in it.

And yet ... I am still dreaming of Tulips. Of Cosmos and Sweet Peas and trails of Morning Glories. Nasturtiums and tiny blue blossomed Lobelia. I plan to buy a small tiller this year, one that's easy for me to handle and I will till up a storm ... I will garden with abandon or that's my plan ...and you know, I do love a plan.


is this a dog blog ?

Monday, February 4, 2008

Maggy Sue stopping to chat with some squirrels high up in the tree

I'm sure many of you may have arrived here today with much trepidation after my fall, yesterday into a deep crevasse of anger & grief. Thankfully I did manage to climb out, the giant wave passed over me and yesterday was a very good day, all things considered.

It was sunny and crisp and the sky was as blue as skies ever are. I still had tears and lots of them, because everything reminds me of my boy. Every drive in the car, every song on the radio, every step I take I still expect him to be right there, beside me. I'm waiting, sadly, for my new normal to take hold. In writing this blog I have been surprised at my ability to be as open and candid and personal as I've been, it's actually been easy and feels really good. I believe that's why blogging has become so popular (both for the writer and for the reader). So many feelings we have are universal and yet so many of them we keep locked up and secret, we believe that they only belong to us. I almost always write early in the morning, the time of day I usually shine my brightest, full of hope and promise for the new day ahead of us. Lately, sometimes those early morning hours do seem the absolute darkest that I've known, yet I continue to type whatever is in my head at that 5:00 am hour, as I sit with my coffee. Yesterday was just a slice of the entire cake.

"Do ya ?" are Winnie Dixon's two favourite words. She cares less what words come after those two, because she's learned that whatever they are "yes ! I sure do !" is always her answer. Yesterday we had our regular walk through snow crusted pastures, down the cottage lane and along ice strewn shores in early morning sun. My friends Carol & Deb gabbed away, the three dogs Chandra, Maggy Sue & Winn ran and played and sniffed, and I was able to just walk along with them, mostly quiet as I was still climbing out and up at that point.

Back home to chores and a visit with my 85 year old neighbour Jean and it was soon time for our second walk, after lunch, at the golf course. By this time I felt back up on solid ground, up out of that freakin' crevasse and oh, what a beautiful walk it was. A hard layer of icy snow covered most of the course, hard enough to walk on top of. Winnie and Maggie, zooming around with tongues hanging out both from the pure joy of it all and from the busyness of running here and there, partners in crime in their quest for the catching of squirrels.

I felt like talking by this time. Lots about Jake and how I'd been feeling, but lots more talk about food and of days living in Montreal, and of this and of that and before we knew it, over an hour had past, and we were back at the car.

It was a perfect Sunday walk in every way, with our friends Deb and Maggy Sue and just what Winn & I needed.

this iced over stream is Muskrat Alley one of my terrier girl's favourite spots