Sunday, November 22, 2009


I'm tired this evening. Sad, and restless, with a disturbing sense of unfulfilled promise.

The immediate cause of this discomfort was our weekend trip to our alma mater on the occasion of the death of a college friend by her own hand. Suicide is always difficult for survivors to work their way through -- and I say that having observed it way too many times, including two of my husband's siblings. This particular suicide is especially hard to understand, as the victim was widely known in the region for tenacious environmental advocacy. That she could care so deeply for and work so hard on behalf of all the planet's creatures, yet dismiss the value of her own life, is something I have a hard time resolving in my own mind and heart. That she could have been in such emotional pain is painful to all those she left behind.

Such an occasion, of course, brings together people who in happier times never quite get around to connecting, and this was no exception. So a few of us, friends of four decades who have gone our separate ways but maintain a cosmic connection, gathered to reminisce about our friend, catch up on each others' lives and retrace our steps in old college haunts. We were surprised how small the bar district really was, how many bars were packed into it, and what a short walk it actually was from our dorm-- an entirely different experience on a Sunday morning in 2009 than what we recalled from Saturday nights in the early 70s.

We stepped into the dorm where we'd met all those years ago, noting the remodeling of what had been a comfortably shabby common area where students in our era convened to play cards, organize lawn volleyball games and debate issues of the day, into a far more efficient, but far less inviting, lobby space. We walked across the campus, remembering classes we'd taken (or skipped), adventures we'd plotted.

Forty years gone by in the blink of an eye. And for me, little more than an eye-blink accomplished.

So as I struggle to understand my friend's choice, I'd better appreciate that she actually made lasting contributions to wildlife habitat in our state and living conditions for her fellow citizens.

That the friends with whom I reminisced, a nurse and physician, have quite literally saved people's lives.

That my dues for the space and resources I've consumed thus far remain to be paid. Time draws short to get it done.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Everyone gets a trophy

Back in the dark ages when I was 16, most teenagers took drivers ed in school. I was among them. I sat in a classroom listening to a teacher talk about the various rules of the road in the state driving handbook, spent the requisite number of hours in a driving simulator, drove an actual car once or twice, took a test and emerged with a valid driver's license.

To celebrate, I was to take the wheel - my dad in the front passenger seat next to me - and drive the family to a restaurant for dinner. We got maybe six blocks down the street when Dad ordered me to stop, reached over to grab the key, turn off the car and order a change of places. I spent the next several weeks driving around a nearby parking lot under his watchful eye and only when he thought I was not a danger to myself and others did he let me drive on public streets again.

The state may have pronounced me good to go and issued a driver's license, but I didn't know how to drive.

I thought about that this week as Otis and I completed a series of dog (and owner) obedience classes. In seven weeks, Otis was to learn to heel, sit, sit automatically when I came to a stop, lie down, turn left and right, stay, wait and stand still (as in, when the veterinarian is examining him). The final class concluded with presentation of certificates and photo opps for each of the dogs with a mortarboard supplied by the instructor.

So, a freshly minted dog school graduate, what can he do? He will sit when I ask him to, stay (sort of) for a short while, lie down about every third time I ask and only if I have a treat. He won't wait at all, and we only really accomplish "heel" by my managing the leash.

We've made progress, but if he was driving a car, I'd take the keys away from him.

Which only continues to prove that just because you have a piece of paper doesn't mean you know what to do with it.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

What a difference a week makes

So much for glorious November weather. I guess winter really is on its way.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Weekend gift

In our town, where early November is as likely to be rainy, gray and cold as it is to be balmy and bright, we've been blessed the past two weekends with an exceptional display of the latter. Sunny skies, temperatures in the high 60s and low 70s and light breezes stirring leaves of exceptional color have been Mother Nature's gift for us to enjoy before winter sets in.

And enjoy it we have. The nearby hiking trail has been filled with joggers and moms pushing strollers. Neighbors cordoned off our block last night, setting up tables for a chili cook-off and a firepit to gather 'round, and inviting residents to bring their lawn chairs, Crock Pots and coolers of their favorite beverage for conversation and calorie-consumption under the stars.

Otis and I have taken in every moment possible of these moments of autumn glory. My iPhone camera cannot do justice to the splendor, but it will have to do.

And in any case, with everything else that's gone on in the world this week, most of it punctuated by sniping both from words and bullets, it's a lot more pleasant to consider.