Saturday, January 26, 2008


Inspired by Merelyme's story My First Love , I'm posting this eulogy from a few years ago for our lost four-footed amigo of nose-rubbing and slobber-kissing.
(Some explanation, Marley is our daughter and was about three when Riley, our dog, died, and Mike is my husband. )

Here it is:

Today we say good-bye to a good friend. Stricken with liver cancer and sick for a couple of months now, we decided it was best to let Riley go. According to doctors, in spite of the cancer, he'd already lived past the expected age for such a large Golden Retriever, and lived well.
So, here's to Riley...

... to all the times he spilled my wine trying to get me to pet him just a little more.

... to all the times he served as a comfy pillow for Marley's head.

... to all the times he served as a comfy horse for Marley's body, only occasionally grunting with

... to all the times he crept his huge body up into bed, thinking if he moved reeeaallllyyy slowly we
wouldn't notice his 105 lb body leaning the bed to one side.

... to all the spotty clothes from when he needed a place to wipe the smelly drool from his face.

... to all the little Napolean-esque dogs who growled at him, and on whom he peed.

... to all the stupid pictures he posed for.

... to all the times when I swear he was smiling at my naivete when I tried to reprimand him.

... to all the times he just wanted to be next to me, so he'd lay on my head.

... to all the times he put his paw on Marley's hand, making her exclaim "he's holding my hand!"

And here's to the life he lived.

Starting as Mike's constant companion (Mike patiently waited for him to finish nursing at 6 weeks when he adopted him), he easily welcomed new members into his heart and took his responsibilities to raise them seriously. Having already been with Mike for three years, he then was given a woman (that would be me), followed by a cat, a dog, a baby. All were his.
Riley made what seemed like a seamless transition to life with two people instead of one, loving me unconditionally. Then, faced with a new kitten, he allowed the orphaned animal to fake nurse on him, ratting his fur, until the cat, Oliver, grew out of the need for a mommy. When I brought home a pathetic lost puppy, he let her take his tennis ball until she was old enough to know better. And finally, Marley. He ignored her for a while, until she could throw the ball, and then, whenever she was near him, he would reach out his paw to her, even while he was sick.

All the friends that came to visit were his too, as many of you know. It was obvious to him that the reason you showed up was to pet and love him. He will be missed.

"Raise your voices up,
lift your loving cup,
to his long life"
- Natalie Merchant

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

love, love, love

There are so many ways and types of love I feel. I love my husband (frequently), I love my daughter (fiercely), I love my cat (mostly) , I love my country (wearily), and I love me some gumbo. All different, all good. Then there's the love of all things, the love of the Buddha, which is detached and can barely be called love as the word is commonly used. The banal use of the word love implies so many attachments and expectations, as in, "'But I LOVE you!' he cried, throwing himself at her feet." But when I really think it through, love is just like breathing. If left alone, without added thoughts and stories, love is all that comes out of and goes into me. And everything, I mean EVERYTHING, is easier in that breathing-love state. But with centuries of histories, it's become something to reward, something to return, and something to regard with caution. I really think love is all there is. Perhaps suffering is, simply, the absence of love. The question is, why is it so hard to remember to love? OR, are we all, always, in a state of love in our hearts, but our minds take over and explain it away? Yet another view- maybe all I experience is love, in all its perfection. All of it.

Monday, January 21, 2008


Just like there are receptors in the brain specifically for opiates, nicotine, thc, and whatever else, I have a theory that we develop receptors for specific people in our lives. Whether these receptor-sites were there to begin with or develop over time and exposure I don't speculate on, because that would require working with different paradigms and such. Not ready for that yet.

So I think we start developing these synapses for parents and significant others when we're children. There is a way of feeling that only my Dad could evoke in me, and my mom, and my brother. No one else could make me feel those subtle levels of love, comfort, fear, or disappointment. (I feel certain I've tried to get people to stimulate those receptors, and have made poor relationship choices as a result) That might explain the acute pain of someone leaving or dying; parts of the brain are actually starving. I called my Dad's recent death a partial soul-ectomy, because it did actually feel like something was being torn from my being, but the starving receptors model would fit too.

And friends. I have a handful of friends who have loved me and been loved by me for more than two decades, and/or with whom I have lived through unusual and bonding experiences, and those friends now have their own receptor sites. These sites hunger for them at times when they aren't being stimulated, and pulse and thrive when they are. An anemic word for this feeling is love, but it is more than that. More nourishing, fulfilling, enriching than just one word could encompass.

Perhaps loneliness is simple brain science. Maybe in the future we can provide electrode-stimulation for our loved ones so they won't miss us when we're gone. Although with that replacement for yearning, our songs and other art forms would all suck. I don't think I'd be the same person if I'd never heard Bob Dylan's "Tomorrow is a Long Time" . What beauty in these words:

Yes, and only if my own true love was waitin',
Yes, and if I could hear her heart a-softly poundin',
Only if she was lyin' by me,
Then I'd lie in my bed once again.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

moving around

I spend so much of the time I am in moving things around. Furniture in our place, looking for the most functional and beautiful configuration. Thoughts in my head, looking for the most functional and beautiful configuration. Maybe if I put this over there, next to that, maybe then it'll be perfect. That's what I'm looking for, good design. What I fear most is starting with a design that is flawed from the start. Not everything is easily hidden or manipulated with a coat of paint or well-placed plant. Feng Shui of the brain.