Tag Archives: death

Where This Is Going

“He’s grown,” says our son-in-law, the Alaska fisherman, as he sits on the couch and the puppy nibbles his sunburned neck and ears.  He, along with our oldest daughter, who is at work in Seattle this morning, and his family were in Hawaii for a week.  Roger stayed with us, and now the Captain has come to get him.  “His legs are longer.”

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Arly, our own puppy, whimpers with jealously and excitement from the other end of the couch where he sits with the Bearded One.  I’m in my rocker.  We are talking about big, important stuff, and the dogs make the conversation difficult in their barking, wrestling, puppy way.

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“I know it’s selfish,” says the Captain, “but I don’t want you to move.  It blew me away when I first heard.”  He’s the only NO in an otherwise unanimous sea of support for our latest notion, which is just days old now, but growing more real with time.

“Well, I’m as surprised at the notion as you are,” I say.  “Maybe more so.  I imagined building this farmlet and having all you Seattle kids and future grandkids drive an hour south to come see Grandma and Granddaddy and the goats and chickens on the farm.”

The Captain knows all about altered dreams.  His father died last month in a motorcycle accident after suffering a massive heart attack while speeding through the backroads of the Baja Peninsula.  It was out of the blue and shocked us all.  He
was 58, the same age as the Bearded One and one year older than me. The clan had planned all year to go to Hawaii. They never imagined their hearts would be so broken. He will be missed.

Arly yelps and lunges at Roger who yelps and lunges back.

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“It’s been a year full of transition,” I say.  “And then your dad died.  Was it just three weeks ago?  Seems much longer — ”

“Three weeks?”  The Captain looks at me and is quiet.  Time is tripping with all of us.

Can it be just days since I asked the Bearded One, “Do you want to move to Hawaii?” and he instantly said, “Yes”.  He’s not one to travel or visit, and he’s never even been to Hawaii, but he loves the idea of living in a whole different place.  Living in Alaska for a couple of years in the mid-1990s, much of it in the bush, was one of the highlights of his life.  The other was an 8,000 mile motorcycle trip across the western USA in 1982.

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The idea of moving to Hawaii came to me after a cold, gray misty walk by myself just a week ago, on December 30, New Year’s Eve Eve.  I thought about our daughter helping to scatter some of her father-in-law’s ashes in the middle of the brilliant Pacific Ocean.  And then I thought of Tom Coolidge.

Tom Coolidge was the first person to live on this road.  There was no road ’til he got here.  Just bears.  He designed and built the 1400 square foot pole house that is now the Farmlet House in 1990.

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He lived here for sixteen years, watching the road grow longer and attract more farmlets.  Now we’ve lived here for exactly seven years —

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— and Tom lives in Hawaii.  His girlfriend, a lovely woman with a Ph.D. in Linguistics named Deborah, came to our door 3-1/2 years ago.  She was in nearby Port Townsend for a retreat, she said, but she was usually in Hawaii with Tom.  He had told her about this house and said he could do the same in Hawaii for them….and she wanted to see this place for herself, would we mind?  It was our 13th anniversary, May 2, 2010.  Come on in! we said.

So when I got home from my cold and wet but thoughtful walk, I found Deborah and her blog on Facebook. And, oh oh oh!  A photo of the “Sherbet Shed” — a smaller version of the Farmlet House painted glorious rainbow colors on an acre of tropical forest in Puna, Hawaii.  The wet side of the Big Island.

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Since that moment, we’ve stepped into a bit of a rip current, whisking us through the week of Roger and Arly, energized by the vision of that beautiful little sunny house.  I’m tickled by all the positive feedback we’ve gotten — neighbors, the UPS guy, and most especially, the kids.

All the kids except the Captain, that is.  Who before our eyes, as we talk, becomes so bone-tired that we send him into the den for a nap before he drives back to Seattle with Roger.  We put the dogs outside.  The Bearded One and I whisper in the kitchen.

Two hours later when he gets up, the Captain says, “You know, lots of Hawaiians and Samoans fish with us.  There are lots of flights between Hawaii and Anchorage.”

He tells us about how he grew up living the summers in Naknek, where his dad worked all year building the family fishing business.  He knew how to filet a salmon when he was 7.

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“There’s a small house and three shipping containers on the property,” he says, “sort of a family compound.  My brothers and I talked a lot this week about how the future grandkids will be there all summer, but we’ll all be out fishing.  It’d be great if you came up and helped out.”

The Bearded One sits forward in his chair.  “Oh my yes…,” he says, and the Captain grins.

And then it hits me, and I leap up.  “Holy Moly.  The way all these farm animals tie us to this place, we’ll see more of our grandkids from Hawaii than we would from here!”

I like where this is going.

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A TIMING NOTE:  After roughly 3 years of weekly blogs, I’m shifting for a time to “intermittent” – whenever-the-muse-hits-me.  Thanks for reading!

Always On My Mind

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The goats bask in the lower pasture, the sun gleaming off their silvery new fleece, and I think — Pearl looks dead.  I turn away from the window and see Ruby flat-out on the wood floor as only an old Golden Retriever can be, and wait, and wait, and wait, to finally see her breathe.

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I wait for Garfield to come in at night.  I hear a cackle up the hill and I race to the window, saying, “Did you hear that?”  Surely the weasels are back for the ten layers they left untouched a little over a week ago, when they killed our 58 Cornish meat chicks.  I’m thinking about critters dying a lot.

“How many animals have died here?” I ask the Bearded One when he walks into the kitchen and starts to say something.

He stops, and I can see his face soften as he decides to indulge my need to process.  Again.  “Since we moved here in 2007 and started this farmlet,” I say, “and not counting rats, moles, birds and bunnies, which are legion thanks to Garfield.”

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“One dog,” says the Bearded One.  Jake, our 8-year-old Golden Retriever, three-and-a-half years ago.  I found him on the morning of November 17 here in the kitchen, over where the chest freezer is now.  Dead, in his bed with his sister Ruby looking on.

“One cat,” I say.  Tex, a 10-year-old, other-cat-aggressive Maine Coon we adopted, went missing in mid-July after living here almost a year.  He couldn’t climb very well.  He was huge.  We got Garfield the next month on Craigslist.  He climbs like a squirrel.

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The chest freezer is now empty of last year’s chicken harvest, and it doesn’t look like it will be refilled any time soon.

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If and when we do it again, we’ll fortify a new kind of enclosure with 1/2″ fencing or hardware cloth, but that’s expensive and down the road.  Right now, we’ll eat a lot less chicken, which is okay.  We ate a lot of it last year.  We went grocery shopping yesterday and I couldn’t bring myself to buy any of that chicken.

“A raccoon got Blackie.”  The Bearded One gets a cookie from the cookie box.

I have to think carefully to recall the names of the other two banty hens that we lost.  These are all laying hens, so we keep them for years and they get names.  “Dusty and Marilyn,” I finally remember.  “Eagles took them.”  I remember crying about Blackie, but not for Dusty or Marilyn.  Maybe because Blackie was the first.

“Then there were the 55 Cornish chickens we raised last year,” I say, “but we harvested them up the road.”

The Bearded One and I have offered each other various thoughts regarding the weasels.  In nature, everything eats and is eaten, we say.

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Cornish meat birds are purposely bred to grow fast and big and we accept that as a good thing as long as they have plenty of room and sunlight and fresh air.  The weasels haven’t gone up the road to our neighbor’s yet.  All our layers are alive.  Still, I need something more.  Some symbolic closure.  Anything will do.

“I’ve got an idea…” says the Bearded One.

“Does it have to do with animals dying?” I ask, suspicious that he might be trying to change the subject.  I’m not finished with all this just yet.  I wish I was.

“Maybe it’ll help you shut this down in your head,” he says, and smiles.  “Maybe we can mark the meat bird grave with the avocado trees.”

Two brown avocado pits the size of golf balls sprout in jam jars in the window sill by the empty freezer.  One has a sprout a foot high, another about four inches, both split open with roots and stems.  “They’ll grow, but never make fruit,” I say.  “It’s perfect.”

I feel the closure I need, draining the water into the sink, whisking the tiny trees outside and up the hill, as I gently remove the toothpicks and press the huge seeds into the mass grave.

Goodbye Meatbirds.

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The Dogsology

Ruby starts a nervous rhythmic licking in her bed, which is right next to the couch where I read.  Lick lick lick lick lick, her tongue shoots out like a snake.  Air licks.  Very loud.  She’s a mostly deaf twelve-year-old Golden Retriever and she can’t help starting these tics.  But she can stop.  I just have to catch her eye.

It’s early and she’s nowhere near ready to get up.  She usually stays in bed until the tens, and then when I’m cooking and the Bearded One is reading the newspaper, she peeks out from her bed under the stairs and rises.  It’s the same most every day — a ritual.  Front paws extended, she stretches, then the back legs.  Then she shakes.  “It’s Miss Ruby!” sings out the Bearded One.

But that’s still hours away.  Now she’s in a sleepy trance that I hope I can break without getting up, dang it.  Lick lick lick…

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“Ruby!” I whisper-hiss, because the Bearded One and His Majesty are still sleeping, and then I start waving.  I know she can’t hear, but I say her name anyway.  I wave wildly.  Sign language is the way in, but her eyes are getting a little cloudy lately and movement really helps get her attention.

Most every morning, after the Bearded One officially greets Ruby, she wags her tail vigorously (she adores the Bearded One) and walks over to the couch where I now sit, and where we congregate for the singing of the ritual morning song.

Good Morning to You!
Good Morning to You!
We’re all in our places
With sun-shiney faces
And this is the waaaaaaaayyy
Ruby starts a new day.
Ahhhhh — MEN.
 
Both the Bearded One and I were raised in Protestant Christian churches where we all sang a prayer song called the Doxology, so, of course, we call this morning ceremony the Dogsology.

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We pet Ruby vigorously as we sing.  It’s a love fest.

Garfield recognizes a good thing when he sees it and wants in.  He’s usually back in bed by ten, but he gets up and comes running.  It’s very rewarding.

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His Majesty, our 22-year-old son, he who is building a new back deck, likes to attend as well.  And this past weekend our daughter the nurse was here and she sang along and then said, “You guys are religious!”

The Bearded One and I both laughed at her word choice — we haven’t been any religion for decades and didn’t raise the kids in one.  We’re not religious, we’re just getting older, like Ruby, and appreciate a good ritual.

Ruby has finally spotted my wild waving and, in shock, has momentarily stopped licking.  We are almost there.

I point my index finger at her with authority.  “NO LICKING,” I whisper loudly.  I shake my finger and lead her to focus on my scowling face and register the seriousness of the issue.  I have her attention.  Now to connect it to the licking, or at least break the pattern.

She stares at me.  And licks.  I shake my finger.  She licks again.  And again.

Her huge ears are cocked up and she looks downright precious as she tries to figure it out.

I shake my finger and point at her tongue.  I scowl.  I send the message telepathically — NO LICKING.  YOU ARE DRIVING ME INSANE.

I love this dog.  She isn’t cuddly like her brother Jake was, but she is an endearing collector of gloves and shoes and chunks of wood, all of which she piles up in special spots around the back yard.  This week she carried one of the Bearded One’s flops out of the man cave den, back through the living room in plain sight of us in the kitchen, and out the screen door.  We were howling with laughter.

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After dinner we found it near the sweet pea teepee, which I just fertilized with fish fertilizer, a smell that could rouse Jake from the grave to dig and roll in.  I’m sure Ruby noticed, but I’m equally sure she resisted the temptation.  She’s old and knows better.  Heck, she even knows she’s not allowed in any garden.  I’ll miss this when she’s gone and we have to train a new dog.

I hope that’s still a couple of years away.

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