Friday, October 31, 2014

Life With Rain

What a beautiful sight: my brick patio in the rain!

Water has been falling out of the sky for about three hours or so, thanks be to God. Yesterday I cleaned up the south side of the house, gathering mouldering leaves for Alex's compost bin, pulling river rock out of the ground (dumping the excess river rock on that side was one of the dumbest things I've ever done) and then trying to hack a drainage channel into the hard, dry soil.

Back in 1997, I went out there in high boots in the unrelenting rain and used a pickaxe and shovel to make a drainage ditch to the front of the house. But after that winter, the rains weren't bad, and I more or less forgot how poorly the hard clay soil of this area soaks up water. And if you don't maintain your infrastructure, nature fills in with dust and leaves, and homeowners dump rocks into it.

Well, I wasn't having much luck yesterday with the digging, so Alex offered to use her younger muscles to scratch a drainage basin. Chopping at the nearly cementitious earth was hard even for her, so she got some much younger muscles to help -- Mr. Let-Me-At-It Eperis.

Bernie calls him "Eperussell," because it's become fairly obvious that there is a healthy portion of Jack Russell terrier in his blood. Remember how I said he wasn't? Well, I believe I was wrong, and I also believe that the previous owner found out that he wasn't what she was told he was and that's why she ditched him. Anyway, what do terriers do? Right, they DIG.

Ep pitched into the excavation with the vigor of foolish youth and the determination of a race of ratters. It was like a light bulb came on in his brain and he realized that digging crazily was what he was meant to do with his life. Alex merely directed the vector of those flying white paws.

Of course, it is a double-edged sword: the ditch got done (at least as much as we needed for this storm) by puppy paws ... but now that he knows how much fun it is to dig, he's going to need lots of supervision while he's outside.

Especially since we can't keep him from jumping onto the top step in the pool every time he goes out. Oh, yeah, he's a water dog, too. Dirty digging paws in the pool? Heaven help us.

And thank you, God, for this beautiful rain.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Oh, the Sun Still Rises and Sets

We were sitting out on the back patio the other evening, and a sudden trick of the clouds and sun gave us a surprisingly reddish light. All the brickwork glowed, and the pool looked especially deep blue. This photo sort of captures what we saw, but not quite. Not red enough.

In only about three minutes, the light had changed; the sun was dipping behind the houses across the street.

You just have to savor the moments when they occur, because it's possible that oh-so-rich light may never return in this lifetime, and even if it seemed to be similar, the flowers -- that sweet mix of summer vinca, autumn mums, and winter color carnations and pansies -- would be different, the clouds would be different. And whether the beautiful time lasts three minutes, or thirteen years, all you can do is remember it with wonder and appreciation.

The radiant painting faded, back to normal. The sky dimmed to the usual lovely evening light of this season, and we sat out until the patio lights came on and scattered their pattern of shadows across the herringbone brickwork.

The weather service claims, in its long-range forecast, that in about a week or so, nighttime temperatures will be in the 40s, and that rain is possible. The beautiful light won't be there, but times of chill and rain have their purpose, and that's good, too. I have kohlrabi and lettuce and peas and chard and spinach and turnips and beets that all like the season of winter, so I will rejoice in what I have that lives and grows, and hold the memory of amazingly beautiful times in my heart.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

My Dear Howie

I always knew it was going to be hard to say goodbye to him. From our first meeting, he captured my heart and took up residence within it. He left this world on Tuesday, the last day in September.

Howie was a shelter dog, although how anyone could leave such an adorable striped puppy behind, I could never imagine. But their foolishness was my fortune, because Howie -- as I've said many times before -- was the very best dog I've ever had.

He was a wonderful traveler, even when we had to drive for ten hours in a day, always cheerful, completely trustworthy, delighting in McDonald's for a breakfast egg.

And how he could run! We knew from the shelter that his mother was a German shepherd mix, and from his topline it was clear that he had some Queensland heeler in him, but whether the stripes came from a whippet or a greyhound, who knows? In a run with other dogs, there would come a point when Howie would just shift gears, and change from a rollicking mutt to a speed machine, leaving every other dog far behind.

When Alex and John brought Lillian home from the hospital, Howie carefully sniffed her, and then put the top of his head against her newborn feet. And then the cat walked in, and Howie ran him off with great roars of warning. Never was Howie anything but gentle and loving with the girls; as soon as Joan could crawl, Howie always cleaned her face as he passed by. (She loved it.)

He always had his eye on me, to follow me through the house, to keep me company outside. Even on his last day, he took up a station on the loveseat near my rocking chair, and every time I looked up, if he was awake, he was watching me. My dear, dear boy.

What I don't know how to speak of is how much I dreaded him getting older; he did it fairly gracefully, but the first time I saw him fall down, nearly two years ago, my heart started breaking. I knew that I wouldn't have him for very long after that, and was surprised that he made it into his fourteenth year.

In July he had a visit to the vet and she was impressed at how well he was aging, even though she managed to use the phrase "because he is so old" about ten times. But by then, he couldn't go for walks any more -- he could make it about a block up the street and back, and it would wear him out.

Over the past few weeks we saw him decline rapidly, falling down more and more often, sleeping most of the time, choosing to doze on our bed rather than keep us company outside. He began to withdraw, at night putting himself in the farthest location from us in our bedroom.

I miss him so much.

There will be other dogs in my life, I'm sure. I like dogs, and after all, my abuelita Grammy Palos always said that one should have animals around to let you know if there's anything evil about. But I strongly suspect that there will never be another one even close to Howie.

Howie Zimm   2001 - 2014