Tag Archives: puppylove

the patient work of the garden

Consider the hands
that write this letter.

Left palm pressed flat against paper,
as we have done before, over my heart…

from “Consider the Hands that Write this Letter,” by Aracelis Girmay

This morning the city sounds are loud and vibrant: the kids alive over in the schoolyard, the traffic rumbling steady as a lobster boat heading back in from checking the traps, the birds a persistent undersong – still here, nature says. Still here. Still here. Still here.

This weekend I planted cucumbers and watermelon. I put in a splash of carrot seeds. This weekend the bush beans put up their first true leaves. The rain was steady and sure on Friday, and everything in the garden appreciated the feeding. When I run through this city neighborhood, I scan every wild garden — how did they get their nasturtium to grow so full and lush? Maybe I should plant some hens and chicks, bring a little succulence into the front garden patch that’s growing so steadily. I steal ideas freely as I trot by — foxglove, daisies, tall (Roman) chamomile, more salvia, more mint. I tuck them into the spaces between my breaths. I run steady, imagining how my garden could be as fresh and bright as these. When I get home, I do my most important stretch — savasana — out on the driveway while the puppy bangs around me, ball in her mouth, thinking that this is some kind of new game. I practice relaxing: practice releasing. I practice letting the earth pull me to her. I practice letting go of the tension that builds in the right side of my body. Breathe into the tightnesses, exhale release. Try to stay here for two minutes at least. So difficult to let the mind go, stop the spinning and anxieties, the drive to hurry up and get to the next thing. Breathe into the tighenesses, exhale release. An inside-out kind of massage.

Then, while I am still sweaty and cooling, the puppy and I go over to the garden. How is everything looking? There’s another flower on the zucchini plant! The cucumber and watermelon and tomato plants don’t seem to have been phased by the cold snap we got the other night, after the rains. I check the little makeshift greenhouses I’ve made for my dahlia and broccoli plants — something’s been munching them right down to the stems at night, so I took a couple of clear plastic containers, poked holes in the bottoms, and covered the plants right up. I think it’s mr. squirrel, who does not seem to be at all phased by the puppy’s presence or scent in the backyard. I check the groundcover plants I set in around the walking path in the — are they taking root, starting to spread? I smooth out the fat puppy footprints in the soil. Someone isn’t using the walking stones. I pull some purple oxalis from around the strawberries, and pick a few ripe berries before the snails take them over, then push a tendril of nasturtium vine up under one of the threads of twine I’ve strung along the post I’m training the bright orange flowers to grow around — later this season, I hope it’s grown enough to mingle with the grapevines at the top of the trellis. I see that the yarrow is coming back– the whatever-it-is that’s eating the dahlia and broccoli also took some of my newly planted yarrow plants down to the nubs. And some of last year’s wildflowers reseeded and are returning — is this calendula? And maybe one of the gerbers, too! The butterfly weed has put up sprouts, as has the echinacea. The puppy mostly seems to know not to walk where the plants are, at least in the (low) raised beds. Keep your fingers crossed that these tender little plants get established steady before she’s driven to chase a ball through all of our hard work.

This is my office work, my daily gossip, my tendings. The puppy drops down into a splotch of sun, stretches long and folds her front paws one over the other, falling asleep with the ball still in her mouth, ever hopeful. Bees rumble in the orange tree while I weed around the poppy and borage (trying in vain not to get covered with hives after touching the borage leaves). Inhale the tensenesses,  exhale release. Bring water and food where it’s needed, and leave most of it all well enough alone — pay attention to how life tends to life, and to how very much I don’t have any control over. Inhale, exhale. Grin at the mourning doves come to rest up at the top of the grape trellis, and let her song open up something new in my body.


(nablopomo #12) be willing to be

graffiti of a pit bull terrier sitting in the midst of blue and green line drawingsGood morning, good morning –I’m feeling a little off-kilter this morning, not quite full. Maybe something in me is following the moon.

It’s one of those days when I don’t want to write, when I want to do anything but, when I feel overexposed in and to words, and so I want a break from them.

I’ve been up for a little while, wanted to get my blogging in early. I did a bit of journaling, jotted down a couple of dreams that I could remember, and then got distracted by looking up dog training info online.

The puppy and I need to go back to school. It’s been awhile since I’ve done a puppy update here. But nablopomo doesn’t give prompts for the weekends, and my freewriting at the moment is drawing me toward dog love and dog struggle and dog shame.

here we are at graduation from her first puppy class

As of the end of this month, Sophie will have been with us for six months. Six months! Next month she’ll be a year old. You might remember the panic and overwhelm I was in during that first month, how terrified I was, how I wasn’t sleeping enough, how being with her was bringing up feelings about my past dogs, especially the one I had as my sole unconditional companion during high school, during my stepfather’s abuse.

Sophie feels like part of family here, and a part of redefining family, at a time when the Mr and I are re-engaging with what family means. She’s a steady presence and still feels new — I find myself pressing my face into her warm brown puppy smell and thinking, Who are you? How did you get here? She is a part of our everyday-ness, a part of home, now. We’ve been through one dog-training class and now I think we’ve got the funds to do another. And it’s time.

Yesterday, at the end of a great walk in the hills not too far from our home, we were approached by a small pug and his mom. The pug may have been a puppy; he was a fraction of Sophie’s size. Sophie hunched down, like into a prowl, and came toward the dog from that stance. When they got close to each other, the other dog, wagging, bouncy, wanted to play, but Sophie was rough and aggressive. She was growly and wouldn’t leave off the dog when I called to her; finally I got her collar and got her out of the situation. She wanted to play, then, barked, wagged her tail, what’s the problem? The other mom picked up her dog, we exchanged a few words, I said Sophie was obviously still in training, we said that both our dogs were puppies. I knelt there on the ground with Sophie for a bit, wanting her to stay calm, while the other two walked away. I felt awful, sick, ashamed, frustrated and scared.

This is why we have to go to school, why I need more training — in those moments, sick and ashamed aren’t useful feelings. They’re triggers, or, really, reactions to feeling triggered. At times like that, I’m more worried about doing what someone else will think is right. How can I explain this? I’m back under my stepfather’s gaze, being watched and judged, and get reacty and panicked. I’m not thinking clearly any more than Sophie is.

The triggered feeling is so old, and I want to move with and past it. I want to trust the parts in me that invite me to do something different, but that I often ignore — trust, that is, the connection between me and my dog. I want to know how to interact with Sophie in those moments, before we get to the dog, to the situation that’s freaking her out. There were many different things I could have done in that moment, well before she got into a fight, but I ignored them, hoping that she’d be all right, even though she was showing me signs that she was in an odd mood with respect to that dog.

The shame that blossoms in me, it takes over everything, is a bright wash of red-orange, isn’t any help at all. It coats the inside of my mouth and all over my skin, tingles me unapproachable. We will go out again today and try something different (treats, leash, redirection, practice, practice, practice).

I have a note that reads be willing to be uncomfortable stuck to  my computer monitor. I have it there because I need reminding, encouragement, sometimes a push, to do the things that are important to me — and getting there often means moving through discomfort, often, deep, thick, bodily discomfort. I’m reminded of the thinking I do about safety, and about safe space — that I can be safe in the midst of change, in the midst of reaching beyond my comfort zones, in the midst of doing something that pushes all my buttons. Just because I’m uncomfortable doesn’t mean something is wrong. Sometimes it does. I’m learning to listen differently, learning to tell the difference.

There’s more to this, but now it’s 12 hours since I began this post, and I need to get it out. The puppy and I had a good and uneventful walk today — I brought more treats, did more training practice, she got to chase the ball and eat hot dog treats. I’m scared, reaching, and grateful.

Thanks for your practice, for the ways you hold your own growth. Thanks for your patience and presence with others’ discomfort, how you allow others, sometimes, to be present with yours. And your words, too. Thanks for your words.