“Romeo Sleeping,” chalk pastel by Maria Theresa Maggi

My Dear Readers,

For those of you who don’t already know, coming up on  3weeks ago my Romeo crossed the rainbow bridge. I thought I would weave the story of his passing into a narrative with other events, but I find I’m just not ready to do that. So instead, I’d like to offer a photo gallery of favorite moments with him to honor the amazing being he was in Silken Windhound form and the incredible life he gave me for the past ten years. Without him at my side I would not have learned to walk the distances I learned to go without my walking stick. He gave me the support I needed to go places in public and to make the moves that ultimately brought me to the beach. He had a wonderful retirement here. And he taught Cotton well. I am grateful for every moment I had with him. Today as Cotton and I were enjoying the sun down at the cabana where the three of us often sat on the grass, I smiled to myself to think that if I used the folk measurement that one human year equals 7 in the life of a dog, then Romeo lived to be 101. He gave me a dog century of unconditional love. He gave me the experience of myself as someone worthy of that unconditional love, and that in itself is the experience of a lifetime. I hope you enjoy these moments from our life together captured in photos. And I thank you for following our adventures  over the years.

Here’s Romeo being a very cute senior earlier this year.

Romeo enjoying himself in the sun amidst a huge pile of leaves on Asbury Street.

 

One of my favorite photos of us, in the rose garden in Portland. That trip we also climbed the stairs at the Japanese garden together, took a taxi, and attended the Vida Vegan conference.

Romeo and me on Christmas Eve in Ghormley Park about 7 years ago, posing in front of a tree I donated in honor of my parents.

Here’s a couple of us on our excursion to the Pacific Coast on my birthday 2016, the first time I’d seen the Pacific Ocean in 22 years and Romeo’s first smell of sand and sea.

Another one of my favorites. My sister took this of us unawares, looking out over the Clackamas River, awaiting the moment when Mike and Kelly would literally “take the plunge” in their wedding clothes.

Here we are in the green dappled light under my pear tree on Asbury Street.

Great grandfather Romeo contemplating tiny great grand daughter puppy Solveig.

A stranger on Lincoln Beach saw the two of us standing together sketching and snapped a photo of it. She then approached me and asked if I would like her to send it to me.

Romeo proudly posing in his new service vest. With that vest he accompanied me to City Council Meetings and was at the podium when I gave public comments. He received a commendation from the mayor written into the minutes for his good citizenship. He stood at the podium at BookPeople of Moscow with me as I read my poetry in public for the first time in 17 years. He wore that vest to my first art show at the Moscow Food Co-op. He was wearing that vest when we helped our neighbor Ashley across the busy street in our neighborhood and he was at the hospital another time when she hadn’t been so lucky and we visited her in the emergency room. He was photographed for a book called The Dogs of The Moscow Farmer’s Market. He accompanied me to a viewing of Back To The Future with live soundtrack played by the Porland Symphony. He was at my side when I judged the Portland Youth Poet Laureate competition, and much more. Now Cotton wears that storied vest with willingness and understanding, thanks to Romeo’s example.

Romeo taking a snooze at my feet while I discuss building community at a City Repair workshop in Portland.

Romeo and me on a playdate in Portland with our friend Melissa and her three Silken girls, Cartier, Shelby and Mocha. Romeo and Carter had a little crush on each other.

Romeo meets his grandson Jarreau nose to nose.

In addition to passing on his service dog wisdom, Romeo appointed himself to the job of licking off Cotton’s head after they’d had a bath or we’d been out in the rain.

Romeo and my neighbor’s cat Boo enjoying the sun in my empty parking space at the condo in Portland.

Romeo hanging out with me while I helped paint the Nikki Brown Clown Free Library mural.

At the request of my dog trainer friend Leah, Romeo and Cotton form a “reception line” at her puppy class graduation so the graduates can practice approaching other dogs calmly. Little Sailor’s getting some advice from Romeo the elder here.

Romeo holds my hand our first Christmas together.

I know Dr. McDougall loves to say “it’s the food.” And it is. But I would also add “it’s the love.” The food gave me the foundation to be clear and well enough to trust letting Romeo into my life, and to be open to the love and support he gave me. And that, in turn, changed my life. Thank you, Romeo, as I always used to tell him, for loving me so much and keeping such good care of me. I’ll meet you on the other side someday when it’s my turn to cross that rainbow bridge. I love you always.

Maria (moonwatcher)

 

 

PS: Cotton holding my foot on the beach, carrying on the tradition of Romeo’s tenderness.

{ 23 comments }

Single Figure

by Maria Theresa Maggi on July 24, 2019

"Early Morning Surfer with Cabana Shadow on Sand," pastel memory sketch by Maria Theresa Maggi

“Early Morning Surfer with Cabana Shadow on Sand,” pastel memory sketch by Maria Theresa Maggi

I was deeply disappointed with this sketch the morning I drew it. I thought I had failed, but I was tired, and it was time to make my oatmeal, so I sighed and left it out on my work space at the slider windows, washed in northern light, and went about my morning.

During the next 24 hours I tweaked the surfer a couple of times, stopping to do so, as I walked by, uncertain it would every be anything to me but a simplistic failure.

In the next 48 hours or more, however, as I traversed past it on the way into the kitchen or back to the couch or my computer, a very strange and wonderful phenomenon began to occur. Although the drawing lay flat, each time I walked by, I had the sensation of the surfer’s figure having a three dimensional quality that shifted my view of it subtly was I walked past, much like what happened when I walked along the bluff at the cabana watching him head north at the edge of the ocean, his eyes on the patterns in the waves. The sun was behind us, at once casting shadow and spilling morning light that was dissipating mist. The surfers need to wear neoprene body suits here, and as I looked repeatedly and then went up close I saw that I had somehow managed to get the effect of just a little light hitting the back of that neoprene suit, the stance of the strong legs getting ready for a shove out into the current, and even a slight shadow on the white surfboard, suggesting the slim space between his body and the board.

I honestly don’t know how I accomplished this. My drawings with little figures in the immense beach landscape are some of my favorites to try to do, but they always feel like a fool’s errand to execute. It’s often damn near impossible to get clarity of shape and line over the soft chalk backgrounds that place these figures in their landscapes.

I don’t often draw people up close, to scale. That’s much more likely to happen with animals. When it comes to the human form, I’m most often interested depicting them to size amidst a vast landscape like the beach. At first I thought this was only that I had moved to the coast and looked at it this way every day, and that is part of it, but then I remembered what I consider to be my first “real” painting with a human form in it while in a summer art class the year I was 14. The art teacher I took private lessons from was pleased with what I had done in this class, and she went with my mother and I to the framers and taught me how to pick a mat that would make the painting “pop.” My mother loved this painting and kept it hung in my parents’ home throughout her life. My sister returned it to me after her death, and now it’s on my wall in a tiny hallway between the bedroom and the bathroom. It’s impossible to take a photo of it without reflection from the windows, but I actually love how if you look closely, what’s reflected on the painting is a piece of the huge alder tree outside the window. Life and art entwined.

“Boy in a Tree,” Summer 1970, by Maria Theresa Maggi

A little further back than that, my fascination with the dwarfed human figure amidst a vast landscape came in 7th grade while working on a collage. I tore a photo of a woman standing on a craggy high rocky place looking out over the shimmering ocean, which became the “center” of the collage. It had a resonance of the potential expansiveness of solitude that never left me.

Paradoxically, there is a quality of universality to these single small figures in a vast setting that feels deeply personal.  The black body suits the surfers wear accentuate their amphibious abilities to move from one familiar element into one they can’t live in permanently, and made this strange poem, written long ago to accommodate a strong dream, leap to consciousness.

single figure
on the edge
of a long ago playground

empty
at night

in a dream
it was the chalked outline
of a body lit and
standing upright
on the edge
at a distance
glowing
holding my gaze
without a gaze of its own

it was the school
my mother subbed at
when she carried me
inside her

it was the black top
and then the field
the beginning of everything
before it started

and the white neon
outline had a consciousness
a prescience

as if it were a portal
bringing me to life
just before I would see

I was here

I didn’t feel like Scout
hidden in the giant ham

I didn’t feel like Boo Radley
keeping watch from the window

in that gaze without a gaze

I knew the way in
between the fences
the religions, the bells
the schedules, the lightning,
and the pelting raindrops

through deafening silence
before an explosion

toward the light out
on the edge

and the black vortex within it

gathering material

hardening into place

 

The way the impossible comes to life for me can indeed be dreamlike, and yet it’s an essential means of how I function in the world in a real and practical sense.

In the case of the sensibility of the single figure, if I follow the expansiveness of solitude, I find it curves into a gorgeous arc that can connect me in a personal way to someone I will never meet.

For example, in the small town of Kamikatzu on Shokuko Island in Japan, they recycle 80 percent of their waste. They’ve been doing this since 2003. They don’t have room for a landfill and the incineration of trash was turning the sky black with smoke. There are myriad categories for recycling paper and plastic–even dirty diapers. It took some getting used to, but now their town is a model and people are beginning to come from all over the world to learn at their recycling academy, which I learned from this article about it. But before I knew all that, standing at my kitchen counter, grousing about whether or not to take the time to cut my produce scraps up small enough for quick composting in the series of garden pots I rotate them through instead of throwing them into the trash, I think of one restaurant owner there I saw interviewed in a film who said at first it felt really hard and time-consuming, but then he got used to it, and now it just seems normal. So I think of him when I take the time to cut things up further, and that if he got used to it, I can too. And I think, too, of the worms now living in those pots, who wait for my apple cores and little pieces of banana peel and more, and then extra seconds it takes to cut things smaller are worth it. That’s one way a single individual I’ll never meet has encouraged this single individual along in a great work to make our planet more habitable. Whether or not there is ultimate “huge” success matters less than the connection and the peaceful feeling that sets in when I master any practice that makes me more mindful and compassionate of my actions.

Often my practice on the morning yoga and meditation mat includes the visualization that each day just one person finds the courage to stand up for the truth and for human rights in a setting where it would make a difference. Just one person decides to tell the truth where it is being covered up, or just one person is able to open their hearts to new ideas and different views. I celebrate that possibility, and respect its power. I believe that one person, even a single figure, as Walt Whitman once wrote, “contains multitudes.”

Maria (moonwatcher)

 

 

 

{ 4 comments }

Dessert Rice

July 5, 2019

I know it’s half eaten, and even before I dipped into it, it didn’t have a load of presentation zing, but this slightly sweet rice turned out to be a real treat for me. If, like me, you have been underwhelmed at times with results from trying to make rice pudding, this “dessert” rice may […]

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Sick Bay: A Scrapbook (And A Recipe)

June 23, 2019

Dearest Blog Readers, For the last month I’ve been very sick; in fact I haven’t been this ill in 40 years. I’m much better, and getting better all the time, but that’s why I haven’t written a new post until now. The experience has been so intense and all encompassing that as I joked to […]

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Can’t Be Beet Black Bean Brownie Wedges

April 27, 2019

After eating plant-based for so many years, and basically educating myself on the internet and then experimenting at home, tweaking recipes to work best for my situation, I end up with a lot of delicious fragments of former recipes I read or made floating around in what’s now my long term memory. This recipe is […]

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A Sign, A Magic Trick, A Song

April 8, 2019

  Back when I started all the moving a few years ago, I got into the habit of tying up my yoga mat with a beautiful cotton plaid scarf a friend of mine brought me years ago from Cambodia. It may have been that it was hanging over the post of the mirror on my […]

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Soy Milk Making Meditations

March 22, 2019

Though I’ve made almond milk, hazelnut milk for months on end over the last 11 years, and even hemp milk, pecan milk and pistachio nut milk on occasion, I came late to soy milk making. While I was intrigued long ago, the prospect seemed out of reach, since everyone who did it, and every soy […]

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Kalette

March 7, 2019

I have fallen in love with a new vegetable. It’s a little kale flower that grows on a stalk the way brussel sprouts do. In fact, it’s a cross between kale and brussel sprouts. But I didn’t have to know any of this to fall in love. My heart was stolen the January Saturday at […]

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Making Repair

February 12, 2019

Each morning before breakfast as I do my simple yoga and meditation routine, the branches of an old alder keep me company outside the bedroom window. From this alder, which leans toward the street, I have learned continued patience with my right side, the cerebral palsy side, as it continues its journey of balance on […]

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In Tandem

January 30, 2019

Last weekend at the winter market in the Lincoln County Fairgrounds building, a woman approached me, Cotton and the friend we came with, as I was paying for a hand knit hat. I was turned away from her to hand my card to the carftswoman, but I heard the familiar question, “what kind of dog […]

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