“Rosy,” chalk pastel by Maria Theresa Maggi

A little while ago, a Wednesday, the day of the week Romeo died (which for now, constitutes an anniversary each week), came two literal tail winds, or “wooshes,” as I sometimes like to call them. The first one came when a hummingbird grazed my ear as I sat, a bit lost, in a dear neighbor’s yard–how it thrilled me to feel the wings beating, to “hear” them. The second one came in the late afternoon as Cotton and I began our walk. From behind came first the feel and the sound of muted thunder, as the high school athletes who come here to train with their coach who lives in my cul de sac started out their run en masse–and wooshed by us. Cotton was in wonder beside me. We stopped to “feel” them pass–all youth, grace, male, female, brown, white, black, yellow. The tailwind was palpable. For a moment they carried us with them and I said to Cotton, “yes, they are doing what you like to do sometimes,” and though he understood, he was content to stay.

Just days after Romeo passed, a friend wrote to ask me if Romeo had come to “visit.” I said yes but did not elaborate–it would have been too exhausting to describe in that moment. I remembered that Tinne, our golden, tried for the corporeal. The afternoon after she died she did her best to materialize in the kitchen while I napped to reassure me she would help me find another dog (and she did).

Romeo has a more ethereal approach, in keeping with his less “material” nature. He brings the feel of a rosy color or light, and the wooshes, the upliftment of the tailwind. The sonnet I wrote about us, “Scenes From A Valentine’s Day,” comes to mind since it describes a feeling of love that comes from sharing moments of wonder together in the world.

Mock up for Romeo Valentine Card with the sonnet “Scenes From a Valentine’s Day” on it. Poem and art by Maria Theresa Maggi

Scenes from a Valentine’s Day

Romeo, my four-legged Valentine,
focuses on a clump of dead leaves
with the olfactory equivalent
of a microscope, while over us
the sky has opened to sun, then turned gray,
and now a few flakes of snow flutter
in the air that shifts its color with the clouds.
We’re on the edge of campus; a young man
in black sweats crosses our path, his arms full
of red roses wrapped in red paper.
The snow falls but doesn’t stick yet;
the sky is that color of milk hinting
a storm might come, its wide mouth agape,
as if opening to a deep kiss.

by Maria Theresa Maggi, from If A Sparrow, Finishing Line Press

Romeo witnessed my wonder like no other. Those moments we usually have in solitude, he was there for, for years. And now I feel him present in spirit during them, as if to kiss me on the cheek, or, place his head gently on my hand. Subtlety was his gift then, and now. In spirit, he still imparts to me and Cotton such refinement and beauty. We felt our first moment of wonder together as the beautiful young people wooshed by us. If I look for the nuance, I’ll find everything, all the love we need, all the wonder. Romeo has that woosh quality now full bore, like the angels on the San Diego freeway once imparted to me.

____

It’s been a little over a month since these very early experiences after Romeo’s passing. Taken from a journal I write early morning impressions in, it was hard to form them into sentences.  Since then, there’s been many “rosy” reminders and apparitions, nearly daily, that buoy me along when they are most needed. I started really taking notice the day we had to go to our first nail trimming appointment without Romeo. The doggy care place we go to offers free pens and I went to grab one. Only afterward did I realize I had grabbed a “rosy” one when I would usually go for another color. I smiled.

In those first weeks of loss, it was hard to be out on a walk and have people ask where Romeo was. It felt like others were touching a burn. I understood intellectually all the kind words and gestures were meant to comfort me, but I really understood, too, why another neighbor who lost her quiet little dog named Jewels at 15, had said to me “I’m okay as long as I don’t talk about it.” That was me a lot of the time, especially when others initiated the conversation. I wanted to choose when to speak about it.

I’ve spent a lot of time on the couch, learning to loom knit, something I started before Romeo died, as a project to focus myself and to humanize those waiting at the border. I’ve been sending my hats and  little comfort dolls to RAICES.  It’s always “home base” after walking out in the neighborhood, the first trip to the store when he wouldn’t be here waiting for us, and much more. Gradually I’ve ventured further afield for longer. The biggest outing came last Friday night when a friend and I went to Newport to see George Winston in concert. I almost never do anything like that but when I saw he was coming I wanted to go. Cotton did beautifully at my side the whole evening as well.

In addition to beautiful piano (and guitar and harmonica) numbers, sitting in that little intimate theater helped bring about an unexpected shift in my grieving process. As we first were seated in the lovely gallery reserved for people with disabilities, I confess my mind went to the horrible what if place since there have been so many public shootings. But I let it play across my mental screen knowing it was passing weather. And then, I looked out onto the audience, most of whom were senior citizens like me, enjoying the beginning of the concert (which was also a fundraiser for the Lincoln County Food Bank) and a wave of profound benevolence swept over me toward all of them. It seemed like a huge protective blanket that allowed me to be present and to let all feelings flow, even those of sadness in remembrance of the days I might have been at something like this with Romeo. I let the tears fall. Cotton sensed this, and looked up at me. He shifted himself to put his body on my foot to comfort me. It was a beautiful gesture in a magical night.

Since then, that woosh of benevolence has proven its staying power. Late one afternoon a few days ago we were out walking past the clubhouse and a woman I hadn’t seen since Romeo died was going in to a gathering about to start. She greeted me and said ever so plaintively, “I just feel so sad when I see you walking around with just one dog. Romeo was such a beautiful creature.” Instead of making me feel like someone was poking at a burn, I got it, in the way I once glimpsed it when back in Moscow, I was worrying to a friend that I felt like I did not do enough to help people. She said, “Maria, you have no idea how many people you help and comfort, just walking around town with Romeo the way you do.” I wasn’t so sure about that but I decided to accept it on faith. And the way this student of one of my poetry colleagues moved me when I was sent what she wrote about “Scenes From A Valentine’s Day” when they read it in a class about love poetry: “I like these poems a lot because they show that love can be had for so many different things. I don’t have a boyfriend, but my dog is my best friend, so ‘Scenes from a Valentine’s Day, is now one of my favorite poems. Despite never having a ‘lover’ on V-day, I love the holiday and appreciate the day to celebrate all kinds of love, much like the speaker in the poem.”

Now that faith helped me understand this woman’s feeling of loss, and so many others who are now watching me and Cotton walk around without Romeo, and how the three of us had become part of their experience here. They are mourning too.

Now I don’t find it quite as painful when people ask or try to say something nice. And I’m glad when they ask about Cotton or say how beautiful he is, too. And it’s helped me reflect on what my special talents to inspire must be. They seem to have to do with just doing my thing. Even the folks with houses on the water have told me how they enjoy seeing me play with the dogs on the beach. When I’m there I have no idea anyone is watching. But apparently they are. Now they’re seeing Cotton and me in the early morning, as we negotiate when he can run to chase crows or when he needs to come back from going too far after a sea gull tacking down the edge of the water.They see us play with his toy, how he waits for me to try and come ‘get it’ and let’s me get it, wanting me to have a turn too. They see how seamlessly he walks with me when on leash.

There are many activities in our neighborhood, like classes, a group of walkers, stitchers, barbecues and chili cook offs. One neighbor I really like who’s here for the summer says it’s like “camp”–and she does as many things as she has energy for, because, she says, she never went to camp–and we laugh. I, on the other hand, rarely go to anything organized. One of my friends suggested the stitching group to me and when I said without hesitation, “no, I don’t think so,” she may have been taken aback a little at my instant definitiveness.

It isn’t that I don’t like visiting with people. I end up doing plenty of that just running into folks on our walks, or having tea with my circle of close friends, or visiting on the way to errands someone takes me on. But when I loom knit, or write postcards to voters, I actually like to do these things by myself. It brings greater focus to my efforts, in a meditative kind of way, and most importantly, it gives me the space to visualize the potential people my creations will go to, and how I can make them lovely and full of tenderness for them. Or if I’m writing a postcard to a voter, how that person might be encouraged by what I write to get out there and vote. I can’t do that if I’m visiting while I knit or write. And in both cases, it’s physically demanding enough that doing it alone means I’ll be better at it because my concentration is focused, and my awareness of when I need to rest is also more present. I’m not keeping up with anyone but myself.

It’s visualizing the positive outcomes for the people I love the most though. Perhaps the solitude I live in helps me be present in this way, and in ways that make me a better blog writer and a good long distance friend or sister. So maybe I AM doing something that is somehow that mysterious “enough.” I giggled that yet again in my life I’m still trying to answer that question for myself. And when I did giggle and look away from the screen my eye settled on a brilliant fuchsia shade in my tie-dyed dish towel–a “rosy” reminder to follow “the encouragement of life” offered to me, as it is described in a beautiful poem by Sufi Master Hafiz. Listen to “How Did The Rose Ever Open” set to music, by David Wilcox and Nance Petit, from their CD Out Beyond Ideas.”

And thanks, Romeo–you still make everything come up “roses” and remind me there’s more than enough love to go around.

“Romeo in Pink Curtain Morning Light, ” Portland, 2015

Maria (moonwatcher)

 

 

 

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“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.

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