When the Last Pet Leaves

The last picture of him.
The final picture of him.

We said goodbye to our cat this summer, the last of five pets who came with us when we moved from the country back to the suburbs 13 years ago. With his departure, our 30-year streak of caring for a dependent (pet and/or child) ended, as well. We are truly empty nesters now.

I won’t lie to you — it feels strange. I’m having a hard time adjusting. No more trips down the grocery pet aisle, no more lugging cat litter up two flights of stairs, no more fur in the dryer vent. Okay, maybe I don’t miss those. But on the other hand, I do miss his greeting at the door after a long trip, his purring for no particular reason, his warm body hogging most of our bed on cold winter nights.

This particular cat was MY cat, my familiar. In early years outside, he left me half-dead gifts by the backdoor; in later years indoors he brought me tiny trinkets carefully placed on the floor by my side of the bed — buttons, toe nail clippings and plastic bits, choking hazards that a lesser being would ingest and end up at the emergency clinic. But not him. He caught elusive flies and terrorized the house spiders, leaving their gigantic crumpled carcasses in full view as evidence of his love for me.

He was a sickly, flea-infested stray who showed up at our door 14 years ago, and pushed the limits of my husband’s patience when I called to tell him that “we had a situation” with a stray kitten. “You didn’t feed him, did you?” he asked warily. And of course I had.

I must admit, this was always the plan. Child off living her own life, pets gently ushered out. But the empty rooms devoid of hairy tumbleweeds seem sterile now, and the silence that greets me when I turn to say we’ll be back soon is hard to bear.

Life goes on, however. Every day I notice more spiders moving in, rejoicing in corners free of feline tormentors, still alive.

What the Water Says

Contented chuckling from the creek at Turkey Run State Park.
Contented chuckling from the creek at Turkey Run State Park.

More painting than writing is happening these days, as you can see over at Paints in the Parks. However, I’ve been enjoying some poetry hikes in a local state park as part of our Indiana Poet Laureate’s Arts in the Parks grant. Poet in residence for the summer at Fort Harrison State Park, Shari Wagner has led us along poetic paths to history and nature, providing thoughtful prompts along the way. Last week, her prompt to write in an element’s voice inspired me to start a new poem by a creek in the woods. Though destructive at times, water has always had a calming effect on me, whether in the bath, near an ocean or beside a babbling brook.

What The Water Says: Fort Harrison Poetry Hike

Born babbling
from embattled
ground I could
not stop myself
from gleeful giggling
with the faster flow,
seeking a rush in
rapids, shouting
down the stone-
silent elders who
tried to hold
me back, before
cascading full of
laughter into a
reckless roaring
tide of carnival
tunes and siren’s
sea songs.

Please check out Shari’s website called Through the Sycamores featuring her workshops and wonderful poetry as well as submissions from poets all over Indiana.

Back to the Land of Bad Memes

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Well, the whole “cord-cutting” experiment didn’t go as smoothly as expected. I won’t go into the ridiculously complicated and frustrating installation fiasco that lasted most of June, but let me just say that it involved two weeks without Internet. That’s TWO WEEKS, fellow readers, cut off from the sustenance of the cyber webs!

Two weeks of waiting for a repair that didn’t need to be done, arguing with several reps on the phone who were incapable of deviating from their scripts, multiple miscommunications and errors that couldn’t be replicated or fixed if you tried, and two weeks of data overage on our cell phones.

BUT it was also two weeks of ignorant bliss, removed from the horrible news reports and vicious Facebook posts by righteous vigilantes, of less time wasted on online games and more opportunities for naps, and finally, the return of a peaceful and calm bedroom devoid of the squawking black box that lulled us to sleep for years with the mayhem and murder of the late local newscast.

Now that speedy connection to the horrors of bad memes and incomprehensible spelling has been restored with many apologies and a little compensation from the corporate goliath we are forced to use, I can look back on the whole nightmare like you would that horrific camping trip where it rained the entire time and your body was covered in chiggers. You’re very glad it’s over but you can afford to be generous, proud, nostalgic even. Was I frustrated? Of course. Angry? You bet. Paranoid that this was all an elaborate plot to punish us for cutting the cord? Guilty as charged.

But I’ve haven’t slept better in years.

Cutting the Cord

IMG_6041In our latest downsizing venture, we’ve decided to take on the corporate dictators controlling what we see on the talking boxes, and cancel our cable subscription. After much help from our “cord-never” daughter (defined as someone who has never fallen for the cable TV trap) and vigorous research on the wireless internet we still need to keep, we’ve opted for one of those slim digital antennas and a Roku streaming device to fulfill our minimal entertainment needs. My family’s devotion to the sports gods has kept us from going cold turkey for years, but now there are alternatives to the big game gatekeepers.

So this week, I’m saying goodbye to the indentured servitude of bundling and contract confinement, the 300 channels we never needed, the painful phone negotiations every year when rates soared back to “normal,” the eternal rebooting when the power “blinks,” and last but not least, that nest of snakes full of cat hair behind the TV stand.

The few shows I’m giving up are well worth the clean sweep, clear surfaces and a single outlet.

Genie Magic

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I’ve been busy in April launching a new adventure, so no daily poetry for National Poetry Month. However, I did participate in Susannah Conway’s April Love prompts on Instagram and enjoyed her “love letter” theme where we wrote to a particular love every day. Some of them were tough — “feet” for instance, or “money.”

And then there were the easy ones like “sky” or “books.” But my favorites by far were the esoteric prompts like “intuition” and “truth.” The above photo accompanied my love letter for “magic” on Day 23:

Dear Magic . . . You are the song from faraway chimes, the bite into June’s first strawberry, the felty down on a freshly hatched chick, and the smoke pouring from a heavenly genie’s lamp.

May your month of May be merry, and magic.

Leaving the Nest

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Here we are again at the end of the month and edge of the nest. For me, March has been full of fearfull flights, fledgling emotion, grounding relapse, molting ineptitude and wind. In my travels I’ve seen old friends, learned new history, felt familiar pain, entered fresh territory, shaken off recurrent doubts, and given myself a good talking to on several occasions.

My clipped wings are sprouting new feathers in spite of national extremism, world pessimism, and the personal bogeyman under my bed who grows more aggressive each day. I don’t get up early. I eat like a bird but continue to gain the weight of a collective conscience. I dismiss social media but can’t stop pecking at it. I look for worms in all the political promises. I tweet desperate songs.

Yet, here I am on the ledge to renewal, twigs of shame and muddy negativity crumbling beneath me, what I called home a shell of my former idealistic imagination. I’m ready to look for a better roost in which to lay my hopes and dreams.

Tomorrow, I open April’s door in search of the great birdhouse in my soul.*

*Apologies to They Might Be Giants

Leap Day


On this extra day of 2016, I have taken the leap, plunging into a brave new world of creative expression. I’ve pulled out my painting equipment from winter’s closet, and brushed off the brushes. Palettes have been scraped clean of old doubts and crusty fears, big ideas packed for the move and my muses notified of my new location.

My calling cards come in the form of a new blog, a fresh Instagram account and a different email address. Like the proud new owner of a second home, I will split my time between the original writer’s cottage of Suburban Satsangs and a recently acquired rustic artist’s cabin called Paints in the Parks.

As with any major move, I’m sure that adjustments will be made in this transition. The mental furniture may need to be rearranged and ego expectations repainted. But I find that there’s nothing that a summer’s worth of fresh forest and field of flowers won’t fix. I look forward to flinging my door wide in welcome to babbling brooks, gushing waterfalls, stoic cliffs and mysterious caves.

And of course, my door is always open to you, dear reader. I hope you’ll make the leap with me and that I’ll see you soon at my new digs.

Writing for Art

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My tradition the last few years has been to choose a “word” for the year, starting in January. My word for 2015 was “Write,” and while I confess that I did write a fair bit, my greatest efforts weren’t in the form I’d imagined last year. Instead of the usual creative outlets like journal entries, poetry or even that book I keep promising to self-publish, I spent a huge chunk of my time in the throes of the hardest writing of my life — along with the blinking cursor of an online grant application that I filled out last fall.

As a grizzled veteran of numerous English research papers and an agonizingly procrastinated Master’s thesis, this is no small claim. The precise language and focused nuances required in proposing my project and asking for funding threw me into a strange new world, since I struggled to accurately portray a vision that would benefit the public as well as my own personal pursuits. You see, this particular grant focuses on creating art outside in state parks, and in my case, that art will be visual rather than verbal.

That’s right, my battles with the written page have been transferred to the terrors of a blank canvas, all in the name of celebrating art in nature. And I will gladly take on that challenge if I can convert even one person to the joys of spending artistic time outdoors, whether it’s to write a poem, compose a song, dance a jig, or set up an easel to paint.

Plus, I’ll be able to travel to some of the most beautiful natural settings that Indiana has to offer with a trusty assistant (my husband), and invite the great outdoors to be my personal work space. In the weeks to come, you’ll see a new WordPress blog called Paints in the Parks detailing my journey as I paint scenic landscapes in six state parks while I research my painting subjects and interact with the park visitors who stop by my easel. I hope you’ll join me on this artistic ride, either by blog or in person.

I believe that in our modern society, we spend too much time cooped up in homes or offices that can become self-made prison cells, preoccupied with the flickering screens of fake connections and false avatars, while a sentient world lies just outside our doors, at the bus stop, on the bike trails, in the parks, and under the shade trees in our backyards; all waiting to be celebrated through ART — my word for 2016.

The Art in Earth

Day 31: My Word For 2016
Day 31: My Word For 2016

My word for 2016 is ART; the art of living well, the art of compassionate coexistence, the art of intuitive creation, the art of health and healing, of joy and humor as well as grief and letting go. One of our greatest gifts is to see the art in life, since after all, there would be no Earth without Art. Happy New Year of photographic and literary art to all who read here. May there be plenty of art in your future.

Thanks so much to Susannah Conway for her December Reflections  photo prompts again this year. During this hectic and stressful season, she has prompted the art of mindful reflection from life’s photographic window seats with contemplative comments that helped me process the world with hope and love for all.

Heart Art

Day 30: Thank You For . . .
Day 30: Thank You For . . .

Thank you for the kind words, the sacred glimpses into your hearts, the funny moments in a day, the instant connections that jump miles and seasons and time zones through internet magic. I’m so thankful that our souls can reunite in this way. Namaste.

I’ve decided to participate in Susannah Conway’s December Reflections  photo prompts again this year. During this hectic and stressful season, won’t you join me in mindful reflection from life’s photographic window seats and contemplative comments that provide refuge from the madness.