Life, Death, Dogs. A Rooftop Contemplation

The occasional whisper of tires as a car drives by below, an unintelligible shout, the scattered songs of birds. The only sounds at this hour. Only the crackheads & I seem to be awake. Even the sirens are quiet, sleeping.

It’s 4am & I’m up on the roof of my apartment building with a fresh cup of coffee, a cigarette, & Ruby. The clouds above reflect the city lights giving a faint glow, just enough to see by. A cool breeze plays with my hair, blowing it in my face then away. I wrap my robe a little tighter around me.

I sit on the short wall of my building, look down at the weeds growing in our forbidden & neglected back yard. Near the far right corner calla lily’s bloom, defying the otherwise abandoned and unloved desolation. With their beauty inevitably comes a warm sorrow as I’m reminded of when Striggy brought a gift of bone-white lily’s to my tent in Austin. With love & reverence I placed them on top of the pale blonde box I had picked up earlier that day, already made into an altar surrounded with candles, a picture of Bean propped up against the box that now held the ashes of the most amazing dog & companion I’ve ever known. She was killed by a freight train a few days before, found by friends lying between the tracks, her favorite stuffed toy a few inches from her head. Nearly 13 years later & the tears still fall for her.

I turn back facing the roof top, close my eyes, take in a few deep breaths as I find a strange comfort in this sadness. Now, it’s filled with love and warm memories instead of the anguish I carried inside for years, holding it tight, afraid that if the pain wasn’t there I would somehow be betraying her memory.

I know better now. I understand death better now.

I think of how exquisite this life is, how fortunate I am. Occasionally I still let the weight of it all get to me and forget these things, but not now. Not today.

I open my eyes and catch Ruby briefly chasing her tail. I chuckle silently to myself and somehow love her even more.

I think of the time I spent in Hospice. Months on end so close to giving up, so desperately wanting to stop being strong, and each morning having to somehow find just one reason to keep fighting. One reason to stay alive.

As impossible it seemed to be able to imagine at times, I needed to believe that I would somehow get better.

I had to know, with as little doubt as possible, that there would be mornings like this one to look forward to.

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The Way It Works / The Circle

The comforter loosely tucked around my body, the cool air from the slightly open window on my arms a perfect contrast to the soft warmth underneath. Cozy, warm & content as I sit up against the softness of my pillows, Ruby asleep with her back pressed tight against my legs. A single candle glows softly in the sconce on the wall behind me offering just enough light to pick out the letters on my laptop – in the quiet & solitude of 4:30am, the sudden brightness of my reading lamp would shatter this perfect moment.
I can barely see anything.
Screw it. I’ll squint.

I had just woken up thinking how amazing it can be, when things are used well.

Thanks to a few incredible people who are still lifting my spirits, still, even after all this time reminding me that is still one HELL of a warrior inside of me…

– & some ‘creative logic’ on my part in the herb & food needs (i.e. “I *think* I can stretch that out until… um… the 1st? Shit.”) – I was able to afford to take a journey out to El Cerrito yesterday to visit an incredible friend, woman, & fellow warrior who is going through her own medical hell – getting two different, completely soul-crushing messages about 48 hours apart like a fucking double-tap to the heart.

We had a kickass day, hanging out in her room, talking, laughing so hard I *honestly* thought my guts might finally come flying out of me (I was holding them in, squeezing as hard as I could with both arms & yelling at her to shut up before I popped – but would she? NoooOOOoooo – the bitch!) and… just remembering what it felt like to be *normal* people for a few hours, watching stupid TV, singing songs at the top of our lungs and giving each other loving hell.

I needed it just as much as she did, if not quite a bit more. There’s a healing in just simply that connection, that amount of love that that no medicine, no herb, no “perfect living” can *ever* equal.

We talked about our animals, and both wondered if either of us would still be alive without them… and she had the amazing idea of making a Youtube video about the caring for them – what they like, what they need, can or can’t eat – what makes them happy, the treats they like or a certain way they like to be scratched, or petted – or not…
Just in case.

Just in case so if anything ever did happen, if we weren’t able to talk or move or…

Then at least we would know that, even then, we still did our best for them…
On the way out there, some dancers got on the BART train, did their speech blahblahblah… and as they began I moved my eyes up from my writing, looked at them – then looked around at the other passengers, who were nearly ALL doing their best to ignore these courageous kids who were dancing for THEM, maybe in hopes to shine a little more color on the grey, Friday evening lives they lived.

They were, actually, pretty good! Did that new thing where it looks like your entire upper body has had every bone broken and swivels put in to repair the job instead of pins.
And thanks to those who help *me* – I was able to offer them something. I pulled out $5 – not much but a lot for me at the time, and the worst part is – I was sitting four rows back from the door, and as the hat-holder got to me after I *called* him to come over – that $5 was the only bill that they left with.
Still, they left the car in style – saying their thank-you’s & smiling.

After the day with Isa & finally back in the City, walking through Civic Center BART there were a couple guys around my age setting up – one in a wheelchair, but still somehow tall & lanky with pencil-dreads, his partner shorter but still thin, and looking close you could see what appeared to be not an easy life in their faces.

Then, as I took the first couple of steps up the escalator, they started singing – and I jumped back down. Goddamn. They sang an old spiritual, lanky in a *low* base & his partner harmonizing beautifully – I had $3 left in my pocket, so gave them that…

and I made my way back up the escalator into the frigid San Francisco night with my p-coat pulled tight, hat brim down – and an enormous smile beaming out from underneath it, still humming the spiritual.
And none of this would have ever been able to happen without you – you know who you are.
Thank you.

 

A strange separation


vlcsnap-2014-12-04-21h38m30s235I look at old videos that I took while in Maitri. Things I haven’t seen since recording them, “footage” that no one else has seen, nor likely ever will unless you ask – and I don’t think you want to.
Better to hide behind the hint of truth that you already know.

These are the things I need to remember when I see other friends going through the hells that they do – so few of us tell the whole story. We’re afraid to.
We aren’t looking for sympathy, not looking for “oh, you poor thing…” We know. We know how you feel because we feel it more. We feel it more because we have that badge sewn into our flesh. Trust me, this is nothing against you… in fact, I hope you never do understand. I hope that you never have the capacity to empathize on that level. Your well wishes *are appreciated…

But what we truly seek is understanding. A person to cry *with* – not someone who cries for us. Only in those (thankfully) few people can we find some sort of twisted kinship.

Please don’t get me wrong – I love you. GODS, how I love you, for your caring, for your support, for the way that you *don’t* understand…

But I watch the videos, and even I, who have lived through that time, am disgusted at what I see… the decomposing flesh, the blood, the “fluid” that stained everything I slept in or wore, frequently soaking through the three layers of gauze & bandages to the pants Nd dripping on the floor of the cafe… And for the greater part of five years (the decomposition began *long* before I went into the hospice) – that was just another part of daily life. Brush my hair & remaining teeth, splash water on my face, peel the dressing and flesh from my legs try not to scratch because GODS they itched from the poison seeping out… and what do I need to do with CultureFlux that day?

THis seems like an entirely different life, the one I am living now… an entirely different person – finding my Birth Mother, being solid and “stable” enough to at least let a dog “think” that everything is wonderful… – even to the point of daring to offer my heart to another…

And remembering how wonderful that feels, even in the pain that it has brought.

Recently a friend said to let go of the past and focus on the future. I understood what was meant, and in many situations the person woulld be right – *IF* my past – this *particular* past were holding me back from myself and who I continue to become – but as I said to the person after a bit of thought – “In order to see where I am going, I cannot be blind to where I’ve been.”

We all go through what we need to, so we can give the lessons we have learned…

and I think I pretty much lost my train of thought… if there was one to begin with.

Perhaps the most important thing however – as grim as it may look to others, keep fucking smiling – and to everyone who *can’t* understand… please keep it that way.

You’ll find out enough about it in my book. That’s as close as I *EVER* want you to get…

I love you.

 

MomMe3

Love & Promises

In a strange way, it’s funny. All wrapped up in writing, becoming again, and playing with a beautiful dog that though I am broke as fuck (.65 to my name) I missed walking down and picking up my pittance check, the illustrious weekend in front of me.
And not a bone in the cupboard to chew on.
I was focusing on work, and forgot to get paid for living.
(I will never understand that. past rent and necessities (phone, internet) I get $300/ month.
Only when you have so little that everything, *everything* is a sacrifice. Trash bags, toilet paper (gots to have a clean ass) good soap, the herbs I still live by, and when I have an extra $10 in my pocket, a toy for Ruby. Honestly, she should come first, but I do occasionally need to crap, and… well, need to make certain its clean, just in case anyone really wants to sniff my ass. (Yeah, it’s happened. No comment.)

But fuck me, I wrote through the small time frame to pick up my check, again the fool.
So here’s to a penniless weekend, again. Fuck this shit. I’m climbing out. In three months, I will host the most amazing event you could ever dream of. Saturday, February 15. The day after Valentines day. I’m Coming BACK

But fuck, this current scrapping shit wears so dreadfully thin. Here’s the rub – if you have felt this, feel it now. The desperation in a single day, the withering of the soul.

So I post this again, for now. Please forgive me.
Saving up for Ruby, but PayPal is immediate, and buys her toys – and some food for me. http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/534079/wdgi/451145

A heartfelt thanks to all of you that have found it in your heart to donate – Ruby and I are working on something special for you…

I need to believe.

 

And life, as painful as it is, painful as we allow it to be, still goes on. Still goes on for some of us, those who aren’t ready yet, haven’t fulfilled our quota in this one, having not lived their full purpose.

I see it every single day in this neighborhood, bodies wasted away to nothing, skeletal faces, some hunched over in impossible angles but still somehow making it down the street. I can’t help but wonder how they are still alive, what their lives must be like, and – how blessed I am. How blessed we all are.

Lost, another dear friend today, so very full of love and laughter, of wisdom, of pain, perhaps – but in all the times I saw him, he never let on that he might have been. He stood straight, he laughed from his soul, his smile could make even the darkest days brighter – even the memory of it.

Lord had a certain adolescence to him, he had found a way to remember the wonder and love for life of a child, where everything, as old as it may have been, was new. In my experience he seemed to love everyone with the same conviction, and knowing.

He lived his full purpose, and then some. I need to believe this. I need to believe this for everyone I have watched die.
I am tempted to say there have been to many, but just perhaps – there have been just enough.

Tonight I again opened a bottle that has been sitting for many days, poured a three finger glass, and opened my kitchen window at the back of my building to pour a sip, O.G. style, on the ground for the brilliant fucking people that have blessed me with their knowledge, wisdom and love. It filtered through the flat grey steel bars of the fire escape, but found its way to the dirt three floors below.

This goes out to all of you. Lord, English Don, Ron, Ernesto, Ruby (not my dog, not named after her) Alisun and Alison, so very many others that I watched die horribly slowly, and the two dogs that have passed, Bear, in 9th grade – and of course Bean. Far, far too many others, enough to almost consider myself immune.

I understand death, or at least I thought to enough to not have this effect me in any way, but… I still have a heart, and still have shitloads of fight inside o me. Lord reminded me of that. You all did.

“If you live to be 100, I hope I live to be 100 minus one day, so I will never be without you.” ~ Winnie the Pooh

All those who passed, I’ll see you again – that is certain – but fuck, really… stop that leaving is shit – though I know you must go. Just don’t really dig it, at all.
We will meet again.

To be a Dog

 

 

I strip naked to crawl into bed. It is an uncommonly warm night in The City, the few weeks of summer in the fall, and I prefer a slight bit of chill at the very least. Ruby has a tendency to snuggle, and by snuggle I mean to attempt to push me off of our bed.  She doesn’t just slowly slide up – she essentially falls down on me and expects me to slide out from under her. It is still my damned bed, to a certain degree. She has learned that when it’s time for me to get in, she gets off. I make myself comfortable, avoiding the edge that I know she will push me to (a head start) and when allowed, she then hops back on to claim her side/middle/the whole damn thing. Her simplicity is just one of the things I love about her. Primal, no bullshit.

She tests me. She pushes, I push harder, and very shortly after we both find sleep, my arm outside of the covers caressing her, in adoration listening to her breathe, feeling her puppy belly rise and fall, the occasional sigh. If only she could know I would do anything for her. I think that she’s learning this.

When we walk around the neighborhood there are many loud noises, many people, many things that she is still unsure of which cause pause for her. “It’s okay, Rube.” She looks at me, her leash goes slack as she walks next to my leg until we pass, then she’s off to exploring again in her zig-zag roundabout way, from one side of the sidewalk to the other, exploring everything. I walk behind her in more or less a straight line, but we both get everywhere we are going, just the same.

Though I love all animals, there is an exquisite pureness, faith, and loyalty in dogs that can’t be refused. In their innocence they trust that we know best, even when we don’t. When they look at us and their eyes shine in a big goofy smile, we realize that life really is beautiful, and even in our lowest times, there is hope.

They don’t care if we come home late, they are always thrilled to see us. When we drink a bit too much they don’t judge. When we pass gas, “HEY! New smell! WOOHOO! They don’t care what we look like, are excited about everything, don’t mind the garbage on the streets in the slightest. With Ruby I have free reign to behave like a complete fool without any concern about what other people think, though that has never been much difficulty for me. They don’t care what we act like, how much money we make, even if they live in a tiny apartment that they consider home. And have a bed that they can take over. All it requires is love and caring.

“A bone to the dog is not charity. Charity is the bone shared with the dog, when you are just as hungry as the dog.” ~ Jack London

Yes, I will do anything for her. It is the very least for what she gives me.

This is something I read quite a while ago, in between Bean and Ruby, and it stays with me.

Being a veterinarian, I had been called to examine a ten-year-old Irish wolfhound named Belker. The dog’s owners, Ron, his wife, Lisa, and their little boy, Shane, were all very attached to Belker, and they were hoping for a miracle.

I examined Belker and found he was dying of cancer. I told the family we couldn’t do anything for Belker, and offered to perform the euthanasia procedure for the old dog in their home.

As we made arrangements, Ron and Lisa told me they thought it would be good for six-year-old Shane to observe the procedure. They felt as though Shane might learn something from the experience.

The next day, I felt the familiar catch in my throat as Belker’s family surrounded him. Shane seemed so calm, petting the old dog for the last time, that I wondered if he understood what was going on. Within a few minutes, Belker slipped peacefully away.

The little boy seemed to accept Belker’s transition without any difficulty or confusion. We sat together for a while after Belker’s death, wondering aloud about the sad fact that animal lives are shorter than human lives.

Shane, who had been listening quietly, piped up, “I know why.”

Startled, we all turned to him. What came out of his mouth next stunned me.  I’d never heard a more comforting explanation.  He said, “People are born so that they can learn how to live a good life – like loving everybody all the time and being nice, right?”

The six-year-old continued, “Well, dogs already know how to do that, so they don’t have to stay as long.”

I know my time with Ruby is shorter than I would prefer.  It was with Bean, with Bear, even with Happy, the Sheep Dog who I was raised with who almost ripped my cheek off when I was a very young child… but it is never long enough, and I can’t ever do enough for them.

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