Crowz Nest

Because it's time... as it was once before.

My Photo
Location: Port Murray, NJ

I'm a bit old to be starting out in life again, but that's where I am. Sadly. Or gladly. It's where I am. Come along. Watch the fun. Inch by inch, row by row, gonna make this garden grow.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

When Your Dog Has an Evil Sense of Humor

When I was a kid, once or twice my younger brother hid under my bed and grabbed me around the neck to frighten me after the lights went out, or hid in my closet, and jumped out at me when I was getting changed. Years later, my little sister had an evil toy - little men on springs and suction cups. You pushed them down, compressing the spring between two opposing suction cups until the cups caught and held. They would jump up at you when the spring overpowered the suction. She thought it was very funny that they scared the beejeezus out of me. I'm over my brother long ago. (Not that that was easy.) And I've long since forgiven my sister (for those horrible little men, at least.) But, I guess you could say that it's understandable that I startle easily. And now, I live with The Crow - she's an unusually smart dog with a wicked sense of humor. She's decided it's funny to ambush me from the shower stall. Ha ha. Ha.

(Now I know she's likely to be there, and it doesn't scare me anymore ... not much, at least. Still, there's always a small start when I don't realize she's in there and I turn to see this: )

The Secret in My Garden

There's an outhouse in my yard. It was hidden, during the summer when I moved in, within a thick, overgrown patch of forsythia, grape, and raspberry. But it's there. Last time Joe was over, he pushed his way through to it, to clip off a tenacious vine of poison ivy, and then looked in the window. I can still see his face when he turned to me to tell me there's an actual commode inside.

I took pictures, but it's kind of hard to see clearly. You can see, though, how I might have missed it when the leaves were out and the thicket was nearly impenetrable. I want to clean out that garden patch, leave the seat in place, clean up the shed itself, use it for garden tool storage, and put a big sign on it that says "Guest Bathroom."

(Click on the picture of the seat for a more intimate view.)

I don't know what it says about me that I like it that I have an outhouse, but I like it that I have an outhouse.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Continuing Puppy Envy

And the puppy envy continues. Bridget sent this more recent shot of her 5 little buggers. Every time I look at them, I am whisked back to my childhood, to my grandfather's dogs, to Missy, the first of his Springers who stayed in my heart, and to Sam, who grew up with me, and who walked with me and cried with me when both of us were so scared and upset when my grandfather was in the hospital. As we walked and cried, both of us, I'm certain, carrying images of his death, and sure we'd never be reunited with him, Pop was in the local hospital giving the nursing staff fits, fighting with everyone, and ultimately, climbing out onto a fire escape in his hospital gown, trying to make his getaway.

Who'd have thought that a puppy's face could bring back so much of my life? Then aga
in, who'd have thought that a puppy's breath could hold in it everything I need to know?

Monday, December 05, 2005

Puppy Envy

I've been enjoying three litters of puppies recently. None of them are with me here, and none of them are mine, but oh my, I can suffer from Puppy Envy with the best of them! The fact that these are three of my very favorite breeds in the world doesn't make any of this easier on me. And the fact that the breeders are three of my favorite people in the world is not a factor in my preference for these breeds. I grew up with Springers. I own and am passionate about the virtues of German Shepherds. And I will one day own a Whippet, a breed which delights my eye and my soul.

The first picture is of Stone, a nephew of sorts of my Crow and Hudson. Stone is a dilute blue, an "off" color in the breed which prefers its pigmentation as dark as possible, but a color that is frequently quite stunning. Stone wears his colors gorgeously, don't you think? I received this photograph of Stone on a snowy Sunday afternoon. I'd been spending the day knitting, reading, and reflecting, after shoveling snow and playing with Crow and Hudson. I was feeling much like Stone looks about the time the photo landed in my e-mail, and shortly thereafter, I logged off, pulled a blanket around me, and took a nap. Herewith, my inspiration:

He's got that down to perfection, don't you think? Can you imagine how safe this guy must feel in his world?

My friend, Beth, out in Seattle, has the nicest Whippets I've seen. She regularly torments me with photographs of her litters, and in each and every litter, there is one puppy certain to reach out and remind me how much I want one of these exquisite companions. In the recent litter, Beth has produced my latest temptation in Tiercel, a beautiful black and white male. There's just something about this pup! I wish I had a fraction of his presence:

Isn't that some expression?

In each litter, Beth also has had a female whose softness of expression and beauty are, to me, hallmarks of the breed. Here is Lark to prove my point:

And last but not least, the breed that was first in my life. Here are Bridget's baby Springers, more reminiscent of those with which I grew up than any others out there (with the exception of those we saw when we went to England specifically to see Springers there in 1998.) I think I received this photograph first on Thanksgiving morning, though I could be wrong. At any rate, whatever meal Bridget was cooking (I wish I'd been there! She's one fine cook) these were her kitchen mates at the time.
How does she stand so much cuteness in one place at the same time?

When asked to supply her favorite mugshot from the litter, Bridget sent me Melvin.

The Springers of my youth had freckles and curls and soulful expressions and liked nothing better than to lean against your leg. I know both the mom and dad of this litter. They're going to be fine examples of the best this breed has to offer if they turn out anything like them.

Three litters for me to drool over. Three fine breeds. And three friends of mine who exemplify what dog breeders should be - intelligent, responsible, committed women, who each have a vision of the breed they own, and each work diligently to always breed toward the betterment of that breed. And who each regularly torture me with Puppy Envy.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

My Special Christmas Present

Two weeks ago, my very dear, very special friend presented me with the most incredibly beautiful and thoughtful Christmas gift that I could imagine. It is a painting of the old Morris Essex Kennel Club dog show. All of my life, since well before my own involvement in dog shows, I had heard of this show. My grandfather showed his Springer Spaniels under the Seneca kennel name at it back in the 30's, and I own several old, wrinkled, faded black and white photographs of him with his dogs in the ring there. In one of them, you can see my grandmother, in her Sunday finest, complete with a hat she no doubt made herself, standing among the crowd at ringside.
The venue of the Morris Essex dog show was the Geraldine Rockefeller Dodge estate in Madison, NJ. In 1970, I began my adult journey at Drew University, which stands right across Loantaka Road from this estate. For the last 31 years, I have worked at Drew, and at least once a week, if not 5 days a week, I take my lunchtime walk along the path that borders the estate's eastern lawns upon which the show was held. I have never walked there, in all these years, without my mind's eye showing me the tents and the rings, the people and the dogs. I have always imagined my grandfather and his dogs there, and felt more deeply the connection to him that my own participation in showing dogs forged within me.

Last weekend, I drove down to Clinton to Hetzel's Framing to choose a frame for the painting. Yesterday, while visiting, my friend got to go with me to pick up the finished product. I think I picked the perfect frame. And I think we picked the perfect place in which to hang the painting. If you had told me the space above the mantel was crying out for something to be hung there, I wouldn't have believed you. If you had told me that one wall hanging could so totally alter the feeling in a room, I wouldn't have believed you. But it was, and it did.

My love, thank you. This painting does what you intended; it pleases me and it brightens my home. It is the perfect painting, in the perfect frame, hung in the perfect place. And it came from you, who please me and brighten my life. You are a gift beyond compare, the greatest gift of my life. I love you.

I have been remiss in keeping up with my blog. It's not that there isn't stuff going on to report. There is. But so much of my energy is still turned to healing, and to putting my right foot in front of my left that I don't want to bore the gallery.

It's snowy here today, and dark. It's been dark all day. The bird feeders were empty and I felt so sorry for the chickadees on such a cold, dark, dirty sort of day that I went out to fill the feeders. Hudson convinced me that poop patrol, which is his favorite part of the day, was really in order. Amazing how easy it was with dog tracks in fresh snow. I could see where they'd gone, every step they'd taken, since they first went out this morning. Interesting to note, that although they had the run of the yard while I was out front shoveling, they chose to hang around on the side from which they could see me - or even if they couldn't, the side from which they could if I happened back into their view. Funny dogs.

Since then, it's been a day for quiet, solitude, and reflection. My friend, Kathryn, called earlier this morning. Her Kelpie, Flink, has pneumonia. He needed help. She needed to breathe. I've been sending her calm, centered thoughts all day. It's suited me on more levels than one. It's sometimes quite amazing how my work with others reflects the work I need to be doing for myself. I heard myself counseling her to focus on the outcome she desired, not on the outcome she feared, and to breathe into the center of her being, body and soul.

On the white wall of the unknown future, I refuse to project my fears. With great, hopeful strokes, I paint the projection of my hopes. Today, it snows. Snow melts.