I miss you, my friend.
You, so close, and
you, the one I will never know.
I don’t know where you are.
This was always the design.
You are going somewhere new without me, again.
What can I do but make wishes for you, like always,
and simply remain.
I miss you, my friend.
Biddo loved to rip up paper, any kind of paper – usually in the middle of the night. Didn’t matter if it was the newspaper, business papers, or, his true love, books.
I tried packing the bookshelves tightly, but Biddo still seemed to be able to get whatever he wanted off the shelf. And just forget it if you left a book laying around.
I lost my wonderful Biddo about a year and a half ago, and I miss him dearly. I delight, however, every time I stumble across his bite marks in my library. I got to thinking about it lately, and perused my shelves.
Turns out, Biddo was a discriminating biter. For example, George Orwell. Biddo did a good job of biting up the cover of 1984. He entirely ripped off the back cover and several pages of Animal Farm. At the same time, he left Huxley’s Brave New World entirely unscathed. What’s up with that?
Stephen King’s On Writing suffered Biddo’s wrath, but all three copies (can you have too many?) of The Elements of Style were untouched.
A Course In Miracles and the accompanying meditations both drew Biddo’s ire. Sharon Salzberg’s LovingKindness drew a few bites. There’s just some gentle nipping on Louise Hay’s work.
Stephen Hawking’s A Briefer History of Time, as the picture shows, sustained a prolonged onslaught on the outer cover – seeing as how little damage could be done to the hardcover, I suppose.
There’s not a single bite in any of my works by Shakespeare. Chaucer was safe, too. Hmmm.
Biddo always left the inside pages pretty much intact, except for corner bite marks. The only exception was Animal Farm, where you’ll have to go elsewhere to read the ending.
This is just a sampling. I frequently lay hands on a book with bitemarks. Biddo left quite a legacy for me.
I’m not sure whether Biddo was biting approval or distaste in my books. Biddo was nothing, though, if not intentional.
It was a little upsetting in the moments when I discovered yet another ripped up book, but gotta say, I love to find them now.
Another item he thoughtfully left all bitten up? My yoga mat.
As a vegan, it is my policy to tread gently with others. I have been where they are – for most of my life. I understand that the concept can feel weird, uncomfortable, and threatening.
At the same time, I feel no reason at all to be apologetic for my own perfectly valid, considered, non-harmful lifestyle choices.
So, recently, when the topic of bacon came up during a casual conversation with a friend, it took an interesting turn.
Now, I understand how deeply committed to bacon many folks are. I get that this is a love affair.
Thus, when the topic was introduced by my friend, I innocently and with a chuckle observed that all that bacon eating might not be such a healthy thing. I did not launch into an impassioned vegan rant, I was just making conversation.
Nevertheless, one thing led to another with an increasing level of challenge and defensiveness on my friend’s part – despite the fact I was not challenging them for their choices.
To my dismay, in the space of about ten sentences – it was a brief discussion – my friend managed to become all upset and wanted to know why I would choose to distress them.
And then I was distressed. I had no intention to distress my friend, nor was I judging them. Neither did I feel good about being challenged and judged for own my personal, reasoned choices.
Inasmuch as someone else can unabashedly proclaim their love of bacon, how can it be somehow inappropriate for another to gently demonstrate their thoughtful abstinence of it?
And how in the world is it that those who choose to quietly act on compassion for animals should be ridiculed or judged negatively for that?
But I have observed this phenomenon before.
It comes from a gut knowing that causes an uncomfortable dissonance in a person. They don’t like to confront the conflict – the conflict within themselves. It is inherent compassion coming up against known cruelty – and not being able to reconcile that.
Most of the time it’s not a problem, because we simply keep it hidden from ourselves.
There is no blame in this. Our culture demands this dissonance of us. It tamps it down by normalizing everything and hiding the evidence.
Every now and then, though, it can rise to the surface and we see it for what it is. And that doesn’t feel so good.
Those are the moments that offer possibilities, though – ones that ask us to look at the world with a broader perspective – opening our eyes not only to difficult practices in our culture and our world, but to the beautiful depths of our own compassion. The implications go way beyond food.
I am grateful to my friend for reminding me of all this, for reminding me of my why, for helping me to keep my eyes open and to look at the bigger picture. Maybe my friend is seeing it, too.
Sometimes – often, in fact – my very best friend in this world is the cat with whom I share my home. He’s really a pretty amazing guy.
For one thing, he is always, always present to me. He clearly wants to be with me and to be my friend. He purrs A LOT.
He follows me from room to room without demanding attention. If I’m sitting in the living room, so is he. If I’m laying in bed, so is he. If I’m taking a shower, he’s right on the other side of the shower curtain. He makes it damned obvious that he wants to be with me.
At the same time, he’s independent. He clearly has a mind of his own. He’s tuned into things. He’s alert and observant. He’s filled with curiosity about the world. He’s very creative, too, always inventing new ways to pique my interest.
He’s completely non-judgmental about whatever it is that I’m doing or thinking. I can tell him anything. Anything. And he understands.
When I sing songs to him, he does not make any jokes about my voice.
In fact, he never makes any caustic remarks about anything I do – ever. That includes cooking, cleaning, employment, driving, social interactions, or big decisions.
And he absolutely does not care at all what I am wearing or how I look.
He takes me seriously. When I’m alarmed, he’s alarmed. When I’m upset, he is, too. He has been known to come to me and gently stroke my face when I’ve been crying. He also loves a good laugh with me.
He listens to anything I have to say. He not only understands my need to read to a lot, to write, and to sew and be creative, he absolutely appreciates it. He is demonstrable in his appreciation, sprawling across whatever sewing project I may have in the works, or cuddling up with me and a book.
He loves to have simple fun. He has a sense of humor. He can be sneaky. He likes to make surprises. His eyes are usually sparkling with joy. He loves dancing with me. He’s affectionate, always.
He’s a total coward – often hiding under the bed or in the closet if someone new enters the premises. That said, he’s totally courageous. Just watch him leap fearlessly into the air to snag a flying mouse toy.
He’s epicurean. He loves food. He loves hanging out in the kitchen. He loves pretty much anything I dish up for him.
He loves sunshine, butterflies, birds, and bugs. He loves warm. He loves rain and snow. He loves trees. He loves anything that moves, slightly.
He’s expressive. He’s intelligent. He’s not afraid to ask for help. He really loves a good stretch.
It makes me happy to make him happy. I love being around him. I love playing little games with him, and surprising him with toys. I love it when I make a comfy spot for him, and he jumps right in.
There were just so many miles on my beloved running shoes. I mean, we were totally bonded. All that bonding took its toll.
My bedraggled, worn out shoes originally came into my life as a delightful surprise. One day, I headed into the running store to meet up and head out on a run. Upon arrival, the store owner told me that, courtesy of my son, I should pick out a pair of new shoes. Turns out that my awesome son had remembered my birthday and managed to think of the absolutely perfect surprise for me. He had called from out of state to my fave store and made the arrangements.
My son may not have envisioned the little impromptu party that went along with it (or maybe he did). Here were my running buddies, all of them also delighted by my son’s thoughtfulness. And then, the ensuing birthday wishes and, of course, shoe shopping. Ultimately, there was a get-together at the local brew spot. It was all very festive.
Those shoes went with me through wind, rain, and snow. They crossed finish lines. They bore witness to my tears, expletives, affirmations, and joyous aha moments. They were there when the geese flew over, when the butterflies circled, when the birds sang, when the alligators made their silent dare.
So many amazing memories, but emotional attachment cannot stand in the way of good, safe running.
Uhm, can it?
As I mentioned, it was time.
In a new-to-me town here, I made my first venture into the local running store in search of new shoes. I came out with just what I wanted, and so far, so good. Got the Altra Escalante, zero-drop, roomy toe box. Kind of weird to feel the cushion in there – feels very self-indulgent, but I think I’ll adjust. And I also understand these kicks to be vegan-friendly.
The shoes are not inexpensive to me, but they are important to me. It is a good thing that I could allow myself to make this a priority.
In a world that seems to be getting a little crazier by the day, it’s important to stay centered and hold peace in intention. Don’t ask me why or how, but my locomotion is part of how I make that happen.
Out the blue, an old friend calls after many months. It’s as if a lifetime happened in the interim. There’s not much bother catching up, because who can explain all that? And does it matter?
Not really. Because what matters is the connection, the recognition of another soul that is still somehow kindred despite time and distance and perspectives.
Thank you, kind friend, for reminding me. The experiences we shared, our reflections then and now, burbled right back up to the surface. The simple recollections of our shared past are like little bells sounding a joyful alarm.
That was you. That was me.
That is you. That is me. Still. How easily time slips through our hands but look at the amazing constants!
And thank you, too, for acknowledging our differences – we certainly had them then and still do now. Somehow, we transcend them.
After all, even in our differences, we ultimately share the same concerns.
As predicted, that “arctic blast” arrived several days ago and just spread itself all over everything. The cold is permeating our lives for awhile, so that we’re very conscious of our gratefulness in those moments when we’re cozy and warm.
I’m the kind of person who gets cold easily, so I am always bundling up against the weather. Even indoors, I buttress myself against the elements with sweaters and jackets, and on the worst days, a hat. And heading outside to brave the elements, I layer up, surrounding myself practically up to my nose with my jacket and two scarves and a hat. (Except, of course, on a run, when two tech shirts and a windbreaker do the job!)
I have an acquaintance that works hard every day, and is frequently out of doors. I never see him wear a hat or gloves against the cold. I complain to him that he needs to bundle up a little better. He scoffs at me, even as he sniffles with the head cold he has not been able to shake. I explain to him it’s about being good to himself, and that he deserves it. With a little further encouragement, he eventually gets himself a hat. Now, the trick is to get him to wear it. Being good to oneself is, for some of us, a difficult concept.
This is one of the roads I have been walking myself lately. My eyes were opened, of course, the hard way, to the essential of self-compassion. It is, obviously, about more than wearing a hat when it’s cold, but the hat makes a good reminder. I had to learn to recognize, acknowledge and honor when I hurt inside or have needs, emotional or otherwise. It sounds so ridiculously simple and natural and obvious, but for me self-compassion was truly a discovery and one I had difficulty embracing. We are not, however, put here on this earth to simply survive and suffer through it.
I am still learning self-compassion. It’s not about creature comforts or material things, but about allowing our feelings, setting boundaries, protecting and nurturing a vulnerable or wounded self. I validate that I am here, that I have feelings, and that the full spectrum that is me is okay.
Sometimes that concept may extend to things like making sure I get good nutrients, comfort or warmth, or pleasant experiences to the extent that it’s possible – simply being gentle and caring with myself.
So, oddly enough, I recognize myself in this business of wearing a hat. And whether this concept matters to my friend or not, I hope he will be good to himself – and wear a hat, dammit.
Although the proverbial “arctic blast” is apparently bearing down on us, we were gifted this morning with relatively balmy temperatures for our run. One pair of gloves even did the trick. Not bad for January running in Michigan. Still, there were a few left over icy patches here and there, and one of my buddies took a tumble on one. She’s a trooper, though, and we still managed to cover close to six miles. It was a super run, followed up with hot chocolate and chocolate chip muffins. (Yeah, it was naughty, but we earned it, right?)
I have finally acknowledged to a few of my buddies that I am packing to leave. They are, true to form, supportive. They process this as we keep moving along, running the roads and the trails. Everyone seems to agree that this is a good place to leave, and they’d probably do it too if they had the chance. It doesn’t make the whole thing any less scary.
How does one quite start over? Because I guess that’s the business I’m going about right now. It sounds very simple, bud-a-bing, but it’s not. The evolution of emotions that leads one over time to look around and realize that the things around them are just things, that life must be more than this amalgamation of what’s left, that the very most important treasures of life cannot be grasped and held, that there is, apparently, more to the story ….this evolution is profound and peaceful and disturbing and crazy and wonderful and horrible.
I would write about it all, but I ache, it hurts to feel these words that want to rise and flow through my fingertips. The cusp of change – it’s daunting, terrifying. I am so close I can taste it. What is happening is radical, intense. It will all look different when the dust settles.
At the same time, life just flows. So there I am. Running companionably along with my buds, chit chatting. Feeling the same cold air, the pavement under our feet. We recognize ourselves in each other in all the mundane and huge things we talk about, our laughter, commiseration. We watch each other change and grow, work things out, cope, rejoice – all as we keep the pace. The running itself has been both a catalyst and an anchor.
When I stop to think about it, the changes I have been privileged to witness in the other people in my running group have been profound and amazing and beautiful.
What, what would I do without them? How would I get out the door when it’s like 18 degrees? When it’s snowing? Raining? When I am feeling blue? The truth is that were it not for my running buddies there are probably many days when those kinds of conditions would get the best of me.
This morning is a perfect case in point. It was like, yeah, 18 degrees with snow, of course, still all over everything. And there was a smattering of snow overnight which meant that the windshield was going to need clearing. But I knew my buddies would be looking for me, so I layered up, pulled on my SmartWool socks, two pairs of gloves, the whole winter drill. I tossed in 5 extra minutes for warming up the truck.
Except that when I get out there, the truck has a flat tire.
I could have easily given up right then. What better excuse? But, no, I knew my buddies would all be there. Long story short, after digging out and clearing off, I got to the meetup about 5 minutes late, in my borrowed beater car. And there they were – my running buddies. All looking my way as I pulled in.
I jumped out, but as I approached the group, uber buddy and inspiring runner Diane comes up to me with something in her hands. She holds it out to me. It’s this incredibly beautiful, plastic-wrapped matted photograph of a swan with a baby swan on its back. Tears spring to my eyes.
“It’s for you,” she tells me simply.
Indeed, all summer long and into late fall, we had run the loop through the park where we had watched two swans parenting two little ones. Eventually, one of the adult swans disappeared, but the other stayed and raised the babies. Week in and week out, Diane and I watched the babies grow up as we went running along. We looked for them every time we ran the park, and never failed to be amazed and delighted by them.
In the fall, we began to worry over them, as they remained in colder and colder weather. We speculated that maybe their beaks would finally turn orange, or their plumage more white and less grey, or some other sign of maturation, before they’d actually fly away.
There were days we stopped in the middle of our sprints to be awed by the flight of other migrating swans coming in for a landing, right over our heads, on their way south. We were astonished to hear the sound of their wings.
One day, we discovered a dead swan, with its beautiful neck laid back across its body, in the water right next to our running path. We stood quietly for a moment, distressed by the sight. Later, independently of each other, we both had called the parks department.
Some days, we stopped on the lookout deck just to stand silently together and appreciate the swans when they were close in. The migrating swans all eventually moved on, but our little mother and her two now full-sized babies remained in the cold, graying mists of late fall.
And then one day, very cold and late in the year, our swans were gone.
As the seasons of the swans had progressed, our own lives had as well. During this time, Diane’s mother was in hospice, and she finally lost her in October. At the same time, I was coming to terms with huge and difficult life changes, sorting out a new life of my own and adjusting to the idea of my sons being grown and on their own. As the miles passed under our feet, and we watched the swans grow up and leave, a deep bond was forged.
This beautiful photograph I now held in my hands, taken by an amazing local photographic artist, embraced our friendship, our shared experience and more. That mother swan with the baby on its back is about boundless love that knows all along we must let them fly. And we have to fly, too.
I held Diane’s gift in my gloved hands, standing out in the cold, overwhelmed by tears.
She wasn’t going to let me do that for long though, because we had some running to do. The rest of our gently smiling buddies gathered us in, and off we ran.