Sunday, May 13, 2007

the out of doors

It stormed last night. Great rolls of thunder, Libby's nose pressed against the screen, and light seeming eerie in the dark. I was thrilled--this is my favorite kind of weather, with lightening brightening the sky and rain rushing by in torrents. I stayed up much too late, writing nonsense in my notebook, teasing the dogs, watching films borrowed from the library. Last night it was two episodes of Band of Brothers and I re-watched Lovely & Amazing. I also have Little Miss Sunshine, which I watched half of but grew too drowsy and distracted and stumbled up to bed well beyond my regular bedtime.

Before sleep, Gatsby came downstairs to join me and the dogs. Gatsby often behaves as a dog would: steals buttered noodles from our plates, begs for food (especially cheese), dutifully follows you about the house, begs for attention, and recently, he learned to play fetch. We were working on getting him to sit for his treats, but then we got actual dogs. Gatsby further evidenced this desire for dogginess by playing along with Penelope and Zephyr, sometimes joining in on the tug of war as best he can. Part of the reason for getting Zephyr was that we realized Penelope needed a playmate, and we were afraid Penelope would do some damage accidentally to Gatsby while snapping her jaws and leaping about. Of course, as we soon found out, Gatsby did not draw back with a new boisterous puppy on the scene. Instead, Zephyr plays with Gatsby just as much, merrily, and you can see Gatsby plays back. When I look at the pictures the next day, it appears they are fighting, but it really is play. I would panic at Gatsby's discomfort. On the contrary; he loves it.

Today was full of getting my hands in the dirt, planting seeds, becoming hopeful. We finished the low fence slung around the garden. It is our hope this will deter the dogs from turning this dirt patch into their playground. Zephyr has a habit of destroying plant life, so while they have not sprinted through this once-sandbox recently, I do get nervous that the temptation to yank up plants as they grow will prove too great for his jowls.

For now, Jake will stand guard, the patient gnome sentinel. He arrived in our backyard one day, a surprise visitor. The Urtels dropped them off when they drove through town and we were not home, and he has kept dutiful watch over our garden since, watching sunflowers grown from seedlings to ten foot tall monsters, watching watermelon not quite make it to an edible size, watching weighty tomatoes drop in harvest.

We planted seeds into little pockets on plastic trays: lettuce, zucchini, squash, green beans, peppers, sunflowers, and also corn. I hadn't realized when you eat corn on the cob, you are eating its seeds. I opened the packet and was startled to see these dried up bits of picnic meals.

Just as surprising were the flower seeds. I am making an attempt at my own famous Red Wing hanging baskets. Of course, it is an adaptation. I have never seen Bells of Ireland in a hanging basket, but I couldn't resist this wedding bouquet addition. So I picked what pleased my own eyes; we'll see how it turns out in the end. I have poppies to plant, peonies, dahlias and still, the rose bush.

K was in stout refusal of having his picture taken today (though I snuck a few in), and he used Zephyr as a human shield. We are amazed at the width of his mouth. We knew he was a black lab mix, but not certain what other bits went into the making of a stout canine. Looking at him and how he resembles K's parents' dog Chance, I gulp. This dog is well over a hundred pounds, a huge lumbering creature, and our house is only so big. Chance is a lab-mastiff mix, complete with the drool glands and hip issues to prove it.

Libby wes yowling inside much of the afternoon as I sat cross legged on the patio, dirt on my knees. K went in and pulled him up; all he wanted was to sniff at the fresh air. If we ever replace that mud room outer door, I think we should do it with a full screen, though with the dogs using it as a message device (jumping up says, "We want back in!"), that might not be so wise.

I think of the joy of our pets and I think of Logger at the vet's. Kelly's new dog, a rescue that had been abused in the form of neglect with his previous owner's, resembles Frasier in an odd way. We had looked forward to her visit today, but she had to stay closer to home as Logger managed to break into a container of Aleve and swallow too many. He now rests at the veterinarian's, recovering. I remember when Penelope decided to eat an entire bamboo knitting needle. I woke up to find my washcloth I was putting together in tatters and little bits of needle around her restful form. She went to the vet's and was x-rayed and put on a pain medication, but recovered easily. Puppies can be resilient, though Logger was already delicate from recovering from previous abuses.

We ended this weekend of glorious relaxation with outdoor eating. I love summer and how the world opens up like a tulip's warmed bud. We went grocery shopping, a true trip, the shock of the final bill. So much fresh fruit (I salivate thinking of the blackberries at home, the strawberries and raspberries, the brie and the crusty baguette, the shish ka bobs, the asparagus and carrots), and for the first time, I bought a boquet of flowers for myself. Five long tulips, reddish yellow, an orangey delight next to the sink (this may be the only safe spot where I can both delight in the dash of color and the cats will not knock them over to chew on the buds--one sorrowful thing about pets is the destruction they wreak on indoor greenery). Salmon (with lemon dill), hamburgers, corn. The spurt of fire that comes. Morning glory seeds knicked and soaked overnight. Two mossy hanging baskets, dirt black with water, peering in and hope of growth. Sun setting, long conversation, lingering after the meal. Dinner with purpose of bonding--this became so rare in my house as we got older. We were all too busy, or too frustrated and moody, too something to stay together and talk. I think to the start of things, how we're determined to get it right, but in the end, so often are we too tired to fight, to find the effort. I think of my own future family we will grow--how I want us to make dinner a priority, how it was for K in his house, how I'm not sure how things crumble sometimes.

It will be a summer of new beginnings, a summer full of joy, full of learning, full of change. Already I juggle weekends in my mind: Emily's shower and bachelorette party, camping, summer gifted theatre class, a writing workshop with friends, a week long intense writing workshop with a talented poet, a wedding, a honeymoon, finding a job. I keep this revisiting this list, reminding myself of what is next, but I also need to remember: be here now.


Liz said...

Your animals are beautiful! I am envious (we can't have furry pets due to my husband's asthma). And those pictures are making me crave grilling and crave summer!! I thought Zephyr was a flat-coated retriever before you just mentioned that he's a black lab mix. :)

ck said...

I love the tulip picture. Particularly because you added it after the cat picture...unexpected. nice.