Ten Years On…..

agriculture clouds colors countryside
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There are the springs the park is named after. Even in the most f-all cold weather, they still flow through the green cress lining their banks

And there are the Mother Maples, still standing after ten years of storms, their roots like knobby toes gripping, digging into the forest floor.

Ahead of us is the river, shining silver in the early sunlight. Oakley and I turn west on the trail, following paw prints that faded from the trail over time but never from my heart.

The last time I was on this trail was ten years ago. Solo, around Labor Day. back. I hadn’t been out there since the next to last week in May when Orion had crossed the Rainbow Bridge. I just couldn’t bring myself to walk there for three months. One of the other dog persons saw me walking alone, guessed what had happened, and threw her arms around me.

I hugged her back. No words were needed.

Before that, before the damned heart condition and the double damned lymphoma took him, Orion’s last hurrah echoed through the park. He caught the scent of a rabbit, the quarry of Brittanys across North America and around the world.  With an unexpected burst of energy, he dragged me down the trail, up the hill to the larger lake, around the west end of the lake, up another hill, then turned us east and slowed to a tentative crawl as we went back to the car.

The final decline began the next day. He had problems getting up and walking and just wanted to lie in the grass in the back yard.

And then he didn’t even want to do that. He stayed in his spot by the back door. I stayed next to him, begging any deity who was listening to please intervene, to please guide me. Was it time to call in the vet?

No, he just had a rally and ate a little banana and a bite of turkey. He was acting more engaged and a little cuddly.

Maybe. He’s not in any pain, but I couldn’t get him out in time.

We’ll try sub-q fluids. That’s helping. He perked up.

And then on the last day,  a Saturday, Hubby brought home a garden cart, one of the mesh ones, put one of Orion’s beds in the bottom, loaded Orion into it, and took him on a ride around the property lines and up and down our road.

We spoke of taking him for a ride the next day at the park, but then he crashed and burned.

I called the emergency number for our vet clinic. No one was able to come out and help with that final act of kindness. The nearest emergency vet was a half-hour away.

If he starts acting like he’s in pain, if he has respiratory problems…yeah. Otherwise…

We took him to his spot. I stayed with him through the night, candles lighting his way. Whispering that I would miss him, but I understood if he needed to go.

I laid on the floor next to him, watching the stars crossing the night sky through the skylights. The classical station played a lot of Bach for some reason through the wee smalls.

Just before the first cracks of daylight opened, I felt my heart get torn from my chest and had a mental image of Orion giving me a play bow, running around our back two acres, then taking off towards the east. I sat up. Checked the pulse points.

That stage of his journey was done.

Mine was beginning. The journey of fumbling through the darkness, the numbness. Not being able to even drive past the entrances to the park without tears scalding my cheeks.

Eventually, while the gaps and holes remained, they shrank, and the raw edges scabbed over and turned pink with new growth. I could walk at the park again.

And then came Oakley. While Orion had been exposed to the outdoors from nearly birth as part of his hunting dog training, Oakley had spent his first six months in a shelter with little exposure to the world outside the building. Walking him and showing him the world of his big brother was nearly impossible due to the anxiety triggered by the overwhelming scents and sounds.

Even with all the training mitigating his early lack of exposure, I just couldn’t take Oakley back to that park. He learned to love the other parks in our area, but the state park I just couldn’t…

But then came the current plague where social distancing became a must. Hard to do at the forest preserves and their weekend crowds. A couple of weeks ago we took a little drive and checked the parking lot to see if it was at 50% capacity or less per safety recommendations.

Deep breath, bite lip behind my scarf. Get out of car. Yes, I’m OK. Oakley’s OK. New playground gear? Great. That tree is still standing. Those outhouses, the ones where Orion and I took refuge from an out of nowhere electrical storm, finally came down.  That final hard wind probably did them in. The flowering trees, the picnic areas hadn’t changed that much. We walked. Oakley sniffed. He may have listened as I pointed out Orion’s favorite places to sit and watch the river go by. But I think he was too busy sniffing to hear me.

Since then, we’ve worked the park back into our rotation. Early morning is best for contemplating the abundance of beauty around us in quiet and semi-solitude while we walk, my feet and his paws padding down the mulch covered trail by the river.

Sometimes in the silence occasionally punctuated by a bird’s call or the wind in the leaves, if I listen with my heart, I can hear an unseen set of paws running alongside us.

 

 

 

 

 

And Yourself?

Image courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

So how the heck are you, Gentle Readers? We are slightly bonkers here from the monotony of the days in the soybean field, yet we are grateful that we are well off in so many other ways.

We’re making an effort to stick to some kind of schedule. Meals and walks get served up at pretty much the same time daily as they were before the stay at home order went into effect back in March. The two changes: afternoon walks are later to avoid crowds at the parks, and we stop at 2:30 for tea, species-appropriate treats, and to watch the daily briefing from Governor Pritzker, Dr. Ngosi Ezike, the head of the Illinois Public Health Department, and other dignitaries with important information pertaining to this accursed modern-day plague.

Those, too, have patterns and rhythms. If Gov. Pritzker’s opening remarks include acknowledgements of people on the front line in one capacity or another,  or introducing additional speakers, the statistics will run low. If he hands it off to Dr. Ezike right after thanking everyone for tuning in, we know the numbers are even less pretty than usual.  It’s been interesting to listen to a National Guard commander detail what’s gone into transforming McCormick Place from a convention center into an alternative care facility for COVID-19 patients. I felt uplifted by the motivational speech by a young man who created a NFP to mentor teens in his tough neighborhood reminding them and others to use this time at home to set goals and work out game plans to achieve them. Next come the questions from reporters, and then everyone is thanked and that’s it for the day.

Sometimes we watch “Jeopardy” to cleanse our palates. Sometimes nothing short of time in the woods will shift gears. And sometimes as it’s been too many days this spring, it’s too cold and rainy, so we have another snack.

Luckily, the weather has shifted gears, finally. My plan, subject to change due to factors beyond my control, is to get the garden planted in the next week. One of my local organic farmers is selling plants with curbside delivery. I know that I can trust him to pick good ones for me. Usually, I would buy them form the ag store, but many shoppers there believe that masks  and distancing are but suggestions.

The tough parts for me have been keeping Oakley amused (day care starts again next week–it’s located in a county that will start opening nonessential services on Monday) and not being able to shop for food in person. Well, I could. I don’t because as with the ag store, a lot of people in these parts see social distancing and wearing masks as a government plot to strip civil liberties. We’ve been getting curbside from a mom-and-pop near Oakley’s day care and as much as it gags me, Wal-Mart.

Will we have markets this summer? I don’t know. Right now, I would love to have tea or lunch in person with a friend, but because so many are in risk groups, and Hubby is in a risk group because of his age, I can’t and won’t take that chance.

Even back in the days of the Black Plague, people understood that isolation and quarantine was the best way to shut it down. In fact, did you know that “quarantine” is derived from the Italian word for forty? Now you do. And if this was something new, you may go take a nap.

The plague passed. So will this, eventually.  Not unlike a kidney stone, but it will.

 

There Are No Middle Fingers in Yoga

person in yellow protective suit and mask
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The yoga studio where I’ve been taking classes tried social distancing  through limiting class sizes when this started, but then came the stay at home order. Unfortunately, places of yoga are considered nonessential, even if teachers and students gear up like the yogi/yogini in the above picture. In that light, they switched from physical classes to an online platform that other business avail themselves of  for meetings in these days of COVID-19.

Which is nice, but between  my techno-squeamishness and that the platform in question has been subjected to hacking and malware attacks, I decided to go on sabbatical.

My pass will be good until sometime in September. I will join them physically then. Until then, I’m continuing my practice solo with online videos or making it up as I go along. If you’re looking to do the same, check out Yoga with Adriene.  She does a great job cueing, explaining, and leading you through the journey of your daily practice. Benji the Blue Heeler frequently joins her.

I wanted a little variety this morning, so I tried a vinyasa flow  from an instructor I chose at random from a YouTube play list.

Bad idea. If done well, vinyasa practices help you push yourself a little bit into doing something you don’t feel comfortable doing. While the bulk of the poses are based on sun salutes and are a bit on the repetitive side, a good teacher will find ways to change up the poses a little to keep the students interested and focused while offering modifications for different experience levels and abilities. If not, it’s just boring and feels like a gym class from hell.

This video was in the latter category. I was at the point of no return when the irritation struck so I didn’t turn off that in favor of another one. And I couldn’t flip her off because  several of the poses (downward dog, plank, low lunge) require hands for balance.

I stuck it out.

I did get a few endorphins going. I did feel pleasantly stretched.

But at least I know for next time.