Sunday, September 30, 2012

Blue Springs Sunday












Mack was one of those people who seemed to drift through life without a care in the world. When I first met him he was dating this really good looking woman but he broke up with her because she was too demanding. Mack was adrift. He wanted nothing more than to live in the moment and enjoy life. He was a college kid and his parents seem happy to front his lifestyle and his one or two classes a day habit. Mack was intelligent, smart even, but he had something to do; nothing.

Mack’s nothing was a little more than the nothing enjoyed by others like him. He went out and painted railroad crossings on county roads where there were no railroads. He painted some odd looking symbols on an abandoned bridge and started a front page rumor in Valdosta about Satanists taking over the area. The “sacrificed” animals turned out to be deer carcasses tossed out by some hunters.  But Mack didn’t care about any of this.

One thing Mack was good at doing was finding the long way to anywhere. Mack wore the scenic route out. And this was what started my Sunday morning because I remember the circuitous path he took to get to a place called Blue Springs. Well, I don’t remember it at all, really. I just remember bits and pieces of it. I was in the middle of these memories this morning and I decided to try to get there from here.

I got into the truck and started driving without looking at a map or trying to remember exactly where I was going. Once I got past Nankin I would be heading South on a road I never traveled before, and that was fine. I needed to get out. Something had to be different this morning, even if it meant channeling Mack. The road came and went and my mind began to try to piece together the way there and back again.

After the Satanists thing Mack seemed to think it was his mission in life to be strange and it wore thin after a while. The world was changing. The late nights drinking and smoking pot were beginning to be something law enforcement frowned upon when it came to driving. There for a very long while there were no real effort to keep people from driving while so stoned they saw unicorns playing with bottle rockets but there were more and more people and more and more cars on the road. I thought about some of the things we did and I wonder how we got out alive.

Back in the 80’s the springs were more or less just there. It wasn’t a park and it wasn’t patrolled. Divers would be diving in the springs while the rest of us jumped off the ledges above the springs. It was frigid water free for all but I never saw much trouble there. There was a lot of drinking and a lot of pot being smoked, but nothing to fret about. Now there’s a gate and a gatekeeper and it cost five bucks to get in. This is a real park now, and it is actually very nice.


They did a lot of landscaping, put up fences, made trails, and took the wildness out of the place enough to make it more family friendly. The park ranger there told me that was their aim. “We got rid of the riff raff and their drinking” she said and I nearly told her I was one of those people once. And even for an early Sunday morning there is a group out under one of the shelters. There are little kids running around.

The water is as cold as I remember it being. It comes gushing out of a cave the size of a large truck and the water is pure and clear blue. The current tugs at me and close to where the spring runs into the river I have to swim hard to keep up with it, and get past it. I dive down to where it is deep and look up at the sky. This has not changed a bit. The thrill of swimming in running water will never die.

I pop up to the surface to find two kids watching me. “Cold! Cold!” they say and they seem delighted there is someone in the water. This is evidence they will present to their parents that the water is not too cold be swam in. It does have that spring water bite to it but I like it. I like the idea of getting a workout and my body not sweating over it. I like the power of the current and the clearness of the water.

There isn’t enough sunlight to warm me or dry me properly and a bus load of people arrive. They all crowd around the wooden walkways and talk about how cold the water is but none of them dare it on such a mild day. I dive in from the walkway and head towards the bottom again, angling against the current, scaring fish away in front of me. This, too, has not changed. I was always the first one in and the last one out of water. I miss the days I spent in water and I wonder how I lost that.

I take the first left on the way back and wander a back road. There’s an odd looking church out there and a trailer who has massive concrete lions guarding their driveway. I take the first dirt road off of the Madison Highway and deliberately miss my turn. I wind up on a dirt road in Florida that is blocked by loggers (on a Sunday!) and have to backtrack to get back out again.

It doesn’t matter to the spring, or to me anymore, where Mack is. He’s part of the current that headed downstream a quarter of a century ago. In time, I will pass from memory and someone else will swim, and write, about the spring. But Mack-like, I lived in the moment, swam in the clear blue water, and a Sunday was good.

Take Care,
Mike

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Death Of A Toy












Eleven years ago when I bought this house I found an old tether ball under the deck. Bert loved playing fetch with it and would carry it around in his mouth by the eyelet where the rope was supposed to go through. Well, Bert gnawed the eyelet nearly off but it survived him. Then Lucas came around three years or so ago and he managed to puncture the ball so it deflated but he still loved playing with it. So along comes Lillith. She has managed to destroy the thing in less than three months.
I’ve taken it away from them now because I’m afraid they’ll eat parts of it.

Take Care,
Mike

Monday, September 24, 2012

Me and My Brain

Me: Work, work, work.
Brain: Fret.
Me: What?
Brain: You have to go to the grocery store.
Me: Yeah, after work.
Brain: I forgot why.
Me: What?
Brain: Remember yesterday when we were talking about going to the store and getting something?
Me: Yeah.
Brain: I forgot what it is.
Me: Let’s think about it at the store.
Brain: What if I can’t remember?
Me: Later!
Brain: Fret.
Me: Okay, what could it be?
Brain: We have enough leftovers to last two days, which means we have to have something for lunch the next three days at work or eat out which is expensive but we could get sushi..
Me: Sushi is expensive.
Brain: But it’s good for you and makes you happy.
Me: Okay, we’ll eat out one time this week.
Brain: YAY SUSHI!
Me: Okay I have to get to work
Brain: Fret
Me: What now?
Brain: I can’t remember what we need at the store.
Me: We’ll figure it out then! I have to work!
Brain: Fret.
Me: Okay, it can’t be coffee, we have coffee..
Brain: We should make espresso, espresso is so good, and everyone likes espresso, remember that facebook comment everyone liked because you were so happy to have espresso, and..
Me: Focus, please.
Brain: Salad stuff would be good.
Me: Was that it?
Brain: No, but get salad stuff. Ooh! Get some dark bread, too!
Me: Only if the rye is on sale. Is that it?
Brain: Get the playboy book with Olivia Wilde in it.
Me: Where in the hell did that come from? We’ve never bought… Olivia Wilde is in playboy?
Brain: No but wouldn’t it be great if she was?
Me: I have to work! Will you just stop it?
Brain: You misspelled that last word.
Me: Thank you for focusing! Now let me work.
Brain: Fret.
Me: What now?
Brain: Do you think the dogs are okay?
Me: Please stop.
Brain: Sorry, really.
Me: Focus.
Brain: Are we out of toilet paper? Was that it?
Me: No! Focus!
Brain: You left a word out of that last sentence.
Me: THANK YOU!
Brain: And it’s 10/24/12 not 10/24/11 by the way.
Me: Good work. Thanks.
Brain: Fret
Me: What now?
Brain: What if this is Alzheimer’s? What if not being able to remember simple things is the beginning of the end?
Me: Maybe we will survive long enough to finish this report? Could we?
Brain: Sorry, okay.
Me: Okay, where is that last report.
Brain: My Documents, in the folder you created last week so you wouldn’t lose them.
Me: Good work!
Brain: Olivia Wilde is related to Oscar Wilde.
Me: STOP IT!
Brain: That’s “reply all” you’re about to hit.
Me: YIKES!
Brain: You’re welcome.
Me: Wow, good save.
Brain: I know.
Me: No really, thanks.
Brain: Catsup.
Me: What?
Brain: We’re out of catsup. That’s what we need from the store.
Me: All this for catsup?
Brain: Tell me you didn’t hit send after I told you not to.
Me: ARRRRGGGGHHHH!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Theo







My friend Elbow had to put her old Black Lab down for about the same reasons I let Bert go nearly five months ago. Our elder dogs lose mobility and they lose their ability to do things that large dogs must do for themselves. It is a bigger challenge to live with bigger dogs and Elbow has taken on some very large animals. We lost her Border Collie Frank last year and now it was Theo.
Theo and Frank came as a package deal. Elbow went down to the shelter to get a dog, and she wanted a Black Lab because they are made of the awesome, but there was a Border Collie in the same cage as a Black Lab, so Elbow sprung them both. Theo was gentle and loving and kind and quiet. Frank was everything evil that comes in a Border Collie; he was loud and frenetic and he was nervous.  I suspected Frank of keeping an Espresso machine under the house, but for all his faults Frank really loved everyone and Frank meant well. His actions were not always what you’d want or what you’d need, but Frank’s heart was made of gold.
Theo was everyone’s friend.  He was a large black smilin’ machine who greeted his loved ones with more enthusiasm than most people have for their children.  Theo greeted with gusto. He wanted a friend to know, by dog, he missed his friends, he loved his friends, and everyone was going to hear about it, too.  Theo was a one dog ticket tape parade. Theo knew the value of loving someone and he knew the value of letting them know it, too.  I coined the phrase, “Theoistic Greeting” to set the standard of how a dog vocalizes a greeting.
Theo loved everyone and everyone loved Theo. I remember watching Marmalade the Cat stand up on her hind legs to rub her head against Theo’s chin. Theo stood there and gratefully accepted the feline love, for that was what Theo did best. Theo went to war for no reason against no one, even if he felt obligated to remove a trespasser, he did it with kindness.

There was a possum who lived in the barn and when Theo would catch the possum eating cat food or just plain walking across the yard, he would rush over and grab the possum and then walk around with the possum in his mouth for a while. Eventually he would set it down, and the possum would soon get up and walk away, again.  Theo had the heart of a gentle giant and there was no dog more capable of loving his pack.
Theo once went nose to nose with a gigantic Cottonmouth and Elbow said her heart nearly stopped but the snake did not strike. Theo was just letting the snake know that, really, it wasn’t such a good idea to be there, and if it wasn’t too much trouble, move along.

Perhaps to some the death of a friend’s dog isn’t a tragedy.  But now silenced is a voice raised loud in love. Now stilled is a sound that echoed across the land in greeting, not because of fame, or fortune, no, but a greeting raised to the heaven out of the simple joy of seeing someone who is valued and loved and who is a friend.

If the qualities of love, friendship, joy, happiness and family have any true and intrinsic meanings at all, Theo knew them all, and Theo knew them well. When we, as a pack, as a species, as a family, lose those qualities in anyone, great or small, it is a loss we should mourn if we feel that those things do have the value that Theo knew was there.

Take Care,
Mike

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Dogs and Toys: Now and Then






Twelve years ago:

Me: “Look Bert! Rawhide chew toy!”
Bert: “Meh”

Ten years ago:
Me: “Look Bert! Look Sam! Rawhide chew toys!”
Bert: “Meh”
Sam: “Meh”

Three years ago:

Me: “Look guys! Rawhide chew toys!
Bert: “OMG! I’ll explode if I don’t have one first! ME! ME!”
Sam: “OMG! MY favorite! ME! ME!
Lucas: MINE! MINE! ALL MINE!
Sam: (two minutes later): Meh

Today:
Me: Look puppies! Rawhide chew toys!
Lucas: MINE! MINE! ALL MINE!
Lillith: Please sir, I would like one.
Sam: Meh.
Ten minutes later: Lucas: I’ll share if the girl dog wants mine.
Lillith: She with the most toys…