Then, Now, Forever

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Two days after Lefty died, I went bravely on my first hike without him. A small road sign for the Pacific Crest Trail passed by the car window, and we pulled off to follow the path. We walked through blackened forests while big dark clouds rolled in and out, now drenching us, now not, and the mixture of rain and sun, of death and life everywhere, well it felt exactly right. All I could do was nod along. Yes, that happened. Yes, more stuff will happen.

When the vet came over last Friday, Lefty wagged up to her like he would any other visitor. Three days earlier, I’d stabbed the shovel into the hard dirt of late summer while he rested on the lawn watching me, looking straight into my eyes, and I swore he knew that I was digging the hole for him. He wasn’t afraid. On the threshold of the kitchen floor, where he always would lay to feel the cool tile and also to keep a close watch on me, he now slouched there sick and struggling to breathe. His head was in my lap, the wild river of my undignified tears raining all over it. I told him he was the best boy. There was the last big breath, and then the final quiet.

It’s hard. But I’m so glad I was there. Being in the presence of death is powerful–it’s the ultimate mystery. My intuition was high, and I felt the energy exchange. First it was in there, then it was out here. We wrapped that soft fluffy body in a soft, fluffy blanket and carried it out into the yard, knowing all the while that it was no longer him.

Anyway, my guy is gone.

He’s with Benny now. With Jake. With Poa. With Otis. With Orchid. With all our old buddies, then, now and forever.

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Lefty’s Prayer

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The dog named Lefty came into my world on the heels of opening an indoor skatepark, a tough era that wouldn’t have been navigable without the company of a life-affirming fluffball. And at this, he excelled. For the past 5 years, Lefty went where I went. Working. Skateboarding. Camping. It was all better with him there.

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Two weeks ago, I found out Lefty had cancer. Now he’s on the other side. He departed us on an auspicious Friday—a lunar full-moon eclipse. We buried him at sunset under a sapling maple as dark-winged birds flapped south in formation and the sky turned peach overhead.

In 5 years, we had enough adventuring to last 5 lifetimes. Still, I thought I’d have more time. But you get what you get. We aren’t guaranteed shit. I do know that there’s no easy way to decide when it’s the right time to end another life.

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Despite the profound silence in the house now, I feel lucky. How lucky am I for knowing this giant-pawed squealin’ bear? Friendship with animals is, maybe, one of the purist, most joy-giving things in existence. Dog tails wag with happiness and hope; their soft coats offer warmth and comfort. We feed them, we exercise them, we command them to sit and stay—and then we tell them they’re good. In return, they LOVE us. Pow!

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The September Report

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The mood I’ve been in for the last week and a half, contemplative you could call it, seems to suit this time of year, when summer floats like a feather to the ground, leaving you with a lovely sort of early fall, cool and clear, the sun inarguably gold—always shining on you at some odd autumn-ish angle.

I’ve been spending a lot of time at home. When I walk the dog, we walk slowly. It’s okay to slow down. And it’s okay when things end. Loss is, when you get to thinking about it, just the other side of love. Gah, which reminds me, I was watching the Netflix animated version of that Antoine De Saint-Exupéry book The Little Prince on Sunday afternoon (hey, I find it relaxing to watch cartoons on lazy weekends whilst I cook and tinker, don’t you?). Anyway, this movie snuck up and caught me unawares. Before I knew it I was gritting my teeth and the tears were flowing because, as it turns out, The Little Prince, well it’s a story about death. Stupid cartoons …

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The forest a long time after a fire. It’s my new favorite color palette. Instead of a verdant shading canopy, there’s just the bleached bones of trees, the sky, and plenty of sunlight to make the wildflowers go all crazy.

A wagging dog tail. Simple, contagious joy. Don’t take it for granted, as we aren’t guaranteed shit.

Not 4X4ing in a VW Jetta. When faced with a rugged bumpy expanse that’s more rock than road, it’s quite lovely to drive up it with a proper 4X4 vehicle. Maybe a truck? Something with ample clearance and suspension. Anything but a VW Jetta with a predisposition for tire problems.

The place where fall and summer meet. A liminal time, full of potential energy. One coolish morning, one shaft of sunlight, one gust of wind can completely change the day’s seasonal identity. Is it summer? No wait it’s fall. Now summer again.

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To The Last Drop

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Like snowflakes and people, there is no summer like any other one, ever.

This year, it was blistering hot at the beginning and the end; cool and mellow in the middle. I cannot complain. I didn’t eat as many tacos as summer’s past, but I did have plenty of pizza. Balance in all things. I sweat a lot and skated a lot. I tent camped. I boat camped. I swam in both rivers and lakes. I watched a punk rock show in a city park. I ate grilled summer squash, as well as strawberry shortcake. I ate orange watermelon! Whether riding my bike around town or reading from my book about hawks, I tried to always be outside at sundown—as those liminal minutes of dusk are the loveliest, most fragrant treasure of the warm season.

Anyway, hi, September, see ya Thursday!

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Lake Life

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Just looking at these pictures makes me feel good. They’re from my trip to Lake Powell in Southern Utah last week. It was a red-dust playground of motorboats cutting the glassy water. We drove through 3 states to get there—way out to the very middle of the desert, but the long hours on the straight, hot roads were worth it. As said elsewhere, I love the southwest. The desert is elegant, beautiful and harsh. It was a magical trip.

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1. 3 a.m. scenic pee. My child-sized bladder did me good service by waking me every night at the calmest, darkest hour, when the Milky Way burned bright overhead and the lake was so black, so still that it looked like just another star-spangled sky.

2. Lunch beer. As a bonafide lightweight, I don’t normally do lunch beers, but on vacation, on the boat, in the heat, on the lake, a very cold beer is the only thing you can possibly drink with your sandwich.

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3. Houseboats. RVs on the water! What a concept. They seem kinda tricky to maneuver though, so don’t ask me to drive yours.

4. Kids in the water. A couple of 12 year olds, my nephew and his friend, spent every second in the lake. Splashing, swimming, sliding, dunking, diving, flipping, flopping, etc, etc. It made me very happy.

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5. A dusk swim. Every night I slipped in the water right at purple dusk in order to wash off the day’s sweat and sand so as not have to sleep in my own filth. During this hushed time, I could float on my back in the silver water and stare up at the clouds turned pink in the fading light.

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Paint It Black

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I’m about to leave on a quintessential summer vacation, but first, here’s a small post about a big game. Paintball. Have you ever? It’s very and truly scary. You sweat and your mask fogs up. All you can hear is your own breath coming in short frantic bursts. Right away or after awhile, it makes no difference—you always get hit. It always hurts. As the game wears on, your greedy hoarding of bullets gives way to reckless shooting everywhere, anywhere. And that, my friends, is paintball.

It was my first time playing, and I went ahead and wore a high-vis purple sweatshirt. Hindsight being 20-20, I could’ve worn black, but it honestly never occurred to me. I learned many lessons that night—the virtues of camo was just one.

I’m a poor shot. I’m a pacifist. For so many reasons, I’m not cut out for this type of thing. Still, though, it was fun, exhilarating you could even say. A physically demanding activity that leaves you covered in sweat, gooey paint, and bulls-eye purple bruises.

Thanks to Trevor G. for the all the action pics. War journalism is a noble calling after all—he’s truly one brave man.

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A Summer Slice

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Last week was a very good week.

The temperature was summerish, in the high 80s, and the vibrations were good, from an astrological standpoint. No cosmic storms or real ones.

On an unassuming Wednesday evening, our pal Patrick arrived from New York, causing us to convene at the Bracewell mini ramp to celebrate such things as skateboarding and old friends. It was lovely. It was hot. Everyone sweated through their tee shirts. Then we all went to the Alleyway for food and cold drinks. To have a day so full of friends and fun so early in the week? One can only hope for this kind of thing.

On Friday afternoon, after everyone had gotten up early and worked hard, a river trip came together with very little effort at all. The water was tropical green and that just-right temperature—cool but not cold. You could swim for real, not just dive in and shiver calamitously back out. And did you know that we saw a bald eagle while we were there? A hush fell on the beach as it soared over the sun bathers—a benediction on the water and on summer and, I guess, on us.

Anyway, I am no reckless optimist, but good portent was everywhere last week. To be friends, to be together, to be happy … what a neat thing.

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Weekend By The Numbers

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I worked hard all week and then the weekend came. It was wonderfully cool on Saturday morning. I woke up early to eat toast and cream cheese while drinking sweet black coffee. I used to have it with milk, no sugar, but everything changes—even something like how you drink your coffee.

95 is the number of minutes I skated Mini West Linn with Toby and Derek and George and Steve and Brandon, there in the shade of the tall, leafy trees. Lefty chased me barking, then got tired and laid down in the middle of everything, blocking such obstacles as the rail and the ledge (he’s not called “the cutest kook” for nothing).

2 is the number of points I miraculously scored at the late-afternoon kickball game in Irving Park, running from base to base as fast as I could, which is admittedly not very fast. As said elsewhere, ball sports aren’t really in my repertoire, but if I HAVE to play, then kickball, with its big ol’ bouncy ball rolling slowly toward you when you’re up to kick, well it’s more my speed. A ball sport for the uncoordinated, if you will.

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1 is the number of cans of Rainier I drank at the swimming hole, and then felt lightheaded, sunburnt despite having smeared on SPF 1,000 sunscreen. Later, we all dove in and swam through the rippling current to the rocks on the other side, where Toby climbed around and Ryan and Mark and Katie and I crouched in the cold water and let it rush on past.

3 is the number of pictures I borrowed from friends for this post. Tricia took the post-kickball picture of us at the park—exhausted, sweaty, happy, having recreated heavily. Danielle captured us at the swimming hole, with its jewel-toned water. On our hike back from swimming, Toby took the shot of the quiet forest awash in evening light. Thanks, guys!

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3 Things

Stranger Things: A new throwback sci-fi for all you E.T. & X Files fans out there. It gets me scared, but it also makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside just like all really great 80s movies do to all humans who grew up wearing velour sweatpants and drinking Tang in the 80s.

Yerba mate: A mild cocaine of sorts for work-day doldrums. I can get lit on a mug of this, plug in Explosions In The Sky, and crush 3 hours of product copy. Magically, I will still be able to sleep later. It’s cool.

New roommate: After what amounts to years of living alone, the struggle to not become curmudgeonly was real. But turns out, having someone at the house when you get home is quite lovely, because then that someone is around to open stuck jars of jam, and there’s someone to drink wine with as the light falls, and there’s someone for Lefty to run and find in hopes of protection from being given a bath—which he won’t get because, little does Lefty know, that someone is a double agent who works for me. Hah!

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