Wendy the Dog

I awaken to the noise of coffee making. I am downstairs in the basement, in my bed with my blanket and pillow. My sister snores beside me, equally content. If we are following the routine today,  we will have to get up soon.

My sister and I each have a master. She belongs to the mister, and I belong to the missus, although I think they both love us equally. It is a pretty good life being her dog. She provides me a nice cozy bed in the basement with pillows and blankets. I remember the day she gave me my bed; it was the day after that awful night when she scared me to death. We were sleeping in her bed, and when she rolled over, we touched noses. I thought it was sweet, but she started screaming. It scared me so bad that I peed – I couldn’t help it. She was furious, saying words that I dare not repeat. I ran away before she could untangle herself from her blankets. The very next day I found this bed in the basement, and I have slept here ever since. It is better this way, I have my own blanket and pillow, and my watering bowl is a few steps away. Besides it’s safer, my master is so unpredictable.

I hear her above me, the running of water as she makes coffee, the clink of cups, the opening, and closing of the refrigerator door. I smell the coffee before I see her, and when the basement door opens she sings “Good morning girls.” My sister is already by the door ready to go. I peek up at my master from underneath my blanket. “Come on Wendy!” she commands in a tone I must obey. I rise slowly, stretching. She says “Good girl, ” and I am thrilled I pleased her.

Once we are outside, we stand on the patio and take a moment to appreciate the beauty of the dawning day. Birds are everywhere and in full chorus. My friend barks a greeting from next door. I whimper a reply; my master does not like barking dogs. She puts her coffee down on the patio table and bends down to give me a good long scratch. I do the little dance she loves in hopes she will continue, but she only smiles and tells me to go.

Go? Go where? I look up at her. “Go potty” she points to the grassy yard. I know it will be wet with dew and I hate wet paws. I sit instead and look up at her. “GO!” she says more forceful with a snap of her finger. “You are a dog!” she commands, “Go be a dog!” She is getting angry, and I do not want to displease her.

I take a tiny step off the concrete and onto the dreaded grass. It is so cold and wet. I squat to do my business a few steps away, but a very forceful snap of my master’s fingers tells me she wants me to go out further. I tiptoe, to avoid getting the top of my feet wet. “For goodness sake Wendy” From behind me, I hear her say “Have you forgotten you are a dog?”

As I head back to the patio, I try to walk the edge of the garden to avoid the wet grass, but she scolds “Out of the garden Wendy.” I return to the wet grass and tiptoe to her side. “That’s a good girl,” she says and reaches down for another scratch. Being a dog must please her. I sit beside her as she sips her coffee and looks over her garden; I notice our wet footprints on the concrete floor of the patio, I do forget how different we are.

Suddenly, I get a whiff of something in the wind, and I raise my head with my ears perked. Something has changed. I look around trying to find the source of the smell, and I see a small rabbit stepping out of the garden. “No, Wendy, no” my master commands and she bends down to grab my collar, but I pull myself out of her grasp.

Every instinct comes to life as I bolt towards the rabbit. My only thought is to catch my prey. I feel the wind on my face, I hear the pounding of my heart, and it feels wonderful. The rabbit is zigzagging ahead trying to find a place to hide, and I push forward, concentrating on nothing else. The rabbit goes under a shrub in the neighbor’s yard. I sniff around the base, and I start to dig. I am oblivious to my surroundings until my neighbor taps my tail end with a rolled up newspaper. I pause, look back, my angry neighbor’s face is peering down at me, “Go home Wendy!” she commands and shakes her newspaper. As I wrestle with the desire to catch the rabbit or to please my neighbor, she grabs my collar and pulls me away from her shrub, “Go home! Bad dog!”

As I head for home, I relive the chase. It was a great feeling to be able to run and focus on something that I am sure I was bred to do. Looking back on the chase brings me joy, and I prance back home. I feel elated about my adventure and momentarily forget about being called a bad dog until I round the corner of the garden. My master is on her knees and tossing flowers into a pile. This is new; she usually keeps her flowers in the garden. When she sees me, I wag my tail. “Bad dog!” I hear her say, but I do not see her mouth move, this is a bad sign. I stop wagging my tail, and the good feeling vanishes. I tuck my tail between my legs, although I do not know why I do this, I know it makes me look ridiculous, and I hang my head in shame and lay nearby. As I watch her work, I realize that the garden has a path going through it – one that I created during my rabbit chase. I broke one of her rules – staying out of the garden.

With her back turned to me, I creep back towards the basement door. I hope someone will open it so I may hide under my blanket. She comes towards me taking off her garden gloves, she has dirt smeared on her face, and her hair has fallen out of its clip. I can feel her anger, and I twirl around the door hoping she will let me in. “Go on” she snaps her finger and points towards the patio. I obey and lay down near the table.

I lie on the cold concrete floor and watch the door. I force myself to  be a good dog. I wish I had ignored that instinct to chase the rabbit. I have made a few people mad. I wish I understood what they want to do. My master wants me to be a good dog, but when I act like a dog, she becomes angry. She is equally disappointed when I act like a human by sleeping in beds or not walking on wet grass.

She returns carrying her morning snack. The instinct kicks in again, and I sniff the air for a hint of what is on the plate. I smell peanut butter and a hint of apple. I watch her dip an apple slice into the pile of peanut butter; she takes small bites; I would have eaten it in one bite.

She glances down at me, was that a smile? With a shake of her head, she offers me half of her apple slice smothered in peanut butter. I carefully take it from her, and she rewards me with a pat on the head. She watches me chew my snack, head slightly tilted, it feels like she is trying to read my mind. I become uneasy; I wonder what she is thinking? She pushes her chair back and reaches down and takes my head in her hands, scratching behind my ears slightly. “You are a good dog!” she says in that sing-song voice, and it makes my whole body quiver with joy. “I must remember that – for a dog, you are wonderful and I am fortunate to have you!” she continues. “Now I must write!” I go to my usual spot by the door, and I lay down to watch her tap on a machine she uses to “write”.  The sun has reached my spot, and the warmth of it makes me drowsy and as I doze I dream of chasing rabbits.

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The Bluebell Story

I am pleased I found bluebells blooming in my garden today. I love their delicate lacy caps in shades of pinks and purples. I recall the day a garden friend gave me the plant; she invited me to her home and stood in the hot sun digging up gifts from her incredible garden. She instructed in her southern drawl as she handed me a clump of what look like a nearly dead plant. “You need to mark the spot where you plant this.” She is a true southern lady and looks the part in her garden hat. I took the plant skeptically. She continues, “It dies back after it bloom and you will forget about it.” And she was right. If I had not marked the spot where I planted the clump, I would have accidently dug it up. I am thankful I trusted my garden mentor when I planted what I thought was a dead plant.

She shared more than plants she also shared her wisdom. She is a certified master gardener and took the time to instruct a new gardener. This is more valuable than the plants she gave. She has become my mentor, and I believe I am successfully growing bluebells because of her. If I want to be successful, I need a mentor and possibly more than one. I have read about bluebells from books and the Internet, but do not retain the information. I do recall my dear friend’s voice as she instructed me of the care of this plant.

I have other plants she gave me, and when they come in bloom, I will hear her voice again, gently instructing me on how to care for them. Each plant she gave me is precious – because of the lessons attached to it.

After The Storm

Daily Post Writing Prompt: Later

The cherry tree was at its peak with blooms a few days ago, and now the ground is littered with pink confetti petals. I planted this tree over nine years ago, its trunk was the size of my forearm, and it stood a few inches over my head. As I dug the hole, my husband told me I was planting it too close to the sweet gum tree, but I wanted to create privacy in our backyard, and I wanted instant results. I did not know at that time that I would create a garden under the canopy and it would grow into what has become my sanctuary.

It is amusing how when you plant something with one intention and its purpose changes over the years. Today the tree is an anchor in my ever growing garden, and each year it announces the arrival of spring. It is my seasonal clock, telling me to get busy with the garden activities. I buy potting soil, I put up my small greenhouse, and I plant seeds. I also clean out the beds and dream of what I will be planting where.

This morning I kneel under the tree on a pink carpet, and I pull the weeds from around its base; a root as big as my forearm peeks out from the ground, the size of its trunk when I brought it home. How time has flown and how the landscape has changed. I have learned many lessons here, I have learned how to garden, how to photograph and how to write, just to name a few. I have planted many good memories in this garden and watered the ground with my tears. It is amazing what has grown in this soil.

The clouds have moved in, and it looks like rain. I stand up from my chore and gaze one last time into the canopy. A chickadee roosts high in the branches, finding shelter from the oncoming storm. A gust of wind sends the bird swaying, and like a snow-globe turned upside down, pink blossoms swirl around it. The bird continues to cling to its branch, unconcerned by the wind or the pending storm.

As the pink petals rain down, I realize the tree will be bare of its showy attire very soon. The leaves will appear, and tiny cherries will form – and in a few weeks, it will look like a different tree. This storm will accelerate the transformation, as all hardships do and the next stage will begin. The tree needs the storm to loosen its blooms, and so it may bear fruit.

 

 

 

 

 

All That Remains…

Daily Prompt: Meaningless

The season has taken a step over some invisible line and declared that it is now spring. A higher power has spoken, and the landscape has opened, sprouted and blossomed. The insects woke up, the butterflies have come out of their cocoon, and the sparrows have arrived to move into the birdhouses. I believe that force has spoken to me too.

I greet each bloom as if they were long lost friends. I take a minute to join the lenten rose as they bow their heads as if in prayer. I breathe in the intoxicating perfume of the hyacinth. I pet the mounds of creeping phlox and its neighboring candytuft. I dig around the leafy beds to see what is yet to come and I find the peonies first unfurling leaves and the star-shaped mound of the lilies.

My cherry tree is the star of the garden. It is in full bloom and humming with bees. The flowers are white rather than the faint pink of pervious years.  Maybe the frost had something to do with this. Worried, I inspect my beloved rose and notice a few leaves were nipped, but for the most part, there is little damage. I found my rhododendrons, and both did not survive.  I touch a nearby butterfly bush and its leaves crumble under my touch. The last frost might have been too much for it.

The loss dampens my spirit, so I force myself to turn around and view the garden as a whole. It is bursting with new life, promising a beautiful season. I record the miracle, as I do every year, with my camera. I will remember the perished plants in the photos I took last year and that will have to be enough.

Writing keeps the memory alive as well. It is the reason I attempt this daunting task of journaling – which at times is painful. The words I write will tell the story to go along with the photo. I believe it is my purpose to write about the garden and about my loved ones.  The garden helps keep life in perspective – my living metaphor.

I will fill in the holes left by the plants that have died. New life will continue as if they never existed. A few pictures and this journal entry will be all that remains. And one day it will also be all that remains of my love ones and of myself.

Tomorrow Is Not Guaranteed

Daily Post Prompt: Hideout

Spring has sprung, and I have come out of my winter hideout to feel the warmth of the sun. I do so with apprehension because spring is early this year. It is the middle of February and trees have budded, perennial leaves are poking up from under the mulch and daffodils are in bloom.

I wish I could save the new growth and protect it from the cold that may come. I sit on my bench and mourn for a loss that has yet to happen. As I sit, negative thoughts fill my head. In this depressed state, the thoughts multiply like the chickweed that runs rampant in my garden. I sit tense, unhappy and powerless. It is a waste of a beautiful day – the kind of day this gardener loves.

I turn my head towards the sun. I close my eyes to its glare, and I pray for a new perspective. I turn my attention to worshipping and drag my thoughts away from the bleakness. Live for today the sun tells me, for tomorrow is not guaranteed. The dark negative thoughts return to their hiding, and something else takes its place – it is hope. Tentatively at first, like the new shoots of my beloved rose, then it pushes forward as the warmth continues. It is what I find every spring when the garden comes back to life.

I don my gloves and look for something to do. I could pull the chickweed, and I kneel down to a patch growing at my feet. Before I pull the offensive weed, I notice tiny shoots of my peonies underneath the green blanket. I leave it; it will protect my tender babies. I could clean out the dead leaves that have collected in the garden, but they act as natural mulch. I decide to wheelbarrow a pile of leaves that collect at the base of my garage doors and add them to the garden. When hope replaces negativity, I realize that I might not be as powerless as I first thought. I have no way of knowing if the garden will die tomorrow, but  I can do my best to tend to it – to love it and enjoy it today.

Why I Write…

Daily Post Writing Prompt: Heard

The laptop sits on my desk; the green light on the power adapter shines in the predawn light, indicating a fully charged machine. It calls to me, “please sit and visit for a while.” I resist the urge and drag myself to the kitchen for the morning routine of coffee and oatmeal making. Soon the sleeping house is awake with people rushing to work and school. Lunches made, dishes washed and homework found. After everyone leaves and the dust settles and I pull back my unruly hair, I sit in front of the silver computer with an apple on its hood. I open it and press the power button, the fan whirls as the laptop wakes up; it is the only sound in the still house.

I press the happy blue W floating near the bottom of my screen. It bounces as the program opens. The only thing on the Word document is a blinking cursor. It mocks me to begin – for it knows I have no idea what I am going to write. I watch it blink, and I wait. I place my fingers on the home row of the keyboard, bent at the knuckle and my thumbs resting on the space bar. Soon the chattering begins. My mind races through a to do list, of everything else I could be doing. Then my thoughts swing to the berating type of phrases, like “you call yourself a writer when you cannot form one sentence” or “you do not have it – whatever “it” you thought you had.” I remove my fingers from their position and lean back in my chair. Today might be one of those days where I just give into the thoughts, but I had one of those days yesterday and the day before, if I am not careful giving up might become a habit.

I close my eyes and toy with the idea of never putting myself through this again. I have a million other things I could do – things people would notice. No one would notice if I did not write another word for as long as I live. The struggle is real.

I force my eyes to open, and I reach for my headphones. After I have efficiently plugged my ears to the sound of the voices in my head with my music, I turn to the blank page. I line up my fingers again, and I wait with anticipation that something – anything will fall out of the air. I know it will come, I am open to it, and I wait. “Ask, and you shall receive” – so I ask.

And it comes and I let it flow through me. My fingers fly over the keyboard, and the words flow. I almost want to weep with the pure joy of it. A voice now can be heard, and it speaks to me. It is like having a conversation with a trusted friend. The friend listens intently to all the noise and waits for me to gather all those thoughts and lock them up. I put them in boxes with heavy lids, and I stack them in a corner. The friend points in the direction of a random thought running in circles and I chase it down. I wrestle with it and finally contain it in its box, and I slam the lid. I am exhausted. The friend allows me to catch my breath, and then we begin our conversation. At first, I do most of the talking, I finally have someone who will listen, but then I become quiet. If I am not quiet, I cannot hear what the friend has to say.

I have spent my lifetime wanting to be heard; when the very person who needed to hear me was myself. Writing allows me to hear what I have to say. And this has been my salvation.

Willow Sisters

via Daily Prompt: Privacy

I have two willow trees at my property’s edge. I have spent a few peaceful summer days in a hammock between their trunks and under the privacy of their foliage curtain. Today the winter has robbed them of their greenery, and they stand stark and naked in the weak sunlight.

I feel exposed under their see-through canopy, in view of the surrounding houses as I sit on a forgotten swing we installed years ago, the heavy rope cutting into the branches. I reach to pat the trunk as an apology. I noticed that the trunk of this tree is thicker than her sister’s. The sister is slender and tall, – graceful. The tree I sit under is shorter and sturdy, – strong. On close inspection I notice other differences – my twin willows are more different than I thought. I wonder why two trees planted at the same time and growing in the same environment could be so different. Without their summer attire, the differences are more noticeable. Standing naked and exposed, I can see the true character of each tree.

I spend time with each one, wondering why one sister is one way and the other is the way she is. I notice the trunk on the shorter sister is darker near the ground. I speculate that this is because this tree is closer to the cove that fills up with water as the lake rises, sometimes pooling around its trunk. The taller sister shades her twin as the sun crosses the sky, her limbs having no obstacles as she reaches for the light.

I notice the trees’ branches intertwine – connecting them to each other – maybe their roots do the same. The sisters need each other – or maybe one needs the other for its strength. The spotlight could be a burden with its unrelenting heat.

Am I more like the strong tree or the graceful one? Do I desire to be in the spotlight or have well-established roots?  Do I wish to be more like the other?

A gentle breeze stirs the bare branches, and it sounds like the two sisters are whispering to each other. Do they gossip about me as I contemplate which one has it better? Are they laughing at me for my foolishness? I imagine they are amused by me for I am wasting time comparing when they are equally beautiful.

Pity Party of One

via Daily Prompt: Invitation

No one accepted my invitation to my pity party. I dined alone on my meal of negativity and shame. I washed it down with a highly potent glass of disappointment. My pity party of one was a huge success, but the hangover is intense. My head hurts. My heart hurts.

Why do I take things so hard? Why do I have to endure heartache? How can I stop this from happening again? I feel so out of control.

I could harden my heart and be less vulnerable. I could close it up tight and put it in a box. I could reject the people that hurt my feelings and stop the activities that do not offer immediate success. I could build a wall around myself to keep out all the pain. This world I could control and I could rule it by my anger.

I have done this before; it was one long pity party, and it was a very lonely place. It eventually turned into a self-made prison. I was in control and my anger protected me, but there was no joy and very little love.

Today I will nurse my hangover, and by tomorrow I should be good as new. I will not reprimand myself for partying. Every once in awhile is okay, but if it happens frequently, then I have a problem.

There is one thing I am in control of – it is my outlook on the world. It is a dangerous place, filled with rejection and failures, but it is better than any world I can create. I must accept everything belongs in this world – the good and the bad.

Acceptance is the antidote to pessimism, and I need a healthy dose of it today. I will find it in my quiet time as I write and work it out in my journal. On paper, the problem becomes smaller – manageable. It is the perfect remedy for this horrible hangover.

Winter Garden

DailyPost Writing Prompt: Shine

It is winter, and the sun refuses to shine long enough – warm enough. I spent the last couple of days standing at the window longing for spring or wistfully turning pages of the seed catalog.

I understand the rhythm of the garden and the need for all fallen seeds to incubate in the winter. I am aware of this same rhythm pulses within me – within everyone. The seeds planted, thoughts and teachings of my past – be it last year or just yesterday – need time to incubate and to take root. I must spend this quiet and dark time on reflecting.

What I reflect upon will grow in my soul’s garden. Each thought must be examined to determine its origin. Is it a weed? The bitterness weed spreads quickly and can wipe out a garden. I must pull up the weed before it takes root and nourishes the seeds that will allow my garden to flourish in the spring.

Winter is necessary.

I put away the catalogs, close the curtain and settle down with my journal. It is time to concentrate on a different kind of garden.