Sunday, May 30, 2010

"Simplify, simplify" - Henry David Thoreau

Lao-tzu, a great Taoist master of 6th century B.C. China said when we let go of what we think we are, we become what we might be. When we let go of what we think we have, we receive what we need.

"and she lets them come;
things disappear and she lets them go.
She has but doesn't possess"

It's funny, how we cling to things we think are ours. "Stuff" fills our lives to the brim. And yet, we don't really possess any of it. Even our houses, our cars, things we invest so much of our lives in - they're just things.

I've been letting go of a lot. Moving from the house I've lived in for the last six years has really enabled me to simplify, simplify!

And yet, moving brings up for me a lot of emotions I didn't foresee.

This has been the only home my youngest daughter and my Siberian, Jack, have ever know.

Baby Jack circa 4 months

Waking up to the fussing of my youngest in her bassinet in the very bedroom I type this post in. The excitement of owning our first home. The renovation projects! - so many memories.

Me and Elise, who was about a year old in this photo

We'll leave behind a few pets too, buried back in our little pet cemetery.

Oliver, the best black kitty ever, who was born on Friday, August 13th, 2000 and died in this house; Oliver is buried in our backyard.

Oliver, back, and Simon, front - two of the best black kitties ever

And Zero, Chris's 4 foot iguana is also buried back there, along with a few hamsters and Molly, the ferret.

Miss Molly, the smallest ferret

Letting go can be difficult, even though letting go opens up a whole new chapter - and one I have dreamed of for awhile.

If I'm being honest, I admit I get a little nervous. Leaving the familiar for unfamiliar territory.

Who, me? The adventurer? The one with the self-proclaimed wanderlust?

Yes, it's true.

But there will be many more things I will not miss about our current living situation.

We are fairly close to a large interstate - so close the constant hum of vehicles is a constant background noise. I won't miss this.

We (surprisingly to most) have neighbors fairly close. It will be nice to stretch out on seven acres.

The best part will be running dogs right out of the yard. Ohhhh, man! I can't WAIT for this fall, and it's only Memorial Day!

Enjoy the day - Namaste!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Get gone from the dirty town

The barn

I think I woke up to Christmas today. Seven acres. A perfect little barn. A perfect little house.

Today, we started construction of the kennels at the new Lazy Husky Ranch.

Chris setting posts

4x4x8's: the beginning foundation of what will be the new doggy apartment complex

I rubbed my eyes, and blinked. Maybe I was dreaming. This is what I've dreamed of for the last five years, and it was all starting to finally happen, today!

Where the people (us!) will live

Side view

We will hopefully finish construction of the kennels this week, and move into the new Lazy Husky Ranch officially next weekend.

Sophie approves.

She can't wait to have some free range chickens...and goats for milking.

And I can't wait to be able to finally run dogs right out of the yard!

Sophie on the path that will probably be the trail out of the dog yard

More coming soon! Namaste!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Carry it around

I am watching the sun drop into the water, and every second the picture changes.

My senses are bombarded: fragrant smells of new life, earthy smells of woods, damp smells of the water. I float into a small thicket to find two spiders on a web engaged in what appears to me to be a squabble. But that's just my uneducated guess. I know nothing about the lives of spiders.

Alone bobbing in my little kayak on this expanse of water, I am reminded of how small I am. To the universe, I am just like those spiders: tiny, caught up in the mundane exchanges of daily life.

Little waves rock me, and I move with them. Little birds fly and sing a joyous evening song, grateful for another day here.

I sit in my boat, watching fish jump, watching time literally drop away like an orange ball into the water.

Once again, I feel safer, more at peace here than anywhere else on earth. A breeze of the perfect temperature caresses my face. A plane flies through the sky, a long trail of white cutting across the wispy clouds.

Frogs serenade. A beaver swims by without noticing. The beauty in this moment is dizzying - and yet I realize if I stop to write about it, it is gone.

Maybe I write about moments like these and shoot them on film in a futile effort to try to preserve them, keep them.

How silly.

All I've captured are symbols on a page and various images of reflected light.

But maybe I can leave here and carry this peace around. And maybe, in putting it out there for others to enjoy, I can spread joy and love and peace. Just maybe.


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

"The detour, of course, became the actual path; the digressions in my writing, the narrative." Gretel Ehrlich

My beloved little maniac, Lucy, at four months

The above quote is from one of my favorite books of all time, a book that has shaped me as a person and as a writer: The Solace of Open Spaces. I quoted it in my masters thesis eight years ago, and I find myself coming back to it today.

This blog was started in 2006, and since then, I've published over 400 posts to it. Often, I digress. Yes, the blog has its roots in my life with eleven dogs. But, it includes so much more: pain and healing, sorrow and joy, thoughts and feelings, photography and hopefully, underneath it all, beauty. And gratitude.

I've toyed with the idea of starting a new blog, one specifically for musings. But, I am loyal, and so, loyal to the idea of keeping things in one place.

The dogs are always underneath everything I do. They have shaped my life, as I build my life around them. We are constants for each other, orbiting each other like moons. They ground me, teach me, and love me, and I do the same, I hope, for them.

In bringing myself back to focus on the dogs, one of my biggest fears for Lucy was confirmed at her recent 4 month vet check. She has always been narrow in the hips, with the left hip sort of jutting out a bit. So during the rabies shot visit, I asked my vet to x ray her.

Within minutes, I saw what my heart had known all along: Lucy has hip dysplasia.

I've read and been told lots of encouraging advice: she's young; it is possible to be fine with dysplasia without surgery with proper diet and exercise; use this great supplement to help.

But, my initial reaction was devastation. This little tiny pup I'd saved and bottle fed almost from day 1, who has grown into the most beautiful, spirited little dog, will potentially face a life of pain.

Lucy at 3 weeks of age, still being fed goat's milk from a medicine dropper and only weighing about 16 ounces

This diagnosis seems particularly sad for a sleddog, because they are born and bred to run.

And run she does! Lucy's all smiles when she is running full-throttle through the grass.

Lucy smiling

She is totally fearless, prancing up to any living thing on our puppy runs, be it person or animal. She's wild: I caught her trying to chew on a light bulb and later, a thumb tack! If one of the adult dogs in the yard barks or growls at her, she will bark right back in their faces. And, on the trail, she charges ahead, undaunted.

In other news, Lucy's brother, Kerouac, who we affectionately call "Ker bear" is a gentle giant. He already weighs 35 pounds at his 4 month vet check. It's hard to believe little "Ker bear" once fit in my hand.

Kerouac at only a few days old

Kerouac at 4 months

Everyone is plodding along, settling into time off from running and getting ready for our move. We start building kennels at our new property this coming weekend, and should be moving within two weeks.

My digressions are only wanderings on paths that always, always come back to the dogs.


Monday, May 24, 2010

"Don't tell me this town ain't got no heart, ya just gotta poke around..."

It's so beautiful to find things I cherish alive and well in the world around me. Like loving kindness, art, and music. When you find a home among strangers, you might be at the Hessler Street Fair in Cleveland, Ohio.

Some pieces of art I bought at the fair:

Wellington wood sculptor David DiZinno carved this beautiful little tree, which will be a first new piece of art in our new homestead

And Diane Dickens creates these whimsical hand-painted pieces with wood and beer bottle caps! I love her work!

I have been meditating daily for the last month or so. A reoccurring thought or theme that comes up nearly every time I meditate is acceptance/judgement. I blame author Cheri Huber's quote, "Love answers all the questions that judgement fails to hear."

Stop and ponder that for a moment.

How can we love and judge simultaneously?

Judgement makes our world small.

We cut ourselves off from other people because of conditioned beliefs that are largely unconscious, automatic responses. Cutting our self off from people/experiences/knowledge limits us. An old Zen saying is that a teacup is useful not because it is full, but because it is empty. Likewise, when we empty ourselves of preconceived notions of what something/someone is/isn't, possibilities become limitless.

We cling to our truth as though it is THE truth. My experience might say the picture below is of a bicycle. Someone else's experience might suggest otherwise. And you know what? Both are true.

Because your experience is your truth, just as my experience is my truth. Neither is right or wrong.

When we can escape our judgements and preconceived beliefs - even of ourselves - we can experience a freedom to love.

Accepting someone else's experiences or "truths" does not have to mean we agree with them. It simply means we accept and respect their experiences. We confuse "acceptance" and "agreement" often.

I shot all of these photos at the Hessler Street Fair yesterday. It was beautiful to experience the freedom and peace I'd been feeling in my heart among people who demonstrated the same freedom and peace.

Of all the people there, I think I will remember this girl the most.

, my friends.

Friday, May 21, 2010


Thursday, May 20, 2010

A lot of emotions: the face of Alzheimer's

My father's mental faculties are deteriorating each day. I was charged with the task of babysitting him on Monday because my mom had a minor same-day surgery. She is his primary caregiver; my dad has Alzheimer's.

Spending one-on-one time with my dad was revealing, humorous and sad all at once.

My father was the walking definition of stoic when I was growing up. A staunch Marine, he never cried, spoke little and smoked cigarettes a lot. He was strong in so many ways, with a simple love for God, country and fishing.

Watching your parents age and become elderly is a natural process. Roles shift. Children become parental figures, caring for their parents as they age.

But watching your once stoic, strong father transform into a small, elderly man who behaves like a five year old at times is confusing. He cries a lot, sometimes out of frustration for things he can't remember, sometimes because a sliver of him knows he is slipping...

Sometimes I cry for him.

He repeats things a lot, in an effort to remember. He laughs often. Sometimes he says things, out of the blue, that seem so poignant, so right on, but then I realize he doesn't remember what he said or what it means. It's a nonsensical world where things are hysterical or confusing or tragic. There's a lot of emotions.

There seems to be an overwhelming amount of emotion in my life right now. So much to swallow. I literally want to sleep through it. And sometimes I do.

As I dropped my mother off Monday after her surgery, she said as she stepped out of my truck,

"Now you watch, he'll have made some kind of mischief just because he was home alone," referring to my dad, who I had dropped off earlier in the day.

Sure enough, she walked into the house to find coffee grounds all over the kitchen: on the floor, the cupboards, the counter tops, everywhere. What happened remains a mystery.

I hugged him as I left him today, his body now thin and frail. He started weeping again.

"You know I've always stood behind you, Shan," he said. I'm not sure what he was referring to. But it doesn't matter, because it's true: he's always stood behind me. And loved me, even when I'm difficult to love.

Monday, May 17, 2010


I try hard to go with the flow when it comes to the weather. I am outside a lot, and have invested in the proper clothing to generally keep me comfortable no matter what Mother Nature brings.

But, I'm literally ready to flow down a small river - one that is running right down the middle of my kennel!

We have had so much rain, I feel like I live in Seattle instead of NE Ohio. At the time of this writing, it has rained, non-stop, for days. I appreciate a good storm or rainy day, don't get me wrong. But this is ridiculous. It just keeps raining...

and raining ...

and raining...

The dogs don't seem to mind.

Jack lounges in a small muddy hole he dug

In fact, I think they welcome the cooler temperatures. But I would seriously rather do kennel chores in six feet of unshoveled snow than in this incessant rain.

For the few hours it wasn't raining on Sunday, the family and I scooped up some dogs and headed for Kendall Cliffs for a rocky three mile hike in beautiful Virginia Kendall park in Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

I call this photo "Sophie and Elise: the album cover" because it looks like an album cover from the 70's to me! They're both so earthy and hip.

We hiked to ice box cave and enjoyed the temperature drop in the cave.

And I had a chance to marvel at what beautiful girls I have.

I am quite lucky to live this life. I count my blessings. And right now, I am counting my girls, who are turning 11 (Sophie) and 6 (Elise) tomorrow and Thursday respectively.

For their birthdays, soon we will get what we have waited a long time for. A sort of dream come true. This:

A little farmhouse on seven acres about 25 miles east of town. Stay tuned :)

Thursday, May 13, 2010


"A sister is both your mirror - and your opposite."
Elizabeth Fishel

My girls almost had the same birthday. It's a story we talk about every year at this time. Induced two weeks early after having complications toward the end of my pregnancy, strong-willed Elise decided she did not want to share a birthday with her sister. So, instead of coming on May 19 like her sister, she waited 21 hours despite torturous rigors on me, and declared her birthday May 20, 2004.

Sophie, however, was a breeze. I expected the worst from my first childbirth experience. But Sophie decided to enter the world three weeks early, and in only six hours. She's always been earthy and gentle.

Sophie tucks a buttercup behind her ear on a recent hike

In so many ways, the are opposite each other.

Elise is fearless, boisterous, rambunctious and usually disheveled. And a bit showy.

Elise belting it out American Idol-style in the backyard

Sophie is a compassionate, sensitive, artsy tom-boy.

This year, they will get an extra special treat for their birthday. Stay tuned to find out what :)

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


My seedlings

Each day, I spend time cultivating the lives of living creatures, giving back. I care for each little seedling, each dog, and my kiddos gingerly and with love.

Right now it is raining - a fabulous spring thunderstorm. The drops fall on the concrete sidewalk outside my window as I type in a torrent. It smells of spring, and I swear I can smell the nitrogen in the air from the rain. Thunder claps in the distance. A dog breathes in the hallway, sleeping through this beautiful night and spring storm.

I sit cross-legged and breathe in love, acceptance and peace. I breathe out judgement, negativity and hate.

I breathe in forgiveness, serenity and tolerance; I breathe out pain and anger.

I breathe in vitality and healing.

I breathe in.

I breathe.

It's funny how long it takes the soul to repair from trauma. Over the last month, now that it's quiet, all of these memories from the hospital flood me. The lovely, dream-like haze of morphine injecting into my veins and washing over me. The Asian female resident in knee-socks and a white coat at dawn leaning over to listen to my heart and declaring, "murmur. You have heart murmur." Odd, surreal memories.

And then there's the not so surreal ones - ones that are far more ominous and horrifying. Feeling like I'm being held down by a weight on my chest and drowning when my lungs collapsed...Huge man indifferently ripping open my hospital gown while I'm helpless, can't move, can't speak to stick electrodes on me for an EKG, flopping my breasts around like so much meat...callously, callously, while my oxygen reads 82% and BEEP BEEP BEEP...

Can the soul be damaged when the body is damaged?

"Self portrait" - a piece I shot while in the hospital. Many claim they see images within this image

I had no idea when I checked into that hospital room it would be weeks before I'd leave. And I had no idea it would take months to process what unfolded in that room.

So now, nine months later, I sit crying at my dining room table listening to the rain. Nine months. Is this the gestational period to give birth to trauma recovery?

I breathe. Breathe in forgiveness, serenity and tolerance; I breathe out pain and anger.

I breathe in vitality and healing.

I breathe in.

I breathe.