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Little nothings (and Somethings) about Life

    My eldest daughter tactfully commented that I’ve “written enough blogs about blackberries”. I guess my fascination with the berry is boring her. Of course, she will now say that I didn’t quote her accurately. She pointed out that she understands I can’t always quote the family verbatim (considering my lax memory) yet still, it bristles her that I summarize some conversations with a single prominent comment.


    I pointed out that I am very careful to be accurate and the family does actually say all the things I bother to quote in my blog. Heck, it’s not as if I can lie or embellish what is going on when my commentary is an open book (or computer screen) and those involved can take me to task for anything reported. But what she doesn’t realize is, sometimes a comment is spoken off-hand but it may be imprinted on the listener’s brain for reasons you may never know. People have selective hearing dependant upon their mood, emotional state or past experiences. And I tend to zero in on a single sentence when it amuses, annoys, or inspires me.


    Sometimes, it feels as if I am witnessing life through a high-powered lens, ultimately aware of what I think, feel and experience. It is rather new, this awareness, having started at about age 40. I think it was the catalyst for my discontent with an achievement driven life.  Anyway, my In the moment awareness makes details stick in my mind because I ponder them long after the moment has come and gone.  


     In regards to her feeling I embellish a conversation, or misquote, I think it’s more a case that when you see something you said in passing in print, your knee jerk reaction is not to recognize it as “yours”. Often the problem with interpretation is not what we say, but how we say it. Unfortunately, the way a comment is interpreted when read might be a far cry from the way it was intended by the author. For example, I tend to say things in humor – a touch of sarcasm my weapon against taking things too seriously when I sense things are escalating out of the comfort zone, but if those off-hand comments are taken literally, they can seem offensive or challenging. When I quote a family member, it may seem as if they are insensitive or foolish, when actually, they are just kidding. I know it, so I assume the reader will too. I guess if I was a better writer, that would always come across. Honestly, if I had the power to assure every word I’ve ever written was received with the perfect intent I had poured into it, my life would probably be very different now. Ah well . . .


 


I’m off track. I was intending to just do a quick update on life.


 


Let’s see – despite the fact that I have reached my quota on blackberry blogs, I will mention that I’m still picking blackberries. Today, Neva and I spent two hours diving through the prickles to fill an entire shoebox (we bought her new riding boots this morning, and the box was what was available in the car when the urge overtook us). Since my freezer is full and the family is getting sick of blackberries, we discussed what we could do with the windfall. She wanted me to let her sell them at the flea market for 3.00 a pint. (She is quite the entrepreneur – don’t know where she got that from). I told her I was willing to get all hot and sweaty and scratched up for family, but I draw the line at commerce. So we brainstormed and decided it was time to try our hand at making Blackberry Jam. She felt I should pay her for her contribution, considering how much effort she is putting into the task, because I’d get all the credit for the jam. I said, “No way”, but  promised I’d let her cook the jam with me. We can learn together.  We are now planning to make a gob of the stuff and put it in pretty jars with a nifty label that she can decorate. Then, she can give homemade blackberry jam to teachers and/or grandparents and friends at Christmas as gifts. She thought this a spectacular idea and instantly became a harsh taskmaster, demanding I force my way deeper into the pickers to get the biggest berries off the beaten path. I told her this aggressive blackberry picking was getting painful. It’s supposed to be fun.  She pointed out that all the best blackberries are in the places that take the most work to harvest. Then she said, “It’s just like life, Mom.”    Ha. She is only nine, and it appears, my work is done. I love her vibrant, little spirit.


 


I think picking blackberries will be in the top ten subjects of my new book 101 things you can do to distract yourself from doing homework while enrolled in an MFA program. Considering I’m not making much progress on my thesis novel (and I’m disgusted with myself over it, let me tell you), that is one book I feel qualified to write.


 


New subject:


My cat is a shithead.


    Yesterday, while reading something on the computer  Neva came in and said, “Mom, something weird is going on. There is blood on the porch and two of our chicks are missing.”


     I had just visited our baby chickens, giving them fresh food moments prior, so I knew she was mistaken. I went and looked into the cage. The door was tightly shut but two birds were gone. I couldn’t figure out how they could have gotten out. Then, while we stood there, my cat, Tom, comes in, walks right by us and sticks his paw into the cage, grabs a chick and starts pulling it out through the narrow bars. Of course, I socked him. Then I threw him over the porch railing about eight feet below (Neva said she has never seen me so mad at a pet. Ha, I guess it is no surprise to see me mad at people, but at pets . . . that is rare.)  Apparently, he ate my two silkies. Neva found one, headless, in the other porch. She buried it and made a very nice tombstone, a rock that states, (in permanent marker) “Here lies Silkie Little Chick.” I took a picture, but I can’t post it because I don’t know how this new camera works yet.


 


We never found the other chick. I have horror flashes of reaching under the couch one day and thinking I’ve found a wayward sock, but it will be Silkie number two. Damn cat. We went and bought three Silkie replacements the next day. They are cute, but I am watching them carefully, dreading another cat-astrophe. The problem is, we can’t keep the cat out because the dog lets her in. That is another issue.


 


Our 7-month-old dog, a plot hound named Maxine, knows how to open doors. Any door. She is large, so she just lifts herself up on her hind legs and gracefully puts her paw on the handle and lets herself in. She not only can push a door open, but she can pull from the other side. She can open the front door, the screen door, locked chests, you name it. She has the run of the cabin, much to my dismay, because she is generally untrained. For example, I made cupcakes for the 4th of July and Neva laboriously decorated them. An hour later while we were out, the cupcakes were drying on the table. Maxine let herself in,  jumped on the table and ate all 24 cupcakes. Then she proceeded to barf all over the carpet, which smelled so badly we had to throw it out.


     She lets the cat into the screened in area when she is headed into the bunkhouse to lie on the carpet in the air conditioning, something she has started since she knows we keep the main cabin locked. She doesn’t intend to provide Tom with a Silkie drumstick lunch, but her leaving the door ajar does just this. We now have keys in all the doors and lock everything each time we go in or out. The screen door too.  It’s quite a nuisance. And really, I fear it is only a matter of time till Maxine learns to turn that key. Damn dog. Shithead cat. My world is filled with antagonistic animals this week.


 


New subject:


Mark quit his real estate course after one class. He announced he is too busy to drive and attend a scheduled commitment one hour before the second class. Of course, I told him this would be the case before he began. (Another I told ya so moment that I didn’t voice out loud. Aren’t I admirably disciplined?)  He is going to take the course on-line instead, but he hasn’t started yet. He has a year to do so, so I suspect it will wait until after the house is complete. He is not very good at self-motivated tasks such as an on-line school. Ah well. So much for our doing homework together or my getting sudden pity and understanding about my own workload.  Drat..


 


A sad subject:


Mark’s father has been in steady decline and we suspect he will be with us only a few more weeks. He now has a cancerous tumor in his brain as well as in his lung and bone. This makes him very confused. He does not know what day it is and often speaks about erratic things. He is nostalgic, which is new for this former stoic Scotsman. We took him to a bagpipe concert (he is a first generation American, having been raised in Scotland), and he cried because it dredged up memories of his youth. I made him blackberry cobbler, and he cried because his mother used to make it in Scotland. His confusion and his sensitivity, along with a loss of dignity because he feels helpless and lost, is horribly sad. Dianne is a saint, caring for her parents in her home at this trying time.


    I don’t want to talk much about this chapter of our lives, simply because I tend to get philosophical about life issues, and I don’t want to boil this down to theory or springboard from this subject to my own thoughts on aging or my life. I don’t want to pretend I understand what the family is feeling or try to wrap death up in simplistic fatalistic terms either, so I think my thoughts should remain private. But I will admit that it all makes me ponder life a great deal as I consider what is most important during our finite time on earth.


    Life is short. Make every day, every moment, every relationship, count. Most importantly of all – be happy.


 


I have under two weeks to switch from mild mannered country bumpkin back into dance diva. I am scheduled to teach 300 fledgling teachers in Boston on August 7th. This dredges up a great deal of philosophical thought on dance and my place in it. But I don’t want to talk about it tonight. I am tired.


 


It used to be I never slept – maybe 5 hours a night at most. Now, I sleep quite well, staying in bed to the lazy hour of seven sometimes! Imagine. I guess my plan to slow down and take time to enjoy living has seeped into more facets than my career choice. Now, I actually like a full seven hours of sleep. But who knows, maybe when my chicks grow up and I discover I have a rooster, I’ll embrace waking at the crack of dawn once again. At least then,  I’d get some homework done. But for now, Blogging remains my number one pastime on the “What to do to avoid homework” list.


 


Yawn. Good night, friend.


 


 

About Ginny East Shaddock

Director of Heartwood Retreat Center, Ginny is also a writer. This is her personal blog with essay form writing about life and reflection. My entries are often lengthy and random, because I'm not here to promote or sell anything. I'm not expecting followers - just find this format a good place to think with the pen.

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