I woke up extra early today. My dog wanted to go out. Finally, is not raining or snowing. As I stumbled out the door into the darkness of pre-dawn, I had to suppress the urge to curse my dog for needing to go out…especially since he seemed to be taking his sweet time finding the right spot. Four blocks later, it became clear his whining and insistent pawing at my knee was not simply about the call of nature. Or, rather, it was precisely about the call of nature and not just a bathroom break.
Four blocks into the walk I calmed my annoyance enough to realize I was surrounded by a chorus of robins. Every tree and every bush seemed to hold a bird serenading the promise of sunshine. It sounded through the neighborhood like an echo in a mountain valley. There was absolutely nothing else going on; there isn’t much traffic at this time of morning, and the birds had the full attention of nature’s ear.
Dante has a gift for picking these moments. One time we were walking by a church and he abruptly stopped and sat absolutely still, staring at a stained-glass window with half-closed eyes. I realized he was listening to a choir practicing. So I had to stop and listen with him. Of course his strongest sense is his nose, and as he was listening his twitching nose was pointed at the window as if he were trying to make olfactory sense of what his ears were telling him. While I cannot share in the symphony of smells he enjoys on his daily walks, when he noses around it reminds me to try and be aware of my sense of smell, too. Actually, to make full use of all senses at the same time.
If you have a dog and you approach walks the way your dog does, you will find yourself in a meditative state and a greater awareness of yourself and your surroundings.
It has been almost a year since my last blog post in June. I hadn’t intended to abandon my blog for nearly a year and indeed there were many exciting things that happened in 2015 that I wanted to share here. For example, I had a solo show at ARC Gallery with work spanning almost 20 years. It was the first time I’ve done a solo show on that scale and I was very proud of the way it turned out. I also had a great garden and beekeeping year for most of the season. In fact, in many ways it was one of the best gardening seasons ever.
But the reality is that 2015 was also the year the bottom dropped out of my life. I lost much that I had spent years earning and growing. Little did I know last April, as I planted my garden and set up my beehives, that it would be the garden’s last year. In May I became ill, and, long story short, by the time I figured out what was going on I lost 50 lbs because I couldn’t digest anything properly. I felt exhausted and unwell all the time, and it lasted for the rest of the year. During this time my marriage fell apart. How much of the illness was triggered by stress of a failing relationship I’ll never know, but it certainly played a role. Besides the emotional blow of an ending marriage, there’s the lifestyle change that goes along with breaking up a household and creating two single-parent households. I’ve lost many of the things about my life I’ve treasured the most; my house with the big office and attic art studio, my garden, my beehives. I’ve had to come to terms with having fewer resources, and this means that things like art shows and beehives are not in the budget right now.
new sunroom, happy plants
But the truth is, for everything I’ve lost in the last year and all of the challenges I will still face, I’m more optimistic than ever that good opportunities are waiting just around the corner. My new apartment is located in a vibrant community close to work, schools, park district amenities like pool and skating rink, gardens and a farmer’s market. I can’t afford a car, but my car-free lifestyle is more environmentally friendly and allows me to get plenty of exercise by walking and biking. I will have two plots in a community garden at Third Unitarian Church. I’ll still be maintaining my ties to the Galewood-Montclare Garden Club in my old neighborhood whenever I can. I haven’t found a good place for beekeeping in my new neighborhood yet, but my brother still has my one remaining hive at his blueberry farm. I’m not sure if the colony survived the winter but at least I have enough equipment to start up again should the opportunity arise.
I have learned many lessons in the past year that have ultimately made me a stronger person. Several people have told me that “everything happens for a reason”. That doesn’t ring true to me. I think things happen, and we give meaning to them. I could take the events of the past year and stay mired in regret and loss, or look forward to new opportunities and a new life. I choose the latter. There are opportunities in my life now that would not be here if I had stayed married. Each day brings opportunities that yesterday’s actions led me to. I can’t change the past, but it is my responsibility to make the most of today’s situation. I’ve found that as the layers of my old life and my old self are stripped away, I’m finding out who I am now. In some ways I’m stumbling upon parts of myself that have always been there, long forgotten, and only now being rediscovered!