gratitude sunday

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There are weeks when being grateful is a challenge because the universe can seem to be playing a very bad joke. Weeks that are extraordinarily bad, when one cruddy thing after another happens, leaving you exhausted and drained and wondering what did to deserve so much misfortune. You’ve had those weeks, too, I’m sure. And the fact is, you, me, we have done nothing wrong really — it’s just life, and sometimes life presents us with challenging times. One thing that I am grateful of in times like these is in fact this very knowledge, that, like the sea, life ebbs and flows and sometimes waves crash, but we must pull ourselves up and just float until calmer waters return. And they do return.

So after a week when I found out I’ll be losing my job, had money stolen from my wallet, and my niece’s beloved Labrador died way too young from an aggressive cancer, I found myself having to look harder, dig deeper. Here are some of the things I’m grateful for today:

  • Watching our Leni grow up — she’s the calmest and most confident puppy I’ve known. And such a beauty, too :-)
  • Every sunrise, and the opportunities the new day presents to all of us to do better, with our work and loving one another
  • Spending time yesterday with James moving and stacking wood, which will keep us warm this winter
  • The smell of banana bread baking in the oven
  • The love and support of my entire family — we may be very different people but at the end of the day, we’re there for one another
  • James’ homemade curry bonanza!
  • Spotting two birds at our feeder this week — fox sparrows and a juvenile yellow-bellied sapsucker
  • The thoughtful woman who swapped her larger table for our smaller one so James and I would be more comfortable eating our dinner
  • An inspirational evening at NYC’s Symphony Space, watching amazing actors (Amy Ryan, Dylan Baker) transport us as they read wonderful short stories, including one by James’ favorite, TC Boyle (whom he also got to meet briefly after the show!)
  • The way in which life’s challenges can help us to set better priorities and remind us what is truly important in our lives
  • In fact, one of the things I’m looking forward to is purging our home and space of unneeded and unused bits and pieces, to create a clean canvas of sorts for what comes next
  • A beautiful message of appreciation from one of the Indian women who has been participating in a language training seminar I’ve led the past two months — even if the budget crunchers don’t see the value of my work, it’s nice knowing those directly affected do; I’ll miss them!
  • A day today to rest and reflect and prepare for a new — better — week to come :-)

life with puppy

IMG_2569Meet Leni Auburn, who came to us from a rescue group in Alabama in early October. She is now about 13 weeks old, growing in leaps and bounds, and possesses an unmatched exuberance for just about everything. We love her . . . yes, even her puppy teeth. And despite all the troubles in the world and the personal challenges we and our loved ones face, the joy of this puppy reminds us that we too have a choice, to choose joy in all that we do every day. Welcome to Baldy Hill, wee bit — so glad we found you. :-)

feeling fall

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Last Saturday we had some friends from the city visit and the colors and vibe of Baldy Hill had yet to shift from summer — the gardens still throwing out peppers and tomatoes and zucchini, the flower beds full of bright blooms. Although the shifting light was a subtle but sure sign that autumn had in fact arrived. And in just the five days since we said our good-byes, fall’s presence can no longer be denied, with trees heaving chestnuts, leaves bleeding red, and sweaters and socks being pulled out of storage chests.

I love this season, always have. As a child, fall meant apple cider, jumping in my grandfather’s freshly raked piles of maple leaves, local town Halloween parades, football games, and watching geese fly south for the winter. Now, many years later, I celebrate autumn by raking our own piles of leaves, picking pumpkins, cooking up batches of butternut squash soup and vegetarian chili, Oktoberfest beer, new knitting projects, and still being amazed by the geese flying south for the winter. Oh fall, welcome back, I’ve missed you! :-)

transitions

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We are enjoying beautiful days here on Baldy Hill as autumn creeps closer. Despite a cooler summer, the gardens have thrived and produced our largest bounty yet — we shall eat well this winter and for that we are very grateful. We are grateful too that the harvest kept us busy and gave a purpose to our days soon after Bayliss died. There is no app for weeding (that I know of anyway ;-) ) or canning, and so we had to sometimes put our grieving aside and get on with the living.

And we even managed to have a little fun — one last-of-the-summer trip to the beach, picnics, and our favorite chile pepper festival (where James successfully defended his title of jalapeno-eating champ). But the falling leaves and later sunrises remind us that we can no longer put off preparations for winter . . . wood to cut and stack, wool to sort through, apples to collect, and a pantry to organize. Our “simpler” life here also means there is always something to do!

I wouldn’t have it any other way though — almost every day, one of us says, “Man, I love living here.” And the other always agrees. So bring on the fall and pumpkin soups and knitting by the wood fire, and a whole new season to love on Baldy Hill. :-)

Hoping you are well wherever you are.

acceptance

IMG_2292It’s been a difficult week, as we all — humans, dog, and cat — get used to the idea that there is one fewer among us. Our home seems to suddenly have become a quiet one — we never realized what a presence our Bayliss commanded. Although we are gradually moving into the acceptance phase of our grieving, I still hate coming downstairs in the early morning and not finding here there, waiting to greet me with a kiss, smile, and enthusiastic tail wag. I loved that face, that happy happy face.

Our other dog, Buster, misses her too. The day Bayliss died, he moved her favorite toy into his bed, and he’s kept it there ever since — not playing with it, just keeping it close to him, by his side.

But he and I have been taking long walks in the nearby woods, which he loves. And we’ve been talking together as a family about how we want to memorialize Bayliss after we receive her ashes — something near my garden, where she loved to spend her afternoons as I worked, seems like the right thing to do.

This past week, we have been lucky to receive the support from friends and family who loved Bayliss, too. Grieving for an animal is tricky because some people don’t understand or recognize the death in the same way they would for a person — no matter how many studies contradict this. I found this resource from the Dogs Trust in the UK to be helpful as I started to work through the emotions of losing such a good friend, who happened to have four paws instead of two feet. It also contains useful, practical information and advice, and although UK-centric, much is universally applicable.

And so we go on. There’s a garden that needs some attention, and we’re looking forward to the local peach festival (and library book sale!) this weekend. Plus, I’m knitting again. One day after another, one stitch after another, we go on.

gratitude sunday

Baby Boo

Our beautiful Bayliss Lily died this morning, peacefully in her sleep, at the age of 15 and a half. Despite no outward signs or changes in her, for the past few days I sensed her end was coming. I moved my work from the home office to the lounge where she slept. On Friday I stopped weeding in the garden to take a few photos of her as she rested nearby. And last night I slept on the sofa next to her bed. I’m so glad I did.

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We’ve been sharing our favorite memories of her since this morning — from her early days at the Front & Chestnut dog park in Philadelphia, to the goat track in Spain, and long walks around Baldy Hill. She had the most soulful eyes and loving spirit, a true beauty inside and out. As one of our Spanish neighbors always said about her, “Ella siempre será el más hermoso perrillo en el pueblo.” And we couldn’t agree more.

baylissOn this sad, difficult day, we are still grateful. We are grateful for each day of her life that we shared, that she was able to live all her days fully, and that she did not suffer in the end, that she died at home with those who loved her. Rest in peace, beautiful girl. Xo.