Monthly Archives: December 2016

Emmett

Today marks the ninth anniversary of Emmett’s death. Time is indeed a bizarre, weird, fluid concept.

We met the day after a winter solstice party. I was in no mood to socialize let alone make new friends.

However.

Knock knock knock.
Knock knock knock.

I drag myself away from The Prairie Home Companion and go to the door, trying to plaster a semblance of a smile on my snoot.

It’s Llyn, my then-girlfriend. Did she lose her key? “I’ve brought company,” she says, with a real smile.

I look down. And there he is: big, black, and beautiful. He wags his plumy tail. “It’s you!” cries my heart. “Hello!” says my mouth. And that was it: love at first sight.

The next six years completely changed the direction of my life. I made time for play, for fun. For adventure. We went almost everywhere together, even the movies. Therapy, even!

One time, at the beach, he found a particularly noxious-smelling salmon carcass. He rolled in it, of course, which didn’t worry me too much at the time. He was always rolling in interesting smells. I knew it’d wear off. But when we were in the car heading home, my eyes began to stream with tears. The stench! I stopped to roll every window down; it didn’t help. And when I looked at him in the rear-view mirror, there he was, proud as could be, tongue hanging out. “I am a badass,” said his expression. “I rule.”

He was also kind. Once we were walking back from the library when a young man and a very young dog approached us. “Do you mind if they play?” asked the guy. “I’m trying to help him socialize.”

“Sure,” I said. By this time Emmett was a full grown Malamute mix. He was easily ten times the size of the little dog. Nonetheless, he began to play with him, very carefully. He threw himself to the ground, pretending the puppy had knocked him over, and let the puppy climb all over him.

This is the same wolfy dog that killed a chicken, and took down a young deer.

After Emmett died, I felt him near me, especially when I walked one of our familiar routes. We often walked at night, so I was used to not seeing him for long periods; his black coat blended into the shadows. He’d run ahead, or lollygag behind. But we were always connected. And one whistle — his special whistle — usually brought him to my side.

In the hardest times after the evacuation, when I didn’t know where I was going or how or if I was going to live, I’d feel him again: walking with me in the dark. My quiet, strong, kind companion. Emmett Ocean Shé. I am loving you.

Emmett Spirit Mask, by Elizabeth Shé
Emmett Spirit Mask, by Elizabeth Shé
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turning toward love

I turned away from love three times, four, five. Five hundred.

Each time I aborted a baby, I turned away from love.
Each time I was deeply attracted to someone, but did nothing, I turned away from love.
Each time I ignored that quiet inner voice, I turned away from love.

These are my regrets. That I was not brave enough or knowing enough to defy my thinking.

I recently watched Eddie the Eagle, a film about the British ski jumper whose lifelong dream was to participate in the Olympic Games. His father told him he wasn’t an athlete. Coaches laughed at him and dismissed him. He failed over and over and over again. But he persevered. He kept listening to that quiet inner voice despite the terrific cacophony of naysayers.

That’s the challenge.

I stopped feeding Sunny the Palomino every morning. The male human of the property drove me away with rudeness and ugly notes. The rodeo cowboy who ‘owns’ Sunny doesn’t seem to care much what happens to him. “He’s a charmer,” said my landlady about the cowboy, and she’s right. Perhaps Sunny will be fine, now that I’ve fed him for three solid weeks, and now that the neighbors know that I care and am watching.

So how else do I turn toward love?
By honoring that irrational passion for home and family.

When I terminated those pregnancies years ago I thought I was doing the right thing — for them, for the babies. I was afraid that if I went through with it I would hurt them, either accidentally or on purpose. But by trying not to harm a potential child, I harmed myself.

So I am building a tiny house on wheels. That way I can have a home of my own while I look for rural seaside acreage. On which I will build a home for a family.

There’s plenty of coastline on this planet. And plenty of unloved children. I just have to find my place, and find my tribe. And keep turning toward love.

card by Greenbrier International
card by Greenbrier International

runaway horse, two

“Sunny!” I yell as he runs through the wind-opened gate into the wide open space beneath the trees.

My mind immediately throws up horrific images of him smashed by a camper van on the busy road a few hundred yards away, or running wild through the state park never to be seen again, attacked by bobcats or pumas. While I run for the halter, Allie runs through the gate, too.

“Allie!”

These are not my horses. And they are not obeying vocal commands. I quickly realize that there’s no way I can catch a horse that doesn’t want to be caught, let alone two. I am not a rodeo cowgirl with roping skills. I am a writer.

Food. I drop the halters and drag their big green food bin out of the corral, wrest open the container with the senior feed pellets and scoop it into the bin. The noise gets their attention. I scoop another quart of food into the bin and they both trot toward me and begin eating. Another scoop in, then I drag the bin back into the corral, horses following, noses down in the bin, both chewing and walking. I haul it in far enough so that everyone clears the gate, which they are no longer interested in. Drop the bin. Walk calmly out of the corral and secure the gate with the rusty chain.

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph! I am trembling from adrenaline. And no longer interested in separating them as I usually do, so they can each eat to their heart’s content. I lean against the shed and breathe. Look at the blue sky, the pine trees whipping around in the wind. The ocean’s about a mile away. The sun broke the eastern horizon about 30 minutes ago. The air is fresh and moist from the rain the night before. Buzzards cruise high in the sky, looking for breakfast. Not here, not today.

The flagstone path down to the spigot is uneven, sometimes the circular steps tilt one way or the other. Carefully, I make my way down, turn on the water, round the corner, and grab a few flakes of alfalfa from the trailer.

I set up two feed stations for Sunny and Allie in the corral, and check the water tub. Secure the gate with both chains –yes!– then place the halters on their hooks and close up the shed. Step down the tilty path to turn off the water. Then walk through the manure field to get to the sandy path that takes me to the ocean.

Once I am clear of the ranch property, I exhale, loud and long. Holy Macaroni! Milagro! This was a mild lesson in horse care. A mild lesson! No one was hurt, not one single body. Disaster averted! Always check the gates!

(This is the second time Sunny’s run away from me. The first time was back in August, and I wrote about that too: https://prime53.wordpress.com/2016/08/31/runaway/)

I thank God all the way down the dune to the ocean, then sing to and praise the ocean, stretching up high to release my fear-contracted muscles. Thank you, God! I hear you!

The chill wind sneaks under my fleece and into my Levi’s. One more round of hallelujahs, then I slowly make my way up the dune back to my apartment. It’s 9 o’clock in the morning. I am worn out.

Horsepainter Elizabeth Shé feeds her canvas, Magic. Photo by James Dickens 2016
Horsepainter Elizabeth Shé feeds her canvas, Magic. Photo by James Dickens 2016

 

 

words

“You’re an idiot,”says Judy.

She’s right. I am an idiot. Once again I have fallen for the words, instead of the actions.

Some examples:

“You can ride Magic.” vs. She forgets the appointment, over and over and over again.

“Sunny’s my baby!” vs. He hasn’t clapped eyes on him for months.

“I love you and miss you.” vs. He’s in town and doesn’t get around to visiting me.

“I so look forward to these meetings.” vs. 99% tardiness, for years.

I have squandered a lot of time and energy believing people’s words vs. their actions. It has taken me a long time to figure out that to most folks, words are only meaningless sounds in the air.

But words have power. In the beginning was the Word, or so some believe.

Yesterday, before going to Sunny’s vet appointment, I wrote down: Sunny is healthy.

Guess what? He is. Skinny, with iffy teeth, but basically healthy. Hallelujah.

But my words also get me in trouble. When I give my word that I’ll do something, I do it, come hell or high water.

Guess what? Most things aren’t worth hell or high water. I have been the exhausted victim of my own self-imposed deadlines. Relax, why don’tcha!

Once, I dragged my bronchitis-whipped ass down to a public computer space to finish the work I started for a client on my private computer before it conked out on me. Call her and tell her I’m sick? Nosiree! Dead and on time, was my motto. Deadlines had power.

No more. Nyet. Nem. No. My poor body has suffered enough, run ragged by a dictatorial mind.

Time to rest.
This idiot has seen the light. And it’s gorgeous.

Light, by Elizabeth Shé, prismacolor marker on paper, 2016
Light, by Elizabeth Shé, prismacolor marker on paper, 2016

scripts

“Time for x-rays,” says the dental assistant.

I point to the computer monitor. “No need, see? Those were done in June.”

She looks at the monitor, then her clipboard. “Oh, right! Okay then, let’s see…” She’s flustered because we’ve wandered off script. She has set tasks in a set order and it takes a minute for her to figure out how to skip ahead.

I can relate. I once complained to a director because one of the actors in the play wouldn’t say her line as written. So I couldn’t say my line as written. I had to improvise, and I believed I shouldn’t have to. One line. Out of the entire 90 minute piece.

To be clear, I love improvisation. I’m good at it. Not to mention that I love the actress I was working with. She’s fabulous, with a gorgeous voice and excellent timing. It was my thinking that had a hard time with it. The rule follower. The good girl.

But I’m not the only one. Last Thursday, my eye doctor had trouble when we wandered from the words. He got stuck in a contact-lens-selling script, even though I said several times, “Thanks, I’ll think about it.”

Harping, they call it, though I don’t know why, since harps play ethereal music. (I used to have one myself, a hand-me-down from my biological mother. Oops, tangent. Where is that script…?)

Life is improvisational. It just is. I never know what will happen when I step outside the door. Once I saw a lady leading a llama down the road. Another time a coyote played hide and seek with me, jumping up out of the bushes every so often to check me out.

All my life I have had trouble getting my bio-family to stick the scripts I write. For example:

ELIZABETH, critically ill, post EMT visit. She has trouble breathing, yet calls a family member: “I am scared that I am dying,” she cries.

FAMILY MEMBER rushes to her side: “How can I help?”

Instead, I get: “Go to church.” “Take a Xanax.” “You’re not dying.” “I just won a surf contest.” “Sorry, I need to look at a truck for sale.” “I have an aikido test.”

Bewildering. And painful.

And it’s not just family. It’s bosses, friends, lovers. Basically, humans. I have trouble with humans wandering from the script, or reading their lines badly, or using a different script, one I haven’t written, or don’t know about.

No wonder I am drawn to the theatre. It’s all written down, you know exactly what to expect and when. No surprises. And you can rehearse!

I remember telling one of my first boyfriends how he should behave when I’m upset, and exactly what he should say to make me feel better.

Obviously, I should’ve been a director.

Elizabeth Shé in a still from the film, Man Made Road, directed by José Vergelin circa 1986
Elizabeth Shé in a still from the film, Man Made Road, directed by José Vergelin circa 1986

The Ballad of Clyde Monroe

Here’s the story of a flower-bedecked tree…

Flowers in his hair
Clyde stands tall
leaning a little to one side

He drinks in the air
clean and pristine
leaning a little to the side

Cash in his lair
twinkles light his eyes
as he leans just a little to one side

He knows not where
his relatives abide
tho’ they’re often just a little to the side

Machísmo is a bear
hard to maintain
so he leans just a little to one side

Minding his affairs
Clyde chanced upon an elk
standing a little to one side

Greetings were shared
along with local news
slanted a little to one side

“We haven’t many cares,”
agreed Elk & Clyde
smugly leaning a little to the side

“We’re a good ol’ pair,”
stated Clyde to Elk
tipping just a bit to the side

“True friendship is rare,”
Elk said, misty-eyed
sitting quite suddenly on his side

Into the distance they stared
at rough seas, city lights
leaning crazily side by side

“Do we dare?”
asked Elk, stripping down with care
stepping a little bit to the side

“Yes,” said Clyde, and bared
his limbs, ready, able,
yet leaning a little to the side

“How do we prepare?”
“Jump in,” said Clyde,
stepping down a little to one side

“Water’s brisk!” said Elk
but they fared just fine
because they leaned on each other side by side

Elk splashed, Clyde aired
even Moon beamed down
shining just a little to one side

Sure cure for despair
swimming naked in the sea
whether you lean a little to the side

“What ho!” sang Claire
and joined in the fun
never leaning just a bit to one side

“Quel mystere!” cried Elk
“Au contraire,” said Claire
“Stop leaning a little to one side!”

“Can’t help it,” Clyde shared.
“Grew this way,” said he,
“always leaning just a little to one side.”

“Handsome is as handsome wears,”
Elk said with warmth, and tried
to lean a little to one side

Claire clapped her paws
and did a little jig
leaning a little to one side

Clyde Monroe married Claire
and, content to the end,
both lean toward each other side by side.

Clyde Monroe, dressed in paper flowers from Mexico, Xmas 2014
Clyde Monroe, dressed in paper flowers from Mexico, Xmas 2014