A Special Companion and an Uninvited Guest

KinnonKinnon and I took a prophetic walk out to Diablo Lake on the last night of our Newfoundland trip. He had suffered from an undefined digestive problem before we left and we spent a great deal of time in two countries finding food that he’d eat.

Sitting at the dining room table, looking down, there’s no small red dog warming my feet and ankles. My heart sinks.

Kinnon was always a special boy. Reactive at times, and afraid of new things in his life, he could also be snuggly, especially at meal times and when sleeping in the motorhome. We enrolled him with many behaviorist over the course of his life and his response was marvelous. His last trainer was able to instill much more self-esteem, to the point of almost allowing us to groom his feet and nails.

The backyard is now empty. I count red dogs and now there are only two. I toss the ball for only one Toller. I shake my head in sadness and remember that Jamie needs an enthusiastic human.

The other word for Kinnon as refractory. Just as he would not let himself be groomed without much difficulty, he would not allow the administration of his meds. His ulcer and inflammatory bowel disease required an empty stomach, and giving pills and liquids without food was impossible from the start. He turned his nose up at the low-fat diet he needed. We did the best we could with meds and calories.


The last few days he stopped eating and then drinking water. He stopped coming up on the bed. On his last day we gathered him up, and I held him in my arms while we drove to the vet. We held him as he passed, along everyone at the clinic. I kept saying “go free” as he slipped away.

I miss him every day. The grief comes uninvited. I see him when the light is low in the morning, and then realize it’s Jamie. I look down at Kinnon’s red fur on my feet at the dining room table and recognize it’s Allie.

I want Grief to leave.

But then I realize that he hasn’t come here uninvited to do me damage. He’s come here to surprise me with a gift that I hadn’t asked for, wouldn’t say I wanted, but so desperately need.

The gift he gives me is this terrible, painful bittersweetness that reminds me just how well loved to be feeling such sadness now. This heartbreak is a monument, these tears a tribute.

That’s why Grief is here. He is the tax on loving, and the fact that I am feeling such a deficit in his presence is a celebration of how blessed I’ve been, to have someone to grieve so fully over.

– Adapted from John Pavlovitz



“Remember again and again that the true pilgrimage is into the undiscovered land of your own imagination, which you could not have explored any other way than through these lands, with gratitude in your satchel and the compassion for all you see as your touchstone.
Recall the voice that spoke to Tolstoy in a dream at the end of his life: ‘See that you remember.'”

Philip Cousineau, The Art of Pilgrimage, page 226

It may seem odd, but I’m going to frame upcoming healthcare adventures as a pilgrimage. There is an irony of not going very far in miles and achieving more movement to walk.

I saw the X-Rays of my hips last week at the office of one of the orthopedic surgeons, and the images confirmed my increasing pain: both hips are pretty much shot and there are cysts. A definite recall by the manufacturer.

My intension is to share this process here and not on Facebook, so if you like to follow along, please add your email to this blog by using the box and Follow button in the right-hand column.


Allie and I celebrated the new year with a walk in the woods to the south of our house. The area is part of a designated wildlife corridor crossed with trails. We met no one and thus had some time together in the quiet we enjoy here. She walked right by my side, a companion of 13 years matched to my almost 73.

I don’t walk on trails with as much confidence as I used to. Rocks and roots must noticed and avoided. I don’t leave on a walk without my cell phone. Allie has much more grace with this than I, and more spring in her step.

Doesn’t mean I wasn’t enjoying the experience. It just involves a bit more.

My project this year is to explore the concept and experience of what that “bit more” is and might be. I want to start a conversation (with myself if no one else) that’s more than small talk  I would also like to avoid “organ recitals,” the recap of medical history that admittedly builds friendships and gives us a sense that maybe our diagnoses are not that worrisome.

Since we live in a culture that doesn’t value being old, what does the word “elder” mean from the perspective of one who qualifies? Now that I’m not defined by the work I used to do, where am I? To quote Joan Chittester:

“For the sake of our happiness and mental health, we must also answer the question: What am I when I am not what I used to do? And does anybody really care? And what does that have to do with growing into God?”*

*Chittister, Joan. The Gift of Years: Growing Older Gracefully, Blue Bridge, 2008, p 8.


Christmas 2017

“Yearning for a new way will not produce it. Only ending the old way can do that.
You cannot hold onto the old, all the while declaring that you want something new.
The old will defy the new;
The old will deny the new;
The old will decry the new.
There is only one way to bring in the new. You must make room for it.”
—Neale Donald Walsch

I’ve been silent since the election in 2016. Finding words has been difficult in these times. This Christmas, though, I am drawn back to the image I found in 2015 of the Middle Eastern couple and child in the stable.





As I remarked before, the golden halos are missing. This was before the birth narratives were written and the fine robes and incense of Christology became the central message and worship drove out following.

How do we, then, make room for this New? What of the Old must we give up?

In 2018 I’m going to write about this newness from my perspective as an elder. Seems to me that what pudding I liked the best when I was eight is missing the point. Jesus of Nazareth, ageism, sadness, transformation, love, and fear are subjects more to my liking.

I’ll see you next week!





Illustration by Jim Cooke

It’s Saturday following the election and the sick and empty feeling in my stomach is still there. I have quoted Josh Marshgall of TPM for months now after he called the possible presidency of Donald Trump an “extinction-level even” and now it’s our reality.

My feelings come from seeing the election to the office of the President of the United States erasing a campaign of hatred and bigotry. I can grasp the choice of anger of not quite half of those who voted, but how does “president-elect” make the words and behavior of an extreme narcissist disappear? The media has succumbed to the same pathology that those around a sociopath show by continuing to normalize his behavior as it’s easier than calling it out.

After sitting with this for a few days I have decided to take some initial steps of resistance. The first step is to take my responses off Facebook as the trolls of false equivalency are up and about in good supply, and I’ve found one can never reason with the unreasonable. Dogs and family and travel – and more dogs – will be the order of the day.

The second step is to offer some first concrete support to the ACLU. We may lose the Supreme Court, but we still have state and federal benches that can protect individual rights of those threatened by the new president and his cronies. Here are more organizations that deserve your support:

A List of Pro-Women, Pro-Immigrant, Pro-Earth, Anti-Bigotry Organizations That Need Your Support

My third step is to stick close to family and friends. We are gravely disappointed, but we have each other as this whole medieval power grab unfolds. We should be grateful we have enjoyed years of stable government and work toward reestablishing the balance we lost eight years ago when Congress stopped functioning.

The Fragility of Good Government

Lastly, some perspective is needed. Donald Trump is not fit to be president despite the Electoral College. We still have safeguards in place that will at least slow the campaign rhetoric. The courts are still in place, individual states can act, and Congress is still open to public scrutiny.

The Republic Repeals Itself

The New Movement Starts Now

Autocracy: Rules for Survival

There is still time to reflect and plan. We can listen, but with vigilance.


I got to thinking about the polarization in our country that the press keeps talking about and concluded that’s not quite correct.

We’ve had two major political parties since 1797, organized by people who care about our government with shared ideas and principles. In the course of our history, we’ve had Federalists and Anti-Federatists, Whigs, National Union, Republicans, and Democrats as major parties.

Today we have Democrats and Republicans. There are many differences between the parties on taxes, social issues, and the environment, to name only a few.

The US also has an established framework of government which theoretically allows the major parties to act to help its citizens. Over time this system has worked, albeit imperfectly, “to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”

This looks like a reasonable arrangement to me, with the two parties working together and using compromise to craft policies and produce laws. Over the past 50 years, however, the Republican party has moved to a stance of what I’ll call chronic contrariness. Pundits and some Democrats have called it the Party of No.

Contrariness is defined as “deliberate and stubborn unruliness and resistance to guidance or discipline.” It’s a constant and predictable opposition, often without substance or reason and describes the GOP today. When I look at their behavior I say to myself “how would I like to have someone like that around all the time?” I’d never get anything done and pretty soon I’d think I was going crazy.

Pretty much nails it.

Intention for Today

American FlagI’ve seen many memes and aphorisms on Facebook with the general theme of “pray for peace.” Nothing wrong with that, but as the woman in full hijab rang up our purchases at Wal-Mart in Grand Forks ND three weeks ago I got to thinking about how results might be better if we were more specific.in our intentions.

My thought is to imagine a place where you have been (or want to be) that invokes serenity. For me it’s the forest, quiet and green. I envision a circle around a campfire where many people can sit comfortably and see each other easily.

I would invite people to sit and share their vision of America. The woman in hijab, my African-American cousins, several of my neighbors here in Port Townsend and maybe that guy with the pick-up truck with the Confederate Battle Flag in the rear window. The refugee from a war-torn country seeking a place for her family and a member of the DAR. The guy who runs a pharmacy on Main Street. A grandchild or two. The nurse who cared for me whose husband had died and was living paycheck to paycheck. Just folks. You can make up your own invitation list.

We’d go around the campfire and share our vision for America and how we might achieve it together. Deep down, what is it that gives us pride in where we live? What values can we share to build us up as communities and not tear apart? What is about our country that makes us grateful?

America has always been an experiment in self-governance. We are an imperfect nation that paints over our flaws with myths and symbols that perpetuate that imperfection. I’d ask my group what new myths and symbols would help us build a country that was inclusive and compassionate. Can you envision such myths and symbols?

The campfire would close with an affirmation to hold these specific hopes and dreams in our hearts and to look forward to a fresh new direction for all of us.