Cleanse ye your eyes, so that ye behold no man as different from yourselves…. See ye no strangers; rather see all men as friends, for love and unity come hard when ye fix your gaze on otherness. ~Baha'i
Olives and oranges dot backyards and some sidewalks here in Fresno. In lots of other California localities as well. This is, however, a bit of an anomaly for Elf, Opus and me, being fresh from New Mexico where neither tree grows, much.
Whoever thought these dogs might find themselves No-No’d for trying to snack on the fallen fruits?
A corgi is a
serious sort of dorgi
Funny and regal by turns
Dachs-terr, one bundle
Of snuggles and heart tugs
Soft eyes shine with joy
We have begun The Official Birthday Month of Elf the Corgi and Opus the Dachshund/Terrier. Elf having been born seven years ago as of April 8, Opus twelve years as of May 1.
I figured there is no harm in giving them an entire month (almost) of being special between their natal observances this year, our first in Fresno, California.
These days when the two set forth on their trots around the ‘hood the fragrance of orange blossoms is powerful along the driveway behind out apartment compound and the lovely homes behind us. The olive tree marks its presence by dropping lots of black — very, very black — olives all over the backyard in which it stands.
Feral cats and brazen Mockingbirds, as well as the occasional tiny little chi-dog zooming by in its minuscule sweater, give E & O the urge to leap after them. Alas, they have pretty much learned the hard city lesson about walking on bungee leashes.
Elf has been with me since the first few weeks of her life. Opus for exactly half of his. Do they ever miss the lovely dog door and fenced back yard they had in New Mexico? Hard to be sure. I suspect the company of my daughter, Jericha, and her husband, Francisco, goes far to dim any memories of the pleasure of running in and out at will. Their outings are certainly more varied and far ranging than they were in our former little back yard.
In fact, we have all made a pretty good adjustment to city life, in California to boot.
Happy birthday, you little ones. May your paws long take you through pretty vistas, where Mockers sing you their dazzling repertoires and olives might tumble on your innocent heads.
Silvio Rodriguez, the long-time Cuban poet/folk singer, often provides background music for me when I am a creative mood. I love his gentle, thoughtful music and musings. So today I am including ¿A Donde Van? (Where Are You Going?). It’s a delightful wondering about what becomes of us, and things. For an amusing insight into what it might mean, try using Google translate to give an English approximation of the Spanish lyrics. For example:
What will my old shoes be converted to?
Where did they go to give so many leaves of a tree?
Today her humans are celebrating the birthday of one of Elf the Corgi’s best friends, name of Jericha. Spirits are light, brightness sets the air a-sparkle, and Elf’s eyes shine as well.
But earlier in the week she was struggling with unfamiliar pains in her lady-dog bits. It hurt to pee, and the stalwart corgi was at her wits end about getting the problem fixed. Much as she steadfastly kept on keeping on, this was getting worse, not better.
Eventually things came to a head, as they will do in such cases. Jericha, who has been hemophobic off and on from a tender age, was leading Elf and Opus around the big block they now inhabit in the city of Fresno, California when Elf squatted to pee for the third time of the morning. Why did this normal thing hurt so much?
Jericha happened to glance at Elf’s back end during the process.
Turning white, she asked Elf’s human, who is Jericha’s mother, “Do you see something red?” Uh oh, Human sure did. Bright blood both on the ground, and around a certain spot on the corgi’s iconic, rounded backside.
Jericha had also caught sight of the red spot and pretty quickly she was sinking to her knees, right there on the sidewalk. Human took over the dog leash, a coupler shared by Elf and her partner in dragging humans along, Opus the Dachs-Terr. Elf’s human does not walk the dogs on the coupler as the pair of them, in deciding to take off after a taunting squirrel, might just pull her out of her power wheelchair.
So the three stood by as Jericha gradually recovered from her near faint. Up she stood, off they stepped — for about ten feet, till Jericha again caught sight of the small dog’s rear and went down again. The process was repeated another time or two before the four of them regained the Human’s apartment, allowing Jericha to lie down on something much more comfortable than a sidewalk for a good long while.
Opus, aware of the center of attention his canine companion had become, calmly climbed up onto a sofa and went back to his preferred indoor occupation — snuggling under covers.
It was now Elf’s human’s turn to turn white, as she reflected over what blood in one’s urine often means for human beings. Web searches revealed that in dogs the top cause is urinary tract infections (UTIs) and bladder stones, though the horrible malignant possibilities are also present.
Time to find the dogs their second brand new veterinary hospital in seven months.
Being a sensitive little creature, Elf spent her next hours commiserating with the woman lying so pale and listless on the sofa and the one staring rigidly at the laptop screen in the den. Absently they would reach down and rub her big ears and the itchy spots around her neck — but she was not fooled. The were scared, and nervous. About her.
Several hours elapsed before she found herself being loaded into her traveling crate in the Human’s van, hurtling up State Highway 41 to the new vet’s office. There, after what seemed an interminable wait punctuated by a prancing, if sickly, boxer, an adorable little ginger colored chihuahua who was a ferocious biter of human hands that tried to pet him, and a cat craftily sneaked past the dogs in a crate by a vet tech, she was deposited onto a high steel table to have her vitals measured, notes vigorously typed into a computer over her head, and lots of absent minded petting by her humans.
The light tone of the vet tech did not fool the corgi at all — these people were worried, markedly worried. She was too — about missing her dinner time.
Eventually a silent big woman carried her off to the back regions, leaving her people alone in the examining room. The woman put her on her back on a strange table with a depression in the middle, turning her one way and another for some mysterious process called X-rays. Then her lower tummy was wet down with isopropyl alcohol, she felt a prick and saw the woman looking pleased to see a lot of red fluid flowing in some sort of tube coming out of Elf’s belly. She was glad when that part ended and she was escorted back to her humans — relieved, and none the worse for the wear.
She did not fully understand the words the doctor said, but she well grasped the relief the humans were showing. He had told them that, while nothing could be ruled out, this looked more like a UTI than anything.
Her humans got a supply of antibiotics for her, and to her immense delight she did not miss dinnertime.
For the next couple of days Elf spent as much time as possible sprawled by the humans as they carried on with the long process of moving her particular Human into the new apartment. Numerous heavy boxes of books were emptied, books lined up on shelves in various areas of the spacious apartment.
Surrounded by the familiar smells of the furnishings that had accompanied herself and Opus from their longtime home in New Mexico, to Mountain View in the Bay Area for seven months, and finally now down to California’s Central Valley, the small dog began, at last, to feel an easing of a long time tension in her humans.
She was healing, getting that warm cheese with a funny little hard thing in the middle twice a day was a fantastic treat, and what’s more, Miz Jericha was remaining firmly on her feet during every walk.
Bring on the squirrels.
Meanwhile, the Human is seeing a new doctor in Fresno, and hopes to get a good bill of health, herself, after all the tests he feels she needs. He is a Sikh, and wears a turban. This is a most interesting development in Human’s nearly lifelong closeness to medical professionals. It’s been a while since she’s had a serious medical review, and this doctor seems intent on getting that job done.
Ow, it will take a great many squirrels to ease the Humans’s mind!
¿dónde pongo lo hallado,
en las calles, los libros, las noches ,
los rostros en que te he buscado?
¿dónde pongo lo hallado,
en la tierra, en tu nombre, en la biblia,
en el dia que al fin te he encontrado?
¿que le digo a la muerte
tantas veces llamada a mi lado
que al cabo se ha vuelto mi hermana?
¿que le digo a la gloria
vacia de estar solo
haciendome el triste, haciendome el lobo?
¿que le digo a los perros
que se iban conmigo en noches
perdidas de estar sin amigos?
¿que le digo a la luna
que crei compañera de noches
y noches sin ser verdadera?
¿que hago ahora contigo?
las palomas que van a dormir a los
parques ya no hablan conmigo.
¿que hago ahora contigo?
ahora que eres la luna, los perros,
las noches, todos los amigos.
Hanging around in between other people’s doings is what I am doing these days. First my daughter’s wedding, then my move to Fresno, where she has moved with her new husband. The apartment I have dibs on is not yet ready. Thus I spend long days still in Mountain View, fitfully packing, chatting with Elf and Opus, and watching Netflix…
So here’s Part 3 of my series from a 1990s blog in New Mexico, about the seasonal habits of roadrunners. These characters are so much fun to observe, and their interactions with donkeys sometimes almost caused me to choke from laughing so hard…
Roadies in Winter
As the cool days and icy nights of the high desert winter shrivel plants, send the largest grasshoppers and crickets to arid sandy sepulchres and deliver lizards to hibernation recesses inaccessible to roadrunners, the omnivorous birds scout food over widening areas. They crouch in tree limbs near bird feeders, scoot along fence lines where windblown detritus is most likely to contain torpid insects and snakes, patrol hay stacks for mice, poke around manure piles for edible larvae and large insects lurking in warm compost.
The first lemon and peach lights of a midwinter’s dawn sky often reveal large flocks of crows gathered in the donkey paddock. Like a gaggle of pokey window-shoppers in a mall, these somber suited birds meander through dead weeds, pausing to drink at the stock tank.
The long grey sword of a beak brandished by the roadrunner cleaves the flock in twain as crows drop their dignity to squawk and scatter. Body gliding, legs pedalling, the dashing bird rides an invisible bicycle, shooting into the heart of the crow flock. Beak aimed for a sleek, black chest, topknot ruffled high, the roadrunner drives like a missile to the target. No matter that the moment he scatters the crows one will inevitably swoop back to tap his long downcurved tail, causing him to spring to a fence for safety. He has to pace dogs, spook donkeys and charge crows.
Because it is the nature of roadrunners to indulge in activities which baffle the rest of us.
As the desert sun steams crystal ice off crisp brown weeds in the paddock, the agile roadrunner foots a mile between himself and slow-motion crows, scooting along the dirt side of a drainage ditch looking for breakfast.
What a pity his beak won’t grin.
Over in California’s Bay Area right now, here is a resident rodent (sort of sounds like roadrunner, doesn’t that?) doing what it loves — teasing Elf and Opus during a mid-day walk.
Things have been a tad upside down and inside out in life around here lately. Jericha, my daughter, is unusually busy, between work, Baha’i projects and her social life, while the dogs and I have mainly been keeping the condo company. As usual, while I continue to hope my power wheelchair gets repaired sometime before I Ieave. This place, not this world.
Had you going there for a sec, yes?
Every time I am assured that things are almost… almost… ready to move forward, there erupts yet one more round of misunderstanding between the doctor’s office and the medical group processing the authorization for Medicare. This state of affairs is beyond human understanding, because who on earth could actually be dumb enough to keep making these same mistakes over and over, if both sides are to be believed?
We got off to a very late start this Saturday morning. Our friend Paco appeared about 10:30 to take the eager Elf and Opus out for their morning constitutional.
His happy arrival had been preceded by bouts of unusually noisy barking approximately every five minutes, starting at 8 a.m. — the time of their normal weekday early walks. Every time a door banged down the hallway, or someone came up the stairs adjacent to our front door — or the dashing young French bulldog in unit 6 pranced along to the elevator from the far end of our hallway, Elf and Opus emitted volleys of woofs. “You are making me deaf!” is my often repeated scold when they do this. Because since moving here with my daughter with her perfect hearing, I am suspected of not hearing everything I ought to — and she is probably mumbling in my presence. Who knows the truth of that?
While Paco was gone not only for the exercise and relief of my my two good canine friends, but also to allow them to assist him in choosing us a bunch of bananas at a 7-Eleven nearby, a fire alarm went off in the building. A real one, not merely somebody’s smoke detector.
Clang-clang-CLANG and a whackity whack!!! On and on it went.
A hub bub of voices gathered in the hallway outside. Shouting above the clamor.
Thanking heaven the my precious pooches were already leashed up and in the custody of a smart and faithful friend, I thought of gathering up my iPhone and iPad chargers, various personal items and a hat in case somebody insisted I leave the building.
That would be a pretty good trick, actually. A Very Bad Thing, since we live on the second floor, and the only elevator — a little black thing whose door you have to open for yourself every time you want in or out of it — is out of commission in the event of a fire.
Contemplating my options, I remained in the condo so as not to give neighbors any wild ideas about rolling me and my 330 pound power wheelchair down two flights of stairs any time soon. I poked my head out the balcony door, seeing nothing smokey, noting the absence of sirens amongst the city sounds. After some five minutes of alarm, shouldn’t somebody be coming? What if we really needed saving?
At length, hearing my daughter’s voice in the babble outside, apparently in conversation with another voice which was quite loud and somewhat… elderly… I poked my head out. Our roommate Shirley rushed me back inside, saying, “Oh, it’s nothing, no problem, we don’t have to leave… Somebody in seven was taking a shower and it set off the alarm. He says it happens a lot when he takes a shower.”
This peculiar explanation of our would-be emergency was announced after somebody said that the problem started with unit 7 — and when they knocked they were greeted by a fellow wearing nothing but a towel…
Hmmm, I muse, we’ve been here since the beginning of June and there’s been no alarm till now…
So down the hall I roll to see what, or more accurately, with whom, Jericha is up to something. An older woman stands in front of the long unoccupied unit next to ours, rather looming over Jericha. This must be the person who only lives here half the year, spending the other half in a home along the coast further north. Uh oh, she is the one that we have been warned is… “Very particular!” With searching looks, “Yes, you want to get to know her, Emily, befriend her, hopefully things will be okay…”
Errrr…. Say what?
The woman waves Jericha off, telling her to “Explain this to her,” gesturing at me.
When we get back to our own place my daughter tells me that this woman has an extreme reaction to loud noise — say, oh, dogs barking — to the point where she actually becomes paralyzed when she hears them. Her bedroom, she has been telling Jericha, shares our living room wall. The very room in which Elf and Opus have been giving tongue to their eager desire to get out for some exercise for several hours this morning. She can, she says with emphasis, STILL hear them when she leaves her bedroom, shuts the door, and heads elsewhere further away from us. She only returned here last night.
And to think that if that toweled neighbor who popped open his door to tell the assembled crowd that the fire alarm was caused by his shower hadn’t done what he did, we might not have realized that the … particular one … has now returned for the winter, so Extraordinary Canine Steps Must Be Taken.
Elf, Opus and I have been discussing the matter of quiet-tude steadily ever since. We will see how well they have understood soon enough, I expect.
The episode leaves me feeling relieved that Elf, Opus, Jericha and I are likely to be packing our belongings — again — for a move. It appears that we may be returning to a desert like environment, though not one in New Mexico — hotter. Not even Arizona. Nope, right here, somewhere in the Central Valley of drought stricken California, right in the middle of Big Agriculture country, where the drought is having its most terrible impact not only on this state and its residents, but also on much of the US food supply in the fields.
My daughter has been wearing earrings in the form of black cats, spiders, pumpkins and ghosts for a couple of weeks now. She works at a pre-school, where naturally a dress-up holiday featuring yummy snacks is a Big Deal. When I visited the pre-school earlier this month the walls of all the rooms were covered with kids’ renderings of colorful leaves, witches on brooms, fluttering ghosts and lots of other scary things. Piles of drying leaf cut outs were painted and puckered on stacked trays, ready for tiny fingers to squash them into new collages.
This isn’t a holiday I’ve had enthusiasm about over the past few years, since we stopped finding bunches of kids at the door. It’s become such a commercial event for adults on the calendar. It’s fair to mention that my dad was in retail while I was growing up, so a jaded attitude about over commercialization of traditional events occupies space in my mental territory. I love seeing the fun kids can have with this season, though.
One of my last jobs featured annual decorating contests which got so extreme that long, wide sheets of black plastic were hung from ceiling to desk height in a big central area everybody had to pass through, making it tricky to walk around. It was supposed to suggest a castle, but the impression was more landfill. Desks got wrapped and speckled with protruding skulls, swords, broomsticks and rear ends of witches.
Costumes were not quite a job requirement, but came close. Not everyone working there flourished amidst the hoopla of people racing around demanding admiration for their efforts, leaving their work for others to do. A few of the Native Americans were distressed — in certain traditions a few Halloween symbols are reminders of darkness, evil, even. Hispanic people might be saving energy for the highly colorful and more spiritual tradition, the Day of the Dead at the beginning of November. People cook for loved ones who have passed, bringing food to the graves. Amazingly decorated sugar skulls are way less scary than realistic ones. Edible artwork.
This year I’m not expecting much activity around the condos. The west coast has gotten into a rainy spell, for one thing. Which all causes me to consider how to illustrate the familiar theme of A Dark and Stormy Night for a Facebook creative group I participate in. This gentle California rain is what the Navajo would call female rain. New Mexico, where I spent twenty four years of life, rarely gets that, abounding instead with crashing great downpours called …. guess …. Male rain.
Which evokes images of regiments of alpha males, duking it out up there till the battered clouds are squeezed and crushed out of existence, pouring their misty lives out onto the unready desert below.
And will this appalling US presidential election never end? Durm und strang, every day dominating news outlets with its addictive reality show quality.
It sneaks in and sucks people’s brains out — or so it seems. Pay attention to who we really are in our hearts and heads, or we’ll turn into a nation of political zombies.
The essence of male rain, to me, is streams from fire hoses colliding with rooftops, trees, the unprotected. The soil can’t absorb that much water slamming across it in so short a time, which causes flash flooding and the erosion that gives the Four Corners its amazing mesas and cliffs. If only something also amazing — and enduringly good for people — would come out of the election…
California rain feels more the way things should be. Quieter, offering the earth time to open up to it, plant roots the opportunity to take in the bounty without losing their hold or getting their leaves torn off. Given the multi-year drought in the region, soaking rain is a great bounty.
But… it doesn’t conjure up the kind of image I wanted for a Dark and Stormy Night picture.
What I finally did was pick a favorite model (Elf the Willing Corgi), a window in the condo, and a stormy evening sky from New Mexico. She’s got a big ball nearby to whack around AND a biscuit she dropped onto the window sill in her eagerness to see where all the racket was coming from.
This is the second installment about Roadrunners in the desert west. The season this time is fall
In our early years in unincorporated county south of Albuquerque one roadrunner frequently enjoyed a sunbath atop the shed in the corner of the weedy paddock. Lizards, horned toads, garter snakes and grasshoppers abounded below in the days before our growing long eared herd finished chewing off the weeds. The view was clear and the flat roof offered shade, thanks to a vigorous young Siberian elm.
One day the bird sought the roof after his morning round of hunting, packed full of grasshoppers and Iams for Less Active Dogs, the latter from our patio. Skilled stalker, he’d been indulging in a favorite activity, shadowing neighborhood dogs. Pace for pace he pursued them, freezing inches from a waving tail if the owner paused, gliding when he ambled, matching motions as perfectly as a distorted shadow. Dogs unfailingly conducted business with no suspicion of what brought up the rear.
The bird’s performance could very well be the reason why cops and detectives “tail” someone. Except they’d have to follow superlatively invisible to match the skill of Roadrunner.
Now Roadrunner fluffed raggedy feathers, bared a dark patch on his back and dozed.
Jasper, the donkey, had recently joined our family. Black on top, white on belly and nose, hot in desert sun, he paused for a snack at his hay tub in front of the shed . I left yard chores to scratch his neck and ears as he munched. And then…
Above us the bird opened white-gold eyes to pinpoint the source of crunching. A cautious step brought him to the edge of the roof, where abruptly he let out a sharp, rattling “ZZZZTTTT” — much like a power screwdriver.
Jasper levitated, ears whirling. Whamming backwards, I hit the shed. Four hooves landed, aimed precisely 180 degrees away from the hay tub as donkey streaked across the field, volleys of heehaws expressing his state of mind. Moments later the bird raced from the roof, hot on the trail of lizards. No glee for him — this was all in a day’s work.
There was I pressed against the sun-warmed concrete block shed with the echoes, alone.
Weeks passed, bringing the area a late fall cold spell. One windy day the roadrunner took another nap in the sun, this time on the good warm ground. He fluffed pointy feathers and veiled his bright, white eyes.
Jasper noisily shook his ears as he edged along fences, nibbling weeds. By now these were his fences. He knew the way around inch by inch, including the dried remains of every bindweed that wove its way through the wires in summer. Hooves silent in the loose soil, he munched ever closer to the dozing bird until he stood just behind, his shadow angled away in the honey glow of the sun’s late afternoon rays. Up went his head. With a mincing step forward the donkey set a hoof gently down on the roadrunner’s back.
Feathers flying in all directions, the startled bird took his turn shooting across the field.
After that a truce took effect: that particular roadrunner did his ground sunbathing elsewhere and he never hollered from the shed roof again, either.
And here with the musical thought for this post is the remarkable Silvio Rodriguez of Cuba. The music of his long career as a folk singer and guitar master never fails to inspire creative visions. This song could be designed for Roadrunners — as it is called I Dream of Snakes. Sueño con Serpientes.
Sueño is a metaphor about ridding oneself of nasty things only to find them coming back bigger than ever.
Elf and Opus went to the sea, in a beautiful pea green Jaguar.
Really. Here they are, cruising by Pebble Beach….
During a morning walk on a lovely holiday weekend in September the pair observed a vintage auto parked right in front of their rose-covered front yard. Slung temptingly low to the ground, it had no roof to bar canine entry. Best of all the tan leather seat was open to the air with nothing to stop occupants from following their noses wherever they led, the flow of delicious air in their ears.
Both canine minds instantly awoke to possibilities when they further observed that keys dangled within. Most astonishingly, the old machine was fitted with hand controls for the driver, who must have been challenged for leg mobility just like their own person.
Lightning struck. Elf and Opus looked at each other, light of possibility blazing from their eyes. They knew exactly what to do.
Managing to keep their condo door from latching as their person brought them back inside, out they sneaked at the first opportunity. Lurking in the dark hallway, still as statues beneath a usually useless silk philodendron, they waited until an elderly German neighbor, burdened with bags, opened the elevator door.
Whoosh! In the duo hurried, tight behind him. He being tall and they being about eight inches at the shoulders, they were never noticed. Out they flew behind his heels in the basement garage. A squeeze through the bars of the rolling door was simple for them. From there making their way to the front of the building was simple.
Before they were missed upstairs those two were seated in the beautiful machine — Opus had to leap in first, then open the door for Elf. With her sturdy but short little legs she lacked his jumping abilities.
Being bossier, and aware of her status as royalty on the British Isles, she promptly took over the driver’s seat and off they went. One powerful paw on the wheel, the other moving the hand control. How many times had this intelligent Pembroke Welsh Corgi watched her person operate such adaptations. She knew perfectly how to manage.
Not wishing to attract attention she piloted sedately as she and Opus used their noses to aim for the ocean that they had never seen. She remembered the hop and skip to the Highway Going to Everywhere.
And see the Pacific they did, rolling up and down the coastal highway with the wind in their ears, ruffling thick fur and filling keen noses with scintillating whiffs of salt water, fish, sea birds, heavenly hot dogs and steaks cooking.
As for the people who gasped, pointed and stared at two dogs out for a holiday cruise, Elf and Opus steadfastly pointed their noses ahead and ignored them.
Maybe they’d think this was a new kind of Google self driving car.
They stopped long enough to chase somebody’s abandoned purple beach ball across a sandy spot on the shore — where there was even a yellow brick road to lead them back to the Jag when their tongues hung out almost to the ground from all the exercise.
…And when they woke up, there they were in their own condo, Opus sprawled on his blue duvet, Elf curled up in her bed beneath her person’s computer table.
All the person ever knew of this adventure was how deeply her beloved companions were sleeping today, and yet how their noses kept sniffing and snuffling… How fast Elf’s front paws moved occasionally, what joyous little yips she let out, just like when she chased her purple jolly ball around their old back yard. And how fast they had emptied their water bowl the moment they awakened!
The vintage Jag has vanished. The purple jolly ball, tucked away in our storage vault, seems to have been moved around.
So here sits the human, haunted by a waking vision of her canine cutups. Into her head pops a sketch:
Life of a Family Dairy Farm. Senior aged husband and wife. The good, bad and ugly of the business. We love it and will try to present an ongoing tale of what happens here. Meet some of our animals and characters born here. Enjoy!