Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Thankful for Kansas on its birthday

Facebook is full of Kansans extolling the beauty of Kansas, mostly from the standpoint of defending it from the perception of it being a through state rather than a destination. 

Since I do love Kansas, I spent my writing time today thinking about it

I find Kansas beautiful.

When Chuck and I take winter trips to the coast we make a point of watching sunrises and sunsets over the ocean (depending on which coast).
I find myself realizing that I take those so for granted at home. Living on a farm, I have both just outside my window twice a day. In summer I have to leave the house to see them well because the sun sets far enough north that the trees and farm outbuildings block the view of the horizon.
Sometimes when I take Harvey out for his morning relief, I go only intending to stay as long as necessary. Then the colors of the sky catch me up and I grab my coat and gloves for a longer walk that includes a quiet wait while the sun crests the horizon.

What is it about that moment when the light arrives into the sky? or the instant when it leaves at the end of the day? There is the anticipation of the colors,
 and then the flash of just an edge of brilliance,
 and then it seems almost holy and outside the confinement of time and space. It rises and the progress of the sun is visible as it edges over the horizon. At the end of the day again the colors appear, and then the sinking of the sun, and then...if there are any clouds at all, an intensifying of the colors as the sun's final rays have their last hurrah before nightfall.
Kansas has a quiet beauty that is so different from the mountains or waterfalls or towering forests that we usually think of when we talk of the beauty of nature.

It's akin to the single candle burning on a table adorned by wildflowers in a quiet room instead of the cathedral with frescoes and stained glass windows. 
It is the hug of a friend instead of the adulation of a crowd. 
It is opening myself to see what is here instead of being knocked over by the grandeur. 

It is mindfulness instead of drama. 

It is terere with friends on the front porch on a hot day instead of amusement park rides. 

It is my hands in the dirt and eating vegetables for supper that were harvested that morning instead of wine and gourmet cuisine.

 The point is that all of these things have their place. 

I don't want a world without cathedrals or amusement parks or gourmet food...or without mountains and canyons and waterfalls and forests. But I will continue to cherish the everyday sunrise/sunset tall grass prairie beauty that is as calming as a lit candle in a darkened room which holds the aroma of an all day soup and warm hearty freshly baked bread. 

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

to the dogs

We've pretty much always had a dog. Our first was Buddy, a mixed breed fluffy tan sweetheart that moved to our first farm with us. Since then we've had several Cocker Spaniels, a couple of German Shepherd mixes, and a yellow lab mix. All of these were outside dogs, and though they were loved, they did not get huge amounts of attention, especially from me.  They also were not the companions that I really wanted with a dog.

Sixteen years ago we got Mattie at around Christmas time and though she was intended to be a family dog, she quickly became mine. She lived inside and I worked hard to train her to be easy to live with. She was the best teacher of how nurturing it can be to have a good dog as a friend.

After a while we added CJ to the family to be Tim's dog. Tim chose CJ from a pet rescue group that was showing their dogs at a Pet store. CJ was a beaten up, tenacious, obsessive little guy whose character worked its way into our hearts.

CJ liked to sleep with people and slept with Tim until Tim left home. Then he slept with anyone who was available.


Later George joined us to be a friend to Wes. George started out being more stubborn than I was, hence his move to being an outdoor dog. Since then he has become a sweet people pleaser and friendly guard for the front porch.

This winter we had to say goodbye to CJ, which was an incredibly hard thing to do.

For a while I'd been advocating adding a young dog to our crew and now I stepped up that effort. Chuck was reluctant, but finally acquiesced when I found Hazel, a Scottish deerhound that was waiting for adoption at the local shelter.

Hazel was a sweetie, loved the boys, was receptive to training, but was terrified of Chuck. After ten days of trying to convince her that Chuck was a lovable guy the free trial period was over and Chuck was definitely ready to stop being growled at every time he got up to use the bathroom or stoke the fire at night. So Hazel returned to the shelter and was adopted out to another family within a week.

I'm not sure why I was so sure I needed a dog right away, but we found Harvey the same day. Labradoodles had been on my radar for a while because they shed so little, and because they are known to be very intelligent and gentle and trainable. They are also expensive, but we found Harvey for less than the going rate. He came home the same afternoon that Hazel left. His name comes from the movie "Harvey" starring James Stewart. Chuck watches it regularly in Spanish, so it was a natural choice...and it seems to fit well.

It was such good timing to find Harvey that day.

Two days later, we woke to find Mattie terribly sick and clearly dying. We skipped church and sat with her through her final hours. I'm sure it was partly having Harvey already that helped it to be bearable to let Mattie go.

Now we have had Harvey for close to two months. He's been many places including church, Sunday School, the orthodontist, the doctor's office, MoJo's Coffee shop, Orsheln, a jazz concert, a retreat weekend, to friends' homes, a first grade class, a retirement home, etc. I'm hoping to eventually have him certified as a therapy dog.  Toward that end, last night he passed his basic obedience course and is ready to move on to intermediate.