{50}

The Dogs

 

When I think back, I do not recount my past in memories of birthday presents, school friends, vacations, bumps and bruises. I keep time in the dogs. The dogs that slept curled up in the crook of my neck, their very essence of bad breath and animal spirit wafting like incense in and out of my time remembered here on earth, as me.

 

There was Buckley, the dog I remember only through photographs, for I was just learning to walk when she passed on. The picture of my father, young and strong, the Hollywood hills shading their bodies, his golden pit bull wrapped around his shoulders like a fox fur scarf. I swear the dog is smiling in this photo, just as my dad is.

 

Otis, my mother’s heart and soul. I remember the stocky tri-colored Jack Russell not coming to the porch for dinner one evening. I found him ambling around amongst the rocks and bushes of ivy, down the hill in Topanga Canyon. It was October, and Otis had stuck his head into my neon orange plastic pumpkin, the one I would use later to fill with candy. I remember pulling and pulling, working so hard to release his head, to not hurt his neck while doing so. There, now you can see. I hugged him tight. It’s okay, now you can see again.

 

There was Hobson, the Big Lover, the Rhodesian Ridgeback the size of a small horse. One hundred and sixty pounds of bone and muscle, and of chub, if I’m to be honest. Our guardian, that one was. He did not bark, but bayed, and for the few years we had him, the coyotes didn’t dare jump our fence. I remember the drive to the vet, with Hobson in the back, his legs having given out from overbreeding. I remember the car feeling so heavy, almost falling down the winding canyon roads, but somehow, the car felt even heavier on the drive back home, with Hobson no longer with us.

 

There was Scout, my pug, supposedly rescued from a family of drug swaddled addicts, though I learned later on he was bought for an extravagant price at a Malibu Pet Store. A rescue from the puppy mills, then, I would say. And his face. Oi Vey. I loved that pig-like creation like nothing else in this world. He made it all the way from Topanga Canyon to Dripping Springs Texas with us. He passed away on our newly built porch. The day was warm, I think. I buried him on one of Mom’s best house pillows.

 

There was Ollie, the squirrely deranged little jack, the one with a tennis ball always lodged in her teeth. She slept with it, she did. She passed suddenly, quick, like everything else she did. She’s still running laps up there, somewhere, never ceasing that shrill bark of hers. The few times she would settle, I would run my fingers through her white and blonde fur. She was so soft. I cherished those moments of calm.

 

There is Wiley, the snaggletooth, now living in another home, taking on another life. There is Geronimo, the only living breathing soul I’ve met who actively sees ghosts. There is Mystery, the wizened sorceress of a fantasy tale, her eyes so human and rich. There is Ruby, my pup of chunk and boisterous personality, and there was Hazel, this morning, her belly impregnated with cancer, her maw swallowing whole the last treats I tossed to her indoors.

 

We put Hazel down today, the seventeenth of December. She lay still, as if sleeping, on the living room floor. Hazel – the dog of barks and bays, the animal of pure love and bliss. The dog stepped out from her blonde Labrador casing and into the somewhere else at nine-thirty this morning. A memory I shall not soon forget.

 

I wonder at why these animals have such a hold on human’s hearts. I believe now, after having buried the sixth dog, the sixth family member, today, in a hole dug out at our ranch, that it is their innocence that heats our hearts. We crave it – the genuine kindness they give freely to another species, a species that does not even speak the same language. Their kindness, their innocence, their over-brimming offerings of affection and warmth, given to us every day, from the very second we walk into the door, to the very second we leave them.

 

There are no words to describe their spirits. Their love is a wild, all-encompassing essence that surrounds us like the air that we breathe. And as I continue to move through this world, counting stepping-stones in the fur of these beloved animals, I think, that I would like to be more like a dog. They can teach us to love freely, for one.

 

Rest in good company, Hazel Basil. Say hi to the others, wherever you are.

 

Xo,

Strange

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{49}

A list of loves …

I wanted to share on here my list of absolute favorite books and series from the last few years. I am searching for more books that fall into these categories, so please, recommend away!

Xo,

Strange

{48}

A piece of flash fiction for the books. Enjoy.

Behind Glass

Eyes. Eyes were the windows to the soul. But what if your eyes did not work? What if, when you stared into the eyes of a beloved, the eyes of a stranger, the eyes of a wild animal, your own eyes deceived you? The window shades were drawn.

Mother wanted me to get contacts. She said that, while frames are stylish, contacts would brighten up my face – and more precisely, they would inhibit me from monotonously taking my glasses on and off, cleaning the glass frames, even if they were not smudged by oil or fingerprints.

I told her I did not want them. I told her glasses suited me just fine, and besides, contacts could be quite expensive. I told her that I enjoyed the way the sun hit the gold of my frames.

I did not tell her that, when I was alone, or in the back of a movie theater, cocooned in my scarf, my feet tucked up on the seat beneath me, I liked to take my glasses off, and live blindly under the power of my deceiving eyes.

I did not tell her that, sometimes, the world was too heavy for me. The world – too vibrant, too full of things to see. Light and happiness, yes, the swooping of a bird, the smile of a little girl, her face sticky with strawberry cream. But also dark things – dead children on newspapers, legs blown from bodies in a far off desert, dark things that made me tremor in the night, that made me not want to leave the confines of my bed, that made me want to sleep and sleep on.

Sometimes, I had to throw my eyes away. The blind world, gold frames firmly tossed aside, seemed happier, more human, somehow.

Xo,

Strange

{47}

Another update on Sydney’s life in Sydney …

Someone once told me if you want to make God laugh, make your plans. While I planned to stay in Sydney until the end of November, I am now heading back to the states in the next few weeks.

I’ve been dealing with some health issues that need to be addressed. While I want to stay, and continue this challenge, this journey, I need to put my health before all else. My stomach has been giving me a lot of pain and discomfort, and when your body tells you something is wrong, it would be unwise to ignore its cues. While a part of me feels utterly defeated, the more rational voice in my mind reminds me that taking care of my body’s needs holds more weight than my stubborn pride. While I am not staying in Australia for four months, I have already stayed for two. And I have survived on my own, across the sea, in a foreign land, in a foreign culture.

I have learned to listen to myself. I have learned to accompany myself through my loneliness. And I have learned that I enjoy my company much more than I had previously thought. I got to know myself in a way that I didn’t think possible. I got to meet Sydney, shake her hand, and build a relationship which was previously lacking. So although my plans have been altered, my experience has been just as vibrant. In a way, this change of plans has added to the experience of life itself. Because, as they say, life is full of curveballs. Or something like that. (Who is they?)

So, I am leaving this place with my head held high, my stomach inflamed – my pride intact. I will miss the squawking birds and the colors of the magpies. I will miss the wind – and my strange little garden with the water drain. I think I will even miss my loneliness, and I will hold onto it – keep it in my back pocket as a reminder that, even when alone, I have me and my mind. And I enjoy my company much more now. It’s a good feeling, to be one’s own friend.

I am excited to enter the homeland with a new head on my shoulders. I want to explore the city of Austin with new eyes, and love more fully all that I have missed. For being away from all things familiar, I have learned what I truly love. And that piece of knowledge is something I will treasure forever.

What a journey this has been. Two months of foreign smells, foreign sights, and foreign emotions. Australia, I thank you for this adventure. America, here I come – another adventure entirely.

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Xo,

Strange

{46}

My day so far in a nutshell …

You know those days when the sun is shining, the birds are singing, and the bells of joy are ringing in your ears? Those days when your shoes feel extra comfortable on your feet, and your step has a certain bounce to it?

Today, is not that day. Now, I am not saying that today is a bad day. Today has actually been a pretty okay day. Interesting, if not anything else. Today, I woke up to a chilling wind and a cacophony of bird calls singing from out my window. Last night’s red wine was resting in the center of my forehead, and a nice warm shower helped to dim the beating in my skull. I began my day with a cup of tea, a seat on the side of the garden, and my computer in my lap. I began to write a piece for my children’s story – a piece that went quite well actually, moving me along through the beginning sections of my story, ever towards the unknown middle. A section wrought with snow, and chimneys, and timely cats in the night.

When I got too cold sitting out in the wind, for this patch of garden (I call it a garden – it is a tiled ledge next to a water grate with a few plants bordering its sides) is built so that any wind tunnels straight through it, I decided it was time to put away the fiction, and go grab a warm bite to eat. Bringing with me my computer and my wallet, I took to the streets of Redfern, choosing a corner cafe to hunker down in and get some school work done.

I wrote a section on space for my Theatre Crafts course. I took two huge bites of eggs on toast. I wrote a sentence, then backtracked, then re-wrote the same sentence on the ways claustrophobia mimicked the themes in our play. I drank my coffee, black, digging into my spinach and tomatoes. I wrote a paragraph on the idea of a wheelchair used to symbolize claustrophobia at its core. I drained my cup of coffee. I munched on the last of my toast. I paid  at the register, and bought an egg sandwich to go.

For across the street from the corner cafe was a homeless man, his body bent over, the wind biting at his bare, brown toes. He had been watching me as I ate, wrote, ate, drank, and so after I paid, I walked over to him and handed him the sandwich, wrapped in a brown paper bag.

The man took the paper bag, and looked up at me. He clapped his hands once, and then screamed in my face. He began to sing, hooting and hollering nonsense into the air, clapping the sandwich in between his large palms as he did so. He screamed again, and I took my leave, heading back up the street towards my new home.

Only when I reached my apartment’s locked gate, did I realize something quite peculiar. My phone was in my bag. My computer was in my bag. My wallet, empty in all its glory, was also in my bag. My keys, were not.

My keys, were inside my apartment, beyond the locked gate of the complex. I must have looked rather funny, climbing atop the trashcans, working my way over the wall of the complex. Who knows, maybe I looked cool – straddling the wall meant to keep people out. Me, on top of the world. Once I got into my complex, I checked my door. Yes – it was locked. I found the phone number for the apartment’s locksmith, and quickly gave him a ring.

It’s my day off, Locksmith Man said.

Ya, mine too, I thought.

After persuading Locksmith Man that I did indeed need to get into my apartment today, and not tomorrow, he told me he would be on his way within the hour. And here I am – I have caught you all up. I am back to sitting on the side of my garden, waiting for Locksmith Man to make his way here. He will unlock the door, and I will pay him $150.00. And then, I shall move on with my day.

So no, the sun is not shining, and while the birds are singing, their songs are harsh – crows and magpies scratching at their vocal chords, fighting for territory in the trees above me with wing and claw. But today is not a bad day. Just interesting, and mundane. I feel very human right now, writing all of this down on my laptop. Human, and strangely satisfied.

Enjoy your day as I will mine.

I really have to pee.

… An update. The Locksmith Man just came and let me in. He asked me why I was here, in Sydney, and I told him I was studying. What are you studying? Creative Writing. And how do you study a thing like that?

He told me how he reads song lyrics to his four children before bed. How he enjoys reading Fleetwood Mac’s songs aloud as if they were poetry. He was a nice guy, and he got my door open in just under a minute.

I hope he enjoys the rest of his day off.

Xo,

Strange

{45}

(Here lies a poem/prose doodad that has held my attention for quite some time now. This piece is still in its beginning stages, and I hope to grow with it when the creativity strikes.)

I Keep Driving

I am leaving the circle of wooden chairs that seat the possessed – those of us who feel in need of describing the demons that bring us here, to the circle, every Tuesday evening.

I lost you, and so I sit in this chair, and attempt to paint a portrait of my loss, but worded brushstrokes, on weightless canvas, are hard for anyone to see. I of the circle of wooden chairs attempt to paint my demons true, so that once painted, I may burn them to ash. But I am leaving the circle of wooden chairs. I am leaving, a failed artist.

I am leaving the prescribed, the medicated, the drugged – the circular white tablets that I am told to take with juice.

I am instead encircling the bits of you across the map – the map that used to hang above the bed you used to lie in. I have shattered the glass that held the map enframed, and I have taken to the bed with a carving knife. I have taken to the map with small gold circular tacks, and have placed them with precision, needles piercing printed skin.

Organ donor, read your license, puzzle pieces up for grabs.

Is your liver in Montana?

Your left eye in North Dakota?

Your lungs, ballooning, in San Diego?

– I cannot track your blood.

For in bags marked AB(–), your blood is rare, did you not know, you have most likely been shipped across the world in metal boats. It is kind of lovely, if you allow it. You were always one for traveling.

I am driving in my truck, the one you named Old Sam, I am driving through the dots pin–pricked on your/my map. I have driven through your hometown, I stood ten minutes on your mother’s porch, I have read through your bird diaries, I keep my eye out for Scissor Tails. I drive in circles, leaving tread marks, spitting fumes in abandoned parking lots.

I drive to find you, to be with you, in this pinned map of America.

I am without you. It is dark. My body rests on Old Sam’s nose. I stare up into the sky, which I paint with hope and longing. But I know full well the night is just a shattering of mirrors, a hole into nothingness, which is you.

I keep driving.

Xo,

Strange

{44}

It’s Saturday.

(I meant to post this Saturday, but the post didn’t go through. Enjoy my musings.)

I’ve just finished my first week at University, and I am now in the 107 coffee shop here in Redfern, writing nonsense with a cup of coffee in hand. My first week and a half here has been a bit underwhelming. The classes are small, and I have yet to meet people from campus whom I’ve felt an instant connection with. I have met one friend, and wandering the chilly city at night with him has been fun, if not a bit frustrating due to all of the lock out laws here in Sydney. Still, the water is magical. And the city scape, this man made horizon – you can easily lose yourself to it.

I have began to further accustom myself with being on my own. No scruffy dog, yipping at my heels. No loving boyfriend, warming me at my side. No mother, father, sister, there to remind me that I am not alone. But I do not feel alone, fully. I have my loneliness here by my side, that center of myself that reminds me that I am the one who, at the end of the day, has my back and can make me smile. My loneliness has manifested itself into an older, fat man, face concealed with a black cuffed top hat. He can be found most often sitting on the edge of my windowsill, blowing smoke out into the early light beyond. He is my pursuit of knowledge, attainable with some determination. He is my loneliness – manifested, to keep things more fun. He tells me when to get up and out of bed, to go explore the artistry around me. He tells me when to stay home and warm up, to learn about the Cosmos on my ‘techy’ device. Have I lost you yet, reader? Do you wonder if I have lost myself? No, I have not. I have just enjoyed giving face to the loneliness by my side. That way, I can more easily separate myself from it, or join hands with it, no longer alone as I wander the Sydney parks at night.

Writing is an addiction.

It is not something I do every day. It is not something that curates my entire life, but I do feel that sometimes, my life has been curated for it. It is something that, when I sit down and actually do it, I can lose myself to it for hours – days on end. It is a drug of the mind, free, exhilarating, and completely debilitating if it doesn’t work out. My teacher this Monday said something interesting. She said that if she were to give us each a ball of clay, we as students would have no worries shaping and reshaping that ball, experimenting with different designs, because clay work is an ever changing art form. Words, like clay, are malleable in their creation. And yet we as writers, if I can speak for the general populace, feel that words, once written onto a page, are somehow more permanent than that figure sculpted from that ball of clay. Words feel as if they cannot be deleted, reshaped, repurposed, for then something has been lost, whereas with a ball of clay, strips of the stuff can be tossed over, wetted, dried out, and brought to life anew. We must think of words in this way. Stories, are just a ball of clay, ready to be reshaped and sought after.

At the end of it all, all I can think of is that

I NEED MORE CLAY

Alas, writing is rewriting, and shaping a first draft of a story is simply forming a rough sphere out of a block of play dough. It is to be wrong, pocketed with air bubbles, riddled with cracks where the clay has dried out, soggy with the surfaces where too much water has been applied. I am carrying on with this clay metaphor just because it makes me feel better. It makes me feel less attached to the words on the page, and therefore more attached to the stories I am trying to portray. I have carried on for too long, I think. Me and my loneliness are hungry workers, and I would like a sandwich about now. I have been working on free writing for about an hour a day, hoping that it would lead me into writing more of my fictional stories. Today, I think I have just about entered the creative space. I am going to continue on with one of my first drafts of a longer piece that has been toddling about my mind. I am going to ‘shape the ball,’ if you will, and simply see what comes of it.

This entry was one of venting, of freely putting words down, and therefore, letting the damned words go. I will hopefully have more ‘traditional’ creative posts up in the next few weeks, but as of today, this free write felt like something I needed to get down. Enjoy your day, whatever day it might be for you, whatever time of whatever day it might be for you. Time is such a silly thing when you are separated by a day and a half from your loved ones … but that is for another time.

Xo,

Strange