“That’s how it is sometimes when we plunge into the depths of our lives. No one can accompany us, not even those who would give up their hearts for our happiness.” ~ Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Sister of My Heart

Emil Nolde, “Das Gehoft Seebüll” (c1940, watercoloron Japan Paper)*

“That is how always, you lost:
never as one who possesses, but like someone dying
who bending into the moist breeze of an evening in March,
loses the springtime, alas, in the throats of the birds.
Far too much you belong to grief.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, from “Original Version of the Tenth Elegy” (Trans. Stephen Mitchell)

Thursday afternoon, overcast with drizzle, 43 degrees.

Hello. Very long time no write. I’ve missed you. Last night, in the wee hours, I tried to remember the last time that I had actually written a real post, you know, one with quotes, music, images. I couldn’t recall, couldn’t even remember the month.

Emil Nolde, “Williows in the Snow” (1908, watercolor)

I suppose that it all began with the computer problems, which proved to be such an impediment to the flow of writing, and then the huge passel of puppies that entered our lives before Christmas, and then the goat births, one after another. The next thing that I knew, it was 2020, and I was completely lost beneath a veritable mountain of what can only be termed as ca ca, to be polite. I mean, I woke up on my birthday with Corey holding my favorite puppy and the news that we might be facing Parvo or some other devastating illness. Since that morning, we have been aggressively nursing and isolating first one and then another puppy.

We lost two, two of my favorites actually. It was devastating, but I did not allow myself to break down at the time because, frankly, we did not have time for grief. There was just too much to face. Thankfully, it’s been over a week since the last one showed any signs of illness, but we must continue to care for all of them for at least another week until any rescue group will even consider taking them, mostly because of the possibility of Parvo. I suppose that if I were in their shoes that I would be just as reticent.

In between, Corey’s truck died completely, the transmission, and my car isn’t operable because the tires are bad, and it isn’t legal (registration and inspection), and wouldn’t you know, that state cop that harasses Corey stopped and cited him a few weeks ago. We had put off taking care of my vehicle until this year, but now………it’s this year.

“I guess that’s what people don’t understand, can’t understand, about grief. You can’t assign it. It’s just assigned.” ~ Dalton Day, from “Beware of Falling Deer”

You see, we had really hoped that 2020 would be a better year in many ways, but especially as regards the animals. In 2019, we lost my horse Petra, who Dallas took back, ostensibly to nurse, but then we never saw her again, and when he died, Petra was nowhere to be found; Annie, the colt that Sassy gave birth to on our anniversary, died after only a few days. We also lost our first two goats, Max and Ruby (who I had named after two of Olivia’s favorite book and television characters), as well as the death of a days-old kid born in December. Corey had named him Gizmo, and he was so precious. This time when the kids were born, Corey was unwilling to name them for the first week, not wanting to invest even that small, personal touch before we could be somewhat certain of their survival.

Emil Nolde, “Wet Day” (1918, oil on canvas)

I don’t know why we seem to have female goats and horses who lack any kind of mothering sensibilities, but Gizmo’s mother had birthed him, cleaned him, and then left him in the field. We were uncertain as to exactly how old he was when Corey found him. We think the lack of colostrum from nursing in those first hours doomed him before he could become strong.

Then in quick succession in mid January, Bobby, Blue, and Penny all gave birth, and none of them seemed interested in caring for their kids beyond cleaning them immediately after birth, and one failed to do even that; unfortunately, one of the female babies didn’t make it, so we were left with five males and one male, but we were on high alert for their births, which made a difference in their survival. If you’ve never had to clean a newborn animal, then you can’t even imagine how stressful that can be, trying to be careful but thorough simultaneously. Anyway, that’s six goats that we had to bottle feed on top of three litters of puppies, all in our very small house.

The night that we lost the first puppy, Patches, I held him in my arms as he whimpered in pain and then finally took his last breath. The following night, Corey held Brinn as he died. Yes, they were puppies, dogs, not human, but sentient beings nonetheless, ones that breathed and felt and suffered. If you are not an animal lover in the same vein that we are, perhaps you might not understand the pain that we have felt these last days and weeks. Let me just tell you that if your soul is already one that is tender as regards the foibles and failures of the universe, then personal losses can seem breathtakingly overwhelming. And all of these have; add to that the guilt over the lack of vehicle or funds to seek veterinary care.

My penchant for swimming in a sea of guilt even in the best of times has been increased exponentially of late.

“We inhale the moon,
suck in the clouds, try to satiate the desert
of our bodies that are always fumbling
at loss. Like Brother stars are such distant
luminous spheres.” ~ Casandra López, from “Midnight Memorial”

Over the last few weeks I’ve spoken with three different rescue groups in an attempt to get the puppies placed. The first group was a big disappointment; ultimately, they wanted $500. One group was out of Pennsylvania and one out of West Virginia. The most promising one is the one out of West Virginia, but now we are on hold because of the possibility of Parvo. If you didn’t already know, Parvo isn’t the automatic death sentence for dogs that it used to be, but it is still quite serious; it’s also very easy to transmit. The rescue people want to be certain that if the puppies were indeed infected with Parvo, that there isn’t a possibility that they can infect any other dogs in their care.

It’s understandable, but disappointing nevertheless. When I spoke to the coordinator today, she asked for my thoughts. I was honest: I told her that we are pretty much desperate to place these puppies. The house smells worse than a kennel; I told Corey that if I came to the door of a house that looked like ours in its current state, I wouldn’t go inside. I was not exaggerating.

Emil Nolde, “Rain over a Marsh” (c1938, watercolor on rice paper)

Fortunately, four of the goat babies are gone. Corey set up a trade with a guy that he knows who also breeds goats. In exchange for the kids, we’ll get a grown Kiko Boer nanny goat who has already been bred. We just can’t pick her up until we have some kind of transportation. At least with four of the goats gone, it’s a bit quieter in the house. We’ve kept the one female and the one male who has completely different coloring from any of the ones we currently have.

This same guy put Corey in touch with someone he knows who is selling a truck. It sounds like a good deal, not bad shape, but we have to wait until tomorrow to see if it’s still available as the seller had promised some other guy that he had dibs. Nothing is ever frigging easy.

You know how some people seem to move through life charmed? Everything seems to go their way, and things fall easily into their laps. Hardships are infrequent and/or minor. That’s not us. I’m always reminded of that old “Hee Haw” song, “Gloom, Despair, and Agony on Me,” that has the applicable line—”If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all.”

Yep. Totally.

“Another secret of the universe: Sometimes pain was like a storm that came out of nowhere. The clearest summer could end in a downpour. Could end in lightning and thunder.” ~ Benjamin Alire Sáenz, from Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

So is it any wonder that I have absented myself from here? I’m actually surprised that I’ve been able to string together this many words cogently. Each time in the last weeks that I’ve sat down to try to write something, I find myself instead listening to YouTube videos and playing Spider Solitaire because that requires nothing of my brain. Neither thing requires my engagement or my investment.

Emil Nolde, “Winter Landscape” (c1907, watercolor)

The impeachment and sham of a trial helped to keep me distracted for many weeks, and there was even a tiny kernel of hope that something, anything might happen to slow the ever-eroding state of our democracy. I will admit to being completely shocked that that small kernel came in the form of Mitt Romney, but it was far too little far too late, and so outside of this bubble in which I live, things continue to deteriorate, but I cannot even raise a modicum of my usual righteous indignation at that country’s state of affairs. I have to choose my battles at this point, and those battles are decidedly the ongoing ones on the personal home front.

I would be lying if I didn’t say that there are more days than not in which I truly wonder if we made the right decision in coming here with so little capital. But unless you are wealthy or lucky, when is it ever the right time to undertake a major life upheaval? We got all of this acreage for a song, but the available capital all went into the down payment. There was none leftover for repairs or renovations. And too, I miss Norfolk. I miss going to the movies. I miss going to our favorite sushi restaurant. I miss jumping in my car and going anywhere I wanted and knowing that I didn’t have to travel more than 15 or 20 minutes at the most to have access to . . . well, anything.

The city offers convenience. The country offers quiet. Does such a place exist in which both are relatively available? Who knows. Certainly not I.

“Time itself does not ‘console,’ as people say superficially; at best it assigns things to their proper place and creates an order.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, from a letter to Countess Margot Sizzo-Noris-Crouy, January 6, 1923
Emil Nolde, “Inundation” (nd, watercolor on paper)

I do not kid myself that if I ever returned to Norfolk that my life would improve. My relationship with my children remains fractured, and I don’t know how or if I can ever fix that. I miss my granddaughter so much that it is an actual physical ache at times, but she is states away, living with her father and his family, and I don’t know if I’ll ever see her again, this after being a daily part of her life since birth. I don’t even know what books she is reading, which I realized when I tried to find some books to send her for Christmas. All I know is that she is healthy and doing very well in school.

That’s not enough. Just as it’s not enough that I know that Alexis is working and has a new person in her life. I know nothing about either of my sons’ lives, only what my daughter tells me. How does this happen? My eldest son texted me for my birthday, but again, I heard nothing from my youngest. I used to think that the worst thing about my birthday was when my mother forgot. I was so wrong.

I’ve been more wrong than right about so many things in the last few years; it’s hard to discern when the shift actually began. I liked the woman that I used to be: powerful, strong, confident, so certain of so many things. This half person is a stranger to me, a stranger that I would prefer not to know at all.

I apologize for the length, but apparently I had much to say. More later, with any luck. Peace.

*I’m bringing back one of my favorite artists, the German Expressionist Emil Nolde; In the past I have posted many of his seascapes, so today I thought I’d do a few landscapes instead. Until recently, I really was unaware of his Nazi past. If you are interested in learning more, ARTnews has a really good article here.

Music by Alison Luff, “She Used to be Mine” (Sara Bareilles cover)


Clown in the Moon

My tears are like the quiet drift
Of petals from some magic rose;
And all my grief flows from the rift
Of unremembered skies and snows.

I think, that if I touched the earth,
It would crumble;
It is so sad and beautiful,
So tremulously like a dream.

~ Dylan Thomas

“What we don’t say | eats in.” ~ Chana Bloch, from “A Future”

Christmas at Busch Gardens, Williamsburg (FCC)

“I am lost; I am looking for you
……….who can help me walk this thin line between the breathing
…………………………………..and the dead.
You are the curled serpent in the pottery of nightmares.
You are the dreaming animal who paces back and forth in my head.” ~ Joy Harjo, from “We Must Call a Meeting”

Thursday afternoon, sunny and not quite as cold, 41 degrees.

Hello. Long time no write. I don’t want to include what I’m about to write with the CNN videos that I posted earlier as the two entries are completely unrelated, and I had wanted to attempt to update you as to the reasons why I’ve been absent from this forum.

So very much has been going on in the last few weeks, so everything has just kind of gotten away from me, so much so that before I knew it, writing my posts became a thing of the recent past. I’ve decided that I’ll try to update you on the basics of what’s been happening, and then perhaps that will lead to a breaking down of the dam that is holding everything back, and I’ll be able to write once more.

First, I was having major computer problems again, with weird scripts and extremely slow processing, and then just like last time, the problems seemed to self-heal, which I don’t understand, but hey, I’ll definitely just say a quick thanks to the universe and move on. Second, I’ve had major writer’s block; actually, it’s more like a major brain block brought about by a major depressive episode—I can’t focus, can’t sleep, and can’t find any kind of motivation to accomplish even the smallest thing.

Oh, and then there’s the wonderful news that Corey’s truck has well and truly died—probably the transmission again—leaving us without our primary farm transportation (a bale of hay won’t fit in the back of the Murano) and little hope of remedying this any time soon. As much as Corey loves his truck, it’s turned into a huge money pit. Add to this that our very old dryer keeps dying. And then, too, there is the other ongoing issue that I’ve been debating over whether or I should even mention and which has seriously exacerbated the insomnia and severe stress that I’m feeling: puppies.

I know. That’s normally a word that should generate instant delight, except that we have way too many. Three of our female dogs (Maddy, Tink, and Sarah) went into heat within weeks of one another. We had hoped to have those girls who hadn’t been fixed yet spayed at one of the community health fairs (the one that included veterinary services), but the spots filled up faster than we could grab one, so we were trying to find a place that we could afford to take all three.

Look. We are both firm believers in being responsible pet owners, and you have no idea over how very pained I am about all of this. I used to give Dallas so much grief for allowing his dogs to become impregnated all of the time, and now I have to eat my words. I won’t even get into how many puppies are currently living in our house, but it’s a lot, and it’s contributing to my insomnia, what with worrying, fretting and dealing with more guilt than I usually have (over being irresponsible, regardless of intentions).

Thankfully there is an organization in the area called Brother Wolf, which helps to place dogs and cats in no-kill shelters and with foster families until they can be placed in permanent homes. I’ll be contacting them soon to see about help with placing all of the pups. Even I, as much as I love animals in general, have no desire to keep all of these babies. But for the immediate future, my days and my nights are filled to overflowing with more stressors than what is normally the backdrop of my days.

My friend Kathleen and I used to have a saying for when nothing seemed to be going right: “I’m fat and ugly and my mother dresses me funny.” Yep. That.

Christmas is six days away: No decorations up yet. No packages wrapped. House is dirty. HO HO HO………………………………….


Music by London Grammar, “Bittersweet Symphony” (great cover of classic Verve song)


A Future

A sharp wind
pries at the doorjamp, riddles
the wet sash. What we don’t say
eats in.

Was it last week?
We sat at the fireplace, the four of us,
reading Huck Finn. I did the Duke,
you the Dauphin, the kids
tossed pillows in the air.
We owned that life.

There’s a future loose in my body and I
am its servant:
carrying wood, featching water.

You spread a hand on my stomach
to the feel the dark
dividing.
The hand listens hard.

And the children are practicing
pain: one finger, quick!
Through the candle flame.

~ Chana Bloch (found on Poetry Foundation)

“I am tired; my heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever.” ~ Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce, Surrender Speech, October 5th, 1877

Horses in a Pasture by Nannette Turner (FCC)

“Who will remember you but the body that birthed you.
Who will remember you but the clouds that swallowed you.
Who will remember you but the moon you threw sticks at.
Who will remember you but your double buried under the apple.” ~ Marion McCready, from “Ballad of the Clyde’s Water”

Monday afternoon, warm and humid with showers, 80 degrees.

Merton’s Horse by Lisa Pownall, Oceania (FCC)

I’m not really sure how far I’ll be able to get with this post. Between everything that’s happened and dealing with the aftermath, the best way to describe it would be pure chaos with a lot of drama and pain.

Let me back up.

Corey went over to see Dallas on Friday last, but couldn’t find him anywhere. It was around 4 in the afternoon. You can usually tell if Dallas is home or not depending upon where his various vehicles are parked and where all of the dogs are hanging out. Corey didn’t see the tractor, and the Geo was there, so he assumed that Dallas was somewhere on his tractor. When Corey returned on Saturday around 2 p.m., everything was exactly the same, so he began to get worried.

When he looked around, he saw Dallas’s tractor sitting upside down at the bottom of the hill on the side of the property; it’s a fairly steep decline. Corey’s first thought was that Dallas had been taken to the hospital, but something made him go down the hill. He found Dallas laying about 20 feet from the tractor, and he was dead.

Corey ran to the neighbor’s house, which abuts the property, and someone called 911. From that point on, it’s been pure chaos as news spread very quickly, as it tends to do around here. Unfortunately, the human vultures have been hovering near the property, ready to claim anything that isn’t bolted down. It’s truly repulsive.

“HUMAN SONG: Perhaps it is the case that you never get over things. You decide you will no longer engage with them. You answer with 
silence until you are reminded once again of the wound and requested 
to be human.” ~ Ken Chen, from “You May Visit the Cosmos but You May Not Speak of It (or on the Tackiness of Elegy).”

Corey came home late Saturday afternoon to tell me the news. Obviously, he was very shaken as his immediate thought was that if he had looked around more on Friday, he might have been able to find Dallas. I tried to assure him that it would have been virtually impossible for someone Dallas’s age to survive such an accident. The general consensus is that Dallas probably crawled from the tractor, but didn’t get very far. One of his puppies was by his side when he was found. It’s likely that Dallas swerved to avoid one of the dogs, and that’s how he fell.

Belgian Draft Horses Nuzzling by fishhawk (FCC)

We went back to the property to find a wrecker crew trying to bring up the tractor, so we went next door to see the neighbors, Brian and Robin. It’s funny. They’ve been in an ongoing feud with Dallas for months now over various things, but you’d never surmise it from their comments.

People are strange. People around her are an entirely different breed of strange.

Animal control had been called, and they scooped up all of the smaller puppies, which still left about 12 dogs. Corey and I brought home four puppies, one of which is a girl from the same litter as Freddy, and the neighbors were able to find about five of the dogs, but not all of the dogs had been found. It was a stopgap measure, at best.

“In the mind there is a thin alley called death
and I move through it as
through water.” ~ Anne Sexton, from “For The Year Of The Insane”

Tuesday morning, cloudy and cooler, 71 degrees.

The autopsy showed that Dallas had a heart attack but no broken bones; he had been dead 24 to 36 hours before Corey found him on Saturday. The reality is that Dallas would have absolutely hated it if he had been found after the accident but then had been incapacitated in some way, and he would have loathed dying in a hospital. We have to console ourselves as best we can, and I like to think that he died as he would have wanted: outside, under the open sky on a summer day, near his animals and on his property.

Animals in a Tennessee Pasture by Lindsey Turner (FCC)

We have no idea what his blood alcohol level was, but Corey had found half a bottle of brandy near the trailer, so he may or may not have been drunk. But I’ve seen Dallas drive that tractor drunk many times, so I still think that he may have swerved to avoid a dog as all of them ran loose all over the property.

Now there are all kinds of people showing up, talking about how they were friends with Dallas, how they had known him for years. I was telling Corey yesterday that a lot of these people reminded me of the goblins in Harry Potter: the goblins believed that if they made something, that it belonged to them in perpetuity, that anyone who bought an item from them only owned it through their life and couldn’t pass it on to descendants, that it should be returned to the goblin who made it. We’re hearing a lot of things like “I sold him those horses, so I’d like them back,” or “I gave him that dog, so he’s mine.” It’s weird and very repugnant, but I suppose it doesn’t really matter.

“See,
there are degrees of loss–
speeds at which pain travels
through the body.” ~ Caitlin Roach, from “Gardening, a Mother Gives a Daughter a Lesson on Mass Loss”

Months ago, I had made a promise to Dallas that if anything ever happened to him, I would be sure to take care of his animals. I had meant it at the time; I still meant it, but the reality of it was overwhelming. We’re talking at least a dozen horses, a couple of foals, about eight cows, a bull, three donkeys, about six pigeons, several fully grown dogs and lots of puppies from two different litters.

Sonya, by Tim Fuller, Germany (FCC)

Our house has been pretty chaotic the last few days. At one point, we had 11 dogs in the house, far too many. Yesterday, we spent two hours trying to find the Dickenson County animal control so that we could drop off three of the puppies. When we were looking around the property on Sunday, we found another puppy all alone and hiding in the barn. Robin had wanted to try to keep on of the puppies that we had, a beautiful boy named Charlie, so we took him to her house first.

Neither Corey nor I were thrilled about going to the shelter as it’s not a no-kill shelter, and it used to have the highest kill rate in the state. Fortunately, we found out that an organization called Brother Wolf helps the shelter in placing animals, and we were told that the puppies go quickly. Once we finally found the shelter, the guy there told us that they had rounded up the last of the dogs on the property that morning, but fortunately, most of the first group had already been placed in homes or with the other organizations, so that made it easier to leave the three puppies there.

We decided to keep Freddy’s sister as she is very sweet and calm, and then we decided to find a dog that Dallas called Boy as he’s fully grown and might be hard to place. He, too, is very sweet and relatively calm around all of the dogs except for Freddy, so we’ll have to see how that goes. Once the rambunctious puppies were gone, things got much calmer in the house; I know that our dogs were pretty stressed from all of the animals and noise. The humans were extremely stressed, too.

“Sometimes there is no darker place than our own thoughts; the moonless midnight of the mind.” ~ Dean Koontz, from Fear Nothing: A Novel

Ultimately, there’s a lot of guilt to go around. I had just told Corey on Thursday that I wanted nothing else to do with Dallas, that I was tired of all of his bullshit and heartbroken over Napoleon. And I had really meant it. I had resolved that I wouldn’t go to his house again. The only consolation I have is that I never had any bad words with Dallas even though I had wanted to do so. The truth of the matter is that Corey and I, but especially Corey, did a lot for Dallas and put up with a lot. We were often tired of trying, but there was always the sense that he had no one else but us. He was estranged from his son and daughter for reasons that are unclear, but we never once saw them at his house.

Foggy Day at the Farm by OakleyOriginals (FCC)

Maybe I shouldn’t say this, but I just want my horse back, and a few old things that I know that no one else would want, like an old chair that was in his basement, and the saddle the he promised me. I did say that if no one else wanted it, I would really like to have a silver and garnet ring that he wore all of the time; it would be a nice keepsake. Apparently, his kids don’t want any keepsakes from him; I’m saddened by how fractured his relationships were, and it scares me that my own relationships with my kids won’t be repaired.

Ultimately, I think that we’re both still in shock. Corey is having a harder time than I am as Dallas’s death is more immediate for him. I think this will all hit me more at the funeral, at least, I’m hoping there’s a funeral. Dallas wanted to be cremated, but we have no idea if his son or daughter will even want a funeral. It’s best now if we just keep our distance from the immediate drama and ultimately hope we can get Napoleon back home soon. I’ll update if anything major changes.

More later. Peace.

P.S. Wrote but couldn’t post until this evening. Had to go out and then had a helluva time downloading images for the post.


Music by Saint Claire, “Haunted”


Animalistic Hymn

The red sun rises
without intent
and shines the same on all of us.
We play like children under the sun.
One day, our ashes will scatter—
…………………………………….it doesn’t matter when.
Now the sun finds our innermost hearts,
…………………………………….fills us with oblivion
intense as the forest, winter and sea.

~ Edith Södergran (Trans. Brooklyn Copeland)