Grace in Small Things (continued)

Tillie Close Up Smaller

Princess Tillie Posing for a Picture

 

“As you wish . . .” ~ Westley from The Princess Bride 

“You rush a miracle man, you get rotten miracles.” ~ Miracle Max from The Princess Bride

Miracle Max and Valerie The Princess Bride
Miracle Max & Valeria in The Princess Bride

I haven’t done a Grace in Small Things post in quite a while, so I thought that I might do one tonight. I’m slightly regretting something that I said in my post about emotions: I said that I do not get elated easily. That part is true, but when I began to consider elation in my life, I realized that even though it is not an emotion that comes to me easily, I still find happiness in even the smallest of things—hence, the subject of tonight’s post.

After some pondering, I’ve decided to highlight the following five things that bring me joy:

Vizzini: Jump in after her! 
Inigo Montoya: I can’t swim 
Fezzik: I only dog paddle. 
Vizzini: AGGHH  ~ from The Princess Bride

Shakes Fast Asleep
Shakes Fast Asleep

Number 1:  My dogs’ personalities. Anyone who doesn’t believe that animals can have distinct personalities has never paid much attention to a dog. My Jack Russells have always been full of themselves, but ever since we adopted Tillie the Lab, I’ve noticed even more how much all three dogs differ. For example, Shakes, the mama’s boy, is easily lulled. He insinuates himself as close to my torso as he can get and then turns over on his back. This is a signal that the stomach rubbing should begin. I can put Shakes to sleep in under three minutes if I rub his tummy steadily. Once he falls asleep, his mouth gapes ever so slightly, showing his bottom teeth as he has a distinct underbite. Shakes would be a good candidate for dog braces if there were such a thing. Regardless, once Shakes has fallen asleep, I can stop rubbing his belly, but if he is disturbed, I have to begin the process again. If I do not, I get a head butt to my elbow, which is what happened this morning as I was drinking my first cup of coffee, which I always have while I am still in bed. Needless to say, the butt to my elbow caused coffee to spill on my nightshirt and on the sheets. I was not amused.

King Alfie
King Alfie Atop the Pillows

Alfie is much harder to read. He likes to sleep atop the pillows, more often than not, above Corey’s head. Alfie can be very, very sweet and loving, and then he can turn on a dime and begin to growl. He doesn’ t like to be dried when he comes in from the rain, so I have to coax him by speaking very quietly while simultaneously drying him very quickly. Another of Alfie’s quirks is that if given a treat such as a chewie, he will immediately try to bury it, even if he is in the house. We have found chewies between the couch cushions, under the piano pedals, even in a storage tub. If Alfie buries his treats outside, Shakes will watch him, and then at the first chance, he will unbury Alfie’s treat and claim it as his own.

Tillie is a prima donna. She is quite vocal about many things, and if she is not being paid the attention she feels she deserves, we’ll get a good telling off until someone, usually Corey, stops whatever he is doing and gives her a big hug. Tillie is also very jealous. If Corey comes into the room and begins a conversation with me, Tillie will interrupt. If we happen to be embracing one another, Tillie will bark. However, Tillie is not the least bit aggressive. She is all talk. Tillie also likes to make the bed. If the bed covers are flat, she will stand in the middle of the bed and rake the covers with her paws until they are in the desired shape, and then she will promptly flop down on them. This is why we have removed the hand-stitched quilt that my mother gave us and replaced it with a cheaper, machine-sewn quilt.

I know, we spoil our dogs as much as we do our children, but it’s hard not to as they have such human characteristics.

“I do not mean to pry, but you don’t by any chance happen to have six fingers on your right hand?” ~ Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride

Inigo Montoya The Princess Bride
Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride

Number 2:  Nail polish. Granted, nail polish is not a terribly important thing in the grand scheme of things; however, I love all of the different shades of nail polish. Did you know that there are probably 50 different shades of red, if not more? Some of my favorite reds include Cherry Crush, Woman in Love, I Am Not a Waitress, To Eros is Human, and Bogata Blackberry. Aren’t those names wild?

I wonder who has the job of naming colors . . . That’s something that I think I could do: create catchy names for red nail polish. How about Molten Lava? Or Chili Pepper Passion? Or maybe Devilicious? Scarlet Woman? Okay, so maybe I need to work on it.

“Death cannot stop true love. All it can do is delay it for a while.” ~ Westley from The Princess Bride

Westley and Buttercup TPB
Westley & Buttercup in The Princess Bride

Number 3: The poetry of Pablo Neruda. I have to admit that I discovered Neruda later in the game, but I am so glad that I found him. Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto was born in Chile in 1904 and had his first poem published when he was only 13. Neruda was a prolific writer, and almost all of his work is political in nature.  Neruda, an avowed communist, was almost denied the Nobel Prize because of his political beliefs. However, he also wrote some incredibly moving love poems, and it is those of which I am most fond. Regardless of his subject matter, Neruda’s poems are filled with strong images and fine craftsmanship.

From “Lost in the Forest”—

Lost in the forest, I broke off a dark twig
and lifted its whisper to my thirsty lips:
maybe it was the voice of the rain crying,
a cracked bell, or a torn heart.

“And wuv, tru wuv, will fowow you foweva  . . . ” ~ The Impressive Clergyman from The Princess Bride

Cicada
Cicada on Tree Branch

Number 4: Night Sounds. As I have mentioned, I have problems falling asleep and staying asleep, which means that I am awake at very odd hours. But one of the better things about my odd sleeping habits is that I am often awake to hear all of the sounds in the night. We live fairly close to a marsh, so the sounds of the various inhabitants of the marsh are easy to hear in the nighttime stillness. 

I enjoy hearing the tree frogs chirruping in the evening and early morning, and the toads with their lower pitched chirps are often interspersed, creating an harmonious din. The crickets’ songs are not annoying to me; instead, their sounds right outside my bedroom window are full of life. Occasionally, the sound of cicadas with their incremental buzzing and clicking resonates among the trees. And by 3 a.m., all of the birds begin to awaken: First, the mourning doves with their coos, and then the mocking birds with their various melodies, and sometimes there is even the knocking of a wood pecker, which echoes into the coming dawn.

“Are you kidding? Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles . . . ” ~ Grandpa from The Princess Bride 

Number 5: Fairy Tales and Fantasies. It probably comes as no surprise that I love fairy tales, especially since I frequently take my own flights of fancy. But it’s the uncommon fairy tales that enchant me. Disney’s tales of fair maidens being rescued by handsome princes always bothered me. It’s that whole helpless female thing, you know? It wasn’t until Beauty and the Beast that the people at Disney finally came up with a female who was determined and headstrong.

But for me, the best fairy tales are the ones that involve magic and battles and odd creatures, with a pinch of tongue in cheek humor. For example, my favorite fairy tale in movie form is The Princess Bride, hands down. The stable boy turned pirate, André the Giant as Fezzik, Inigo Montoya on his single-minded quest to avenge his father, and Miracle Max (Billy Crystal), whose inclusion among the characters makes a wonderful story into a truly memorable story. Yes, Buttercup needs rescuing, but her captors turned rescuers are anything but stock characters.

Robert DeNiro in Stardust
Robert DeNiro as Captain Shakespeare

And then recently, Corey and I watched Stardust, which I also found immensely enjoyable. Not as good as The Princess Bride, but a good fairy tale nonetheless. Robert DeNiro plays Captain Shakespeare, an in-the-closet pirate who dances the Cancan. Ricky Gervais is a trader in lightning and other dodgy goods; Michelle Pfeiffer plays an ugly old witch (if you can believe that), and Rupert Everett does a turn as one of the dead king’s sons, Secundus. The two lovers are played by Claire Danes and Charlie Cox. The story is based on a Neil Gaiman book (really must read this).

Among the movie’s enticements are magic, treachery, true love, two goats, a glass flower, and a fallen star. And this time, it’s the prince who doesn’t know that he’s a prince who is the clueless one. And bonus points for having Ian McKellan’s sonorous voice as the narrator:

“A philosopher once asked, ‘Are we human because we gaze at the stars, or do we gaze at them because we are human?’ Pointless, really… ‘Do the stars gaze back?’ Now that’s a question.”

And now, I will leave you with the most hilarious scene from Stardust: Captain Shakespeare as a whoopsie:

 

More later. Peace.

Is it timing, or is it signs?

My husband Corey likes to give me a hard time about one of my favorite phrases: “It’s a sign.” I’m a big believer in signs, for example, the appearance of mourning doves versus the appearance of ravens. If I awaken to the caw caw of ravens, I always have a terrible feeling in the pit of my stomach that it’s going to be a terrible day; whereas if I hear the soothing coo of a mourning dove, I feel that it will be a good day. I have absolutely no scientific study to back up my morning bird meter. That’s just the way that it is for me.

Ever since I was a little girl, I have believed in signs or portents. Now don’t go off half-cocked and start to classify me as a wiccan, not that I have any particular feelings about wiccans; I don’t. I’m just not a wiccan. If anything, I’m a pantheist; to clarify: a pantheist is someone who believes that the greater being exists in all things in nature, including humans beings. It’s not any sort of religion. It’s just a belief system. I don’t carry it to extremes; by that I mean, I don’t believe that flies or cockroaches are sentient beings and deserve to be left alone. I’m sorry, and perhaps someday I’ll come back as some kind of insect, but I just absolutely hate cockroaches, having once lived in a townhouse in Alexandria that had a basement and as a result, suffered co-existence with cockroaches the size of small rodents. I have never quite gotten over the trauma of having one of these giants crawl across my arm while I slept. I cannot even find the words to describe the physical reaction that my body still has whenever I recall the memory of waking up to that. So let us move on.

I was expounding on signs and the role that these illusory portents have played in my life. For example, for as long as I can remember, I have been hyper-sensitive to smells, as they evoke instant associations in my subconscious. I remember looking at clouds when I was a child and trying to find meaning in the shapes. And I would look for four-leafed clovers and press them between the pages of favorite books to save up luck for the future. If I found an oddly-shaped rock or shell, I would save it, just in case. I was never quite sure what “just in case” meant, but for me, it meant something. Admittedly, I was an odd duck of a child. But only children tend to have wild imaginations, especially pre-cable, pre-video games. Egads! However did I survive?

When I became a teenager, I suppose I continued to feel things, although I was much too busy to notice. But the telephone rang one time, and I knew that I did not want to answer it. I answered anyway only to hear my uncle’s strangled voice on the other end telling me that my cousin had been hit by a truck at a rest stop, and he had died at the scene. I did not know this cousin very well lest you think we talked frequently, and we had some kind of connection. The same thing happened with another telephone call years later when the phone rang and rang and I could only stare at it. I would not answer it. Later, when my mother came home, the phone rang, and she answered it, only to find out that one of her brothers had shot himself. I did not know this uncle at all. I know, I know. It’s weird. Coincidence? Probably. Was it just timing that somehow on those days I had an aversion to the telephone? Perhaps. Who knows.

Electric Sky

I love a good thunder storm, and I don’t find lightning scary in the way that many people do. In fact, I find it very comforting in an odd way. That’s not to say that I don’t respect its power in the same way that I would respect any force in nature. I’m not an idiot. But the ocean and water are my elements and where the water meets the sky is always fascinating to me. I’m not sure how that fits in with signs exactly, except that I always tend to feel very much in touch with my inner being when I’m on the open water, and thunderstorms have such a calming effect on me that there must be something in the electricity that connects with me. Just a thought.

I’ll share just a few more signs or moments in time. After my baby daughter died and I thought that I couldn’t go on, I received what I believe was a very significant sign. One night, it was the night before Easter, the children were with their father. I was newly single, and I was having a very hard time understanding how I had arrived at this place in my life. I sat on the living room couch by myself for hours trying to decide if I had anything left to contribute to this world. I had written for hours, and I had nothing left to say. The house was completely quiet, and dawn was very near. Then suddenly, I began to hear the soft, sweet sound of a mourning dove right outside my living room window. She started cooing slowly, and then her song grew stronger. She didn’t move from my window for what seemed like hours but was probably only minutes. When I finally looked out, she flew away. And that is why awakening to the sound of mourning doves is a good sign for me because it is a sound that saved me. I met the dawn with peace in my heart.

And I will close with this: On one of the last days that my husband was to drive me to Alexandria for class, we got in the car, and I turned to him, and I said, “I have a funny feeling. Do the speed limit today.” He looked at me oddly, and then said he had the same feeling. On the way to Alexandria we normally see three or four state troopers. That day we saw 22. Timing? Maybe we’ve just been together so long that I’ve rubbed off on him. I’m not sure what the omen is for state troopers. And don’t even get me started on my dreams and how they’re signs for things because we could be here for another three pages.

I will end with this: I don’t read Tarot cards, but I do have rune stones that I have had on a string in my car for over a decade. But I tend to rely more on my funny feelings and my connections with nature. But as I said, I am a bit of an odd duck. But you already knew that. Didn’t you?