Friday, July 30, 2010

Cosmo, June 15, 1997 - July 29, 2010

Cosmo on July 17, 2010

I'm sad to report that our beloved Cosmo passed away yesterday after suffering a massive seizure. When the seizure didn't abate, I spoke with the vet and E. and I made the decision to have him put to sleep. This was done gently and humanely. E. and I were able to hold him while he fell into his final slumber.

In a subsequent post, I'll talk about the agonizing decision to end Cosmo's life, but today I want to share some thoughts about the love that my pet brought into my life.

Cosmo was my constant companion. At home, he followed me everywhere and would gladly have accompanied me to restaurants and other venues, if only he'd been allowed. He stayed next to my desk while I worked. Aside from an occasional bark if he heard an airplane or spied a bird through the window, he was content to lie by my side. If I worked too long without taking a break to play with him, he'd let me know by carrying a squeaky toy over and reminding me.

The house feels empty without him. Although he weighed a scant 7½ pounds, his presence was all around. Returning home to quietude instead of his invariably-happy greeting will be hard to bear. Reading or watching TV without being able to hold him on my lap won't feel the same. And I'll miss our riotous play periods, with Cosmo chasing a toy I'd thrown and ferociously pouncing on it, then joyously carrying it back to me so he could triumphantly go "through the tunnel," that is, through my bent legs.

Cosmo loved E. and our two sons. Each had his own special relationship with him. And Cosmo made all of us better people. We loved him and, by extension, grew to love other animals. We felt a kinship to other pet owners, having learned firsthand about the profound bond that can arise between people and their pets.

Cosmo trusted us. Tiny though he was, he never seemed to fear that we'd step on him or inadvertently kick him. Miraculously, we never did. Well, almost never.

We tried to give Cosmo a life filled with only good things—kindness, attention, plenty of food and water, a warm comfortable environment, long walks with his pack (our family), and countless opportunities for play.

I believe the seizures he suffered for many years must have scared him, since he never lost consciousness during them, but I also believe that he felt comforted when E. or I held him while they lasted.

We also held him during that last awful, unending seizure. I fervently want to believe that in his final wakeful moments, as the sedative that would put him to sleep also allowed his seized-up muscles to relax, Cosmo felt that we had helped him feel better one more time.

Click on the photo to enlarge it.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Now for Some Short Stories

After I stopped writing poetry but before I turned to personal essays, I tried my hand at short fiction. I had fun writing stories and I probably worked out a few neuroses along the way. I even had one story published in a literary journal.

Fair Isle Press Logo
I've already published a book of my poems, Full Circle, on Fair Isle Press, the electronic press E. and I created to publish free electronic books in PDF format. Now, I've gathered eight of my short stories together in an e-book called Love Objects, which is also the name of the first story in the collection. 

You can access the e-book by going to Fair Isle Press, then clicking on Manuscripts and selecting "Free ebook" for Love Objects.  Hope you enjoy it!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

New and Improved Turkeys

Really, the same old turkeys as those featured in my blog post of a few days ago, but seen in a different photographic light. I've finally figured out how to use my new point-and-shoot digital camera.

These are the very first photos I've taken using the camera's zoom feature. The entire point of a point-and-shoot is that it's extremely easy to use. Nonetheless, it took me a couple of days and intense scrutiny of the almost-inscrutable operating instructions before I could manage to insert the battery, set the clock, and understand the various shooting options. Finally, I took my first picture, then realized that the camera's internal memory had only enough memory for one picture and I hadn't yet purchased a memory card. That finally arrived yesterday, so I was able to take the pictures featured here.

Fortunately, the turkeys have continued their afternoon visitations to my backyard, so that gave me another opportunity to photograph them. Although these pictures were taken using a zoom, the turkeys were well aware of my presence on my deck, not far from them. Notice that they aren't running away. While the adults do appear alert, they don't manifest any fear. They seem to regard me as their nosy neighbor. So long as they don't trample my flowers or take up residence on my deck, I'm okay with that.

I clearly have some work to do on composition and camera steadiness before I can claim mastery of my new Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS7. But by the time that occurs the baby turkeys will probably be full-grown. So following the dictum of carpe diem, I hereby humbly submit the latest chapter of my turkey chronicles.

Click on the photos to enlarge them.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Turkey-Friendly Zone

I've declared my yard a turkey-friendly zone. The wild turkeys that live in my neighborhood must have sensed that because not only have they been fruitful and multiplied, but they've taken to strolling through the yard on a regular basis.

Ungainly though turkeys may be, their little offspring couldn't be cuter. What is it about babies of almost any species that make them so endearing? (Not counting insects, of course. Seeing multitudes of baby insects can only be described as disturbing.) The other day, one of the young birds wandered a bit far away from its siblings. I got rather close, trying to take a picture with my iPhone. Guess what? Baby turkeys can fly! Not so sure about their enormous parents, though.

I do love seeing the turkeys near my house, but sometimes they get a bit too close for comfort. When the adult bird in the photo below began to explore under my deck, I decided to shoo it away—large birds produce large droppings and I didn't really want to have that amid the gravel. But I didn't get too close while entreating the bird to leave. I've heard a story or two about turkeys attacking people and, with the bird's children right around the corner, I thought it might be in a protective mode. Fortunately, as I approached, the turkey fled in the direction of its family.

I have to call the turkey "it" because I haven't a clue about its gender. How do you tell a male from a female turkey? Another conundrum for the uninitiated bird watcher. I can report, though, that a total of twelve babies have been accompanied during the past few weeks by three very watchful adults.

Much as I've been delighted by the large brood populating my yard in recent days, I'm hopeful that some of them will eventually fly off to other neighborhoods. I would be no match for fifteen adult turkeys. And my little toy poodle, Cosmo, would be completely beside himself.

Click on the photos to enlarge them.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Wine With Lunch, or Not

Wine with lunch seems such a pleasant concept, but it's not one that works for me.

Today, I was a guest at a lovely 60th-birthday lunch. The setting was delightful, a whimsical Cambridge restaurant with magenta walls, accented by a riot of other colors. Before we sat down for lunch, the wait staff circulated with glasses of white wine. My hands were empty. I felt thirsty. I took a glass.

So delightful, so elegant, so likely to make me dizzy. Or drowsy. Or even give me a headache. I took a sip. That was it. After half an hour or so, we sat down to a delicious meal accompanied by good conversation. During the course of it I took one more sip of my wine. That was enough, almost too much.

Yet, had it been dinner, I surely would have enjoyed the whole glass and perhaps even indulged in a second one. The time of day seems to have a profound effect on wine's effect on me. All around me, friends imbibed, chatted, laughed, forgot the way time marches on. I forgot I hadn't had any wine and let the enjoyment of being with women I'd known for decades intoxicate me.

When it came time to leave, hugs all around, and off I went to the parking garage, along with two friends. I took out the keys to my car. Got in the driver's seat. Glad I hadn't been drinking.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Getting Started, or Not

One of my major issues in life is getting started. Perhaps you think I'm describing simple procrastination. Certainly it's a form of procrastination. In my case, though, it's paired with a seemingly paradoxical compulsion to answer every email as soon as I receive it, leave no dish unwashed, and repair every household defect as soon as it's discovered. Perhaps I'm suffering from a case of screwed up priorities.

Inertia sets in when I think of moving on from whatever I'm doing and beginning something else. Once I manage to overcome my inertia and start the new activity, it quickly becomes absorbing, but then it's hard for me to stop and move on to the next task.

Getting started writing this "daily" blog can be a challenge. Sometimes, like yesterday, I fail entirely to get started, giving the lie to the "daily" concept. Once I do begin, though, I can work on it indefinitely, usually to the detriment of Cosmo's walks, laundry, dinner, or whatever item is next on my agenda.

I would love to find a strategy that gets me over the "getting started" hump. I've noticed that the activities I find hardest to start are often those I ultimately find most rewarding—writing this blog, working on my website, conquering a mechanical challenge (like learning to use my new camera), or doing regular exercise.

I've discovered that it helps to make a to-do list. I love the process of checking off the items I've accomplished and I feel motivated to finish everything I've put on my list. When I have a lot to do, it makes the tasks seem more manageable. Only problem—most of the time, I can't get myself to make a list in the first place.

Probably if I had a paying job, this wouldn't be an issue. A sense of obligation would push me to transition efficiently from one task to the next. While I love having the flexibility of working on my various projects at home, I seem to lack the requisite discipline to maximize my productivity in such an unstructured environment.

On the other hand, there's much to like about an unstructured life. Yesterday, E. and I went out to lunch on the spur of the moment, then did some errands together. I like being available for the unscripted events life offers. Maybe productivity isn't the be-all and end-all. Still, when I plan to write my blog mid-morning, I'd like to get started before dinnertime. Come to think of it, I'd like to get started cooking dinner before dinnertime. Maybe in my next life.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


To me, New Haven has always been synonymous with Yale. In the 1970s, when we lived in Middletown, Connecticut, E. and I occasionally visited a friend who was studying musicology there. I remember that the campus was gothic and there was a place that had great milk shakes. That's about all.

In 2002, E. and I traveled to Yale with our son, Alex. We exited the freeway, drove a few blocks, parked, then gathered with other parents and their kids at the Admissions Office for a college tour. I mostly recall anxious students asking questions about AP credit. After the tour, we left as quickly as we'd come, not even pausing for a snack.

I don't recall seeing a downtown back then, but there is one, complete with skyscrapers, as I discovered this weekend while visiting my older son, Aaron, who's working in New Haven this summer. In fact, Aaron works in the Connecticut Financial Center, the tallest building in the city. The Financial Center, with its powerful verticality, stands in contrast to its next-door neighbor—City Hall, a beautifully restored old edifice augmented by a new wing.

The government and business district is adjacent to the New Haven Green, a historic common area located in the center of downtown. According to the Wikipedia entry on New Haven:

The Green is a traditional town green (commons) and was originally known as "the marketplace." It was completed in 1638. The Puritans were said to have designed the green large enough to hold the number of people who they believed would be spared in the Second Coming of Christ: 100,000.

Across the Green lies Yale's 260-acre central campus, so while government workers, businessmen, lawyers, and bankers engage in municipal and commercial activities, the university always looms in the background. While Yale may not exactly be considered New Haven's savior, improved town-gown relations, initiated by Yale President Rick Levin, have been beneficial to the larger community, with Yale providing financial support for a number of New Haven's redevelopment efforts.

During our visit, we ate dinner at a terrific restaurant, the Union League Cafe, sampled ice cream at Ashley's, near the Yale campus, and explored the downtown area.

We didn't entirely neglect Yale, however. Our visit to New Haven wouldn't have been complete without a pilgrimage to the statue of Nathan Hale in front of Connecticut Hall on the Yale campus. Hale, who has been designated the state hero of Connecticut, graduated with first-class honors from Yale College in 1773.

Click on the photos to enlarge them.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

I Know It's Hot

When the dog can only last outside for about a minute, sweltering in his fur coat.

When I have to water the flowers three times a day.

When my next-door neighbor offers to hose me down after he waters his flowers.

When the book that arrives from Amazon feels toasty, as if it's fresh out of the oven.

When my car thermometer registers 104.

When I offer the mail carrier cold water and she accepts it.

When I'd rather keep the windows closed (and crank up the AC).

When it's too hot to take a walk at 8 p.m.

When I can smell the asphalt on my driveway.

When I feel like writing about the weather.

Lest I complain too much, I remind myself that this is what much of the east coast looked like only a few short months ago.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Monday, July 5, 2010

A Portland Meditation

Portland, Oregon has a reputation as an environmentally-friendly city. It's also a technology-oriented locale, with Intel as the area's major employer. In addition, from what I could tell during my recent brief stay there, it's a mellow place. So, I wasn't surprised to come across the "First Annual Portland City Sit," an outdoor meditation gathering right in the center of town.

When I wandered by, the "Sit" hadn't yet attracted many participants but the skies were sunny and the welcome mats were out.

Technology coincided with karma when a participant in the "Sit" couldn't resist checking his smart phone, maybe to clear his texts and emails before meditating, so that during meditation he could clear his mind before getting back to texting and emailing.

Click on the photos to enlarge them.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Flying Toward the Setting Sun

When I left my house in Newton, bound for the funeral of E.'s cousin Art in Portland, Oregon, I expected an emotional journey. I knew Art well and his untimely death had shocked and saddened me. I anticipated that my time in Portland would be intense, but I didn't imagine that the flight itself would be filled with unpredictability and drama.

We boarded our Alaska Airlines flight early and everyone was seated and ready to go five minutes before our scheduled departure time of 4:50 p.m. A flight attendant announced that we'd be pulling away from the gate momentarily. But we didn't. We just sat there.

Twenty minutes passed. Then the captain came on the speaker system to inform passengers that there had been a "minor" security breach at Logan Airport which had resulted in the airport being shut down for about fifteen minutes, during which time all departures had been suspended. He assured us that the airport had reopened and that although the queue of departing flights was now quite long, we would leave shortly.

Another ten minutes passed and a flight attendant announced that our departure would be slightly delayed while we awaited the boarding of two more passengers, who had apparently been held up during the security breach.

When E. and I arrived at the airport, the weather was hot and sunny, but the forecast had mentioned the possibility of severe storms during the late afternoon. Now, looking out the airplane window, I could see black clouds filling up the sky to our west. I wasn't optimistic. Sure enough, the captain soon let us know that because of concern about tornadoes to the west, no westbound flights could leave. Tornadoes! They're rare in Massachusetts, but the weather apparently reflected my apocalyptic mood. I didn't relish the idea of being in a crowded airplane with a funnel cloud approaching. But I had no choice.

The flight attendants invited passengers to get up, stretch, use the lav, turn on cell phones. Accommodating of them, but not encouraging. E. and I chatted with our seatmate, a nice fellow from Portland. The man behind me began cracking jokes and people contacted friends and relatives to let them know the situation.

I called my son, Alex, who was back at the house, dog-sitting for Cosmo. The house was directly in the path of the storm and, sure enough, Alex said it had been wild and windy a few minutes earlier. Soon the wind and rain came directly over us, rocking the plane a bit. But no tornado materialized.

Once the rain let up, we left the gate, then parked near a runway for a while, then returned to another gate. Finally, three hours after our scheduled departure time, we took off for Portland, flying toward the now setting sun. From then on, the flight was uneventful, but the drama wasn't over.

About halfway to Portland, as we still pursued the setting sun, I noticed a gorgeous black cloud with an anvil shape, the characteristic form of a thundercloud. At first, the cloud looked solid black in the fading light, but as we approached it, I could see flashes of lightning within it. We were flying south of the storm, where the skies were clear, but we were exactly parallel to the massive cloud, so I witnessed a spectacular display of lightning.

I know the storm was enormous because it took at least half an hour to fly past it. During that time, I was riveted by the dramatic lightning flashing within the cloud and also toward the ground. The photo I took of the lightning is entirely inadequate to convey the brilliance of the spectacle, but was the best I could manage using my iPhone camera through the airplane window.

What impressed me during our slow progress past the immense storm cloud was its appearance of permanence. It seemed filled with vital energy, as if it would never dissipate. I thought of Art, whose energy and joie de vivre made him such a vital life force. It's hard to believe he's gone.

As we left the storm behind, the sun finally set in the western sky. Like most of us, Art had his stormy moments and his sunny days. But few of us have lived life as fully as he. I, along with a multitude of friends and family, will miss him.