Saturday, June 30, 2012

Bad Dream

Winnie was on my hip, where she spends most of every night, her weight soft and warm, her nose tucked into a curled paw. Ken was sleeping next to me, his arm wrapped around Pip, whose purrs nearly matched the snores from his dad. The apartment was silent except for the jangle of ice cubes dropping from the maker in the freezer.

I don't remember the dream but it was terrible enough to jerk me out of sleep, disturbing Winnie, who tensed and lifted her head. The light coming from the lunette above our windows danced across her whiskers and caught her eyes as she watched me, waiting for me to settle back down into more pleasant dreams. My body was rigid and hot and weighted down by the single sheet pulled over me. I took a deep breath trying to calm the tears that felt close to bubbling up and spilling down my cheeks. The nightmare was gone but the fear remained. I laid a long time in the dark, turning over onto my belly, slowly so as not to disturb Bean, who had already dropped her nose down into her paw and was breathing deeply.

Sleep was not coming, not until I heard Duncan shift in his bed, climb out of his kennel, stretch once and then jump up at the foot of the bed. He moved carefully between Ken and me, careful of the cats and Ken, and laid down, his body a long warm pillow between us. He laid down and licked my shoulder, slipping a warm paw across the small of my back. He licked again, quietly and with great care, and rested his head on me, squeezing me with one paw and continued to lick until the feeling passed and sleep took me again.

It is good to know I am watched over and guarded, safe at all hours.

Friday, June 29, 2012

All Aspects of This Life

My walks with Duncan have served as a reminder to me that there is no aspect of this life of ours that is unimportant, from the bending of the grass under the weight of the morning dew to the long shadows cast by the ants scuttling blindly across the pavement as the sun dips low on the horizon. I am as fascinated by the minutiae of the world––maybe more so–– as I am of the breathtaking and extraordinary sights of the big and obvious, the loud and bright. Roo is patient with me, sometimes spending long moments sitting at my side while I lean in to watch the slow crawl of a box elder bug up the trunk of an aspen or the light dancing across a bending field of fuzzy, purple thistles. 

And so it was this morning on our walk. Not far down The Run I spotted the button-cap of a mushroom, sand-dollar shaped and hued, with delicate, fingerprint lines racing from its rim to the bowl of its center. I sat down next to it and peered at it from all angles, but because it was so short, smaller than my pinkie finger, I could not see its underside however hard I tried. Some things, I guess, are to remain a mystery. And that is just fine with me, because what fun would life be without a few questions and surprises.

I must be doing something right by stopping and looking because no sooner had I finished my examination of the thing than Dunc leaned down and gave it a long hard sniff before turning to look at me as if to say, "Good catch. Good boy!"

When he is proud of me I know I've done well.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Coming Home

I have returned home after a week experiencing a life-changing adventure. I learned a lot about myself on my trip to Buffalo and perhaps soon I'll get a chance to share that here. And while there were many highlights, one of the sweetest took place after climbing the thirty-seven stairs to my front door where a newly groomed Duncan was waiting for me, eager to play and pick up right where we left off.

It's good to be home.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

A Changed Life

I'm sitting in the rocking chair on the porch outside the home of Karen and Paul, my new aunt and uncle, in Wales, New York, a quiet little township southeast of Buffalo. It is a cool evening, humid but not uncomfortably so. The shadows have grown long and faded under the darkening sky, the deep woods are growing slowly quiet and the frogs down at the pond are just beginning to croak, a sound that is a cross between a duck quack and an electric sneeze. The finned backs of the bass and koi break the surface, stirring the water into expanding ripples around them as they slide forward swallowing the mayflies and mosquitoes which hover in shimmering clouds above the water. A fawn with large white spots on its back was spotted in the long grass at the edge of the backyard and the cat birds, with their mewling kitten calls, are confusing my sister, who insists we are surrounded but countless stray cats. It will be another hour or two before the fireflies appear but I am prepared. It has been a long thirteen years without their magic in my life and I want to be ready for those first plaintive flickers as they emerge from the trees.

Duncan would love this place. He would spend the afternoons in the pond, startling the fish and scattering the frogs. He would chase the deer through the dense foliage and stare in awe at the fireflies. And I would sit back and marvel at each discovery he made. It would be wonderful to have him with me, to feel his weight against my feet when he tired himself out and needed a rest. Not this trip, though, but perhaps one day he will see it, and the smile I've worn since Wednesday would be made a thousand times bigger by his presence.

While I am enjoying my trip more than I ever thought possible, and feel a sense of freedom I have not experienced for the past seven years, I keep thinking of him that last evening in Denver, sticking close to me, aware that something was happening, that I was leaving and for only the second time in his life he was not being included. I sat him down and explained that his papa had spent a long time summoning his courage, inviting the support of the world's most amazing friends, and was embarking on an adventure that was sure to change his life. He seemed to understand, but after I said my farewell to him and stepped downstairs with Ken and my family, I glanced back up at the window and saw his face poking between the blinds, his eyebrows raised in question.

It was heart-breaking but I have to be honest: this trip has changed my life in ways I never anticipated, and although I wouldn't trade my good, red dog for anything in the world, I have been grateful for the opportunities presented to me in exchange for a few days without him.

And when it's over, when Ken and I climb those stairs together on Tuesday, carrying my luggage, my memories of an incredible week in New York, and so much more, I know he, and my entire life, will be waiting for me behind one locked door to which I hold the key.

Thursday, June 21, 2012


Since Ken brought Duncan home seven years ago we have only been apart five nights total, three of them while I was in Atlanta that afternoon when I first got sick. With the exception of two random nights since, we have always been together. I don't know what last night was like for him but I'd like to imagine that he curled up with Ken and the cats and didn't notice my absence at all, that this morning Ken rose early and took him for a nice, long walk in the park and they played away the morning. Nothing would make me happier.

I know what the night was like for me, though. It was spent on a red-eye from Denver to Newark sitting next to my mother, looking out the window at the orange, halogen blobs of lights of unnamed cities rising up and falling away in the darkness below us, thinking of him, feeling everything very clearly, alternately overjoyed and exhausted. I wished he was there with me, resting at my feet waiting to step outside, stretch his legs and resume our walks in whatever place his feet touched down. He would not be picky but excited at the prospect of a new journey, heedless of the destination.

It is strange not having him here, strange seeing other people on the streets of Buffalo walking their dogs. These next few days are ones that won't require me to rise early, put on my shoes, take him outside and look after his every need. But I know he is safe with Ken, probably excited to have the opportunity to coax his dad into giving him more treats than I do, to take advantage of every possible situation, to sneak up on the couch and spend the afternoon sleeping without the risk of being caught by his papa.

When I do return I hope he sees the courage in me, the kind that's been lacking since he was less than a year old. I hope he senses the change in me for facing my long-festering fear and conquering it. I hope he is waiting at the door, the shredded remnants of his favorite toy, the little green frog given to us by one of our blog friends last year, clutched in his smiling mouth, his tail thumping out a sporadic but joyous beat. I hope he will be as happy to see me as I certainly will be to see him.

*This post was written on my brand new iPad from my hotel room in East Aurora, New York. The formatting looks to be all screwy, at least on my end. I apologize if you're seeing one big, long, unjustified, jumbled paragraph. Trust me, that's not how it was written. Bear with me and I'll get everything fixed as soon as I can. In the meantime, does anyone have any suggestions on the best way to blog on an iPad? This obviously is not going to work!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

"Hope is the Thing with Feathers..."

The feathers have been collected and are ready for flight. As am I. But before my family arrives and we climb on that plane tonight I wanted to take just a moment and show you the collection I have amassed over the years. They have become so much more than mere feathers to me, but tokens of faith and encouragement from people all over the world, people who know me and love me, who believe in me and want to see me spread my own wings and continue to fly through this little life of mine. They are my talismans and bring me incredible courage and peace of mind when I face challenging situations. I laid them all out for you, each and every one I've received. I hope you're able to spot the one you sent or simply admire the beauty of the collection, the generosity of the community I've built in this little outpost on the internet, and the creativity of the people I love.

I cannot tell you how much your kindness and support have meant to me. I cannot tell you how many tears of joy I've let slip when I read your cards and notes and hold your faith in me in the palm of my hand. I cannot tell you how utterly overwhelmed I have been by the remarkable people who join Duncan and me on our walks.

Each of you, whether you believe it or not, have changed a life for the better, and that is one of the greatest things we can do on this planet.

With all sincerity, with the entirety of my heart and soul, I thank you and love you all.

"A willing heart adds feather to the heel." (Joanne Baillie)

Duncan's Feather

Morning came early, grey but blessedly cool, with grass tall and bending under the weight of an early sprinkle. I woke before Dunc, who whimpered and stretched as I knelt down beside him on my side of the bed where he started sleeping once the weather turned hot. I touched my lips to his cheek and whispered, "Good morning, Roo." His tail thumped twice and his eyes blinked open, his paws reached out and his whole body elongated, thinning and stretching out long across the floor. "Let's go play in the park."

Five minutes later we were crossing the field, me throwing his ball far across the wet grass, Duncan chasing after it with an energy and enthusiasm I was still working on. But watching him dart among the starlings, pecking in the earth for drowsy worms, brought a smile to my face and soon I was running after him, slipping him a treat each time he returned the ball to me. Eventually he lost interest and ambled up the hillside toward the playground. I whistled once but he only paused and looked over his shoulder at me before hurrying forward, ignoring my call. I followed him to where he was sniffing in the grass and looking up at me expectantly, his eyebrows raised, his tail a red flag flapping high above him.

And resting there, damp but perfectly shaped, sharp and as narrow as an arrow, was a single feather, silver and sleek near the quill, the inner vane striping into a soft grey as it fanned out. The outer vane, with its short barbs, were a vivid blue, electric and metallic, crisp and straight which made a buzzing sound when I ran my thumb along them, spraying misty drop of dew into the morning air.

I have never claimed to know what it is he was thinking, but I felt for sure that he was proud of his discovery, that he knew what it meant and how important it was to me, that I would cherish it always.

So I will keep it close to my heart tonight on the plane, in my pocket where I can touch it and find strength in the love and faith of my good, red dog, who knows me better than I know myself. How I ever became so fortunate to have him in my life I will never know.

Monday, June 18, 2012

My Magic Feathers

Yesterday afternoon, after six weeks of collecting feathers sent in by readers from across the country and around the world, all in preparation for my trip to Buffalo on Wednesday night, Duncan finally drew the winning name out of the hat.

And here, at last, is what he drew:

Henry and Thomas are the sons of April, one of the most beautiful people I have ever had the pleasure of calling a friend. It is no surprise that her sons, whom I've only met once, are just as lovely as their mother. They are smart, incredibly funny, sensitive, full of life, and I am very happy Duncan chose their names from the long list of remarkable and generous people who joined together to support me on my journey.

The only trouble is they don't have a dog. April wrote in her card that Henry wants a bulldog named Cedar and Thomas wants a little white dog he can call Hannah. Taking that into consideration I decided that while I was unable to provide them with real dogs, I could send them the next best thing. So here's what they will be receiving in the mail later this week, hopefully on the very day I depart for New York.

The box is loaded with candy, Starbursts and Kit Kats, because they're their favorites, superhero coloring books, colored pencils (because I was afraid crayons would melt in this heat), thank-you cards, and of course, a bulldog for Henry and a spotted white dog for Thomas. They're not the real thing but I figure they can practice and perhaps one day their parents will break down and get them a dog, perhaps a little white bulldog. After all, a boy without a dog is like summer without the sun.

Thank you all for participating in my contest, but mostly for showing me how much you believe in me. And please join me in congratulating Henry and Thomas. They gave me far more than I was able to give them.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Buffalo Wings: The Feathers for Flight Contest Winner is Chosen

This afternoon Duncan was kind enough to put on his favorite hat (actually, it's mine, courtesy of Sue from Random Ramblings, but he agreed to wear it, if for only a moment, in exchange for more than a few treats) and prepare to draw the winner of my Magic Feather Contest.

We printed up the names of all the entrants, those of you who were kind enough to send feathers for my trip to Buffalo, and laid them out on the floor in front of Roo.

Dunc sniffed through them, turned them over with his nose, pawed at a couple and helped verify that everything was in order (and that there weren't any treats taped the bottoms of the names as possible bribes). After everything was checked and double-checked (those pumpkin crunchers can be sneaky little things!) the names were tossed into the hat where he nosed around for a bit, took his time, and made his selection.

And finally, after six weeks of waiting for the feathers to come in, a name was chosen!

And the winner is.....

Come back tomorrow to find out! I'll even show you what the prizes are!

Buffalo Wings: Serendipity with The Shepherds

It has been a very long time since Duncan and I have encountered The Shepherds on our walks so I was surprised this morning to come face to face with them once again, only this time the outcome was completely unexpected.

We were playing fetch on the shady side of the park, staying under the tall elms that grow above the lower soccer field. The morning was hotter than usual and Duncan was feeling it, panting and laying down to roll in the grass clippings. He lost interest quicker than usual and instead became fixated on sniffing out the goodies leftover and discarded in the grass from yesterday's sun-worshippers. Just as I laid down next to him I noticed The Shepherds not far away. We have been respectful and courteous to each other since our showdown that dark night several years ago, keeping far away from each other, nodding politely and leashing our dogs as we pass one another. I leashed Roo and stood up to move away but Duncan, always far wiser than me, turned and trotted right in their direction. When I pulled on his leash and said no, he bore down against me, flashed me a look as though to say, "trust me," and pulled me after him. I was nervous but he has yet to steer me wrong so I followed, reeling in the leash and commanding him to heel as we approached the man and his two dogs.

"Good morning," I called.

Mr. Shepherd leashed his dogs, one of them a dark puppy with enormous feet and a too-big tail, fluffy and black and longer than his body. "Good morning," he replied tentatively. After all, none of our conversations have been positive and he was as nervous as I was.

We made small talk for a bit and I asked about the puppy. All those years ago there had been two mature shepherds but Enzo, the male, died just before Christmas and Bodi, the puppy, was a new gift to his wife. Bodi was playful and loveable, nipping at Duncan's ears and rolling in the grass at his feet, but Jay, the large female, was still aggressive and unsure of our presence.

I don't remember exactly how it came up but Mr. Shepherd said that he'd just returned from Buffalo where he was born and raised.

"I'm going there in a few days!" I exclaimed. He asked if I was from there so I explained about Kevin's father's memorial service and meeting his family and how I'd only passed through Buffalo on a train twenty years ago on a trip to visit April in Boston. He asked if we were planning to visit Niagara Falls, which is where his family now lives.

"Of course!" I said. "We're really excited about it!"

"Oh, that's great. It's a pit, a real shit-hole on the American side," he said, "But you have to stop and eat at Viola's! They have the best sandwiches! Don't get anything except the double steak and cheese. You'll thank me later. And if you have time, go to The Como! They have the best Italian food you'll ever eat!"

"Viola's and The Como," I repeated. "Got it!"

"And be sure to try beef on a weck. And don't shy away from the horseradish!"

We talked for nearly an hour about Buffalo and Niagara Falls and then about our dogs, all of whom were laying in the grass, Duncan minding his own business, Bodi still struggling to latch onto one of Roo's ears, and Jay batting at our shadows on the ground. We laughed and exchanged stories and shook hands when it was time to go. I still didn't get his name but I'm sure we'll meet again, next time under far better circumstances than in the past.

It felt good walking home afterward, grinning ear to ear, which puzzled Ken, who was sitting on the patio sipping his coffee and watching us when we arrived home. I explained the story to him and we both marveled at how The Universe has a way of giving us what we need exactly when we need it. Forgiveness, like feathers, come in the most surprising shapes, at surprising times.


No matter who you are, what you believe, or who you love, be proud.


*Thanks to Lisa Davidon-Tartar for the inspiration behind this photo!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Buffalo Wings: A Magic Feather Update (5)

The last few feathers have begun to flutter in from the far corners of this magnificent and astounding world of ours and once again I have been moved to tears by the generosity of others.

The first to arrive came from, Michelle, a high school friend who now lives part-time in Belgium. Her feather, a petite grey and brown-speckled tuft from a turtledove, found her in her garden in a moment when she needed it and it seems it was meant for her as much as it was for me. In her card she wrote two things which touched me deeply:

Le plus beau voyage est de se prouver sa liberte´. 
(which translates into "The greatest journey is to prove one's liberty to oneself.")


"My soul is in the sky." William Shakespeare (A Midsummer Night's Dream)

They are both true, Michelle, for you as much as me. Thank you and bless you.

My good friend Sean surprised me at work the other morning with a feather he'd painted by hand. It contains all the colors of the rainbow and is strong enough to carry me wherever I go. Sean is a remarkable man, one I'm not only fortunate enough to work with, but one whom I am incredibly blessed to call "friend." He's a talented musician and artist and I urge each of you to visit his website and listen to his music. It's all amazing and visionary but I do have to recommend his latest project, Seven Days, which is truly astounding. Buy it immediately and send him a note telling him Curt sent you.

My plan for the trip has been to watch the movie "Up" once we get in the air, but when I mentioned this to Sean he was insightful enough to tell me, "No. That's not right. You should watch Dumbo. That's the whole point of the feathers, isn't it?" And he was right, so thanks to Sean, Dumbo has been downloaded and will be viewed at 30,000 feet. I will be flying with that beautiful little elephant at last!

The final feather arrived last night from my friend Traci, an extraordinary woman, an artist and musician, strong and courageous, who is one of those lucky individuals who has managed to examine her life and change it into something beautiful and powerful. Several years ago, during the first round of feather hunting, she sent me a collection of music to see me through my journey. Her latest feather is another collection, which will certainly play almost constantly on my flight. Along with her feather she included an autographed chicken and accompanying note ("Be Brave!") courtesy of The Bloggess. Many of probably already know The Bloggess, but if you don't (shame on you!) you should begin reading her immediately! Thank you, Traci, for the gift of music and a smile to go along with it.

The feather contest is officially closed. The winner will be drawn tomorrow and the prize should be sent out Monday. I still welcome your feathers, though. My family and I don't depart for Buffalo until Wednesday evening so there's still time to stick a feather in the mail and get it to me. And even if your feather arrives after our journey has began, it will certainly be nice to come home to.

Thank you all, not only to the people who sent a truly astounding collection of feathers, but to those of sent emails and offered words of encouragement. Those feathers I will carry in my heart always.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

His Nose

There are times our walks could hardly be called walks. Duncan simply moves from one spot to the next, his nose hard to the ground, pushing against it as a plow pushes into the earth, moving, it seems, without moving, one slow step at a time, oblivious to the world with me standing impatiently beside him. There is almost nothing I can do to urge him forward, to rush his careful passage over a realm that is entirely invisible to my eyes. I see only pavement or the same patch of grass he's been enamored with for ten or fifteen minutes. But he is diligent in his exploration and so appreciative of each and every odor that crosses his path that I can only stand awkwardly by while he sniffs a pebble or a rusty spot on the iron fence until everything else vanishes. His nose is literally a million times more powerful than mine so I accept my blindness and stand dutifully by, watching and waiting.

Dogs use their sense of smell far more than we use our eyes. Their entire world is comprised of fragrances, things we can't even fathom. Our noses tend to adjust to scents and within minutes––sometimes seconds––of encountering them, they lose their potency or fade into obscurity. But not so for dogs. Their nostrils are designed to keep smells fresh and vibrant, which allows them to follow a path we can't see, telling time by how fresh the scent is and how it grows weaker over distance.

And then there is me, stopping every few feet to breathe in the Lindens, which have just come into bloom. It is an overwhelming perfume, one I've grown to love as much, if not more, than my precious Russian Olives. Roo sits patiently beside me while I bury my face in the blossoms to breathe and breathe until the scent is gone. He glances this way and that, as though embarrassed by my love of something so obvious and easy and as mindless as Justin Beiber. And yet I follow his example, learn the lessons he teaches and appreciate the world, not just the visible, but all its aspects, from the texture of the leaves to the songs of the birds always rising above the ever-present traffic on the surrounding streets. 

I cannot imagine what his walks are like, but I like think that to a dog everything smells like new Summer flowers, that everything is worth stopping and sniffing.

Earth laughs in flowers.  (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Monday, June 11, 2012

Buffalo Wings: A Magic Feather Update (4)

How beautiful a day can be
When kindness touches it!
(George Elliston)

It has been an incredible week for feathers, humbling and emotional, bright and full of untethered hope and encouragement.

My friend David, who has been with me since those long-ago-days at Barnes and Noble back in the safe confines of The Shire-like Midwest, who I have known longer than I have known Ken, and who has been as true as steel, sent me an incredible box full of every kind of feather imaginable, from giant, magnificent parrot feathers––metal blue on one side and sunlight gold on the other––to the tiniest, most delicate fluffs of white no bigger than a baby's fingernail. There are no words to express my awe and gratitude at his generosity and faith in me. I love him like I love the Russian Olives, like I love the appearance of the flowers on the Lindens, like I love the first true day of Spring.

Lori, my faithful friend, first blog buddy, and published author, and her wonderful husband Tom, sent me a peacock tail feather that dazzles my eye. It was tucked into a box that contained an incredible afghan that Lori spent weeks crocheting just for me. While it arrived in the hottest day of the year and won't be getting much use for quite awhile, it is sure to bring as much comfort on a cold winter night as her feather will on my flight. Meeting and getting to know Lori and Tom has brought me unspeakable joy and I am forever in their debt.

Jyoti, another amazing person I met through our blogs and a shared love of Golden Retrievers, sent a gorgeous card with a beautiful dog print and a single beautiful feather tucked inside. It is striped and soft, as vibrant and strong as her spirit and will make an excellent traveling companion. Jyoti is the owner of Sedona Body and Soul in Sedona, AZ. If you're in the area and need a massage, or have health issues that you'd like treated holistically, please pay her a visit and let her know Duncan and Curt sent you. She's a remarkable person and I'm lucky to have found her.

Kemia, one of my oldest and dearest friends, sent a feather she found recently while visiting Croatia. I have known Keem since before I could grow a mustache and have been blessed by her place in my life every day since we first spoke. She has seen me through my awkward adolescence, the challenges of college, and the triumphs of becoming the man I am. Few people have had the kind of faith in me that she has and my life has been forever altered and improved for her place in it. On her card she wrote, 

"My sole intention for you since my journey began was to cast you bravely into the world, and every step along the way I have meditated upon you and wished and prayed for your heart to be still so you can easily take flight. So, so many places await you and require your artists eye and writers pen..." 

Thank you, Keem. From the bottom of my heart. You are an inspiration.

I received a wonderful letter from my father who included an ink drawing of a feather. His words of encouragement moved me deeply and knowing his feather came from his own hand, was drawn with love and faith, brought me to tears. Thank you, dad, for your belief in me. It means more than you will ever know.

And finally I received a packet of feathers my mother sent. Several weeks ago on Memorial Day she and Kevin and my uncle Dennis visited my grandparents grave only to discover several feather laid out neatly near Grandpa's headstone. My grandfather was a dedicated fly-fisherman and spent countless nights tying his own flies, many of them from the feathers he found on his long walks. Mom grabbed them, knowing how much they would mean to me, how remarkable they were. I miss you, Grandpa. Thank you for your gift. Skinadinkinaw!

And thank you to all the people who have supported and encouraged me on this next phase in my recovery. These past few weeks have touched me deeply, brought me to tears, overwhelmed me with the goodness and generosity out there in the world. I am the luckiest person alive to have been touched by so many remarkable souls and wonder what I possibly could have done to deserve so much kindness. I cannot express how deeply you have all impacted my life, strengthened my spirit when I need it most, and brought one silly man in Colorado so much joy.

As a reminder, my family and I will be leaving for Buffalo on Wednesday of next week. If you'd like to send me a feather it's not too late. While I will never stop accepting your feathers, the deadline for entering my contest will end on the 15th when one lucky winner's name will be drawn to receive a thank you prize from Duncan and myself. To request my address please send me an email with the words, "Feathers for Flight" in the subject line. The winner will be drawn on the 15th. Please include the name and kind of pet/s you have, if that's the case.

Again, thank you all.

Friday, June 8, 2012


Tonight, sitting on the patio with Dunc, who was watching a bunny scamper across the parking lot, several of the neighborhood children were playing on the grass down below. They each carried a small toy sword that someone had wrapped in colored electrician tape: one neon blue, one dark red and one bright green.

"I'm Luke Skywalker," one little boy exclaimed.

"You can't be Luke Skywalker. You're black," his white sister told him.

"There's no color in space," another boy, the youngest of the group, corrected her.

"Fine, then Zane can be Luke Skywalker, but I'm Princess Leia."

"No," Zane told her. "You have to be Darth Vader because your lightsaber is red."

"But my name is Leia," she huffed. "That means I'm Princess Leia."

"Nope," the young one said. "You're Darth Vader."

"Fine," she sighed, swinging her lightsaber with resignation.

"I'm Yoda," the little one said after a moment of thoughtful contemplation. "My saber is green. And I'm wearing green."

"And you're short," Zane interjected.

"I'm not that short."

"Fine. Leia is Darth Vader, I'm Luke Skywalker and you're Yoda."

Leia, still not happy with being assigned the role of the villain sighed. "Whatever. But Duncan gets to be Chewbacca. Because he's hairy."

"And cute," the little Yoda said.

"Now go ask his dad if he can come out and play," Leia said, unaware that we were on the patio listening the entire time.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Weathering the Storms

It has been a rough twenty-four hours for Duncan. Leaving work last night I saw the black skies above Littleton and knew he was home, huddled in the dark of the bathroom, panting and pacing in circles as the thunder cracked the sky outside. I hurried as fast as I could but when I got home the worst of seemed to have passed. He was glad to see me so we went on a walk until the shadows darkened the sky and the raindrops began to come down, big and warm, evaporating on the hot sidewalk almost as soon as they touched. The clouds to the south billowed up miles tall, bigger than mountains, and almost as soon as we were safe inside the storm began again in earnest. I turned on the television, pulled the blinds, slipped Dunc into his Thundershirt, gave him some of the Valerian Root drops Chelsea at Hero's Pets recommended and distracted him with a good game of tug on the stuffed frog he loves so much, the one that used have arms and legs and eyes.

The storm was bad, especially south and east of here, where they always seem to go on Summer evenings. I stood on the patio watching the sky ignite, listening to the continuous thunder as each veiny branch and limb of the trees was illuminated by the lightning. An hour or so later I fell asleep on the couch and didn't wake again until 12:30, when, it seems, all of Denver woke up. At first I didn't know what was happening, only that Winnie, Pip and Olive were fighting for a place on my chest as they leaned into my face, all three staring intently at me, their whiskers ticking my chin and cheeks. Duncan was whining and climbing onto the couch next to me. The TV was loud and the blinds were closed so I jumped up, opened the patio doors and stepped out into the most incredible storm I've ever seen in Denver.

The thunder was loud and unending, each blast bleeding into the next so that the night sounded like a freight train was passing over it. The lightning was constant, so much so that I daresay I could have read my Kindle comfortably in the flashes. The rain was heavy and loud, coming down in solid sheets, slapping the pavement and pooling up until the parking lot looked like a lake. And then it began to hail, big rocks of ice that pelted the windows and drove me indoors. The cats and Dunc stayed close on my heels, following me from room to room as I checked the windows. Duncan was far more anxious than he would have been without the shirt, but the storm was so loud he couldn't help but be afraid. I stood in the window and watched, fascinated, as the night exploded above us. But the strangest thing was that throughout it all, the trees, not even the big Linden outside my window, moved at all. The air was motionless except for the churning of the water and ice. There was no wind at all.

The storm had abated by 1:30, when Ken finally arrived home from work, but the rain was still heavy and the ground outside was thick with ice. I wanted to take Duncan out but he wouldn't go, so we went to bed, the cats climbing on top of us, their eyes glued to the windows where bursts of lightning continued to flash around and between the slats of the blinds.

The morning was calm and cool, and smelled sweeter than any I can remember. The creek behind the house, which only yesterday was barely a trickle, was swollen and near to reaching its banks, but the morning seemed calm and quiet. Even the birds were silent, as though afraid to move for fear that the storm would return. Duncan and I ventured across the street to the park where I expected to see branches and limbs, torn from the trees, littering the grounds. But that was not the case. Leaves, tattered by the hail, their green skins mottled and limp and reptilian, were scattered everywhere, and the last of the blossoms littered the ground in brown, gelatinous clumps, some of them sticking to patches of hail so deep it looked like snow. 

The morning warmed but another band of storms began to form to the north and west of us so we have spent much of the day playing inside trying to ignore the low thunder which will continue into the wee hours of the morning. Dunc is exhausted from the anxiety, but the Thundershirt is keeping him more relaxed than those terrible days before we had one.

The sky is blue now, the birds are loud, singing a whole days worth of songs, but clouds are gathering and rising, and the storms have promised to return tonight. I'll keep close to Roo and together we'll weather it.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Buffalo Wings: A Magic Feather Update (3)

It has been a windy week, with the trees bending over themselves, their boughs and leaves making the most divine music as they sway. And the feathers have been blowing in from all over the world.

I received three bright feathers from Sue, my friend from Sunny Sandy Eggo, keeper of the heartfelt and celebratory blog, Random Ramblings. Sue is an incredible woman who volunteers her generous spirit and the love of her dogs at local hospitals even as she heads up the San Diego Golden Meet-Up Group. She is a tireless survivor, a dedicated mother, and throws one hell of a Halloween party. She recently visited her favorite feather shop and found the most remarkable blue, violet and purple feathers a gay man could ask for. They're perfect in every way!

Marianne and her Golden, Finn, sent me a long, robin's egg blue feather from where they live in New York City. Their blog is fun, adventurous and always brings a smile to my face. Please stop by and tell them Curt and Duncan sent you.

Denise, a new Facebook friend and bird lover, sent a beautiful card and numerous feathers she collected over the years from her African Grays, Benni and Teeka, Chippy, her Cherry Head Conure, Lucy her Cockatiel, and feathers from Stella and Stanley Kowalski, whom she's fostering. They're an incredible variety of greens, grays, yellows, mango-colors, and the purest, fluffiest white. They arrived on the same day the very first hummingbird to visit the hanging basket I keep on my patio arrived. Enclosed was a beautiful note: 

"Legends say that hummingbirds float free of time, carrying our hopes for love, joy and celebration. The hummingbirds delicate grace reminds us that life is rich, beauty is everywhere, every personal connection has meaning and that laughter is life's sweetest creation."

My old friend April and her sons, Henry and Thomas, sent a wonderful card with feathers from every color in the rainbow: speckled and spotted reds and green, blues and yellows, startling pinks and rich turquoise. The messages the boys included read, "Good luck, Love Henry" and "For Curt, Don't Fly Away! Love, Thomas." I will keep them near me always.

And finally, Caryl, blogger and acclaimed author of MaxDog, the true story of her Golden, Max, who became her rock and helped save and change her life during one of the most difficult times Caryl faced. Despite the vast distances of the world, Caryl and I somehow found each other and have shared our stories. She is a strong woman, and one I admire greatly. Her feathers, grey and small, from a dove who never quite learned to fly, arrived at my mailbox all the way from South Africa. I am touched by her generosity and kind spirit. In her note she wrote: 

"Remember, courage is not the absence of fear, but that special person's ability to embrace it... Fly Curt, fly!!!"

I have been greatly touched by the support of my friends and readers. Each day I am reminded how blessed I am, how fortunate I have been to walk with Duncan, who has led me so many places and helped introduce me to so many remarkable and kind people. My life has been forever changed by your unfailing belief in me.

Thank you all!

As a reminder, it's still not too late to send your own feathers, in whatever form you find them. In the past I've received original artwork, music, newspaper clippings, smudge wands, and just about everything else you can imagine. Everyone who sends a feather will be entered into a contest to win a prize picked out by Duncan and me. All entries must be received by June 15th when I will send the winner their package. My family and I don't depart to Buffalo until the 20th so I will continue to receive feather until then. Simply send me an email with "Feather for Flight" in the subject field and I will gladly send you my mailing address. Don't wait too much longer. There are only eleven days left!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Afternoon Dreams

Sitting quietly doing nothing, spring comes, and the grass grows by itself. (Zen proverb)

It is on days like this––when the storm seems to sit forever above the northwest horizon, far away and never breaking but dark enough to dirty the daylight; when the warm whispering breath of the breeze wants nothing more than to shout and become something bigger than we'd like; when the grass-clippings, newly mowed and damp from this morning's watering–– smelling sweet and lusty––like nothing more than to green our feet and catch between our toes, tickling each step we take––that there is nothing finer than to find a shaded spot beneath a birch on a gently sloping hillside and simply listen to the world be the world, to the cusp of the season struggle against the turning of the next, to rest your head against the soft rising and falling chest of your dog, and doze perhaps, if you see fit.

Ah, the bliss, when afternoons and afternoon dreams bleed so seamlessly together.