Tuesday, January 31, 2012

About a Dog

“I am chained to the earth to pay for the freedom of my eyes. ~Antonio Porchia, Voces, 1943

I found Pickles curled up in the empty alcove pouting, where the Christmas tree used to be. She wouldn’t even look at me, turning away shifting her head from one paw to the other. With my heart in my throat, I slid down the wall beside her and pulled her chin up on my outstretched legs. She muzzled my hand in apology, confused by her own behavior.

For Pickles, the Christmas tree’s beacon of bright colorful lights has disappeared, gone were those days of curling beneath branches mesmerized by the dazzling luminosity. Charcoal black eyes full of questions search my face for answers. She senses love, momentarily forgetting tree lights and the luxury they afforded her darkening world as I hug her close.

“We make a pair – a deaf woman and her blind dog. You’re so much more than a working dog, always have been.” I whisper reassuring. “We’ll get through this, together.” She perks up at the mention of work. She lives to work and it serves twofold as the reason for her distress lately. Little does she comprehend I could never repay all she’s done already. Gentle sweet Pickles hid the signs well. Yet, the signs were there weren’t they sweet friend - the slow darkening of your eyes with a hazy sheen dimming their brown luminosity, along with the deteriorating night vision.

Pickles told me without words she needed help the day she stood at the top of the stairs with her front paws on the top stair and her hind legs perched on the floor above waiting. Her confusion gave it away, as she cocked her head to listen, waiting for me to go first – to lead, instead of bounding down the stairs ahead of me like the puppy she was at heart. I knew something had changed as I swiped at tears. I knew things would never be the same again when I tapped the step I stood on, and watched her listen, tuning into each footfall to locate a stair, teaching herself how to handle stairs once again. I learned a heartrending beautiful lesson in humility that day from her.

As I sit beside her, I’m reminded of the first time she taught me to hear without my ears. The Spring day she pointed out a woodpecker in a tree, her eyes guiding mine to where the bird tapped away in a staccato like a pile driver and the utter delight she had shown - chest puffed up, prancing on her front paws when I smiled in wonder and hugged her close. In the following years, I would continue to hear through her, seeing life not as a deaf woman but whole, unhindered through her eyes - eyes, which slowly darken and blur with each passing day. We two complete each other. This animal taught me more thoroughly about life and resilience than any human being could ever have.

Time is a thief, stealing irreplaceable things from our lives. Yet, Pickles remains a testament to the things time can’t touch: hope, courage, love, and perseverance. Despite loss and occasionally wanting to give up, we still go on, we still learn from one another, and hold each other up in an indelicate balance of emotional turbulence to the light of day.

Drawing a deep breath, I gently push Pickles off my lap and go get her leash. I’ll let her nose sniff out where we go from here. This survivor of Katrina, heartworms, and me, has more courage than anyone I know - she’ll be fine, we both will, and someday our story might even make a remarkable book. After all, life is filled with colorful characters and plots overflowing to the brim with life experiences and endurance. This writer lives her story word for word each day with an amazing sidekick…

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Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Sound of Memory

“These images in vivid and violent tones have resulted from (the) crystallization of memories.” – Henri Matisse

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Pickles sits up, rapt, her concentration focused on the driveway with her ears up listening. After a few seconds, her back relaxes, she turns toward me her eyes asking if I knew what alarmed her – tires crunching on gravel from a car pulling in the driveway, the motor purring in reverse as it backs up to turn around, a quiet throttle when the car drives off. Satisfied she settles back down and closes her eyes. I thought nothing of the distraction and went back to reading over my revisions for my book.

As I read, something niggled away at my thoughts…gravel crunching, motor purring, the click-clack of pebbles knocking together, the muted roar of the wind through the trees. I couldn’t breathe, left speechless by an avalanche of sound. Not hearing sounds, memories of sounds, sounds I used to pick up. I skimmed back over the chapter I had just read - there were no sounds.

I had become so accustomed to filling in the blanks when it came to hearing, I automatically used visual metaphors in their place; body movements became emotional indicators, missing sounds were laced in physical backdrops. All of these things together had painted a panorama of all the senses but sound. With words, I had managed to bring my world, a world absent of sound, alive. Would anyone have noticed eventually? Maybe, maybe not... if you close your eyes and plug up your ears, on some level you still hear those everyday sounds - water dripping from the faucet, the dog panting, the cat’s vibrato throaty meow, or the creak of wood floors underneath. You know they’re there without me telling you. Just as Pickles’ reaction alerted me to a car turning around in the driveway.

We automatically equate certain sounds with items or places, when we're given a visual perspective our sensory memories kick in to fill in the blanks. There are five senses in which a writer can delve into – hearing, sight, touch, smell, and taste. Is it possible for sensory overload to the point of telling not showing when writing? Definitely. So in the end does sound matter? I think hearing is one of top five senses when it comes to describing something. Sound connects the writer and reader on a familiar stage. I remember sounds, voices, echoes carried between the space of two people. I intend to use all the tools at my fingertips to broaden my world and yours…with the sound of memory.

On a separate note: I wanted to share the song - Broaden a New Sound by Nobody & Mystic Chords of Memory. A perfect fit for this post. The music is a blend of psychedelic and groovy, or so I read. Smashing Pumpkins comes to mind with that description, you’ll have to look up Nobody & Mystic Chords of Memory and let me know. I’ve included the lyrics for your enjoyment.

Broaden a New Sound

A walk sounded good,
maybe find an old bench made of wood.
There I could look around.
Bring up all the things that were bringing me down
and let go, so let go
Let go. Let go.
Broaden a new sound.
The wind, a bird and a broken branch
You'd like to hold it down
but it only knows ears
and it doesn't know hands

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Picture from here

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Growth Is Optional

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“The lust for comfort, that stealthy thing that enters the house a guest, and then becomes a host, and then a master.” – Khalil Gibran

The rain pounds down on the house in torrents throwing speckled shadows across the walls from gray-lit windows. I can’t help but relax in a state of quiet enjoyment, while watching the pellet stove fire blaze crimson and burnt umber. Solitude is preferable these days after the mad rush of holiday glee and New Year symbolism thrust upon me. Not to mention the changes that wrought themselves into the mix of realism.

Changes you say, surely for the better right? Not if you’re a creature of habit, who likes her comfort zone a little too much.

If we want to get downright literal about what exactly a comfort zone is, the Collins World Dictionary gives this definition – n a situation or position in which a person feels secure, comfortable, or in control. Now why in the world would someone, anyone want to give that up? The self-effacing answer - your comfort can become stagnant to the point of imprisonment, locked in a set of safe guards that block any chance of growth. When we get too comfortable, we stop challenging ourselves, don’t aspire for much, and our boundaries shrink considerably.

Turns out, our prison guard is none other than fear rapping against the bars whenever we consider trying something new or challenging. I’m sadly familiar with my prison guard – me. No one else can step over the boundaries I created for myself or sequester me away from knowledge, want, fortitude and growth. We’re supposed to build safeguards to protect ourselves, not to hinder us from enriching our lives.

The latest computer virus tested the boundaries of my comfort zone like you wouldn’t believe. Favorite programs were outdated and disabled. I had no choice, learn something new or stay locked into a system of fail going nowhere fast. Here’s the thing, as much as I don’t like change, I resent the ‘boxed in and giving up’ option even more. I learned a valuable lesson adapting to my deafness – I own my choices, they’re mine and mine alone to make.

Sometimes the simplest things wreak havoc with our comfort zones. There’s nothing wrong with simple days and moments of contentment, as long as you don’t use those very tools to keep you from moving forward and living in fear of what’s around the corner. Honestly, there are days I’m afraid to walk out the door, I’m afraid of newfangled programs on my laptop, or keeping up with technology, and silence, and love and loss, and yes, there are days words and my ability to wield them frighten me. Fear is an ingrained part of us all; don’t let it be your prison guard. Life is far too short to limit the breadth of your accomplishments.

Today…amid the comfort of a roaring fire, with a warm pup at my feet, I brandished words against my fears. I’ve stepped outside of my comfort zone in search of knowledge, life, mystery – the list is endless. Words still scare the hell out of me, but I’m determined to conquer each one in a tableau of prose. You are what you want to be, I’m a writer, I broke out of my comfort zone…did you?

*On a side note: I stopped using IE (Internet Explorer). Readers who are using IE are encountering problems leaving a comment on the embedded form. One option available is to download either Google Chrome or Firefox as a backup. If you do download one or the other and still want IE as your prominent browser, don’t click the default option when you download and IE should still remain the default. You will simply need to switch over to either Chrome or Firefox to browse Blogger. I hope this helps my IE readers.

I’m always open to receiving comments through email at ravensquietscreams@gmail.com . In addition, I can now reply to comments left in the comment section, thanks to a new option for Blogger users using the embedded comment form.

Image from here.

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Saturday, January 7, 2012

Like Water by Stone

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“The pages, in the wind, flew, were fluffed and ruffled like water by stones into a tune.”
– Lynn Emanuel

As years end approached, I found myself kicking furiously at the metaphorical hands clasped around my ankles tormenting me like a whirlwind hell-bent against a lone leaf left on a skeletal tree limb.

Falling was not an option; stumbling in giddy enthusiasm as I escorted the year out was definitely a possibility. Of course, the days dragged and lagged one into another and I held my breath hoping the other shoe forgot to drop. *Friends rallied around exclaiming 2012 would be my year. “My year?” I snarled at the black screen in front of me, after discovering my computer had given me a virtual middle finger salute in the form of a ‘malicious virus’.

A lone leaf wafts down…

The following days would split the current of my emotions as if gravel skipped ashore and tumbled into gemstones forged of quiet repose and forgotten moments. Days made of quiet self-satisfied smiles learning new recipes and enjoying the scent of decadent aromas wafting up from the stove. Moments spent beside a pup as she grumbled and snorted in her sleep farting, only to wake up to my groans of protest and laughter; coupled by breathless days of gentle snowfall powdering bare branches and the grass in a linen sheet of cotton tufts. Waves of euphoria rose and hurtled against the shore of uneasy resolve, like a turbulent sea flowing into a rambling brook parting over river stones of promise.

I was going to attempt to write about a year of my life (which I found impossible to condense). A year not so easily dismissed once memory serves to remind me of the tranquility submerged between the waves of who I am. Lynn Emanuel wrote, “My spelling faltered under the spell of myself.” – I know that feeling and as long as I live a life filled with an aria of words, each year will be my year.

A rumpled leaf waves playfully through the windowpane, dancing to the tune of the winds cadence before disappearing…

*You can find Lynn Emanuel’s poem Itemhere in all its exquisite, curious beauty.
** To those well-meaning friends, thank you for reminding me of what’s important, even if I need a push in the right direction from time to time.

Picture can be found here.
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