Friday, July 8, 2011


It's a bit late for honoring Independence Day, but since I missed Christmas, Valentine's Day, Easter, and every other day in between my last post and this, I'm hoping I'll be forgiven for being a few days late with this lovely photo of Geni. Geni has practically become the poster-girl for Instinctive Impressions, and I found this portrait particularly stunning...a GSD in her full, radiant maturity. So we'll let her represent Summer in all its glory.

"Hey, love your blog." "When are you posting a new blog?" "We've got to get you blogging again." I've heard these and dozens of similar comments these past few months. Finally, here's an evening when I intend to break the grip of inertia.

Intentions...funny things, those. Some days' events force me to wonder why I bother planning or scheduling at all. One thing goes awry and the domino effect crashes every other intended activity for the day. All that careful choreography goes right out the window. Sometimes the forces blowing you off-course have been in effect for a long time, years perhaps, all the while you somehow avoid seeing that your ship has been careening towards the rocky shoreline all along. I'm still regaining consciousness from just such a crash-landing. Bruised, battered, bewildered, but on my feet again.

But on this particular Friday I had occasion to ponder the illusion of control that we like to believe our personal decisions make in our own lives. I'd made a simple plan, merely intending (see how insidious it is?) to drive to New Bloomfield to visit Ieuan and Uma, who are in training for their schutzhund titles with friends of mine at Muddy River K-9. I miss them both but Ieuan desperately, he having been my hiking buddy for the past nearly three years since he was past puppyhood. So, with arrangements made for care of the rest of the crew, I was set to make the 5.5 hour round trip, planning (there's that word again) to take Ieaun hiking at Little Buffalo State Park and generally spend time renewing our bond.

That was before I looked at the weather map. An entire week of sheer summertime perfection behind us, with a lovely weekend predicted...but the one day I planned (sigh) to spend with my beloved Ieaun, and Mother Nature had other plans...severe thunderstorms coinciding exactly with the time frame set aside for the trip. Since the intention (!) was to be outdoors, suddenly the plan (I give up) needed revision.

Revision in this case meant bagging it, with hopes to reschedule again soon before my dogs forget me entirely. With an entire day suddenly opened up before me, and the predicted storm not yet descended upon Northeastern PA, I leashed Ieuan's half-sis Ember, threw on walking shoes and headed for the hills with no particular deadline and no particular destination, only a vague goal of keeping my face to the sun until it was obscured behind the encroaching storm clouds.

Today's ruined plans, like the shattered shell of an egg, had released the golden possibilities within. Back in May my daughter and I and a friend walked the West Highland Way in Scotland...after conditioning to walk fifteen to twenty miles a day, it's been hard since then to find satisfaction in the abbreviated walks that time typically allows...six to eight miles may not sound short, but for bodies conditioned for more, it's frustrating. So a few miles along our usual route I guided Ember up a side road, on the impulse that the sun would hit me more squarely in that direction. A mile or so later a path lead off to the left, following a pipeline right-of-way steeply uphill....the broad brambly way finally reached a saddle at the base of a larger mountain, from which I could see the infinite slash of the right-of-way cutting an unbending line through forests and over hills beyond. But to the left a narrower logging trail beckoned upwards again, into the forest. I couldn't resist, and Ember was handling the heat well, so we left the sunshine for the woods.

The track was made by motorized vehicles, with nary a bend or switch-back, and given the steepness of the grade I found myself grabbing a sapling for balance whenever I stopped to catch my breath. As we climbed, the track became a foot path which deteriorated to a barely-discernible deer trail, and still we climbed. By now vague memories were flashing across my mind of a climb done fifteen years or so ago with the more with instinct than conscious thought, I chose lefts and rights as the paths branched, ultimately emerging onto a rocky plateau known locally as Bald Mountain.

About then the trainer texted, saying I'd made a wise choice since they were anticipating 4" of rain. Another friend texted to say it was pouring in NJ. There I was, drying my sweaty self on a sun-warmed boulder atop a peak that gave me a 360 degree vista of the most gorgeous landscape imaginable, with no where to be but here, no requirements but to enjoy the moment, with a happy dog licking water from pockets in the rocks and grinning her appreciation of the outing. Plans? Who needs plans when simply being is everything?

We make our plans, we may even take the appropriate actions to see those plans through, and we expect things to turn out as we imagined...the fairy-tale fueled imaginings of our childhoods. But one thing, one unforeseen or misinterpreted happenstance, can deconstruct our world. The trick, then, is to recognize the value in the bits and pieces revealed in the deconstruction process, the raw elements of potential joy.

A friend sent me this tonight from an album titled (I think) Plans, and though not exactly derived from the same thought process, I thought I'd include it:

"What Sarah Said"
-- Death Cab for Cutie

And it came to me then that every plan is a tiny prayer to father time
As I stared at my shoes in the ICU that reeked of piss and 409
And I rationed my breaths as I said to myself that I'd already taken too much today
As each descending peak of the LCD took you a little farther away from me

Amongst the vending machines and year-old magazines in a place where we only say goodbye
It stung like a violent wind that our memories depend on a faulty camera in our minds
But I knew that you were a truth I would rather lose than to have never lain beside at all
And I looked around at all the eyes on the ground as the TV entertained itself

'Cause there's no comfort in the waiting room
Just nervous pacers bracing for bad news
And then the nurse comes round and everyone will lift their heads
But I'm thinking of what Sarah said that "Love is watching someone die"

So who's going to watch you die?..

In explaining the theme of the album, Ben Gibbard said the following:
I don't think there's necessarily a story, but there's definitely a theme here. One of my favorite kind of dark jokes is, 'How do you make God laugh? You make a plan.' Nobody ever makes a plan that they're gonna go out and get hit by a car. A plan almost always has a happy ending. Essentially, every plan is a tiny prayer to Father Time. I really like the idea of a plan not being seen as having definite outcomes, but more like little wishes.