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Two o’clock this morning I was awake and afraid to go out of my bedroom because of not knowing whether my dog, Duke, would still be breathing or not. Jimmy was sleeping on the couch in the living room to be near him, just in case. He’s been in and out of the dog hospital the past couple weeks while they tried to figure out what was going on with him and they decided on Monday that a cancerous tumor on his spleen was causing his declining health. Actually, he was in pretty serious condition when he went back to the vet’s office this past Saturday. I’ve been grieving since then and I guess I’m weary of the pain. The pain of grief is odd – it seems to rise to the surface and be multiplied by each loss that is experienced. I think partly because it is simply a reminder of other losses but also each loss has some regrets associated with it and each loss permanently removes a blessing and a joy of some kind from our lives that we must learn to do without. And then once you’ve experienced many losses, you know there will be others, possibly even harder to accept and adjust to than the previous ones. Once it rises to the surface, grief seems to consume your thoughts and gets you centered up on the empty half of the glass and all negatives of life in this world.
I guess Duke represents so much more to me than just a good dog. He somehow reflects all the good in my life – the uncomplicated, non-demanding, un-annoying good in my life. Simple joy and blessing and unconditional love. I feel like I’ve taken him for granted, believing he’d always be here with me but that’s how I felt with every good thing I’ve ever had and lost. There is regret for not appreciating the person (or thing) more and really, consciously taking note of the joy their presence brings into my life. I’m wishing I had taken more note of the pleasure brought to me each day that we’ve had Duke here with us, alive and well. But I suppose it could be exhausting being fully conscious every day of everyone and everything and being extremely conscientious about expressing it to them as well. Maybe it’s better just enjoying our many blessings more naturally and less intensely and obsessively.
Duke has also represented life to me somehow. We got Duke 10.5 years ago during an extremely grief-filled time for our family. We had just experienced a grave loss that week when my niece was killed in a car accident. Her husband and six week old puppy had survived the accident. We had all been together as a family the day before the accident to celebrate Stacie’s birthday and had all marveled over her wonderful new springer spaniel/australian shepherd mix puppy, one of her birthday gifts. She had told us that there was one last puppy available, her puppy’s twin, and she had given us the contact info for the owner. Jimmy and I made the decision to go ahead and get the twin to her puppy the day after she died, mainly to give our children a diversion and a small joy in the midst of all the grief. Duke has been sort of a constant reminder of Stacie to me all these years. Of her death, inescapably yes, but more so of her life because I always associate Duke with that day our family was together enjoying Stacie on her birthday and participating in the joy of her new puppy which caused us to think about obtaining one of our own.
Duke ended up coming down with Parvo two weeks after we got him and miraculously pulled through. I bonded with him during that time. I’d go visit him at the dog hospital where he was all tubed up and sit with him and tell him how much we all needed for him to live and be part of our family. I prayed for him to survive so that our kids would not have the pain of him dieing added to the grief of Stacie’s death that we were all still so acutely experiencing. I probably invested way more emotionally than I should have in a pet because of the circumstances and somehow came to see Duke as a survivor like his brother who had been in the accident.
It’s hard to watch suffering, especially if you are a “fixer” like me. I function much better if I can actually do something to help bring comfort to someone or relieve a burden in some way. It is also so hard to let go, especially when it is a prolonged letting go. Having to remain in an indefinite, suspended state of relinquishment and resignation is almost harder somehow than sudden, unexpected, forced separation.
Usually, goodbye means, I’ll see you again soon or I’ll see you next time but when you’ve already acknowledged the upcoming final separation that will be occurring, each encounter can be more painful than the last. Jimmy says, “Prolonged goodbyes don’t really extend the visit, just the goodbye.” Perhaps that also is part of the pain, the extended goodbye with Duke is causing me to relive all the other final goodbyes in my life and in the lives of others in my family who are dear to me, who have had painful goodbyes or are currently experiencing extended goodbyes of their own. Life does go on and other people and interests or even pets seem to fill in the gaps a bit but never really fully replace those who are no longer with us.
Duke was doing better this morning and so am I. I’m going to enjoy each moment I have with him and try to do the same with all the other things and people in my life that the Lord has blessed me with. He and I went for a short walk and he found a big stick to bring to me like he always does and I smiled and felt joy in the moment. I’m certain there will be more pain but I will delight, with thanksgiving, in each occasion of joy.
This poly-litho print was first a composite of photographed items in my neighborhood. My son Josh and I took about 20 minutes when he was here for the weekend recently and shot photos on our property and next door. The US Forest Service has been doing some thinning in my front yard (I'm 15 ft. from the forest boundary) and the eight stump is probably about 40 yards from my front door on the Cibola National Forest. It was a fun find.
That's it for the 8x8x8. I had more ideas but ran out of time. I think I'll be glad to be able to think about art in a different format than 8"x8" and maybe my obsession with "eight" is finally over.
My first attempt at a mosaic (sort of) with Glass Graveyard and Kelly (ghost town near Magdalena) dump finds along with some other odds and ends. Even some crash glass swept up from the road near my grandmother's house in Socorro. The images behind the two bigger glass glob thingees are of the rings from a blue ringed octopus.
One more to post for the 8x8x8.
The scans of these clocks have 'photoshopped' hands in these images but they are now real clocks. The one on the left is one of those typical mixed media, never could be duplicated sorta pieces. All the texture was accidental, a result of an attempt to deviate from the recommended components of a crackle technique. The one on the right turned out a bit more like it was supposed to except that the background (which was the residue of a failed photo transfer) added a yellow cast that I don't love. Someone who saw it recently said that they loved the "quinacridone gold" color of it so I guess it is all in the eye of the beholder. :) The show isn't until this Friday and I've already sold the one on the left (have the check and everything -- thanks Josh and Stacy) and possibly the other clock as well. woo-hoo!
I just scanned this piece to replace the photo on the 8x8x8 blog so I thought I'd post it here as well. As usual, photos just don't do any favors for artwork. It's better in person. All the red squares are high gloss and then the prints on the black squares are matte. I like it. I don't want to sell it. :( I might just mark it sold and keep it.