Tuesday, February 26, 2019

On Editing

Got 20 more chapters edited today.   Hope to have the new book to the publisher by next Monday.  Thanks for your patience - Brigid

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Another Day of Novel Editing

And a huge shout out to my beta readers!!!  (by the way, that's a Chip McCormick Power Mag for a Springfield 1911 with extended tips, 8 round).  The "THIS is a knife" is in case of feral squirrel attack.

Sunday Eats - Swedish Waffles

Einkorn flour is an ancient grain and the only flour in the US that is not genetically modified. Most people with gluten sensitivity (like me, not Celiac, just don't digest flour well) can eat it.

This is a great waffle recipe. In a bowl mix

1 cup Young Living Einkorn Flour (there are other brands available online but this one is moderately priced)
1 tsp. sodium free Hain Baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon, low sodium salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon Cardamon
1 Tablespoon sugar

In another bowl mix
1 cup of buttermilk (or make your own by replacing a tablespoon of regular milk with lemon juice and letting it sit a few minutes
a dash of vanilla
2 and 1/2 Tablespoons melted butter
1 egg whisked.

Mix wet and dry ingredients and drop 1/3 cup into a Swedish Waffle iron. Serve with Young Living Ningxia Berry Syrup (a blend of blueberry, plum, sweet cherry, pomegranate and wolf (goji) berry with lemon and orange essential oil (SOOOO tasty and also a great pork glaze with a pat of melted butter, a clove of garlic, and some rosemary) and whipped cream. To order YL retail visit: https://www.youngliving.com/vo/…

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Calling All Authors

Calling all authors. I'm 95% done with the manuscript for my 5th book but I need some beta readers to alert me to any major plot holes or obvious typos (before it goes to my editor - the awesome Stephanie Martin). The book is about the philosophy and life lessons from being a pilot (Mr. B. that is a Clue by Four). If you are a long time reader or commenter and have time to do this before next weekend (when my rough draft is due to the publisher) please send your email via "do not post" comment or my google email if you have it. It's 71,000 words so not a super long read. If you do this I will make sure you get a free autographed copy when it is published in May and a link and shout out on the blog.

Sorry, but if you have never commented and ask for a copy and I don't know who you are I am not going to send, I've had people publish my previous books online in violation of copyright - trying to get others to subscribe to a service that provides illegal copies of hijacked works with no pay to the author.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

The Sea That Never Freezes - Last Chapter

I've started in on my 5th book "Compass Course". I don't write with an outline or even a plan - I do the opening chapter and the last and then fill in the middle. I can't complain - I've had two books hit #1 on Amazon and the other two in the top ten and have won 3 literary awards.  All the proceeds have gone to animal rescue and no one ever asks for my autograph, but the thanks from readers who have loved it have lifted my heart through some hard times of family loss.

I posted the first chapter of Compass Course a few months ago - then took a long break as Dad's house had to be sold and cleaned out and work was crazy. But I have 3 weeks of leave and I'm using it to write full time. I haven't had a real vacation in 28 years so why start now :-) Here is the last chapter (unedited).
Last night saw the city and most of the surrounding small towns come to a grinding halt.  Wind chills in the single digits and heavy, drifting and blowing snow resulted in a suspension of most casual traffic, only those that have to make the trek for employment and first responders and LE braving the ice and the drifts. Out in the small towns, there is little movement, but there are those hardy souls that won't let frostbite and politicians tell them what to do.

I had the blinds and all curtains closed against the cold, this new construction rental about as tight from the elements as gauze. Even with the little heater next to the desk, the chill eddy of cold licks in at my skin, as I go to get a warmer sweater and some thicker wool socks.

One needs to be prepared for such things. A few days ago it was in the upper 40's,  another sleight of hand from the greatest of magicians, Mother Nature. Machiavellians stroke on the part of that foe, a new battle towards which it channels ancient wounds, inflicting its grievance upon the land. It will likely arrive to do battle when you least expect it when the prolonged blow of the dark and ice sinks through the skull and lays its claim deep on the bones of the winter landscape. It will not be a day and night safe for man nor beast.
Other than the scrape of a blade in the driveway, a neighbor keeping my drive clear, in case the bat phone goes off. No birds, no clattering of cars starting up. Just the sound of the incessant wind, a  long, broad hum, as if through wires. There was to be a wedding at the local church, I wondered if that had been called off. There is little noise or movement, but the whine of a snow blower, maybe a half block away, the sound sticking to the cold air as if snow on a branch.

It's funny, I'm perfectly fine holing up at home for days with nothing but books, a kitchen, and some tools.  But tell me I can't drive to the store or run to the library, and I suddenly get cabin fever, peering out the window every so often, like a bird from a cage that fidgets with feathered annoyance.
I also noticed something else, something a little nicer.  My knee does not hurt.  After the fall that tore out my meniscus and the resultant surgery and physical therapy, my knee still hurt.  After six months, it was bearable but always there, a twinge,  much worse in cold weather.  Now, two years post-injury, with extra physical conditioning of the muscles that support it and dropping the extra pounds I had put on when I hit 40, I sit here and realize, it doesn't hurt.

It's not the pain that bothered me, I've dealt with pain.  It wasn't not being able to run, to jump to MOVE, quickly and without effort. It was crutches, then a cane.  It was sliding back in time, back to when I wasn't confident in my physical abilities when I was just a skinny, quiet little kid who was picked last for dodge ball, because frankly, I'd rather be inside reading a book that the teacher would think was inappropriate for someone my age.

It wasn't the pain, it wasn't an injury that in the grand scheme of things, wasn't very serious.  I realized at this point that what is dire profundity to the very young, is usually just "been there done that" to those of us in middle age, which is still preferable to the six-foot-deep and eighteen-foot square reality that faces us all eventually.
No,  it wasn't torn and missing cartilaginous tissue and the wobbly feeling I had every time I tried to use that leg.  It was losing a foothold I'd stretched so far and so hard for. It was realizing that we treat our bodies with a sense of entitlement we may eschew in other things as if breath was some plaything given to us just for our own pleasure. I look down on the small scars as if speaking to them. You will let me run, you will let me climb, you will let me explore and make mistakes and play. Now I can't walk up a flight of stairs. When our body fails us, it's like a personal betrayal

It's not just the knee - it's my heart.  It still gets enough blood pumping to get me out of bed every morning but it's cantankerous to the point I can't hold a pilot's medical any longer.  Sure, you can get a sports pilots license with a driver's license but not with a pre-existing condition that's been documented by your AME.  I have my scars but I have no regrets.  But it's tough getting old.

It's much as if seeing a beloved old building each and every day, an old church perhaps, the stones so study that time had not displaced it, could not ever displace it, not all of time could have.  Then one day you drive past and it's simply gone, razed and replaced by a shabbily built storefront that won't withstand a good wind.
I sat here in this spot during another storm, after I blew my knee out, the crutches up against the wall, the curtains drawn, as the pain in my body drove for an instant upon me, the thorns of slain flowers.  On that day, I wished to be anywhere but here. The sky was spilling snow, the only light there was laying low to the ground as if held down by the wind itself, unable to rise and move away. It was a day in which I could only sit immobile as the wind howled, dreaming in an Arctic landscape of a sea that never freezes and a landscape that is forever green.

It's easy to throw a pity party, and I was on the verge on that day I realized I was in a motorized scooter in WalMart, one place I swore I would never be.  But in that same moment, as my husband smiled down at me, his having been with me without fail since I got hurt, I realized all that I had. I also realized that putting the small end of the crutch out in front of me like a knight's lance, I could knock the Billy Bass out of the cart of the guy with no teeth.  Oh, sorry, accident, really. SCORE!
I am who I am through hurt and pain and failures and because of them.

Because of that, I know what is important. And that is all the endurance of which mind is capable, of which the flesh has an appetite for. That has kept me going on nights when all I could do was sit and hold a small faded photo, eyes, tightly shut, as if the light was diminished by its own grief, leaving only a lone huddled shadow upon the wall, pale and fading. That has kept me going when fate swiped a paw at me and I swiped back, harder, EPR's steady, left hand tight on the yoke, planting that craft on a piece of hard ground as small as my fear.
I get up from my chair and open the curtains up.  I'll have a higher heat bill, but for now, I want to look out, and up.  I look at the sun I've not seen in two days as the fierce wind hollowed the remaining light out of the sky, the light now holding a quality beyond heat and illumination.  I look up and see a flock of geese setting their own invisible contrails in the sky from a great yet gentle distance, their honk faint upon the wind, like thunder in a Spring sky.  It's a sky that will always be mine in my memory. I may not occupy it now but I will always own it.

In the distance the sound of a church bell, a deliberate note blowing free, like snow from a winter branch. Somewhere within, a priest lifts the Host in a series of shimmering gleams like warm rain that falls from the sky as vows are spoken, and what is broken is healed.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Love's Fine Blade

A Man's morning shave ritual.  It's something that's been done for centuries, even in the days of rampant beards, a number of men preferring to remain clean shaven. My brother always had a beard. With his red hair, build, and height he very much resembled a Viking, until cancer took 120 pounds off his frame, tempering his blade, honing his spirit.

Dad tried to grow a mustache once. It was in the early 70's, and was less than successful.  Dad had fine, dark red hair that resulted in a mustache that came in thin and sparse. I remember my Mom looking at the final outcome and trying her darnedest not to giggle and failing. Dad looked at with a wry smile and shrugged and went back to the bathroom and shaved it off.  Mom wasn't trying to belittle his efforts, her love fluttered over all of us like small wings, whisking away tears, and brushing aside fears.  She treated Dad the same way, but oh dear Lord, was that a sorry looking mustache and even Dad, realized it.
So from that day forward, each and every morning, Dad was in the bathroom shaving. For most men, the morning shave is something they must do each and every day.  It's done whether there is a houseful of kids bustling around, or they are on their own.

I remember my Dad's ritual which remains to this day.  After he does his morning work-out (which he has done six days a week for 80 years), he'd go shave.  He never uses an electric razor or any of the shave creams in a can.  No, Dad always has a mug of fine soap, a high-quality brush and a regular razor, with a straight razor when he wanted an extra close shave for a special occasion.

I remember vividly those winter mornings, all of us dressing quickly, not so much that the house was cold but hearts and blood and minds weren't quite awake yet and movement was with willful purpose until such time as the chocolate milk or the caffeine kicked in. Dad would come through the kitchen from where he worked out, giving my Mom a kiss, the morning sun highlighting the freckles on her face, then a kiss for each of us, still in our pajamas, our faces innocent of either guile or water.
While my brother and I tried to stay out of his way, he'd shave, the tiny half bath which was his bathroom, filling with steam. He was careful with the straight razor, pulling it over features as carefully as if they were oiled glass, rinsing the razor in hot water, as the dark stubble on his face brushed away like filings from a new gun barrel.  I simply watched from the kitchen table, carefully and quietly.  Dad was so intent in his task before he even drew down that fine blade in its first stroke, his attention was almost perceptible in the air, surrounding him as fragrance does, leaving a subtle impression of his intent long before the act was complete.

When he was done, he'd finish as he started, with a clean washcloth doused in extra hot water, laid on his face to steam it.  Then he'd finish with a splash of aftershave.  There were only a few that he would wear.
Brut was beyond popular when I was growing up, one of the first to use a celebrity endorsement to persuade men that grooming wasn't for wimps.  Famed heavyweight boxer Henry Cooper was the original "face" of Brut, urging men to "splash it all over"long before David Beckham had his first shave.

Then there was the Hai Karate. My Dad had some of that and was supremely disappointed and used to tease my Mom that his bottle must have been a dud as he didn't have to fend of any supermodels with karate chops like on the commercials. I don't remember what it smelled like but I don't think he ever had to fend off Mom wearing it, though, come to think of it, once, when he put on too much, she drove a golf ball from the back yard through the back kitchen window with a Five Iron.

Dad gave that up for Old Spice which he has worn ever since, though once in a while he'd put on "Stetson" and give Mom this look and she'd giggle and we'd go stay with our beloved Aunt and Uncle for a couple of days.
When I go home now, Mom's giggling laughter but an echo in the walls, Dad gives me a big hug and I can still smell the Old Spice on his shirt, that "Dad" smell that's both reassurance and comfort.

Now, there's not just aftershave, there is cologne, shampoo, body washes, shampoo/body washes (and the difference is?)

Most advertise themselves to smell like "fresh glacier extinguishing a giant forest fire full of deer in heat" or such things.  I think the perfect man natural scent would be some sort of mysterious combination of gun cleaning fluid, coffee, bacon, woodsmoke, and dark beer (with a slight undertone of 20-year-old British Motor Car Wheel Bearing Grease.)  But I love Dad's Old Spice and the sandalwood scent my husband wears.
I'm happy my husband has much of the same ritual as my Dad, with the soap in a mug and the high-quality brush. I get the soap for my husband's shave mug from

  • Horse Creek Soap Company
  • (friends of the Blogorado hosts) and cut a piece big enough for his mug, leaving a little chunk for hand soap. It smells incredible and lasts such a long time, with a soft, creamy lather. (they make shower scrubs, lotions and soaps for the ladies as well). 

The bottom of the mug can be filled with hot water, so that the suds above stay warm, which makes a straight razor more effective.  As yes, my engineer husband often uses one, so it's a closer shave.

He shaves at night after I've had my bubble bath, and as I curl up on the sofa with a splash of Scotch. he'll begin that ritual.  He's shaved in hundreds of hotels, in countries all over the world, the ritual much the same yet, there's something almost peaceful about the act performed in one's own bathroom, in one's own home, small rituals of sameness.
Many of us wander all over the world, the esteemed and the obscure, the bold and the invisible, earning beyond the oceans our riches, our scars, and our destiny. But when we go home, we are rendering an account, we are sweeping away those things we picked up that pull us down, as we surround ourselves with the familiar, with that which is cherished.

When he is done, he'll join me on the couch in his bathrobe, his measure of Scotch already poured, the house quiet but for hundred-year-old sconces on the walls that lend the room an aura of timelessness.  We won't talk much but of family, of things in our home that need repair, or simply our day as we sit and stroke the flanks of an old black dog that lies beside us.  Such rituals are as fine as a blade, as comforting as stone. Shared, they are as bright and uplifting as the flash of sparks as dulled blade and stone meet.

Soon, I will leave my husband again, to make another trip to see my Dad in Assisted Living, my childhood home now only a memory.  I dread the changes I will see in his physicality and changes in his world. But in going home, when my frail Dad takes me in his arms in a big bear hug, he still smells like Old Spice, and I'm six years old again.
So much has changed, I thought as I took one last look at the house before the keys were passed to another family.  It was a house that saw both the lives and the deaths of my two Mom's, of my brother's presence that still thundered through the rooms, the walls now missing the medallions of his courage.  So much gone, swirled down the drain with past and present tears. But still, I look at the world as I did those long ago mornings, carefully and quietly. And when Dad gives me a hug, and I breathe deep a familiar scent, it is the same feeling I now have in my own home each night  In that moment of ritual, I'm at peace, safe, and loved, with a future that is too far away to fear.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Kung Fu Valentine

I was a little sad for Valentine's Day with the closing of the sale of my childhood home last week (a blessing with Dad's assisted living expenses that we've had -  but still hard to see) and watching so many things of my Mom, Dad, and brother's go to auction or charity  We just don't have room for it here, and shipping items more than a few items back to Chicago via UPS was out of the question financially.  I do have some great small glassware pieces of Moms and a few things of my brother's including his favorite shirt which still smells like him (at least in my memory).

I did get my husband a couple of things to celebrate the day though.  His French Press for coffee at work had broken so there was a replacement.  It was just a Tardis one.
With some SERIOUS coffee for those Monday mornings. 

And my husband did his best to cheer me up.  I had told him NOT to get me a fancy Valentine's gift, as we're putting a new roof on as soon as the weather warms up and that's $$$.  I said, "just take me out for Thai Saturday and I'll cook us Valentine's dinner after work" (including the Oreo/White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake above).

But he surprised me with something he put together for me with an online find and some hobby paint.
My very own redheaded Kung Fu Bobblehead with a homemade card. 

He got the belt color right (Shao Lin Twin Broad Swords - Get Off my Lawn!)

Dinner was wild caught salmon from https://wildalaskancompany.com/ (seriously worth the price - as good as what Dad and my brother used to catch and cook the same day) poached in white wine with herbs, garlic cheese bread, and peas (sorry Old NFO) with the cheesecake for dessert. (Sorry for the low light, not the best photo but I did put the cheesecake recipe in the comments).

I was smiling all evening.
Whether you had a Valentine with you or not we hope your day brought a smile.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Endings, and Beginnings

Dad's house is sold after TOO many months. And 70 years of cherished accumulation that have been sold, auctioned, donated to charity or sent to the trash.

I don't want to tell you how much work that was. And how hard it was to see it totally empty of memory as it was signed over to the new owner.  But it gives us at least 3 years of Assisted Living expenses that won't be out of our pocket. After that, he can get Medicaid.

I am taking 3 weeks off to recoup and write the remainder of book #5.  I may have a recipe or two up and maybe a shooty post or two but for the most part, I will be off the blog.  I hope you stick around for the final product.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Hair Raising Evenings

I head (no pun intended) to the hair stylist about every four-five weeks as my hair grows beyond fast (photo from warmer times).   Usually, though, the visit is after my work day, the salon being open until 9 PM. I give my regular stylist a lot of credit.  My hair is baby fine, curly (I refer to it as "free range") and well, red. I won't mention the few strands of grey and trying to match that.  It's the hair stylist equivalent of juggling knives.

I went in this week for a hair cut and some "natural highlights" which involve a  transfer of cash similar to ransom, and an hour and a half with enough foil on my head to attract a number of conspiracy theory admirers.

I also went in without lunch or dinner due to the day I had at work.  I figured that I could grab some takeout on the way home as my husband was out of town and I hadn't planned on cooking, Abby Lab was being walked a couple of times and fed by my dogwalker due to the long day (legal hearing) so she was taken care of.

As my stylist did the trim, I had a ladies magazine on my lap, with my reading glasses off,  as the beautiful genius that does my hair finished up the cut and blow dry.

Did I mention that when I hit 50  I had to get "reading glasses" and anything just a  foot away is a bit blurry? First, it was the pages at Bible study, then mailboxes, and soon I was looking through the rack for "readers" with all the other grandmothers.

The magazine I was reading at the salon had a colorful picture of a bowl of soup in it.  I started to get really hungry  It looked SO good and that bagel and apple and coffee at 6 a.m.were distant history. I think I drooled on the page. The lady in the next chair over mentioned that, looking quite perplexed when I said: "I SO want a bowl of that."   I couldn't wait until I was free of sculpting gel and a dryer to stop at the gourmet grocers for some of that, the broth, the succulent chicken, perhaps some shrimp, while I curled up with a glass of expensive white wine and Bach.

Then I put my glasses on.
I'd been drooling over cat food. Friskies Fancy Feast no less.

After that,  I stopped  McDonald's for a Filet O Fish and the liquor store for a bottle of white wine, just grabbing one from their "pick of the week" display as I was tired.   When I got home and tried to open it with the wine opener and I couldn't puncture the top I realized it was a twist off cap.

Filet O'Fish and McWine.

Maybe I should have just gone for the cat food.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Because Blog Reader and Friend Rich in NC asked for it - Illinois Ice Storm Cake

Illinois Ice Storm Lemon Buttermilk Pound Cake

•           3 cups all-purpose flour
•           1/2 teaspoon baking soda
•           1/2 teaspoon salt
•           2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
•           2-1/4 cups granulated sugar
•           3 large eggs
•           1 cup buttermilk (to make your own replace 2 and 1/2 teaspoons of milk in your cup of milk with lemon juice or apple cider vinegar and let sit out at room temp for 5 minutes).
•           2 Tablespoons grated lemon zest, packed (4-5 lemons)
•           2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
•           1/3 cup water
•           1/3 cup granulated sugar
•           2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice (yes, this is in addition to the 2 tablespoons in the batter)
1.         Preheat the oven to 325°F and set an oven rack in the middle position. Spray a 10-inch bundt pan with non-stick cooking spray and dust with additional flour.
2.         In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
3.         In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or beaters), cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then beat in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl again.
4.         In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, lemon zest and lemon juice.
5.         With the mixer on low speed, beat in one-quarter of the flour mixture, then one-third of the buttermilk mixture. Beat in another quarter of the flour, then another third of the milk mixture. Repeat with another quarter of the flour and the remaining milk mixture. Finally, beat in the remaining flour mixture. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and give a quick mix to make sure all of the ingredients are well incorporated.
6.        Spoon the thick batter into the prepared bundt pan and smooth with a rubber spatula. Bake for 1 hour and 5 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean.
7.         Cool the cake in the pan for ten minutes on a rack.
8.         Meanwhile, make the syrup. Combine the water and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice.
9.         Invert the warm cake onto a rack. Slip a large piece of parchment paper or aluminum foil under the rack to catch all the drips from the syrup and glaze. Gradually brush the hot syrup over the cake, letting it soak in (a little syrup will drip off, but try not to rush so that most of it is absorbed). Allow the cake to cool completely, about one hour.
•           When the cake is cool, slip two large metal spatulas under the cake and carefully transfer to a serving platter.  When cool sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Sunday Eats - Cinnamon Swirl French Toast

Homemade Cinnamon Swirl Bread French Toast.

• 2 tablespoons sugar
• 1 cup warm water
• 2 1/2 teaspoons yeast
• 2 1/2 cups King Arthur Bread Flour (it’s higher gluten than regular flour so you don’t get so many gaps in your cinnamon bread)
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 2 tablespoons cinnamon
• 1/2 cup white sugar

1. Mix the 2 tablespoons sugar with the warm water in a very large bowl. Add the yeast and do not stir. Let it sit for five minutes. Add the oil, salt, and flour. Mix by hand, adding more flour as necessary until the dough forms a large, soft, ball. Flour a table or work surface and knead the bread for 5-10 minutes.
2. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and brush the top with a little extra olive oil. Cover the bowl with a damp towel and let the dough rise in a warm place for 1 hour. It should be very puffy. Divide the dough in half and punch it down.
3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Roll each half into a large rectangle. For more tight rolls in the bread, roll the dough thinner. For thicker softer rolls in the bread, roll thicker. Mix the cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl and sprinkle over each loaf. Roll up the loaves tightly and let rest for a few minutes before putting in the oven.
4. Bake on a cookie sheet or baking stone for 30 minutes, or until it sounds hollow. When in doubt, overbake this one. It might look brown on the outside, but that’s okay because the inside really needs to bake all the way to get the layers filled out. Cool before slicing.
French Toast – in 8 x 8 pan mix 2 large eggs, a generous splash of milk (about 3 Tablespoons), 1 Tablespoon of sugar and ¼ tsp Vanilla. Whisk. Dip six pieces of bread in batter on both sides and cook on an oiled griddle until browned. The cinnamon sugar will make it "stick" more than regular FrenchToast with white bread so work the spatula under it a couple of times as it cooks.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Snow Days

Those of you who have read The Book of Barkley will recall this chapter but I found the photos I took of Barkley back then, and thought I'd share them on this day that Abby Lab was able to go roll in the snow safely after the minus 50 windchills of the last few days. - Brigid

From The Book of Barkley - Outskirts Press, all rights reserved.

Outside the snow starts, the door painting a path out into the white, only one lone dog brave enough to take it tonight.  His paw prints leave a trail like bread crumbs, delicate and soft, disappearing even as I look for them as the snow falls down.

The cold and white is going to skirt the edge of my world tonight. I am glad to be in safe and warm, for I remember too many nights out working in the elements as winter shook its fist at the forecast.  Tonight, the roads will be mostly empty,  nothing else braving the space around us but some poor, cold creatures trying to seek shelter as best they could, a couple of forlorn horses of a distant neighbor, waiting to be brought back into the glow of light in the stable. If I looked out onto the snow, beyond the bounds of grass and the water and horizon, it appears to come down ever so frantic and furious. A life,  these years, can seem to hurry past that way if you let the vision of it trick you, a glimpse of white, of black, then gone, when you may least expect it.

This is probably our last winter in this old ranch style house.  I'd bought it with the intent of my Father living with me on the impending death of my stepmom, when he changed his mind, unable to leave the home in which he built his memories of her.   It's a decent older home, better than the McMansion I'd given up a couple years prior in another city, especially with a  huge fenced yard which Barkley loved.  But  I wanted to downsize more, not really needing the "mother in law" set up.  The extra space, even if the house was modest in construction and price, with the piece of land it sat on, was still a lot to maintain as a single woman, one who really didn't have time for a  young dog, let alone a house.

I did enjoy being able to watch him play though, even as today I am more happy to stay in the warmth of the house, my reflection in the mirror, flakes of snow in my hair from opening the door.  How did winter get here so quickly, I think as I look in an old mirror, imagining the generations that have looked into that gleaming surface, asking themselves at least once, how did it all fly by so quickly, asking those questions across those years, time they hopefully learned didn't matter, as they savored every last remnant, there in the depths of something they had questioned too long.
Barkley loves the snow.   He runs and jumps, snooting the snow up in the air as I try and take pictures of him from the covered porch  The camera never does him justice though, failing  to capture that movement as he appears to fly, the steam of his breath, the thudding spray of snow as he lands, laid out in pixeled particles of white. But I suddenly want to capture that moment, between stillness and unbridled motion, where even mass seems to be physically altered, changing from solid muscle to wind the color of night

I look at him, them look at the sky.  Both he and I for this moment, becoming "pups" again.

As children, growing up where we did, "snow days" were infrequent. The world didn't stop for snow where snow was not uncommon. When we got one, we'd be outside the door before the breakfast dishes were even put away. Snow was not cold; it was not work or worry. It was a divine benediction which spread itself out onto the world where we waited with glee. Grabbing an inner tube to ride down the cleared foothills, shoving a couple Archway cookies in our pockets and heading out into the dazzling white, we'd heed the siren call. There I would simply wait my turn on the hill called "widowmaker", content to just sit and look up into the wonder as we waited our turn.

That tube was not my transport to the stars, it was a defiant gesture against the mortality that grew closer to the edge of our vision every year.  It wasn't a simple inner tube.  It was a defiant shout.  It was my shield.
Then, I'd launch myself with abandon out into it, flinging my form down onto an inner tube that was traveling downhill much faster than my Dad ever would have approved. There was nothing but movement and emotion, snow in the amber fire of my hair, my cheeks flushed, body arching up into the air, trying to maintain the moment that I knew would come crashing down much too quickly. At the bottom of the hill, chest heaving, I'd simply look up into the sky and say thank you, for that moment, as time gathered itself back up and started ticking again.

Then, face flushed with anticipation, I'd pat my pocket to make sure my cookie was secure and I'd trudge back up the slope again. As I peered down into the void I'd say, "I probably shouldn't do this ", as I launched myself off yet again into space, remorseless and laughing, flying down the slope, potent, strong, as free as an eagle, not knowing yet as a child, that even for the eagle, all space can still be a cage.
That's the snow I wish to remember. Looking up into the heavens trying to see where it originates, then the slow fall of it, parachutes of white dropping down, slower and slower. They fall, weightless, ethereal creations of magic and intermolecular forces, some felled by warmth, some turning to water against one's tongue, some slain by a sled.  Yet tomorrow, next year, there would be another flake and yet another and another soul to hold it in the palm of their hand, if they are only there to reach out for it.

Barkley continues his play, forever a puppy, with no concept of another winter, only this one, everything just captured here now, running as hard as he can.  Looking at a pile of work on the table to be completed tomorrow, I wish I could do that, could play in that slow, suspension of time and moisture, one where what you feel and seek and love builds upon itself in endless form,  honed by the cold depths of the sky.  You can't catch the snow,  you can only watch it fall to you, grasping it briefly, stretching out your hands to clasp a wisp of air and hold it for a moment.

But I can't, I have obligations and chores and things to do that don't involve a dog.  He barks with a "come follow me" note, but getting chilled just opening the door to check on him, I simply fling his favorite toy as hard and far out into space as I can before I shut the door and impatiently fetch a treat to get him back inside in a few minutes.

"The Toy".  It's this bone length thing covered with yellow tennis ball material to which a thick plastic cord is attached so you can really wind it up and throw it. It's THE toy. He has a half dozen different balls and toys, but once this one showed up they were ignored. He knows the word "toy"  as opposed to "Ball" or "Mr. Squeeky" or "The Ropers" and will fetch it from anywhere, digging through the snow if necessary to find it.

I went into the kitchen, leaving the family room glass outer door closed, but the curtains open. Dogs can get frostbite on their paws, ears, and tail if left out in freezing temperatures for lengths of time so I would keep an eye on him.

I saw this movement in my peripheral vision, a black form jumping up into the air like a kangaroo. What the. . . . .?

The toy is stuck high up in the branches of a tree, just inside his fenced area, I threw it too far out, and too high.

He jumped and he jumped as if he could somehow magically get that high and grab it.  Come on, this next time, surely I'll get it!  But he is totally silent, not a bark, so intent on the capture, he is bound and gagged by his obligation.

With a heavy sigh as I'd just gotten warm again,  I get bundled up in coat and boots and go out. The snow shower had passed, and I could see him out at the edge of the yard,  inside the fence that blocks him from the pond. When he saw me he ceased jumping but continued to stare up.  It's just a toy, I think, but he looks at it as if stuck on the edge of a vast ambiguity, a lonely figure waiting by a hopeless ocean for time and tide to change course.

 I've seen a lot of expressions on this dogs face, but this was the first time I could actually detect "worry".  I didn't think dogs worried.  They don't have taxes, cellulite, ex's or bills and facial hair as they get older is, well, normal. But they do know hurt, they just quietly just take it in, recording it complacently in their suffering, not wishing their person to worry about them.

But today,  he looked with a stillness that dropped like stone to the depths of my being, a  look on his face that would have stopped even the most involved soul. Dogs can do that, those looks, that put out of mind all of the follies of dog farts, the hair that covers every surface of the house, spent dollars and the chewed shoes.  It's a look that made me want to comfort him, even as he does for me with no memory of my failures or the hints of my doubts.

Mom,. Mom, my toy, she's stuck, help!

If I fall out here, and break something I'm going to freeze to death.  I've got stuff to do, this can wait til it's warmer.  The ladder is in the garage and the sky is getting dark.  All of those thoughts run though my head as he stares up, my form the only thing between him and that gaping ocean.  It's my responsibility.  He's my responsibility.  But there's no way I'm going to try and drag the ladder out of the garage, around the house and through the little gate.  I climbed trees as a kid, I only need to get up a few feet where I can grab it or swat the toy to the ground.

Those childhood trees were stouter trees, however, and I was smaller then, and soon I am half tangled in the young tree, it's trunk bending painfully in ways I haven't seen since my first Yoga class.  I thought of a trebuchet, the laws of physics and how a flung redhead taking out the kitchen window might not be something the insurance agent wanted to hear.

I went and got the ladder. The conquest of worlds, the emancipation of those sold into bondage, the pride and power of freedom's forces, those are fit materials for a courageous tale. The rescue of a fuzzy toy would hardly be accountable but for the look of this dog, for whom the act was as all important, all-consuming, as well, bacon will be tomorrow morning.  This dog had his needs, and I knew that whether I was simply "what's her name with a ladder" or his instrument of documented destiny, I had a role to play here.

Barkley 1.  Tree 0.

And the world began revolving again and I could go back where it is warm, even if I am met with yet another pleading look.  Play with me!

Sorry buddy, Mom's busy, I say, as I head back to the garage,  leaving that pleading look behind.   Overhead, a flock of geese, winging through an aberration of white, a mournful honk, black and white, braving the cold, pursuing the echo of sanctuary.  I hear their cry as  "come follow me" But I can't. Not quite yet.  The snow blooms with the insistence of Spring, and I am earthbound with things to do.  I turn away from him, flakes gathered at my feet, tumbled in the wind like rose petals blown aside in a lovers haste departure.

I still have an evening ahead of me among reports, artifacts of life on my desk, shattered shells and bone, and intertwined with the broken pieces a black feather from a bird, a pine cone, a small piece of swirled gemstone that looks at me like an eye, daring me to look deeper, to find some closure for those that need it, even if that is me.  It's easy to get caught up in that, it's my work, it's how I think, finding logic to behavior in science that doesn't seem to exist in the human world.

Then there is this goofy dog outside with a fuzzy yellow toy in his mouth, covered in snow like it's some sort of Popsicle.  He's simply enjoying the day for what it is.  I can't help but break out in a big grin when I think of that.  Perhaps, I'm not as grown up as I think I am.
Ladder put away, I turn around and go back towards where I think he wandered.  His paw prints that followed me to the gate have already been covered with new snow, his presence but a dream. I close my eyes for a moment and the paw prints are as if they were never there, a dream that one wakes up smiling from, but can never get back, even if they return to slumber. But he is here. Somewhere.  There, a sudden revelation of black fur in the fleeting gleams of snow, with a bark "you came!" that was like the glow of sparks from a struck stone, the wag of a tale which for him is absolute truth.  How I will always remember the sound of his barking as I approached, muffled in the snow, hearing it as a child, through ear muffs.

I go to him with a pat and a treat, to get him back to the house, to play with me inside in the warmth, while my work waits for another time. Our feet barely touch the ground as we run towards the house, towards the gilded blaze, our future, he and I, somewhere ahead in that diffused glow. Like those horses out in the neighbor's field, we move towards the light of the door,  bright as tossed coins in a collection plate, a saving, golden Grace.  Home.  It is benediction and absolution, even if covered in dog hair.

There is a door, and we fall in, into the embrace of warmth, flakes of cold in dark hair.