A Valentine for Harry Sears

18 Feb

Selina grew up in a time and place that allowed children to be relatively wild and free. It was a time when a bicycle and a few pennies for the ice cream truck was all that was needed for ultimate freedom. Imagination was the magic carpet that entertained and filled those long steamy summer days and soft firefly filled summer nights.

The year Selina started kindergarten her family moved from their Portuguese and Italian neighborhood where everyone was family, to a new neighborhood carved from the remains of an old apple orchard, where nobody was. Selina felt that the “sameness” of this new neighborhood was boring and unnatural. She missed the Aunties that lived behind almost every door on her street; oh, how their cooking filled the street with the most enticing aromas! She missed the jokes the Aunties would play on them; one favorite was when they would open an upstairs window and sprinkle water on the children’s heads who played too noisily on the back bulkheads. Noise, laughter, food and love, it was all there! This new neighborhood…eye, yi, yi…everyone was the same, same age, did the same things, drove the same cars, were the same religion and worst of all, they all seemed to put great importance on “behaving” and conforming to some unseen standard! A “because I said so!” culture…

Despite the sameness in this neighborhood, there was one a unique or unfortunate individual, depending on your prospective. Harry Sears was older that most, mute, and reportedly had no family save his old black Labrador whom he was never seen without. He traveled by bicycle only, and lived in a little shack down a dirt path beyond the manicured, polite safeness of the neighborhood. Here, on this wild and overgrown farmland, Selina imagined Harry and his dog being lulled to sleep by the haunting hoots of owls while under the protection of the Spirits of the Wounded Hearts.

The children were all told, “Do not talk to Harry! Leave the poor man alone!” The children were told things that made them afraid…But Selina, being Selina; a prove-it-to-me kind of girl did not heed these warnings nor buy into those fears, in fact she spoke with Harry often. She made it a point to greet him with cheerful hellos and inquired how he was. She would also greet his dog, but much to her dismay never learned his dog’s true name due to Harry’s muteness. She was often chastised for talking to him and received repeated warning about “dangerous strangers” to no effect. And so these “dangerous” greetings and small talk continued…

Selina does not remember the time of year or the circumstances that led up to the fire in that little shack that killed Harry and his dog, only this; that Harry and his dog were found together behind a door, no one seems to know who was trying to rescue whom only that they were together.

To this day, some 50 years later, I wonder what kind of jewel this man might have been to this neighborhood if compassion and empathy had overcome the fear and distrust, if just one individual had overcome conformity…

So, Happy St. Valentine’s Day Harry Sears to you and your beloved dog, although you were a little part of my life I think of you now and again and am grateful for having known you!

Advertisements

Conversation with a 3 1/2 Year Old

14 Jan

Lucy is my princess and whale obsessed 3 1/2 year old granddaughter.  Every Wednesday I make the trek from Maine to Massachusetts to spend the day with her and her year old sister El.  These precious, magical days revolve around princesses, princess dresses, princess movies, drawing, painting, reading, mac and cheese, hide and seek, and when the weather permits, excursions to the park.

Yesterday we were sitting together, Lucy was coloring and I asked:

Lucy, do you like dogs?

Lucy:  Yes I do.  (Lucy rarely say just yes).

Me:  Do you like Koda?  (my shepherd-mix)

Lucy: Yes I do.  She continues to color.

Me:  Do you like Ava and Luna? (a lab/shep-mix and collie-mix)?

Lucy:  I love them!

Me: How about Munson (my son’s large, loud hound-mix), do you like him?

Lucy: Yea, sure, he’s a good boy.

Me:  Lucy, did you know that Munson loves Luna and I think they should get married…do you think we should get her a white dress like your mommy wore when she got married?

Lucy: Snort, giggle…

Me: What’s so funny about that?

Lucy, in her most authoritative, possessor-of-the-obvious-truth-tone replied;  Nana, only human girls and ladies can wear white dresses, dogs are not the same species as humans!  Giggle…

Last time I try silly-talking a 3 1/2 year old!

Traveling Man

20 Dec

I met our friend Ray at a three day charity biking event in the summer of 1997.  I was about to start my last year of college and feeling a need for spaces free from walls and textbooks.  Ray noticed my large backpack that contained my belongings for the ride.  He approached me that evening at dinner and asked if I hiked, “some,” I said.  He invited me to join him in some winter backpacking in the White Mountains of New Hampshire that coming winter.  As a kid I had camped, in the summer. In fact, those camping trips with my family were what had instilled in me my love of Maine.  But winter camping?  Although I had never camped let alone backpacked in the winter, I was very intrigued with the idea of it.

My love for winter backpacking grew as did my interest in learning how to remain relatively  comfortable in extreme winter conditions and still have fun!  I learned all kinds of “tricks”, some useful in general, such as layering clothing to regulate body temperature; and some only useful on a snowy, windy night in a freezing tent:  i.e.  A full bladder only makes you colder, therefore no matter how dark, cold and scary it may be, get out and go!  Or on an extremely snowy, excessively windy night, on the side of a glacier, in a freezing, collapsing tent, pee in a bottle!  Yes, ladies, this can be done and done well!

It was Ray who introduced me to my husband, Peter, another hiking friend of his.  A connection of which I will always be grateful…Thank you Ray!  As time passed and Peter and I traded the adventurous life for a more settled life on our little homestead.  Throughout the years we all remained friends, although at times, a little bit envious of each others lifestyles.  Ray the adventurer, Ray the-moving-target, eternal bachelor Ray, (so far anyway) and Ray the matchmaker.

Last night  driving home from a last minute Christmas shopping trip in the “big city” of Auburn Maine we decided to give Ray a call… Ray is very difficult to get a hold of and usually calls us during one of his nightmarish commutes to work from southern New Hampshire to Massachusetts.  Without traffic this should be about a 20-30 minute ride, but on a week day morning it takes anywhere from one and one-half to two hours, or more (these numbers may be influenced by “Ray-math”, but that is another blog), this is when he and Peter chat.  I dialed Ray, never expecting him to answer…”Hello?”  “Ray!  I got to tell you about this traffic!”  “Awwwww, you don’t know traffic!” he replied.  “No, no really!  There are three cars in front of us and they are all going about 5mph ABOVE the speed limit… it’s horrible!  Peter is losing his mind!” I over dramatized.  Ray, chuckling said “So glad you called!”   During the call, Ray-the-adventurer told Peter of his upcoming plans for a year long, solo motorcycle tour of South America and Africa starting this coming April.  We were not surprised he was doing it, but surprised at the extent of it. Two summers ago, over four months, he rode his bike from his home in New Hampshire to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, meandering his way home and making friends along the way.  He loved it and we loved following his progress on the internet many mornings over coffee.  Knowing that we did this pleased him immensely.

As I sit here wind whipping around the house, grateful for my settled life with my husband, dogs, gardens and woods, grown children and grandchildren, our families not too far away, I am full of memories of our friendship with Ray…I don’t know if he is running from demons or chasing dreams, not my business anyway…Ray, we wish you happiness and peace and promise to always have a warm fire and a place here for you should you ever decided you need one…in exchange for a good story of course!  Happy Trails, Merry Christmas and a heart full of joy, love, and adventure!

The dog blog #1~ Ava full of grace

29 Nov

009

Thousands of years ago when wolves moved from the primordial forests and plains to join us at our camps a magical and unprecedented (to my knowledge) deal was forged between them and us that remains to this day;  the wolf agreed to help us hunt and protect us and our possessions, in return we (humans) agreed to make the wolf our friend and companion.  Thus, Canis lupus was on the way to becoming Canis familiars. I am moved by this pact and try to honor this agreement through rescuing dogs, education and supporting no kill shelters.

Ava (not her original name) came to us about 7 months ago.  She was being fostered by my friend Jenny when I fell in love with her over a Facebook post.  Ava’s owner surrendered her to an Alabama shelter after a tornado in Mississippi destroyed their home. She then spent eight weeks in the shelter before being transported to Maine.  Ava arrived at Jenny’s home on a Sunday night, I saw her post on Monday night, met Ava in person on Wednesday night and my husband and I brought her home to live with us and our dogs Thursday morning.

When I met Ava for the first time she was obviously nervous, staying on her bed and drooling a bit, but wanting to connect…what I saw was a beautiful, graceful girl with a very broken heart.  I have an enormous place in my soul for broken hearts….  The next day my husband, me and our two dogs met Jenny at the beach to allow my two dogs to meet Ava on neutral ground… it was there that I saw her true spirit.  She was flying along the beach, playing joyfully with my dogs and Jenny’s dog in the waves.  I knew then that I would rename her “Ava” which I did not know the meaning of until I looked it up later.  “Ava, derived from the Latin “Avis” means bird.  Perfect!

It took some time and a lot of work to reassure Ava that she would never again be left behind, ever.  Today she is the happy, settled, graceful lady we knew she was all along.

The rescue gang, Luna on left, Koda (Takoda) in back and Ava on right.

003

Adaptation

29 Nov

016

In the eleven years I have lived on this beautiful piece of land I have walked by this red maple almost every day, that’s 4,015 days, approximately.  Today she spoke to me.  She said in a big bold voice; “Adapt!”  Just like that!  She then added; “Though your path maybe challenging, follow the light, my love, adapt and follow the light!”

You are not who I thought you were

23 Nov

1997, my fourth year of Pharmacy school at Northeasten University in Boston.  By fourth year I was burned out by the intensity of the program, the competition, the commute and the demands of being a wife, mother and student.  To relieve some of this stress I walked, a lot.  Sometimes I took the bus from home to Park Street and walked to school from there. I loved seeing the Asian elders practicing Ti chi in the reflection of the Prudential building with such focus and grace early in the morning.  This walk was a peaceful, grounding time of solitude before facing the stresses of school.  During those years had “walked off”, or more likely, “stressed off” close to 50 pounds.  I was bone-thin, weary and carried an electrically charged aura just waiting for a spark.

I had started an internship at Brigham and Woman’s Hospital that fall and would walk from NU to B&W every morning enjoying the quiet as the city started to wake.  As I remember it was a Sunday morning around 6AM and I was walking to the hospital as usual, I had just passed Mass Collage of Art when I heard a man’s voice  behind me call out “You, hey you!”  I thought, he can’t possibly be talking to me! And continued to walk.  He walked faster, his boot heels echoing louder and quicker on the sidewalk, while I walked faster as he called out again “You! I wanna talk to you!”  By now I knew he meant me. Now, under normal circumstances I am a lover not a fighter and go to great lengths to stay out of the limelight and avoid conflict, but as fate would have it the spark I was itching for had presented itself…I heard a small voice well up inside…I think it was from an old “Mighty Mouse”cartoon I had seen as a kid…the voice said;  “Well, are you a man or a mouse?”  Feeling out of options I gathered myself up, swung around, faced my enemy planting all my 110 pounds firmly on the ground and raised myself up to my full 5’4″ height and growled in the lowest register I could manage, enunciating every syllable… “What the F**k do you want!?”  He stopped dead in his tracks, long enough for me to notice the light from the street light over head glint off the blade of the 6 inch hunting knife he was holding…Our eyes met, like two animals trying to decide exactly who was the more dangerous (or crazy), he sheathed his knife quickly, said “You are not who I thought you were” and quietly crossed the street.

 

 

 

Signs

21 Nov

Source: Signs