“If you go slowly enough, six or seven months is an eternity—if you let it be—if you forget old things, and learn new ones. Even a week can last forever.”
Rick Bass, Winter

"In the midst of winter, I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer."
Albert Camus

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Day 109: Summer in Winter, Winter in Spring

Dear Reader:
When my husband and I came back from our vacation in North Carolina with our dog, Zoe, last week, we drove home not to the last of winter, but straight into summer.  This week it was almost 80 degrees here, and now the trees are budding.  I saw purple crocuses in our yard that normally wouldn't arrive until the end of April.  Mosquitoes feasted on the sweetest among us, but not me.  And in the woods when Zoe and I walked this week, students were having barbeques.  She kept hoping someone would invite her to stay and eat a burger.

I thought of a note I'd received a couple weeks ago from my friend Sara.  She sent me this quote from Albert Camus:
"In the midst of winter, I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer."
She told me she thought this was one of the themes of this blog, and I liked the quote so much that it's now up in the header as one of the two epigraphs.

Now it's going to be winter again: tonight, I heard, the temperature might go down to freezing here in the North Country.

I began the blog in December, when I was just completing a cycle of 108 straight days of meditating every morning and writing in my journal, which I explain on the home page here.

I was about to start again with another 108 days when my sister suggested (to be honest, it felt like a dare) that I write posts to the world, instead of journals to moi.  So you can blame said sister, Mira Bartok, dear reader, for all this folly.

I wrote about my sister often, especially on her birthday, on Day 76: On Sister Love.

When I was a third of the way through, and then two-thirds of the way through, I posted about what I have learned.  Rather than repeat myself, I'll hyper-link to those posts here and there.

Soon, I realized that while this blog is about time and about mindfulness, dogs and love, and finding the sacredness in everyday life, it is also very much about the writing life because I'm on leave to write this semester, and whatever I'm up to each day is fodder.  On Day 56, Gargoyles in Love: On Finding the Perfect Schedule, I landed on a good writing schedule that has helped me stay on track with my novel despite all the emotional upheavals that have taken place.

On Day 107 I wrote a post about the writing of this blog which encapsulated what I've learned as a memoirist in a new medium.  This was one of my favorite posts to write.

Zoe staring down her own shadow
Finding out a family member's days are numbered is heartbreaking, whether that loved one is human or, in this case, canine.  But numbering my own days has prompted me to live each of them more fully, and in many ways I have felt more alive than ever before.  Not just more alive: more like an animal.  More alert.  With senses primed.  And because I got so busy it took me a while to get a haircut, I was a lot more furry too.

My days with Zoe this past winter have produced some of the happiest memories I will ever have, even though they are tinged with sadness and the anticipation of loss.  I have found a resilience and a summer inside that has carried me through a long winter, and will carry my dog and myself forward into the next season, although what lies ahead is uncertain.

I want to thank some people for taking this wild ride with me.  Too many to name, and I know I'll leave people out and feel bad about it, but I'll try:  Mira, who made me do it.  Sara, Rebecca, and Marc, who read and commented on every single post!  Dr. Amy Thompson at Canton Animal Hospital who made the diagnosis and got us on the right track.  Dr. Peter Tropea, at St. Lawrence Valley Animal Hospital, who did the surgery.  The whole staff at Alta Vista, especially Donna, Willow, and Dr. Lena Bravo.  Tara Freeman, ace photographer of Zoe who also taught me how to take better pictures.  Veronika Hovathova's great pictures of Paris made their way into this blog, and I especially love her gargoyles.  Dawn R. and Cindy, friends since college and great writers and dog-lovers.  My nieces, Juliet and Fiona; my sister's step-daughters, Jya and Sianna; the inimitable Douggie Pee. Neal S, Becky H., Becky whose dog is Lily, Mrs. B's Sweeties, the Cleveland Baker Beauties: Mary Beth, Sandy, Herta, Stephanie, Cathleen, Eileen; hometown honeys Danielle, Cathy T (who drove us to Cornwall when Zoe became a tripod and gave me a beautiful photo album commemorating the day), Erin, and Eve; Dan S and his greyhounds, Macreena, Erik A., Chloe, Lukasz who shared from China, Jess W, Dennis, Josh S., Karen S (who took some great photos of Zoe) and her kids Andrea, Luke, and Luke's wife, Lisa, and their sweet dog, and entourage of Brittany and Emma; Olivia for soulful dog walks, Derek, Nancy, Judy, another Erin who subscribed, Chris and Iris, Patti L., Shaun, Diane and Fred, Margaret B., Mary H.,, Alex D., Scott R. Emma R. (who often shared on FB too), Susan and David, Pat A, Pat C and her whole family of dog-lovers, Jenny W in Montana., Kimi, Annalise, Nancy who subscribed, Writing as Jo(e), Brenda, Maddie, Ante, William B, Ned, Katie G, Sonya, Laura R., Lettie, Annie, Farmer Bob, Farmer Mike, Billie B., Sheri C., Janice G., James and Glenn and Milo and Emily, Jann S, Mackie, Alexis of the Adirondacks, Lizzie, my sister's facebook friends who started reading the links, Sadie the saucy dog cousin, Anne C.,, Jane N., Sarah B., Eliza R., Tom M., Dinty who just offered Zoe a "woof," Marina and John, Therese from Texas, and all the random people who agreed to be characters in these posts, sometimes after the fact, like Emma and Java in Ottawa, Milo the King Charles spaniel who thinks he's a greyhound, Max, Blue, Cooper, Maya, Sandra R. from Paris, Priyanka from New Delhi, and a dog belonging to a homeless man in Cassis and a dog named Rusty in a Post I had so much fun writing, 49:What the Dog Sees in Him.  There are other subscribers who are anonymous, and others who aren't but probably want to be, but I'm grateful to all of you for reading.

A special shout-out for Lettie Stratton, Erin Siracusa, and Rebekkah White, for agreeing to do guest-posts, all three of which were beloved by many. What great writers I have been blessed to have in my classes!

And I want to thank Shelley Kandola for designing the blog for me and helping me whenever I had an IT issue.  If you need someone to help you with your blog, she's available freelance and I'll hook you up!  And my sister yet again for helping me tweak the design and for tweeting.

I'm leaving with Zoe today for Vermont, then a visit with my sister.  After a few days off from posting, I'll begin a new cycle of writings again by next weekend.  I'm not sure, but I think I'll start up again on April Fool's Day.

Namaste, dear readers.  May you have a lovely, restful Sunday, and a good week, whatever season it feels like.

All best wishes,

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