Any discussion of loving Ruby has to start with a story of loving Lily. My father used to say that one needed to replace beloved pets quickly, because the love you felt needed a place to go. I realize not everyone feels that way, and whatever works for you is what’s right. But our beloved Lily, one of the prettiest, goofiest, most loving Golden Retrievers left an enormous hole when she departed this earth. In one short, horrible week she went from the Lily we had always known to a very sick dog. Making the decision to let pets go is never easy, but the veterinarian told me to look deeply into her eyes – he said my answer would be there, and it was. We stayed with her until the end and her tail never stopped wagging. “Ahhh the Goldens and the Labradors – their tails wag until their hearts stop,” said the vet sadly. I’ve had many dogs in my life and loved them all, but Lily was really something special – she and I were inseparable – she lay by my desk all day every day. With my two kids up and out of the house she became my empty nest dog. I adored her, plain and simple. I will miss her every day for the rest of my life. But the heart expands to encompass many beings in our lives and mine just grew a bit to take in Ruby.
One mid-spring weekend we drove two hours north of San Francisco to Yuba City to meet, and possibly adopt, a nine-week old bundle of Labrador puppy squishiness. After sitting beneath a spreading walnut tree for over an hour playing with the four females still not spoken for, we had to make a choice that didn’t include taking them all home. They were equally adorable, with their shiny, seal-like black coats and remarkably big paws, and we slowly began the elimination. With an elderly gentleman rescue dog waiting at home we bid farewell to the one ball of energy who had made it her job to chew the collars off of each of her sisters while leaping in the air – too much for our dignified Chaucer to handle we thought. I have always believed that ultimately dogs choose us, not the other way around, and sure enough one of the four began to tug just a little harder at our heartstrings. Chubby, with the boxy head of the English labs we both love, she was mellow and eventually fell asleep, first in Tom’s arms, and then mine. After about an hour of visiting we knew – this little one was coming home with us; and so began our journey toward loving Ruby.
We just spent a three-day weekend in Seattle visiting our son, who is a senior at the University of Washington, and every time I go there I am struck by how much I like the area.
Oh, I know what you’re thinking – Rain, Rain, Rain – and to be fair we haven’t gone in the winter, but all three other seasons are gorgeous! My favorite by far is fall, because it satisfies my longing for the autumns of my youth on the East Coast. Although we generally get a bit of misty weather at some point while we’re there, it’s really welcome after our awful drought down here.
So here are a few of my favorite things about Seattle:
~ The University of Washington, which is an absolute stunner! After three plus years of visits I am never bored walking the 703-acre campus and I always discover something I haven’t seen before.
~ Pike Place early in the morning.
~ Chihuly – enough said.
~ Ballard, and all the other great small neighborhoods!
Heaven and earth, as the Celtic saying explains, are only three feet apart, but in the thin places that distance is even shorter. I’ve been lucky enough to have seen many “thin places” in my life, in various parts of Europe, in Russia, certainly in Egypt, and in South America. But I’ll tell you that in measuring thin places per square mile it’s hard to beat this lovely place where I live. One of the many reasons I never tire of home is that almost daily experience of coming around a corner, or down a hill and suddenly having the breath knocked out of me by a view so remarkable I have to stop in my tracks. A few months after my Father passed away many years ago, we were sitting on a hill looking out on the sunlight stretching through clouds to the Pacific and my daughter said “Look Mom – I can see Grandpa right there!” A thin place indeed.
Of course, my Roman”likes” could go on ad infinitum, but here are a few that stand out…
~ The Italians in general have effortless style, and the men in Rome REALLY know how to dress!
~ The taxi drivers – with a very limited and (for me at least) confusing public transportation system, taxis are plentiful and fairly priced. The drivers are unbelievable – friendly, funny, and the world’s greatest tour guides. They really love their city!
~ Disbelief that the narrowest of streets, with barely room for one standard sized car to navigate, are almost all two-way thoroughfares! Add in an almost total lack of sidewalks and the tendency of most restaurants to throw a line or two of tables into the street, and you have what looks to be an accident of epic proportions waiting to happen!
~ Large tour groups. In truth this isn’t really Rome’s fault, but vast groups of tourists led by a flag carrying leader showing little or no recognition that there are in fact, say, other art lovers in the Vatican Museum can really ruin the experience.
~ The near death experience of the pedestrian in Rome. I‘ve traveled quite a bit and I have never feared for my life so frequently when trying to get across major streets. A good friend recommends waiting for a woman pushing a baby stroller and travel across with her. I personally waited until a crowd of ten or more had gathered, figuring my odds were improved.
When all is said and done, with a rooftop Spritz in hand, I couldn’t love Rome more…
The best place to start is absolutely the Mission — you never know when you’ll come upon a stunning piece of art as you round a corner or sneak down an alley. I am constantly amazed at the talent in these gorgeous murals with their brilliant colors — the patience it must take to create them!
Nothing makes me happier than an afternoon of hunting down new beauties and, as Mr. W. will attest to since I often ask him to drive, I am tireless in the pursuit. Soooo tempted to check out the 1AM SF Gallery, with its “Intro to Graffiti” class or its even more popular “Practice Fusion Workshop” — who knows? Maybe I’ve got the gift?
“If you can sit quietly after difficult news;
If in financial downturns you remain perfectly calm;
If you can see your neighbors travel to fantastic places without a twinge of jealousy;
If you can happily eat whatever is put on your plate;
If you can fall asleep after a day of running around without a drink or a pill;
If you can always find contentment exactly where you are:
Jack Kornfield; Founding teacher at The Spirit Rock Meditation Center, Woodacre, California
Our dogs have had the same schedule their whole lives — breakfast around 7 am, dinner around 6 pm. Year after year, no problemo. Then, about a year ago, Lily decided that breakfast at 7 just wasn’t in her wheelhouse anymore. And so earlier and earlier we get the jumping, panting, snorting, big paws in the face — she is relentless. And the whole thing reached a crescendo this morning when it all started at — wait for it — 3 freaking 15 am! Did we get up and feed her? Yes, because:
Feeling a little unmotivated this afternoon, so turned to my favorite restorer of happiness and energy — a drive into the city. Stopped at a light on Castro and 18th when what do I see? That instant dose of cheer — a few of The Sisters making their way to Delores Park! “Sisters!” I yelled out my window. “You’ve made my whole afternoon!” They ran (as well as anyone can run in heels) to the side of my car and I got a hug through the window and lots of waves…
What a glorious evening for a trip through the Napa Valley to celebrate Mr. W.’s birthday! Driving through soft hills covered in perfectly straight rows of vines as the sun was setting — it just doesn’t get much better.
Cindy Pawlcyn’s Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen — awesome dinner in an adorable former bed and breakfast just off the main drag in St. Helena (it was so cute and – dare I say it – “cottagey” I wanted to kick everyone out and move in). Comfort food on overdrive (slurp), great wine list — the kind of place that makes me want to own a restaurant, until I realize just how hard that would be…