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Walking The Bread Gauntlet

 

One of my neighbors, I’m not sure which one, believes that the tiny birds in our communal backyard will enjoy huge crusts of French bread that would suffocate a goose. We live in an apartment complex and share this backyard with a lot of people we rarely see. And Cricket makes sure to bark at anyone who dares to be outside, so I feel bad complaining about anyone else’s foibles. But the scattering of bread felt like a field of landmines to me. The last time the French bread was thrown out into the backyard was over the winter, when we discovered that my other dog, Butterfly, is diabetic.

The bread in the grass.

The bread in the grass.

Putting white bread in front of Butterfly would be like leaving bowls of whiskey in front of an alcoholic dog.

Butterfly loves the food she’s allowed to eat. She loves her chicken treats and kibble and chew sticks. It’s just that, if I am sitting on the couch eating a piece of pizza, she will stretch until she can reach the pizza and try to chew off the side of the crust. She is very short, but white flour gives her magical powers.

Butterfly is finding bread...

Butterfly is finding bread…

Everywhere!

Everywhere!

Cricket was interested in the bread too, but not more than she was interested in the squirrels, and the birds, and the sticks. When I pulled Cricket away from a piece of the bread, she basically shrugged and said, “whatever,” and moved on to try to rip my arm out of the socket as she ran towards a squirrel who was already miles out of her reach.

A conference is required to sniff this bread.

“Look, Cricket, bread is falling from the sky!”

Of course, my first thought when I saw the bread scattered on the lawn was to do a blog post about it. So Mom brought her camera and I brought the girls and we had to pose Butterfly close enough to the bread to show the temptation, but not so close that she could actually eat the bread. Of course, she gobbled a piece down before I could pull her away.

"Mine!"

“Mine!”

I don’t know what to make of my behavior here. I was worried about Butterfly being tempted by the bread and falling into a sugar coma and dying in front of me, and yet, another part of me just kept thinking – blog post!

The bread was gone by the end of that day, and it hasn’t returned. I have no idea who was tossing the bread out there, but it’s possible that they were watching me and Mom and the girls out on the lawn feverishly trying to get pictures, and decided to scoop the bread back up. Or, the maintenance guys saw the bread and grumbled about how they could possibly mow around these stupid obstacles, and picked them all up and threw them in the garbage.

I didn’t even realize how anxious the bread gauntlet had made me feel until it was gone. Not having to grip Butterfly’s leash in a fist made the bread-free walk, even in the heat, almost blissful.

And yet, I almost wish the bread gauntlet, with its connotations of manna from heaven, would return. I don’t want Butterfly to get sick, but the glee on her face when she sees those magical pieces of bread is overwhelming and, selfishly, I want to see that look again. Is there such a thing as low sugar manna from heaven?

 

"More!"

“More!”

Puppy Dreams

 

I had a writing teacher once who said we should never write about dreams, or menstruation, or school, or coming of age, or drugs or…he had a long list. But the dreams were verboten because, he said, your dreams will only be interesting to you and no one else. I hope that’s not true.

At the simplest level, things you see during the day can show up in your dreams; a character on a TV show, a wheat field, a cow, a striped shirt. And maybe it’s significant and maybe it’s not. It’s just something you noticed that day. This happens when you write fiction too. You need a location or a character and, consciously or unconsciously, you grab from details you saw that day, a hat someone wore on the subway, a dog in a pet store window, a car, a smell, a song, a sound.

But we also dream about the things that trouble us, things from the past or the present or a jumble of the two. Our old stories get reset in new locations, or new stories get stuck in the labyrinth of the old places. I tend to have a lot of bad dreams set at the house I grew up in, and an inordinate amount of dreams about serial killers, but the most upsetting dreams I have are about puppies.

Puppy!

Doberman Puppy!

Poodles puppies.

Poodle puppies!

I started to do dreamwork for therapy when I was still in college. My book of Genesis at my Orthodox Jewish high school had one or two lines from the actual book on each page, with paragraphs from different commentators picking apart each word and offering every possible interpretation and interpolation one could think of. So that’s what I did with my dreams. I wrote down everything I could remember, as soon as I woke up, and later, I’d copy the dream into a special notebook, and write down my general impressions, and then do a line by line exegesis. One dream could take up ten pages of college ruled paper.

But with these puppy dreams, no matter how much work I put into the interpretations, the dreams stuck with me. I could put aside a serial killer, a flood, a crashing airplane, a car flying off the side of a bridge, but squashed puppies haunted me, not only for the rest of the day, but for weeks, and months.

Sometimes the puppies in my dreams were as small as mice, and hairless and pink, and sometimes they were barely formed and looked like pieces of raw chicken cutlet, or balls of play-doh. The puppies seemed to represent the deepest, most real and identifiably ME parts of me. As if I were made of puppies, as if I am a stringing together of puppies inside rather than the usual human organs.

Sleeping puppies.

Sleeping puppies.

There was the dream when the puppies surrounded me in a circle and I kept tripping over them and squashing them by accident until I couldn’t move in any direction. There was the dream when the lead puppy of a pack pointed a tiny machine gun at me and told me it was all my fault, without specifying what “it” was.

When my Doberman Pinscher, Delilah, gave birth to her first set of puppies, I was seven or eight years old and there to watch their birth, early in the morning, with the sun streaming in through the kitchen windows. Each puppy came out in it’s own sac and Delilah carefully licked them free and set them on their feet to wobble about and figure out how to walk on solid ground.

Delilah, ready to feed the puppies.

Delilah, ready to feed the puppies.

I loved those puppies. I brought a handful of them to school for show and tell, and put another handful in a basket to carry up to my room. I got used to the overriding smell of puppy poop mixed with newsprint and sawdust, from their puppy box in the basement. We had two sets of puppies for seven or eight weeks each, and I guess that gave them time to imprint on me.

I often have trouble remembering how small and vulnerable I was as a child, especially because I was tall for my age, but thinking about those puppies reminds me what vulnerability really is. Even the wiliest of the puppies was in no position to truly protect herself. She could try. She could fight. She could put everything she had into saving herself. But if someone wanted to squash her, she’d be squashed.

For some reason, maybe especially in America, adults want to imagine that children are the superheroes they pretend to be. Children can call 911, climb out of burning buildings, save the dog, if only they would apply themselves.

I remember a dream where I am standing in a living room, in front of a bay window, at night. There are cages full of the tiniest puppies I’ve ever seen, but they have no newspaper or mats in the cages and I’m worried that they are going to fall through the slats of metal. I’m there to save these puppies. I am planning to take the cages with me to a better place, though I can’t picture that place in the dream. As I pick up the first cage, it’s too unwieldy and I lose my grip on the cage. This is when the dream goes into slow motion and I watch as the puppies are torn apart as they fall through the sharp metal bars of the cage to their deaths. I went there to save them, and I killed them instead.

The dreams are so dark that I feel like a terrible person, hopeless, and useless, until I wake up, because my real dogs are barking at me to take them out to poop.

Which is an incredible relief.

My puppies.

My puppies.

I wonder what they dream about?

I wonder what they dream about.

Chasing A Butterfly

 

Butterfly is diabetic, and she has created a ritual for her morning blood test. She sees that I am going to the shelf where her testing kit lives, and with great excitement she runs to the hallway. She makes sure that I can see her, and then runs a few feet away, and then she turns back to check on me, to make sure I’m following her. She makes a dance of it, turning back three or four times down the fifteen foot hallway, bouncing on her toes in between twirls.

"Is it time yet?!

“Is it time yet?!

"Aren't you coming to the bus stop, Mommy?"

“Aren’t you coming to the bus stop, Mommy?”

Then she lands at her bus stop in Grandma’s room. And I mean lands. She flattens herself into a down position and waits for me to pick her up. Then I carry her back to the living room, sit her on my lap, and start the testing procedure.

"You can pick me up now!"

“You can pick me up now!”

At first, when it came time to pick up Butterfly for her blood tests, Cricket would escape to her apartment under the couch. She was very concerned that this blood testing idea would spread, like a virus, like a bath-giving, haircutting virus. But over time she started to notice that not only was Butterfly the only target for the needles, there was also a very reliable treat give-away after the test. So Cricket began to sit by my feet as Butterfly’s blood was tested. I even caught her sniffing the testing kit once, as if she could smell the chicken treats by association.

"We want treats! We want treats!"

“We want treats! We want treats!”

We take blood twice a day from Butterfly’s tail. We tried the veins in her ears, and her paw pads, and the callus on her elbow, but none of them worked, and then I saw a YouTube video of a dog getting her blood tested from her small cropped tail. Butterfly’s tail is long and skinny, so I wasn’t sure if it would work the same way, but there’s blood available every time and it doesn’t seem to bother her, much.

Her insulin shot goes into the scruff of her neck and usually doesn’t bother her either, but sometimes I hit the wrong spot, or maybe the cold temperature of the refrigerated insulin bothers her, and she flinches. But it’s over in a second and then she’s ready for treats. She never runs away or growls or tries to bite me. Thank God all of this isn’t going on with Cricket. I’d have no fingers left.

If Butterfly’s blood sugar is low, which it often is in the morning, she gets a special bone treat, made with whole wheat flour to raise her blood sugar just enough. Mom got this Bake-A-Bone toy for Mother’s day or her birthday this year from my brother’s family, along with books of recipes for special foods for dogs. I think Butterfly has been talking to their dog, Lilah, and trying to influence the gift choices over there.

The magical bone making toy.

The magical bone making toy.

Bones in process

Bones in process

Bones!!!!!!!!

Bones!!!!!!!!

But if the blood sugar is normal-ish, or high, the girls share a chicken treat. They know where the bag is. They go straight over to the book case and stare up at it. Cricket has even tried to climb the shelves, unsuccessfully. They pull out all of their circus dog tricks if the treats fail to come as quickly as desired. Even Butterfly has learned how to stand on her back legs with her front paws in prayer pose, though she can’t maintain the pose as long as Cricket can. Then Butterfly takes her share and runs to the hall to eat alone. And Cricket inhales her treat whole, coughs a bit, and then stares at me expectantly as if I never gave her a treat at all.

Cricket is starving!

Cricket is starving!

The other day, in the middle of the afternoon, Butterfly had a partial seizure. Her eyes started twitching, her legs wobbled, she walked in circles and couldn’t see clearly, and her body shook. When I calmed down, I tested her sugar and it was very low, the lowest it had ever been. We gave her maple syrup – applied to her gums the way the doctor told us to do, so she’d have no choice but to take it in – and within thirty seconds, she was herself again.         Her doctor warned us about listlessness and even coma, but he never mentioned partial seizures, so thank god for doctor Google.

And Now Butterfly is back to normal. I can be sitting on the couch, or at the computer, or trying to sleep, and she’ll come over as if something very exciting is about to happen. She’ll dip her head and smile at me, and then she’ll run. If I’m too slow, she waits for me, every step of the way, because she wants me to catch her. She wants to flatten out on the floor and get scooped up like a rag doll. It’s her favorite thing, chicken treats or not.

 

The Neglected Cricket

 

Cricket has been giving me the evil eye more often lately. She sits in her dog bed and rests her chin on the edge and stares at me. She jumps on my bed, climbs on my chest and stares. She especially crawls under her couch, looks up at me, and stares.

"Harumph."

“Harumph.”

I have started to imagine the letters Cricket would send me, if she could write.

 

Dear Mommy,

            You have been using too much of my blog (The Cricket Pages!!!!) to talk about Butterfly. I am cute too. I am exciting and interesting and doing lots of great stuff. So, stop being a doodie.

            Yours truly,

            Cricket

 

I’ve tried to explain to this imaginary Cricket that early on, the blog was entirely about her, but I’m afraid this would not go over well, and she would begin to reminisce about the good old days of being an only dog.

The fact is, with all of the health stuff Butterfly and I have been going through lately, we haven’t been focusing enough on Cricket’s need for adventure. We’ve almost entirely given up on training. Cricket hasn’t been to the beach or been able to run full out or even been able to go on her long walks. Her resentments must have been seething under the surface for quite some time.

"I'm not tired at all!"

“I’m not tired at all!”

 

            Dear Mommy,

            Have you seen how high I can jump? And I don’t need shots or blood tests and I only bark at really important stuff, like dangerous intruders trying to kill my family! Write about me!

            Your neglected puppy,

            Cricket

 

I’ve been trying to think of potential blog posts that would be all about Cricket. Maybe a post about her tiny stump of a tail, and how she uses it to communicate alternate messages to the looks on her face. She can’t send mixed messages verbally, the way humans can, so she has to make do with mixed body language.

But that’s not a whole post, and it might lead to rhapsodies about Butterfly’s long plume of a tail, and the way it dances in circles and swings like a fan dancer. Clearly a danger zone.

If I had more energy, I could take her on some adventures just for her. Cricket would love to go on another car trip, or to fight with seagulls at the beach, or to a lake to meet some frogs or turtles. She’d love to go to the duck pond and chase the geese, as long as she wouldn’t fall into the water. She’d like to go on long walks and sniff new things. But she would not like to go to a training class, or to the vet or the groomer. She’d love to go to Petco to find treats and toys and other doggy smells, but not if it meant trying on outfits. She especially likes to poop on the floor there.

I would love to be able to send her to school for half a day. She could have gym class and meet new dogs and learn to read, of course. And that would be a rich source of new blog topics, about her athletic triumphs, and social anxieties, and public speaking disasters. And then she could come home exhausted and not give me so many dirty looks for the rest of the day. This is a very good idea. This is the next thing we should be doing in America: public school for dogs.

In the meantime, I did find something fun for Cricket to do closer to home that fulfills her need for excitement and lends itself to pictures for the blog. Her favorite poopy area in the backyard has been getting crowded out by weeds, and Cricket loves to battle weeds. All I have to do is pull one or two weeds up to show her the way, and she sticks her head in the ground and searches for more roots and digs and bites and steals the weeds and runs around in a frenzy. She especially likes the tall fat weeds that look like juicy green sticks.

Criket, guarding her treasure.

Cricket, guarding her treasure.

"Mine!!!!!"

“Mine!!!!!”

"Don't interrupt me while I'm weeding, Mommy."

“Don’t interrupt me while I’m weeding, Mommy.”

For minutes at a time, Cricket is unbelievably happy, and distracted. She comes back in the house with a smile and dirt all over her face and a light in her eyes. It’s a good thing we’ve been getting so much rain lately so that the weeds can keep growing and taking over the yard. The longer this Cricket happiness can last, the better life will be, for everyone in Cricket’s house.

"Shh. We're sleeping."

“Shh. We’re sleeping.”

A Butterfly Moment

A Butterfly moment

A Butterfly moment

 

Sometimes, especially at night, Butterfly likes to do a walking meditation. She’s not overly energetic by then, or full of poop, and she’s sniffed as much as she’s interested in for the day, so while Cricket drags one of the humans up the sidewalk to sniff the world, Butterfly gently but firmly leads the other human to a quieter place in the yard. She walks slowly and with intention. She listens for the wind and the shaking of the leaves. She sniffs the smells that come to her on the air. She takes this time to unwind and let go of whatever didn’t work out from her day so that she can sleep well and wake up refreshed and ready for a new adventure.

Walking meditations are full of joy

Walking meditations are full of joy

Meanwhile, Cricket is practically flattened to the ground to get better traction as she pulls mightily on the leash. She always wants to go towards the street and the cars and the noise. She wants to make every pee trip into a three mile walk, uphill, into traffic.

Cricket is so strong she pulled me back to the Fall

Cricket is so strong she pulled me back to the Fall

When Cricket returns, Butterfly tries to share her calm with her sister. It’s like a Reiki master who warms her hands to build energy before sending energy to someone else, but Butterfly uses her nose. She breathes in the fresh air, paces herself, rests her mind, and then when she sees that her sister is overwrought, she offers a nose to nose check in, and inevitably, Cricket calms down, somewhat (we can’t work miracles here.)

nose to ear, close enough

nose to ear, close enough

Whereas butt sniffing is about curiosity and checking in, nose to nose sniffing is about sharing breath and offering peace. It’s like when you take the hand of a friend who is grieving or in pain and you offer your energy and warmth and life to the other person, as a bridge.

Butterfly really listens to the birds when we go outside. The birds I recognize (with help from my nature loving mom) are the red breasted Robin, the Cardinal, the Baltimore Oriole, and the cowbird. Mom is not a fan of the cowbird. There were also starlings at some point, and a bird whose feathers were left in a pile, like a quickly discarded coat, white with black polka dots.

Butterfly's indoor birdie friend

Butterfly’s indoor birdie friend

I’m not sure if Butterfly knows the differences between the birds, or gets a sense of what they are singing about, but she listens carefully to all of them, and to the sound of the airplanes overhead, or a bus passing by, or the train stopping at the train station. She’s a connoisseur of different sounds and songs, but she doesn’t sing them herself, She just likes to listen.

I wonder if the extra birds hanging out in the yard this summer have been drawn here by Miss Butterfly. She has such a Zen feeling about her that we now have Robins and starlings sitting on the lawn, having their own Butterfly moments, as if two fluffy dogs are not inches away from them.

Even the white cat with brown patches who used to run up the retaining wall at the sight of a dog, has become more relaxed, watching us walk in her direction, even coming up to our front door, and only running away when the dogs make eye contact with her.

Maybe there’s an ad in a newspaper only animals can read, inviting everyone to our backyard for meditation class, and that’s why Butterfly has been barking more often, impatient to get outside to her students.

Butterfly has the ability to dissociate from her body too. She spent eight years in a puppy mill perfecting this skill, so that nothing happening to her or around her had to penetrate her heart and soul. She does this less now, but it’s been a process. When Cricket tears around the room like a pinball, Butterfly will freeze and her face will go blank, for a moment or two, and then she will come back. When my youngest nephew (or his father) decide to drag Butterfly around by the neck, she lets go of herself for a moment, until it’s over, or until she hears me screaming.

Dissociated Butterfly, waiting fro Cricket to stop barking.

Dissociated Butterfly, waiting for Cricket to stop barking.

This is different from meditation. Dissociation is absence, from the mind or body or self, a way to survive, but meditation is something else, it’s sparkly and kind and full bodied and it lets in noise, but not so much that it’s overwhelming. And Butterfly is mastering meditation in our backyard, and, little by little, teaching it to me.

Butterfly's favorite form of meditation - on food.

Butterfly’s favorite form of meditation – on food.

My Blond Dogs

When I was five years old, I loved my blond-haired, blue-eyed Ginny doll. She didn’t have breasts or hips, like Barbie, thank god. Instead, she wore jeans and sneakers and braids in her hair, and, best of all, she had a pair of roller skates that really rolled. Of course, because I had openly shown my adoration for Ginny, and marveled at her roller skates, my brother had to grab her out of my hands and make her skate across the street. I couldn’t catch up to him; he was a worldly seven-year-old after all. And somehow, with all of the chasing and racing and grabbing and skating, Ginny lost one of her roller skates and no amount of searching could help me find it.

Me and Ginny

Me and Ginny

I don’t know what happened to the Ginny doll I had at five, but recently I looked Ginny up online, just to see if my memory of her was accurate, and I found her on eBay, pristine in her original box, with her roller skates. I could even buy her some new (old) outfits and a new dresser, with hangers, to keep it all in. But that would have been going too far.

Ginny likes to read.

Ginny likes to read.

I’m not sure what to do with her, now that she’s here. I was never quite sure how to play with dolls as a kid and I’m even more stumped now, but it’s a relief to have her back, and on a high enough shelf so that Cricket can’t chew her head off.

When I looked for Ginny on eBay, though, I found out that there was a brunette Ginny too. I thought all of them were blond. I assumed all dolls were blond when I was little, because I never saw one with brown hair like mine. As an adult, I thought maybe I should buy the brunette Ginny, to correct the past in some way, but I really wanted the Ginny doll I remembered. And that made me think, Oy, really? After twenty years of therapy, unresolved issues still have to pop up?

My best childhood friend was blond and looked a lot like my Ginny doll. Her family had more money and more stuff than we did, more games and toys and clothes and food and an in-ground pool in the backyard. Her mother took pity on my doll-less-ness and bought me a cabbage patch doll one year, another blond, and later on, she gave me a hand-me-down two foot tall plastic doll with long blond hair. My childhood friend and I weren’t really friends anymore by then. I still loved her, but, it’s a long story. One day when I was alone in my room feeling some inexplicable anger, let’s call it rage, I saw that two foot tall plastic doll with long blond hair sitting in the corner, and I took a pair of scissors and cut her hair down to the nubs. I can’t explain why I did it, or why I did the same thing to my own hair a few years later, but when it was done, I felt a little better.

Later, when my brother and his friend were into making videos, they stole my short-haired doll and made her the star of a movie called “Ten ways to kill a baby.” They hung her from a lamp post, drowned her in a pool, dropped her out a window and shot her with an arrow. I don’t remember the other things they tried. Clearly, I wasn’t the only one with anger issues.

My associations with blondness weren’t all negative, though. Around the same time as Ginny, I was enamored of Olivia Newton John, especially the version of Olivia from the movie Xanadu. She was a blond-haired muse come to life, on roller skates. She got to skate with Gene Kelly, and sing Xanadu and Magic and I loved her. I loved the other worldliness of her, with her blond hair and wispy white dress and spacey electronic music. The first record I ever owned was one of hers. The album itself, that big round black disk, felt like a magical thing. I held it out in front of me and twirled in a circle and felt like I was flying a plane and escaping from the down to earth world I had so little taste for.

Olivia in skates!

Olivia in skates!

I still had mixed feelings about this blondness thing when I went looking for a new dog eight years ago. I grew up with black dogs. We had a lot of mutts and even our two pure bred dogs were Dobermans, mostly black with brown patches. I felt a kinship with the black dogs, maybe because I understood, without realizing it, that black-haired dogs had even more of a self esteem issue than I did, in a world where black dogs were usually the last to be chosen from the shelter. But after my black lab mix, Dina, died, I needed a change.

My Dina

My Dina

I wasn’t quite ready for blond, though. I met the most adorable little red-haired Cockapoo at a pet store and when I could not choose her (because she cost $1300, and was clearly from a puppy mill, and I was just starting to have an idea of what those were), I went looking for a reputable Cockapoo breeder. I chose Cricket over the red heads because I liked her breeder more, and felt better about how she’d been raised, and I tried to ignore her white blond hair because I loved Cricket right away.

Cricket surrounded by her favorite toys!

Cricket surrounded by her favorite toys!

The day we went to the shelter a year and a half ago was an impulse, not a plan. We thought we were going to volunteer to foster a dog, but I also had in mind a sister for Cricket, and we got sidetracked. I was looking for someone small, and calm, and older, but I had in mind a brown or black dog. And then I met little white-haired Butterfly and she smiled at me, and I was hooked.

Butterfly's first day (before bath).

Butterfly’s first day (before bath).

I’m afraid that people will look at my pretty blond dogs, and then look at me, and think I don’t fit. Clearly, these girls are adopted. But they carry that childhood magic for me, that Olivia Newton John, Ginny doll magic that made me feel like I could fly away.

I still feel disloyal to the dark haired girls and dogs like me, but I also know how lucky I am to have these particular blonds in my life. Seeing my dogs each morning is like looking at sunflowers, or eating a cupcake with a mile of frosting on top. There’s a chemical reaction when I see them that raises my neurotransmitters from their daily slog. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

But, still, the temptation to put them in roller skates is extraordinary!

"We want roller skates, Mommy!

“We want roller skates, Mommy!

 

Bathmat Art

 

A few months ago there were suddenly little pieces of yarn everywhere, sticking to the rugs in various rooms, looking wilted and lonely and very fat next to the long multicolored threads and tiny pieces of jagged fabric Mom leaves everywhere from her quilting projects. The green of the yarn was very pale, so I didn’t connect it right away with the more pronounced green of the gradually balding bathmat. At first I assumed it was Cricket tearing up the bathmat, making a nest for herself the way she does on my bed, scratching holes into my sheets. But then I woke up early one morning, and there was little Butterfly, curled up in a corner of the bathmat, cooling her forehead against the white bathtub.

The artist at rest.

The artist at rest.

I should have noticed the signs earlier, when I discovered her ducky on the mat in the morning. But there was no bathmat art to go with the stuffed animal, so, I thought maybe Cricket had brought it in there or it had been kicked across the threshold by mistake. There also must have been early works that I did not recognize as such, small smushes of the mat from one side or another. I probably assumed it was my fault, that standing in front of the sink, brushing my teeth, I’d moved the mat out of place. But then there was the abstract rose. Butterfly must have spent quite some time nudging that mat into the shape she’d dreamed of in her mind, an abstract, three-dimensional green rose, with no stem or thorns.

I think each work of art starts as a practical attempt to achieve coziness. Often Butterfly actually prefers to sleep on the hard wood floor, eschewing beds and rugs and all manner of soft things, but sometimes, and I don’t know when or why, the bathmat calls to her.

"This work is not yet ready for viewing, Mommy."

“This work is not yet ready for viewing, Mommy.”

Bathmat art is full body art. Butterfly doesn’t rely solely on her paws or her teeth, she uses her head and shoulders, and she kicks it with her back legs and even pushes it with her belly. Her first love was paper art. She ripped and chewed magazines and crossword puzzles and even books, if I was silly enough to leave one within her grasp. But maybe she started to get paper cuts on her tongue and the inside of her mouth, or maybe she had trouble seeing her artwork in the dark and decided to go to the bathroom over night, which is where we leave the light on. (Mom has tried to turn it off, but I need at least one light on or else I will bang into my treadmill in the dark, and since the most likely place for me to aim myself in the middle of the night is the bathroom, I figured, that’s the light that should stay on.)

I wish I could capture Butterfly in the act of creation, but she guards her bathmat art process very carefully. There’s an architectural quality to her latest works, a sense that she’s designing tunnels and bridges and maybe a highway overpass.

The Fat Inchworm

The Fat Inchworm

Abstract Tree

Abstract Tree

Bridge and Tunnel

Bridge and Tunnel

She hasn’t figured out what to do with the loose pieces of yarn yet. They seem to only be a by-product of the larger works, spread across the apartment for future use, but given time, she may decide to collect them into little bundles and make fiber art. That’s something Mom has wanted to try for a long time; using bits and scraps of thread and yarn and fabric to create something new. This could be a project for them to work on together.

Recently, when I had to go into the city for new medical tests, I was anxious. I was especially concerned about the closed MRI, being fed into a dark metal tube head first, and immobilized for forty five minutes or so. Not fun for anyone, but especially not for someone with claustrophobia. I had my prescription of valium, and a Ziploc bag filled with chocolate, but I was missing something.

I really wished that I could bring Butterfly with me to the MRI. The space would have been too small for both of us to fit inside, but if I could have just felt her leaning against my feet while I was inside that dark tunnel, that would have been comforting. But she gets anxious in the car and they’d never let her into the hospital, because she’s not small enough to hide in my pocketbook.

I was missing her very much, and then I sat down in the prep room where the nurse was going to put in the IV (for the contrast), and I saw a small, bent, piece of green bathmat yarn on the floor. I must have had it on my jeans or shoes without realizing it. And yet, it didn’t drop off as I walked to the car from the apartment, or from the car to the hospital, or anywhere I wouldn’t have noticed it along the way. No. It dropped right there on the floor as I was sitting in a chair, waiting to get a needle stuck in my arm, contemplating small spaces and certain death. It was as if Butterfly was sending me a message, that she was there with me in spirit and I wouldn’t have to be in that dark tunnel alone.

My girls.

My girls.

I tend to be a pretty logical/rational person, but I always keep my heart open to the possibilities, to the little messages the universe likes to send out to let us know that not all coincidences are just coincidences. I don’t quite believe that I have angels following me around stopping trucks from barreling into me, or turning off the flame on the stove when I forget. But I do believe in some sort of electricity that connects us to the people we love.

And I’ve become a great supporter of bathmat art.

Bowtie?

Bow Tie?

 

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