Gratitude makes the journey better and so does kindness

Tag: life adventures

A Dog Named Ringo

20160220_152251I am not good at delivering bad news. So the other morning when I showed up looking rather serious in the boys’ bedroom and said ‘I have sad news’, merely confirmed my lack of skill in the area.

One of my best friend’s dog died. Oh, you’ll say, that. Yes, that, but he was not ‘just a dog’ and I will tell you why. You see, having been through my fair share of losses of people I loved dearly since the age of six I know death well enough to know it reeks of helplessness. I accept it but I will never just shrug and say ‘Life is like that’ because I cannot say that with a straight face or I’d be lying.

This dog named Ringo was the reason I met my friend you see. A couple of days after we moved to Kamloops almost four years ago we were at the river where the sand is fine and sparkly, and the river laps ever so gently over your feet if you approach the water line. It’s the dog beach, my favourite in town (as long as you avoid the mid-summer madness.) Dogs have it good and I don’t mind because they can appreciate water and beaches.

That day we were four strangers on a pretty sandy beach trying to make sense of our new surroundings. A golden retriever was running in and out of the water, happy as happy can be. I don’t know if dogs ever laugh, but he was doing it right then and there.

I watched him, his joyful puppy face and his big golden frame dripping with water. He made me smile. The next thing I know I was talking to his owner. She and Ringo were to become our first friends here. A few days later when her and I met for a walk by the river, he spotted me coming from afar and ran to greet me. He jumped and gave me a kiss on the side of my mouth. Boundaries you say? Well, I took it as a compliment.

‘He’s not usually doing that…’ my bemused friend explained. We nicknamed him Lips and our friendship grew richer since because he was in it.

There is no obituary I can throw here without sounding melodramatic. That’s not what I want either. The morning I told the boys that Ringo died unexpectedly I choked though and my voice was teary. Because he was such an important part of our life here you see.

We’d take him for walks, or he would come to our place for the day. We would have him in the car on the way to some hills for a hike, lodged in between the boys and he would always put his big furry head on my armrest. I’d pet him in between the eyes and he would close them gently.

He always made sure the boys were close by when we hiked and if they got too far he ran to check on them. I hugged him often, checked him for cacti and ticks when needed and felt his soft fur with my feet when my friend and I sat for tea on the sofa and he lay on the floor under the coffee table, not bearing to be out of the conversation. We joked that he should have his own cup of tea too.

We once went to a lake and kayaked and he swam alongside the kayak, amazing me with his strength and determination to keep up with us. We kayaked up a stream to where the woods were mysterious and a bit frightening and I felt safe because Ringo was with us. His tracks and ours were left scattered on a sunny beach that already had imprints of bear paws.

that dayHe was gentle and even gentler if you asked him to, and he knew how to lay his head on my knee when a tough day would find me in my friend’s kitchen sipping tea and unraveling life’s complicated threads. He knew. That’s why he was not just ‘a dog’.

The boys’ eyes welled up when I told them the news, and mine teared up often during the day and then again the next day and the next. For the little boy, Ringo’s death was the first he experienced up close. Though Ringo was big, little boy always asked to hold the leash during walks because he knew he could trust him to listen. He did listen. And for all the times he didn’t, we loved him just the same.

Just like my dog many years ago, Ringo goes with bits of life I shared during evening walks on back alleys. One particularly bright evening this winter we left tracks on the new thin layer of snow and I was grateful for so much as I looked behind us and saw them.

Grateful for the gift of companionship my friend was sharing with me by sharing Ringo, and grateful that I could have my boys taste the heart-melting feeling of having a friend who makes you feel so utterly loved without needing any words to do so.

three boysTwo weeks ago we took him to the river. He tried to coax us to throw sticks in the water but we couldn’t. He had a dinner invite that evening which clearly stated ‘dry dog’ so I could not let him follow his impulses that one time. But we sat and watched ducks and geese waddling on the river shores and I laid my head on his in consolation. He accepted it and gently nuzzled me. I loved that. I will miss that.


MagicSo you see, his presence was more than just a dog’s presence would be. He was our friend in a way that will stay memorable and sweet. We will miss him and will always say his name with an extra happy note attached to it because he made it so. And I will always be grateful that I learned of that extra dimension of closeness that my friend gifted me by sharing Ringo.

Of Pixies and Springs That Keep on Running

The car is full to the brim with tent and backpacks and wet clothes from incessant rain and trekking up a soaked path to some wild hot springs. The boys chirp in the back, exhilarated by the adventure that started with driving up a dirt road where deep, rain-filled holes reigned supreme and placid, and ended at what looked like a path that was blocked on purpose with boulders and deep trenches. Yes, we ventured, and found it all…

It started in early morning with sleepy faces and mops of smoke-smelling hair that would have nothing to do with combs… tent dwellers beware.

Eat soup, slurp if you must, for good measure, explore the shores of Kootenay Lake and stop for ice cream somewhere halfway between lake and mysterious hot springs we have yet to find. We’re on the way back from our trip to the Kootenay Rockies.

A dirt road we almost miss, a sign scribbled on a piece of wood. This is it. Yes?

From here...We follow the trail and reach a steep forested hill, so steep you could peel off of it if distracted. The boys run down towards a river we could hear raging in the valley. We hear their voices, muffled by trees and happy to be exploring places unknown. Like the pixies little boy draws so often, and the creatures they invoke in imaginary games, their earthy-toned wool sweaters camouflaging them against trees and moss and deep green tufts of bushes, the two of them hop towards the valley where we all hope to find the mysterious hot springs.

Slow down? I wish… let them go says the forest. I say it anyway… ‘Slow down…’ knowing the forest will swallow my voice, knowing my pixie boys will keep on running and hopping, knowing they’re powered by restlessness, the same that powered every one of us once upon a time when the sky could be painted in dreams that seemed more tangible than the ground we were standing on. It’s just that we forget, the rush of this and that… though we should not. It only lasts a few beats, this whole adventure called life.

They reach the valley and little boy crouches near a puddle.

‘It’s cold!’ he yells uphill. I smile. Imagine that: we’re hunting for hot springs. Little boy follows his brother.

GreenThe forest air is damp and feels almost warm on our faces. We follow the pixie boys descending into the green valley, stepping on ground thick and soft. A blanket of green that’s been soaked by centuries of rain and fog. I think of water bears and the many times I made the boys’ eyes open wide with wonder when we talked of them. The giggles, memories of snuggles… water bears (yes, they are called tardigrades.) The very place we’re in… richness made richer by voices are here to learn the depth of their own world… the wonder.

Thick valley trees guard the white foamy river. No other steam than the cold one that blossoms from the river curling around bounders. The blessing of seeing it all comes with every breath.

The boys’ relentlessness takes us uphill. Little boy slows down, tired and breathing hard. Steep and green. We climb and reach the very open space we left from. A lone tent, incessant rain and a Onceler-like arm pointing to a trail. That way. The arm goes back into the tent and we follow the mysterious hot springs trail.

The path is immersed in a rain-fed stream that reaches up to our ankles. Hide-and-seek, find the springs; we’re alive, just like the water bears we cannot see. A forest full of them.

‘North is over there…’ big boy points out to silent trees and birds’ chirping. He loves the challenge of finding his bearings. Follow the trail, slow down, pick up the pace again… where are the springs? Drip, drip, the rain answers. Trickster.

Keep on… we will find them.

We hear voices and find the side of the mountain that shelters a pool of steam. Two more pools, higher up. Sulphur steam hangs on trees and rain licks our cheeks… Drops fall in the hot pools. No better day to be here. Caves and rocks and fallen trees, pixies alive and plunging in pools… ‘It’s warm, come on in…’

There are other people and they all seem to know each other. Guardians of mysterious hot pools in the water bear forest, they smile at the boys’ antics and tell us of how trees can warn of their impending falls. The boys asked, you see… they see trees, awkward angles and all, they learn and in doing that, they slide lower into the water, safer in the pool that is warm and soothing…

Alongside...Later afternoon comes too soon and we trail back, rain and hot spring water dripping, rolling down the path with the stream that got fatter during the three hours that we poured into the hot pools… Fog creeps in, hungry pixie boys are tired and happy, their cheeks red with effort and they smile… ‘It’s over too soon, can we do this again?’

The car is full to the brim, and we squeeze in, drenched and tired. We listen to rain licking the windows and there’s an unmistakable pixie magic calling us back. We will, yes, soon… For now we eat cheese sandwiches made with sunflower bread and we peel oranges that spray streams of fragrance into the air.

We drive along the lake to the ferry that sways all the way to the other side of the lake. We get home in the dark and the half-moon sifts gentle brightness.

When will we go next? And where? Could it be like this one? Pixie boys plead. Secretly, we do too. Next time soon?

PixielandOh yes. Better. Every time. If you dream to it…

The Plumber Rings Twice (Episode II Of ‘Life In An Old House’)

So there are no more mice, or so it seems. Perhaps they got flooded during the partial flooding of the basement. We don’t call it flooding for now though; we refer to it as ‘the puddle’. It sounds almost friendly. We know it’s not. It is not a case of sheer delusion, but rather holding down the fort until repairs can be done.

It’s complicated. The plumber came once to assess and then an hour later to take a few more photos. It is that good.

As of now, all water that gets used in the bathroom trickles into ‘the puddle’ due to a breaking in one of the pipes. Yes, we wish we knew of that one before moving. Please do not say the word hindsight, we know it and we know it well. It stings at the moment, so use with care.

So those most curious of you will ask about all those hidden things one does behind the bathroom door. The short answer is ‘we’ve seen better’. The long one goes as follows: we are becoming more knowledgeable of the restrooms around town like ever before, we shower at friends’ houses and we are becoming even more environmentally friendly than we’ve ever been (and trust me, we really are) by conserving water because we know its wicked presently broken ways into the basement and its ardent desire to join ‘the puddle.’

Yes, we’re learning. A curve so steep it hurts your eyes to look up. so we won’t and take the step by step approach instead. It works better that way.

We occasionally see tip-toeing boys around the yard, giggling as snow and cold make them shudder, and feeling a bit naughty for peeing by the tree in the yard. The snow covers it overnight and then they’re at it again. Since Tony is studying medieval history, we can consider this a practicum of some sort. Play always makes it better for children. This will be no exception.

As of now we have the following: a missing landlord (vacation and no reception), no working toilet, no mice but nine of them clouding our otherwise clear conscience, ‘the puddle’, and a willing plumber and a mental map of all the working public toilets in the area. Just ask.

Oh, and a beautiful view of the river and its beautiful white snow-laced shores, and a whole lot of hills enveloped by beautiful cold mist in early morning.

It could be worse, that’s what we keep repeating. Surprisingly enough such adventures make us more grateful rather than resentful. It’s what you make of it, some say, and I am ready to believe they are right…

To be continued….


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