I have been very busy these days after months of lethargy and depression catching up with work that had been put aside. When the weather become warm, I want to start gardening and taking care of the lawn outdoors. I need to be very disciplined however I can be most tempted to stray when a film I truly love comes on the schedule for Turner Classic Movies. Last night, when I should have been sleeping, the movie scheduled was among my top 5, Splendor in the Grass, directed by Elia Kazan, starring a very young Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty, made in 1961. Another lifetime ago, I may add. I know I can write volumes about this movie and why Iike it so much, but now is not the time. I will say, even having seen it a dozen times, each viewing is as new and raw and shocking as was the first time. It is difficult to watch the growing pains of two young people who love each other trying to do the right thing while everyone around them is acting badly and the world as they know it is undergoing profound social changes, even in the Nebraska heartland. And yes, it is excruciatingly painful to watch them as they come undone and become unrecognizable people from whom they were at the beginning of the story. Together, once so close, they launch their adult lives in such different places, determined not to think much about happiness anymore, and say a simple good by before setting off apart.
As actors, the careers of Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty exploded with stardom and success, including Oscars. It is always a joy to watch their films, each one so different yet rewarding. They talents are boundless. Natalie was taken far too prematurely with a tragedy that defied all logic, as if it were part of the plot of the movie she was making. It never added up to me…… But the death of a great movie star usually does not. They never really die. The movies and the stars I love so much share my heart with the dogs and the horse I have loved so much. I am so grateful for the technology that enables us to watch, rent or stream virtually any movie we want to watch almost anytime for a very small amount of money. They are my companions in loneliness.
Feeling so much like a stranger in my own mind, not really knowing how to handle the high barres I have set for myself with the inner voice command, “You will do this!” I have been challenged to the point of exhaustion from running away from myself and everything except Jelly and Tresor. I have embraced them closer to my heart than ever, they mean so much more now. When I look around me, I see that Tresor and Jelly are all that remain. And yet, their coming to me was the result of so random and haphazard events that collided for a moment in time with me, for each one separately.
It is autumn again, and in autumn, I seem to have reasons to go to the veterinarian to take care of problems. This time, poor Tre was sprayed by a skunk in the yard, followed by a physical encounter with another creature that bit his leg so badly that it required a veterinary visit. So we have been off to Washington, NJ a few times now, and still have one more trip to make.
Tre is still who he his, full of great male pride and fire! I thought I could walk him myself again, and bought a prong collar. Nothing could have been further from the truth. The prongs did not stop him from dragging me across the street to have a fence fight with the neighbor’s Golden Retriever, a youngster who has a fire in him as well. He had to be dragged off the fence by his owner before I was able to regain control over Tresor again. So, it was back across the street and into the house before I broke another bone.
Sadly, whomever I find to help me with Tresor, with walks, dog sitting and general help whom I can trust, either disappears, moves, gets sick, whatever; they go away. I always take these losses hard, knowing how they impact Tre. None of the losses is worse than the recent loss of LT who made a sweeping exit with a major hissy fit. Aside from destroying me, but what am I, he knows this hurts Tresor the most because he loves him. My Boy. I look at borzoi photos on FB all day, and see pictures of happy borzoi running in big fenced yards, or free in fields or meadows, and my heart breaks for all the shortcomings my life attained. Yes, I fall short. And, there are the other people in my life, they just turn their backs for seemingly no real reason and walk away in rage….. this is a pattern that mystifies me. Then there are the ones that stay…… they contract fatal diseases and die. As I write today, that is happening now with a wonderful man who has been Tresor’s most recent steady friend and a truly good person we know. I am truly devastated about him.
Not to be overly sad and negative, I have tried to find my strength amidst all of these travails. I identified an unusual idea that I thought would be good for me, regarding an employment opportunity, and I followed up on it. It turns out that I now work part time at a local department store. This has really been a huge help for me. It puts something else in the forefront of my thoughts, something that attests to my strength, diverting me from my pain. I am still active in my dog clubs and attend their meetings, programs, and shows, and I still serve on the boards where I have those responsibilities. However, I have a new world that I have entered, one that demands making new social relationships, and addresses my financial shortfalls, since owning two borzois on a retirement income is not easy.
More about this later…… My new pattern of absences from home has been noticed by a certain borzoi…. and he has let his disapproval be known perfectly clearly!
By late November, you can’t lie to yourself anymore and think that it is still summer or fall. Like being at the end of your life and your beauty is dimmed, you are not in the springtime of your youth and therefore not the first pick of the boys. The inevitable bitter cold with biting, raw winds bear down from wherever they come from as you try to go about your kennel work suddenly turning what once brought you joy in your beauty it into an unpleasant ugly chore. To make things even worse, Jelly sustained a bad injury on her forelegs by falling down hard on them while running off leash in the Watchung Reservation, making it necessary to go to an Emergency Vet nearby and the beginning of many visits to “Dr. Mary” for “bandage changes”, making it a very expensive injury from which to recover. The lacerations cut across her wrist joint and the challenge was to keep the wounds covered until they were healed to avoid osteomyelitis or “septic joint”. So, all of that has been happening, and after three weeks, there is still one wound wrapped although it is becoming noticeably smaller. I feel as if I live on Rt. 78, the long road I need to take to get to another road that takes me to Washington, NJ, where our regular vet office resides. I would not let another vet practice touch my borzois, as I learned the hard way from past experiences.
There has been much in the way of good news, too. I still see announcements on Facebook of Mikhailya’s great-grandson, “Vinto” wining Best in Show placements in Japan on a regular basis. How proud we all are of him. But not only of him, of his great dam, “Lucy”, who still does a lot of Best in Show winning here in the States, herself. The next very big show will be the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in February in New York City. That will be followed by the Borzoi Club of America National Specialty Show in Hunt Valley, Maryland, the week of May 10 – 17, 2017. I can only wait and wonder if Lucy’s owners will show her in these shows again. It is just hard to say, and I am not privy to this information. Perhaps they will bring “Vinto” back since he has done so well in Japan. If I were their owners, that is what I would do, but I am not.
I have been trying to keep my spirits up, but with the onset of the holiday season, it is very difficult. I have been reading more, in the historical biography area. I just finished the Ellie Bolles Ellison (2014) The True Mary Todd Lincoln, and want to read the Chernow biography of Hamilton fame, since I can’t afford to spend $1,000.00 on a Broadway ticket to see the play. It’s comical that this milestone has come about. I could say more about this in light of the outcome of the recent presidential election, but I demur. However, I digress. What I mean to say is, by reading it creates the illusion that I am in the company of others and it distracts me from the intense loneliness I feel. It appears that I am not anybody’s cup of tea. Watching the movies on Turner Classic Movies has the same effect. I think I will try to do more reading in the new year, or, it depends on what movie is playing. Perhaps I can be more selective.
The well being of Jelly and Tresor are all I can ask or expect. Nothing else really matters at this point, as long as I can rise each morning and do what I need to do every day. But I know all too well how alone I am and how much the responsibility for Jelly and Tresor weighs on me.
At this time, I can identify other areas that are critical and important, and I will be writing more about them in the year to come.
In particular, one area of interest that developed for me in 2016 and about which I have written before was the need for donkey rescue. I have begun to see more attention given to this cause throughout the year. Facebook has many groups with people who have a keen interest in this topic, and in recent months, the New York Times, reversing a long period of disappointment I have had in them, has taken up the topic with vigor. And as donkeys require awareness and assistance, so it goes for all equines, horses, large and small. I hope I can raise the level of awareness somewhat in Blyss Blog readers while still remaining true to the focal topic of this blog, the borzois of Blyss Kennels and challenges and joys I have living with them.
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. In spite of many sorrows, I have much to be thankful for. I hope you do, too.
I believe it is always wrong to give in to the seductive temptation to dwell on despondent thoughts, and who does not have them. In my case, it is doubly wrong because I live with the two best dogs in the world, first of all who happen to be champion borzoi, and secondly are “Tresor” and “Jelly”, respectfully, therefore not ordinary dogs. All I have to do is look at them, and they turn their eyes to me with a luminous gaze that speaks only of love.
But to err is human…..as the first part of that famous adage goes. And I do say about myself I err with great ease.
I found myself alone with a large amount of time on my hands this weekend. Well, why should that be anything new, since everyone knows I live a solitary life here at Blyss Kennels aside from “Tresor” and “Jelly” regardless of any efforts I have made to the contrary. And I forgot to consult my new method of coping with this which is centering on Catholic reading and writings, based on my already strong foundation in that religion. It sounds like such a wonderful idea until a difficult time arises, then I never think of it.
Sunday was a perfect example. I was planning to spend the afternoon alone watching Turner Classic Movies on cable TV hanging out with the borzois. Sure enough, toward the end of the day, a particularly weighty film was put on, The Heiress (1949) Dir. William Wyler, starring Ralph Richardson, Olivia De Havilland, and Montgomery Clift. I was familiar with the story, having read the Henry James short novel. It was as tragic a domestic tale as was ever written. I wondered if I was up to watching it. The doomed heiress, Catherine Sloper, reminded me so much of myself, that in the area of personal happiness, everything had gone terribly wrong through no real fault of her own, just family dynamics, especially with her father. It made me wonder if perhaps I should not watch it at all, fearing it would plunge me into a deep depression. I thought more and more about what to do. Then I was struck with a fantasy. It went like this.
What if we could go back in time in a time machine, and be in the days when Henry James was writing The Heiress. Instead of a father regarding the marital prospects of his daughter so poorly that he suspected a man would marry her only for her money, that his generosity of spirit would allow her to marry a rogue whom she loved in order that she may enjoy the happiness of marriage. Instead, he interfered; she lost the man; the two of them – father and daughter – ended their relationship together despising one another. I imagined my Sunday afternoon spent alone for so many of the same reasons could be placed into a time machine. Suddenly, I was a ghost sitting in the room with Henry James. I was able to influence his creative spirit! He wrote the novel with the happy ending. Then, one hundred years later, the movie shown on Turner Classic Movies last Sunday would have the happy ending.
Who knows, maybe I could be in a time machine and go back in time. Would my father get a second chance to get it right and after despising me, love me instead? How different a person would that have made me? But surely, Henry James, being a great writer, might have found a way for his paternal character to make his daughter happy. Would my father have recognized his cosmic “second chance” and done a better job the second time around? I know now as an adult, he meant well, I know he did, if only he could have…… Then, my Sunday afternoon spent alone in the present and watching the Heiress would have had a totally different emotional response. And I would not be the person I am today.
I watched the whole movie and found myself reacting to something different for the first time. I no longer saw the father as a true villain. Although I felt emotionally closer to the young woman I found myself having an understanding for the values of the father. Having worked in a demanding career for thirty-eight years from which I recently retired, I can see the value the father placed on his own money, and his wish not to see it squandered on a foolish son-in-law. This complicates the story, adding to its value as a masterpiece, does it not? No one is truly right, and no one is truly wrong. Perhaps I should try to think of my father that way. There are no good guys, there are no bad guys. There are just ordinary people trying to get it right at the end of the day.
Today I live alone at Blyss Kennels with Jelly and Tresor, my two beloved borzois. I am grateful and overjoyed to have them, and want for nothing. Yet, inside my soul, I am aware of a hollow void the opposite of, let’s say something solid like flesh, but a space of a nothingness, where there should be human love. I embrace and kiss my beloved borzois every day, and am most grateful for them, for no person in my life comes up to their level in goodness and loyalty, and capacity for love. Everyone else falls short, fails, has an agenda and a reason for being there, like what is in it for them. However, I am never fooled.
I observe love that I lack in my friends and neighbors, or sometimes in a novel or a movie, or a play or an opera. So I know it exists. But it has never been real for me. And in spite of three marriages, I am lonelier than ever. It’s absence has made my life very difficult. I wonder if others feel that knawing pain of emptiness or is it something unique to me? I believe it is unique to me in the strange configuration of mental illness that I bear, altered by the medication I take that is supposed to make the pain go away. Somehow, it never does, but I don’t complain to my doctors. I don’t want them to think they are not helping me.
Sometimes, I find the kind of love that interests me in a novel, or a film, and I find it very compelling. I just watched, for example, the George Cukor masterpiece from 1933, Little Women, and was crushed under the weight of family love in the family depicted there, the March family of New England during the Civil War. Another film that encapsulates this concept perfectly is, the Norwegian immigrant family in, I remember Mama, a similar story, this time set in San Francisco, the parents of which find themselves etching out a living and raising their children, poor in resources, but like the March family, rich in family love. Then, in an arcane, mostly forgotten film I saw for the first time recently, made during the heyday of old Hollywood, this time taking place on the eve of the First World War in England, the War to End All Wars, is the enchanting Smilin’ Through, the ultimate love story dream come true, where the more horrible the war the stronger the love, it was enough to convince me that my life is hardly worth living without it.
I should mention a novel or another literary forms while I am thinking about it, I suppose, and so I shall. Anything written by Leo Tolstoy, but especially War and Peace, will certainly delineate the outcome of life lived in the absence of national stability or personal love, in life lived on the cusp of one of the Twentieth Centuries most significant events: The Russian Revolution. Another great observer of life’s most painful outcomes, in this case Russia after the aftermath of the Revolution and who leaves no subject unmentioned, the great Russian author and play wright, Anton Chekov. Through his character development portrayed in these works, he presents profiles again and again of the fatal intersection of this society on the individual. When you think he can wreak no further pain and havoc on his characters, he wrote his famous plays. There, he delineates the fatal effects the Russian Revolution had on the middle-class: professional, educated, land-owning nuclear families that seemingly survived but alas slowly crumble before your eyes, rotting from within from lack of love, and is so devastatingly painful to watch. Upon watching Three Sisters performed by an excellent professional theater group once, I almost had to exit the theater because I was afraid I would faint from shock. Then, there is the extremely arcane novel that deserves aggressive literary promotion more than anything that has seen print since the invention of the printing press after The Bible, The Transylvanian Trilogy, Vol. 1 – 111 by Miklos Banffy, the Tolstoy of Romania – Austria, published by Everyman’s Library, Alfred A. Knopf, 2013. This novel covers the interactions of family love and nationalism, what happens when they cataclysmically intersect and everything about life as you knew it disappears. Throughout the Trilogy, not only does this author introduce the most interesting characters ever to appear in print, he gives a step-by-step tutorial of How World War I Began, for anyone who did not know. For opera, one need only look no further than Francis Poulenc in Dialogues of theCarmelites when the most innocent citizens in the country are judged to be on the wrong side of the French Revolution and pay the highest price. You can never weep enough watching great films of aftermaths of revolutions, attending plays on this subject, reading these novels, or listen to this one of many operas. In truth, the lesson to be learned here is that everyone is alone in the end, if not dead or destroyed. If they ever had love, they did not have it at the end when they needed it most, or it failed to save them.
Without love, family love, romantic love or love of country at the core, there will be heartache and incredible psychological pain. If the love at the core was flawed or not present when it was needed at earlier phases of life, it can never be undone, you can’t go back to Start and have a second chance.
Today, I find myself in love with horses, dogs, and now donkeys, the most broken down, down-trodden of things, creatures most in need of rescue. And rescue I do. I think I save myself. With people and social situations, I migrate further and further away until I have finally become nearly invisible. Someday, I may disappear altogether. More and more time passes in between attending Church, and that is sad. And I have confessed elsewhere that I have lost all of my friends. I have some relationships, but they are few and far between. A boyfriend with whom I recently broke up with is one of my only friends, and my sister and a cousin are the others. I am sorry if I seem inordinately sad, I am not really any sadder than usual, it is just that I am more acutely aware that I am. I tell myself to be optimistic, that love is right around the corner! But am I being delusional, or is tomorrow another day?
And so it is, that I turn toward Jelly and Tresor with extra hugs tonight and wish them well. I am very much aware that for now at least, they are all I have.
I cannot say for sure why it is so, perhaps it is the stress of the upcoming holiday season combined with Tresor’s mystery neck pain and the need to spend more money in general, and the expectation to be happier than normal, but everything seems more difficult for me these days instead. However, I am determined to overcome it all and look to the happy things that only a holiday season can bring. Things like seeing more of everybody, gift buying and giving, and days where the word “love” is more on my lips. For yes, I do love LT and my son so much. Then, going over to the borzois, I could not love two borzoi any more than I love Jelly and Tresor. All of these people and they are my world.
But what I really want for Christmas and the New Year is to fly away…..NOT to go to the Caribbean but instead to go away to a different place to live, on a small farm in a rural area. I want it to have a small but comfortable house, but also a small barn, a barn yard, and some fenced fields. I want my borzois mainly, and a donkey and some goats. This is my vision and I can’t make it go away. It is impossible to do in New Jersey where I live. And so, it torments me. However, I am not going to do anything about it. I mention it to those close to me from time to time and they do not support the idea at all. They point out I would have to move out of state. That would be very difficult for me to do. So, I don’t know how I could bring this about. For now, I am trying to keep it under the radar screen and talk and think about it as little as possible. However, I know it is there and it pains me. No one can create problems out of thin air the way I can. I guess I’m “talking to angels, counting the stars, making a wish about King Kong, dancing with strangers and falling apart, waiting for Superman…”
Tresor seems to have recovered nicely from the pain in his neck for which we are very grateful. His pain is gone and he is back to his old self, going here and there, back and forth, in the house. He has resumed his enjoyment of his yard and deck. But The Boy proved he still has the Fire in his Belly on a walk with me on Thanksgiving when he Lost It and got a nano-second ahead of me, broke away and gave a neighbor’s standard poodle a nip on her flank. I ended up on the ground devastated with embarrassment, but the hero appeared to be Tresor because the person walking the poodle was with a group of friends, and they all fell in love with him! There is no logic in this world but my solution to this suburban madness is that I will no longer walk Tresor. Instead, my partner, LT, will walk him. There is never a dull moment living with The Tre. I am sure it is due to reasons such as this that his former human family returned him.
The other irregularity to occur on Thanksgiving and the days leading up to it is that the weather has been unusually balmy for this time of year and I have been able to spend a lot of quality time outside with the borzois. It has been fun having these stolen balmy days, like early fall instead of late fall, with temperatures well in the sixties. Another event Thanksgiving had to give was a dramatic red sunset in the west as if the sky was aflame. I got to see it because I happened to be out walking Jelly when it was at its peak. These are just some of the advantages one gains by walking dogs, you never know what you will see in the sky or right in front of you, for that matter. It was fun to see it, as if it were a sunset at Key West, or other places known for beautiful sunsets, and there it was descending in the Western sky behind the Watchung Mountains. In the future, I am looking forward to showing Tresor again in March, at the New Brunswick Kennel Club Show in Edison NJ. In the meantime, I keep busy working for my main borzoi breed club, and I only hope my dual roles of Show Chair and Secretary do not block me from showing him.
Sadly, at this time in my life, I know of others who grieve very badly, and one woman with whom I am close in particular. I have had to endure the deaths of several significant others in my life, including some very close friends, most recently, my mother last November. Once, I entered into a long and complicated grief over the death of my youngest borzoi, Opal, triggering a long and deep depression for which I had to see medical assistance. Perhaps those seemingly lucky people who rarely lose a close person are lucky, at least seen from my eyes, but perhaps not. I am more practiced at it, so when it happens I put well applied defense mechanism into play that help mitigate my suffering.
There will be nothing to stop the pain in the beginning or stop the seemingly endless flow of tears so let it be. In time though bring it to a close before you are damaged by too much sadness. I know it is an addiction, no safer than heroin, to which you make a strange bedfellow, that is very hard to break up with. Let it go in time and not too long at that.
Following are some suggestions:
Reach out to joy, or something or someone that gives you joy.
Pray or meditate
Visit the ill or shut in, or residents of assisted living facilities
Join clubs, churches, groups that do activities
Look for a substitute in your life to replace the one you have lost.
There can be no more “birthdays” or “anniversaries” with someone who is gone.
Stop thinking in terms of “anniversaries” and “birthdays”.
Find another companion with whom to celebrate new milestones.
I believe every day spent in grief after a short while, such as 3 – 6 months, is a loss to the living person.
Nothing is gained by excess or complicated grief.
Seek medical care for complicated grief because it underlies depression.
I have enjoyed much time recently visiting Jelly’s breeder, N24, who lives in upstate New York near the Connecticut border. She lives in a house very much like the one I had before I moved here. She has two older female borzoi who live upstairs, and two puppies who live downstairs in her dog room. One of the females is the mother of the puppies, and the other female is Jelly’s mother. The puppies are still being trained and are too rambunctious to be upstairs all the time. It is a great deal of fun for me to be there, enjoying both the older ones and the puppies. Also, the puppies are now being shown, and they are doing very well in the show ring. I am going to co-own the male puppy with her, and we will share in his expenses, and my name will be on him as a co-owner. His name is Hunter, and I could not be happier about that. By the time Jelly passes on, he will be a middle aged borzoi and I should be able to bring him here to Blyss to live.
I have spent my down time this summer reading some old American classic novels, most that I have read a long time ago. So far, I have read Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger, and now I am reading Main Street by Sinclair Lewis. I wanted to read something by Faulkner, and Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath but I got side tracked.
I see the literary world is in spasms over the controversial sequel to Harper Lee’s jewel, To Kill a Mockingbird, called Go Set a Watchman, where the main character, “Atticus”, is a racist. This is totally illogical, and it is difficult for me to accept she wrote it. However, it does support proof how much time changes us. Even 180 degrees, as in this case. Inexplicable other than sheer senility. We can only wonder how time changes us, who we are and who we are becoming, and hopefully we are not letting ourselves down to ourselves and in the eyes of the world.
Prior, I indulged myself in some contemporary fiction, although finding good writing was difficult. I started with Amy Tan, one of my absolute favorite writers, and enjoyed and anguished over The Valley of Amazement. The novel was a slow burn. By the end, it pains you simply to think about the characters and their lives. I found another such work, although in a completely different setting, equally incendiary by an obscure Hungarian or Romanian writer, Miklos Banffy who wrote a colossal work known as The Transylvanian Trilogy. It was on the scope of War and Peace. Authors like Tolstoy come to mind.
When I am not reading great literature, I read silly tabloids or watch Turner Classic Movies on the cable TV to relax. There has to be a way to relax somewhere in the universe.
I have never learned the ABCs of life, nor the XYZs it seems nor anything useful in between. I may as well have the label challenged affixed to me. Where others are able to get through their lives with facile, one marriage, one long lived dog, a few cats and a parakeet, I have had multiple husbands and even dogs. I have tried not only different breeds but varying groups and even many, many parakeets from the old, big Woolworths store I remember in downtown Westfield a long time ago. I suppose if there is a lesson to be learned in the day I miss it. I have to go back to the very beginning and try again. But the outcome is always the same, and the day and those that follow seemingly so perfect descend in a negative trajectory and I must learn something new all over again. Like the Miss Havisham before me, “I know nothing of days of the week, of weeks of the year…..” they all blend together into one congealed mass of time, and that comprises my life, a life lived within the confines of Satis House.
If it is not relevant to the borzoi I do not like to include it in my blog. However this problem impacts my availability to write for now in the Blyss Blog Encore, compile the Blogs in Blyss Blog into a book format, and delays the arrival of my new borzoi, “Jelly”. Instead, I have entered the confines of a rigorous program for people who share an emotional problem I have had for some time, an eating disorder. It seems that I was not doing food very well either. Doctors have informed me that I don’t know how to eat, something so basic but yes, it is true.
It is a tenacious problem. I know for me it has been, ever lurking in the background, always seductive and irresistible, promising perfect, eternal beauty, youth, and even love. But since the eating disorder behaviors are always about something else, one has to be willing to rally the courage to face the darkest demons intent on destroying what your lethal past failed to accomplish.
Please don’t do as I do. Plan a different, smarter course for your life. However, to stumble and fall is human and if so call upon your strengths before you journey too far astray from the true path to your bliss.