In the New Yorker this week there's a profile of Nora Ephron, the writer, screenwriter, and director. Her new film is "Julia and Julie," about Julia Child and so the article contained a lot about cooking, both Child's love for it and Ephron's. What I find inspiring is the idea that the film celebrates "... the pleasure of finding the thing you are best at, and devoting yourself to it with abandon. If you make a mistake, learn from it, then forget it... Don't complain, don't explain: that's the motto of Julia Child and Nora Ephron..."
I like that. Exemplary people are often very good at many things, though, and I would think that other criteria come up, besides just doing what you are very very best at, even if it's possible to determine what that is: things like "can I make a living from it?", "is it fun?", and "what will make the most positive difference in the world?" There are many reasons to devote oneself with abandon to a pursuit. But I like the idea of celebrating figuring out what to devote oneself to.
Yesterday as a comment to my previous entry here, my friend Carolyn made a good point about what the holiday is about - the veterans who died in our wars - but the media and our leaders certainly don't limit it to that in their rhetoric. Obama last weekend "called on Americans Saturday to tribute to the nation's veterans and service members" (UPI story) And veterans like our old highschool classmate Jeff Klaessy spent their valuable Facebook-time yesterday reminding everyone to think of their (still living) selves.
Meanwhile we have most people just thinking of the day as another chance to get off from work and drink beer in the park. Which is what most holidays get used for.
I'm sorry about your Uncle, Carolyn. I wish there was truly a day where people really just focused on those who died in wars. I wish every holiday still had its original focus, with laser-like precision. I wish Xmas was still about the winter solstice and not about buying and receiving presents. I also wish there was a holiday to honor all the slaves that this country was built on. And a hundred other holidays to focus on and honor all the other honorable people that have sacrificed or been sacrificed for this country, holidays that people really used for their intended purpose.
But that's not how our messed up society works these days. Culture has become a battleground where people fight over the meanings of things and what people will pay attention too, every moment of every day. And if, on Memorial Day, some feel the need to call attention to WHY some people were sacrificed, well... I don't know. Maybe I just don't get it because I don't have any relatives who died in a war - thankfully. I just really wish that nobody did, and ever will again. But sadly, that's not how our society works either.
Today I'm heading down to Arivaca, a little town near the border, about an hour southwest of Tucson, to show "Wild Versus Wall" at the Arivaca Independent Film Exposition. I think this is the third year that I've had something in this yearly 1-day festival, but I've never actually been present for it, so I figured it's about time I show up. It looks like there are quite a few interesting films, both documentary, and narrative, shorts and features, so it should be fun. The only thing is that just like with the Sedona fest last week, it feels like I'm taking time out that I don't have, but at least in this case it's only an afternoon.
Last Saturday, Greta and I took part in a special tour of households in Tucson that have chickens.
Ours was one of 18 stops on the tour, and we had over 100 people stop by in 4 hours to look at our chickens and coop, as well as check out our garden and solar oven. (our friend Matt's house was also on the tour). It was pretty fun and it seemed like a lot of people were inspired and thinking about raising chickens themselves, or doing it differently if they already did, and/or inspired to garden more, or use greywater, or build/get a solar oven. It was encouraging to see that so many people are into these sustainable practices -- Apparently the food co-op sold 200 tickets to the tour, raising 1000 bucks for the community food bank, and they had to turn away 200 more people.
Yesterday a very sad thing happened in our little world. Jack Jibby Bark Undersun, the best dog in the world, Greta's constant companion and best friend fo 15 years, passed away.
When I first started dating Greta, over 2 and a half years ago, I met Jack and she asked me if I liked dogs. I replied "Well, I don't dislike dogs." She didn't view this as a very positive response, but all I meant was that I had been ambivalent to dogs so far. I had not ever had a very high place in my life for pets, and I grew up with dogs in the family that were not crazy but were also not really good with kids or "close" to us.
Jack taught me to love dogs. Jack and Greta taught me what a deep bond someone can have with their pet. He was a little puppy, wild on a farm in Virginia when 20-year-old Greta found him, the day after having a dream about him. Since then he was with her for countless adventures. He was there when she had nobody else to be there for her. And with her love and attention and care, he grew up to be the gentlest, kindest, most loving dog I've ever known. Everyone who knows him loves him, and he has many friends who will be sad to hear this terrible news. Our friend Peter drove up from Bisbee and the three of us are here in this house that seems empty, blown away by this sudden tragedy. Peter's dog Nori keeps looking around for Jack, her best doggy buddy, not quite understanding what has happened. Where did he go?
In the morning yesterday, I prepared his breakfast like I often do. On every other morning, he always would rush to the bowl and start gobbling away eagerly. Yesterday morning, he didn't want to eat it at all. I knew something was wrong. He was lethargic and panting hard and not walking very steadily. Jack has had a mast-cell tumor, a type of canine cancer, for over a year now, and we have known that this made his days numbered, even more so than his advanced age. But he's been on medicine and doing really great for a long time. We may have started to forget that at any time he could go downhill. He started feeling better after we gave him a dose of his prednasone in a bowl of ice cream. He has always really liked ice cream. But then in the afternoon his condition got worse again. He was trembling all over, having trouble breathing and panting hard like he was in pain. We had called the vet and made an appointment for later in the afternoon, but when Greta offered him more ice cream and he refused, that was when she knew something was seriously wrong. She got him in the car and headed for the vet, meeting me on the way home from a meeting I had near campus. I drove the rest of the way with her in the backseat holding him.
They took him out of the car and into the clinic on a little doggy stretcher.
I can't really bear to continue at this level of detail. Suffice to say that the prognosis was grim. The cancer had clearly spread, and the mast cells were releasing histamines into his bloodstream that were causing him to go into severe shock. He passed away gently and with a minimum of suffering, in Greta's arms, at about 6pm.