DOG ON THE ROAD

Pam and I were on our way to pick up two of our granddaughters from school the other day, and came upon a dog frantically running in front of us. She was a mixed breed, with a long body, black and white markings, traversing aback and forth in the middle of the road, panting heavily at a hurried pace, her long skinny tail wagging behind.  Cars were stopping abruptly to avoid hitting her and, some swerving, barely missing her and slowing down.  We followed her for more than a mile and she kept looking around, looking back and we wondered what circumstance led her to this frightened state.  We were almost late to the car line at school and so at one point we managed to go around her as another car stopped and the driver got out to help.  I so wanted to stop, but knew we had to be there for our girls. When we came back on the same route, the dog was gone.

I spent most of the rest of that afternoon in melancholic thought, regretting not stopping and disquieted at what I had seen. Had someone just released her to get rid of her, or was it something else? Where was she, and was she safe now?

In mid thought, it occurred to me there are many people in the world feeling just like that helpless little creature; lots of people…more than we imagine. We know them…or about them. Soldiers returning home from war, but sadly, not everything they were, will make it back. Sanity and limbs are casualties that won’t be retrieved…won’t be returning on a later flight.  These guardians face relentless nightmares, night sweats, weeping midnights of battle sewn memories and residual family tension as well.

There are parents of children missing, or lost to addiction or suicide, as well as those struggling with ongoing mental and physical problems. Tender young men and women who are warring with their sexual orientation and doing whatever they can to remain closeted….totally alone in their secret, or bullied by those who do suspect. There are those distraught with knowing they will never feel the touch of their spouse or children again, or worse,  not know where their children are. There are those who will never again enter the company offices that once employed them….. feeling a lonely distance from those with whom they once felt a closeness;. Their self image now in shambles, hold little hope of employment on the horizon, much less an equally compensated position,. There are those whose world has been abruptly uprooted by a doctor’s diagnosis that they have limited time on this earth…it’s real…it’s final.

All these desperados running down this road in a frenetic haze, hopelessly looking around….and know nothing else but to hurt…to hide…to cry….to scream…to fear.  And so  they run…….run…and keep running. Even with the hope of heaven, if they believe…there’s still a stark, enigmatic “otherness” they feel. They may need a kind word, or assurance of God’s nearness, a hand on their shoulder, your quiet presence or aid in finding more emotional or financial support.

God help me never forget when I see, or hear of people met in the despair of personal difficulty. Would that I not find myself so wrapped up in my comfort, in my busyness…. that I’m too busy to stop along the road.

SPOONER AND FRENCH HUNTING DOGS

I was going to write this little episode in the previous blog about my grocery store adventures, but Pam said that I had too many themes running. She says people tend to like shorter blogs than some of the “epistles I tend to write sometimes. I read everything to her before posting. She sorta edits my tendencies toward, as she says, “writer’s diarrhea”. Maybe I should’ve rephrased that, cuz it didn’t really come out right.  Oh, man…that’s not what I meant either, it just slipped out… I’ll just quit right there. What’s that Tom Waits quote, “I’m buried beneath the wait of information.”

Well, same day I came out of the Publix grocery store waiting for Pam, I saw this diminutive cute, well-dressed and well-manicured grey haired lady approaching me holding her little dog.  They were walking out of the Pet Smart store near by, and the closer she came into view I got a grin on my face. .  You know how people say that a person kinda looks like their dog.   Well I’m telling you for a fact…her little dog looked like this lady’s shrunken twin sister. It was so close it wasn’t funny. I sort of felt bad for the dog because it was tiny, but really fat. He literally looked much like a Pekinese matzo ball.  She was talking up a storm to her little friend, who she called “Spooner”…her little “Spoonie”.  I wonder if she named him after Spooner Oldham” the keyboardist andsongwriter who was a member of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section playing on hit songs like  “Mustang Sally and When A Man Loves A Woman. I’m leaning toward “Not a chance”.  This lady was way too sophisticated.  She had the poor dog dressed up in a tuxedo outfit with a little dog necklace…I guess that’s what it was.  He looked SO uncomfortable and I thought for a minute he was probably thinking ….WOULD YOU ZIP IT FOR JUST A MINUTE, WOMAN. ….AND QUIT CALLING ME “SPOONIE”, DOG!! I love thinking about all the possible things animals aren’t saying…but they’re thinking.

And while we’re on the subject of dogs, did you hear the news about the two new breeds that the American kennel club is introducing. Here’s what Google says about the two breeds.

The two are…”A spirited Dutch duck-luring dog and a friendly French rabbit hound are now running with the American Kennel Clubs pack. The club announced Wednesday that it’s recognizing the Nederlandse kooikerhondje (NAY-dehr-lahn-seh KOY-kehr-hahnd-jeh) and the grand basset griffon Vendeen (vahn-DAY-ahn).”

Now there’s a mouthful.

Okay, I’m just trying to figure out how a dog lures a duck. Dogs don’t even talk duck. There’s already a language barrier. Am I to assume that the dog dresses seductively…. you know, like that  lady dressed up her poor Spoonie. Except in this case the female dog  would probably be wearing a canine tank top and some red doggie pumps. Now that would be alluring!  The male dog would probably don a blue jean bottom and a fur-tight white t-shirt top with  a WWF baseball cap worn backwards.

And let’s talk about the other breed that you have to take a  Rosetta Stone course to pronounce…..”grand basset griffon Vendeen”….Give that a spin on your Google translator. Harder to pronounce but easier to understand what this bow-wow is about. They catch rabbits.  This breed would be like the hunting companion for the French version of Elmer Fudd. It’s bad enough these poor rabbits are getting chased all over French wine country, but even worse…. They can’t even warn their fellow rabbits, because they can’t even pronounce the dog’s name. Give me a break. SHEESH!!!!

MY GROCERY STORE ADVENTURES

Yesterday I was standing outside Publix grocery store waiting for Pam to pick me up with the groceries I just bought.  We were getting stocked up for the approaching snow storm which was forecast for the next day…which is today when I’m writing this.

In this regard, a dear friend, Miss Kay told us something she learned from her mother. Her momma said that if there were blackbirds on the ground eating, , it indicates there’s going to be snow. She said there were a lot of blackbirds on the ground where they live, so it would be snowing for sure. She was right, it snowed like crazy this morning.

Miss Kay, is a precious lady who along with her lovely sister, Cindy, help Pam keep our house in order. We know this family well and have been to Fourth of July parties, multiple family funerals and weddings together. They attend a little Penecostal church in the country and love Jesus. Pam and I are inspired by their strong experiential faith. When they come to the house, I occasionally turn on some southern gospel music they can listen to as they work I’ love the times I hear them, singing at the top of their lungs. These lovelies make our home a joyful place. We’ve prayed together and cried together. It’s one of the most beautiful relationships we have, and has been so for decades. When they come to the house, they’re eager to give us hugs and kisses. It’s mutual….because they mean the world to us.

Well.. back at the ranch.

Pam hates going to the grocery store with me because she thinks I take too much time dilly-dallying in the isles, wandering around, not taking care of business, not value shopping, buying stuff we don’t need and not presenting coupons she’s given me to use. Pam just wants to go in and get out. I love to talk to friends, greet people I don’t know and visit with the different employees working at the store. Pam actually told me the other day that she would not be surprised whatsoever if she found me talking to a head of cabbage in the produce department if I felt the compunction. That’s just silly…..well maybe an attractive head of lettuce.

All this basically drives her nuts and into a exasperated state of spousal madness which often times she fears might turn into spousal abuse. That of course would never happen because she knows whenever you see a doctor, the people at the front desk always ask the old people if they have been mistreated (I always thought they said HIPPO law, but Pam caught me up to speed on that one, “you just can’t listen Greg, can you?!!!….”HIPAA  regulation, honey…turn your hearing aids up”)… Since I’m an old person, they’re certain to ask me what could be damning information to said spouse, Pam. I watch Forensic Files and have seen all the ways wives get rid of their husbands. JUST KIDDING..maybe.

All that said, she has finally settled on leaving me to my own devices in the grocery store while she takes four ibuprofen and escapes by listening to soothing music in the car as she waits for the inevitable overspending, missing and unneeded items, once again watching me walk out of the building with plastic bags and not the cloth grocery bags she gave me to use. Okay so maybe in my quest to secure all our foodstuff needs, I inadvertently (Pam has another word for inadvertently) forgot I left them on the bottom section of the shopping cart…make that, I just forgot them, period.

I see these problems as a minor oversight. Let’s just say, Pam sees things differently. She in fact, thinks that without question, the pharmaceutical companies should start listing my name as a warning for anyone who’s met me…. as one of the primary reasons for using any number of their anxiety medications. It’s a tough thing living with me. She never knows where I am…and that’s even when I’m sitting right next to her.

MY CELLO

I play the cello, and I mean that in the most unprofessional sense. I’m not really that good and I want to make it perfectly clear this is not an attempt to pander for sympathetic encouragement and approval from my relatives and friends…..I can only hope.

I’m nearly deaf, and my oldest granddaughter refers to what I wear as “hard of hearing aids.” Luckily I have one working eye and can’t drive anymore except on very well lit days. The good news here is this allows me NOT to see the music when I play (bad for me…worse for the listener). On the bright side….I don’t practice as much as I should either, and this reticence to discipline moves me ever closer to gaining certification as a musical collision specialist. This a calculus that does not portend a cocktail for success, but as long as I have a heavy handed brass section behind me…. I’m safe.

If you don’t practice, your fingers become like frightened children who missed the fire drill at school, and when a fire rages, these wandering fingers are lost in a blaze of limited facility and appalling intonation. You know it’s happening, but it’s too late to do anything about it.

Trust me….okay hypothetically if you must. My cello is like dealing with a jealous girlfriend, if you don’t pay attention to her…..she will not let you play in tune. It’s The Ancient Rule. I swear my fingerboard shifts on me when I’m playing. Pam also knows how to get my attention… and I always make it a point to appear interested. But sometimes she goes just a little over the top and asks me to pick up after myself or take out the garbage, but that’s just because she doesn’t realize the pressure I ‘m under …you know… being all retired and stuff. I need my rest.

I keep playing because this instrument has been a close friend that literally saved me from a life of hopelessness and inferiority when I was young.

When my cello is in hand, I can go to places in my mind and heart I cannot go with anyone else. When I’m playing, I feel an emotional freedom, and a sense of perpetual creativity. If the music calls for it, I can express ferocious passion or speak the sweetest moments. To be sure, it’s amazingly cathartic. And besides that…It’s way cheaper than psychotherapy.

NO GOOD GROUND

There’s been a lot of chatter on my FB feed about Kendrick Lamar‘s performance at the NCAA National Football Championship game. What is fairly clear is the preponderant negative responses (not all) were coming from white people. If I’m not mistaken, I saw a teeming crowd of black, Hispanic and white faces who were totally enthralled.

I remember Chris Rock hosting the Academy Awards and showing people how blacks viewed the Academy Awards on the street. He went to a black theater in downtown L.A. and asked a series of questions. By their answers it was quite evident there was a cultural gap. Let me be clear, I’m not saying one culture is better than the other. I am saying that the two cultures may view some things in very disparate ways. Not every way….but in some. I do not listen to a lot of rap or hip-hop music, I’m pretty un-hip and chronically white. I didn’t have anything to do with that,…God did. I live in a predominately white world. That is fact.

I have come to the place in my life where some music I hear is not in the context of getting it…but rather experiencing it. As I listen to the music of Stockhausen, Schoenberg, Cage and atonal music, I was always somewhat off balance because I could not analyze it in real time because there were no tonal centers to which I could refer. Finally I sat back and simply experienced the work. I didn’t have to get it, I could just take it in. Now it was more beautiful to me, more visceral. In the same manner, it is essential for me to understand that these precious brothers and sisters are communicating in and to a culture I may or may not understand. For that matter, music related to a culture of which I am ignorant.

Why is this important? It is important because people matter. When I look in someone’s face, I want to see what God sees…a reflection of Himself.

We all live in our own little harbor, not always remembering that we are actually in an ocean of ideas and people coming from different perspectives. We may not see things the way others see them. That does not diminish who they are or what they do. When we appreciate people…our lives are enhanced. When we don’t look for the best in people…our lives are diminished.

All of this certainly does not mean there isn’t music that is poorly done in every type of music that exists… there’s plenty of that too. The problem we face in our country is our readiness to bring our opinions without seeking to understand that which is uncommon to us.

“He who only knows the side of his case, knows little of that. His reasons may be good and no one may be able to refute them, but if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no good ground for preferring either opinion.”

(John Stuart Mill)

WHAT LOVE CAN DO

On the streets of civic rattle

War is breaking friendship ties

Truth, whose truth, the whipping question

Battles rage for cause and rights

Individuation mounting

Hating clouds form hanging rope

Politicians like a midwife

Birth redundant stillborn hope

Two electro-magnetic cultures

Differ where oppression comes

Pure compassion damns the privileged

Government a plague for some

Hear John Lennon’s song “Imagine”

Anthem globalists now sing

Sound the call for new world order

Borders without borders bring

Change has nurtured social justice

Equity her noble truth

Challenges are met with violence

Now let’s see what Love can do

Souls from towers, backwood hollers

Armed with syllogistic swords

Many use a poet’s skill with

Wounding demonizing words

Tightly holding to perfection

Ancient bane to what is good

Will we ever come together

Know respect that’s understood

Racial hatred, moral quandaries

Separate us more and more

How do we restore a oneness

Never truly one before

Seems so many conversations

End up laced with fiery words

Volume heightens pronoun rancor

Quickly changing thought to slurs

Eloquence and worlds of insight

Cannot change the resolute

Attitudes the only locksmith

Now let’s see what Love can do

Now let’s see what Love can do

A poem by Greg Nelson

Poppie’s Hallel (BMI) All Rights Reserved.

FLEETING…FLEETING

It started out to be just dinner and a movie, not in the romantic notion…but with our three chipmunks who live close to us. What ensued turned out to b e a most memorable time. It all began quite innocently with the girls coming over and watching grandma prepare their dinner. They helped and the fun began. Georgia, the oldest almost fell over laughing when Pam asked me where I was going. I told her I was going to get the two chairs she wanted. As so often before…her face turned to an exasperated look as she corrected me with, “I didn’t say two chairs, Greg…. I said, Would you get me some carrots”. At this Georgia is bent over laughing. She always saying “Turn Your hard of hearing aids up Poppie….Can you hear me now?” She absolutely loves to tease me, just like my son Ben does so well. I LOVE IT!!! The evening progressed and our littlest bug, Tessa recounted that when they were coming over to our house she saw a guy driving beside them with his window open and smoke billowing out. She informed all of us with her proclamation as she put it, “He was obviously cigaretting”. Thanks for the clarification, Miss T. She was full of information…letting us in on the fact that she was now playing basketball with the “Lady Krogers”, To which her dear sister Blythe, the middle chippie, corrected her by saying “it’s not the Lady Krogers, T-ball…It’s the Lady COUGARS”. Once more belly laughing ensued.

Later we were discussing what our favorite food was, and we were trying to qualify what that meant, and in what context. So I came up with this scenario about what would your last meal be if you were on death row. Without a pause, Blythe said…”I believe I’d want a buffet. Now I’m rolling on the floor. This is the same girl who made a quick response when we were driving in the car with Georgia and herself and I mentioned the word compliant. Blythe asked me what the word compliant meant. I told them that it meant to comply with and/or honor their parent’s wishes. In short to do what their parents asked them to do. I continued with…”I’d be interested to know who was the most compliant of you two? And without any hesitation, Blythe responded, “I’m going to have to go with me on this one, Poppie”.

The movie of the evening was “A Christmas Story” and grandma gave us a 10-question test about the movie. I wiped everyone out on this quiz because as Pam put it…”Well he better win, he’s seen it about 50 times. Georgia snapped…Well there some perks for being 100 years old. She laughs…but I won. As the movie went on the girls took their turns cuddling with Pam and me, wiggling around and watching in different sitting and laying positions. Throughout the movie, Poppie’s phone was a major hit. All three of them were playing with an app that distorted their faces, changed their voices, put funny designs on their faces, and all with different backgrounds. Between the dialogue of the movie and giggling at each different funny picture or video they’d taken …there was continuous merriment and entertainment. These are the moments we live for. We know we have to seize them. Georgia will be driving in two years and the youthful exuberance will soon transition into the realities of more difficult issues for each of them. This isn’t uncommon knowledge to anyone…but it’s bittersweet.

Pretty soon Georgia said, “”Poppie, could we have another sleepover here?” Pam and I said we’d love that. Georgia continued…” How about tonight?” We had nothing to do the next day so we said sure. The kids handed me the phone and asked me to ask their mom and dad. I called, and we got the okay, and the evening took off again. At the end of the movie, it was makeup lessons for them with Grandma which was held in our bathroom. “See you later, Poppie” was my cue to go to my writing room and vanish. I complied and the girls had a ball with grandma. I went to bed at 10:00. Pam went to bed at 12:00, Tessa went to bed at 1:00 and Blythe and Georgia went to bed at 2:00. The oldest two confessed to an assortment of petty candy and soda crimes and malfeasance perpetrated while their two very innocent grandparents were in sweet repose. There’s no telling the sugar intake that was involved in this surreptitious activity. …But if you could get a DUI for being over the limit, they’d get more than a sugar bust…They get a saccharine citation for possession of pixie stick paraphernalia, and long stretch would no longer connote a reference to taffy….if you know what I mean.

The next morning, the littlest mermaid was up at 7:30 and we had the best early morning day before Christmas Eve cuddle time EVER. I turned the Christmas tree lights on and some other lights around the room that Pam had decorated so beautifully. We just quietly enjoyed them together for a few minutes all snuggled with light blankets and warm thoughts. Tessa told me she would not stop wanting to cuddle with me for 84 years. She was very specific about that, but 84 was her number and it seemed perfectly fine to me, because I’d be with Jesus long before her commitment would end. It was a win-win for both of us.

The older two chippies came down around 10:00 and I fixed them pancakes and bacon. As Grandma, the chipmunks and me were seated at out breakfast table… we heard a big bang, and I felt a great weight on my knees and lap. This was unbelievable. Our heavy marble table had snapped off about a third of the way right where I was sitting. Here lay this heavy marble section on my lap. We all were gobsmacked. Pam quipped, “Well, we won’t be having Christmas Eve breakfast on this table tomorrow.” Bizarre, bizarre, bizarre. We have had this table for over 25 years, but I think the last time we moved it might have been it’s undoing. Well, I guess we get a new breakfast table for Christmas.

Next, each of the “petits enfants” took a bubble bath in our bathtub. They wanted to try out all the wonderful aromatic bath oil’s that grandma had let them smell last night.I was not privy to what followed because of course I was once again banished to my writing room. First, Pam had to beg Tessa to exit the bathtub. I could easily have heard her singing … “I shall not be moved… Though grandma asail me, I will not be moved.” She was splashing around like Esther Williams in a euphoric stupor. Finally she relented, and the big guns moved in. They got the jets blowing, the bubble bath flowing and the result was a mountainous height of bubbles the like of which neither Pam nor I had ever seen.

By the time everyone had their hair dried and clothes back on it was time for them to return home. I hate it when they have to leave. Sure we’re a little tired, but I still wish they could stay. They don’t want to go home either, but we get big long hugs before we wave goodbye to them as we stand in the driveway. “Peace out, girls. Got your eye on you (Got your eye on you came from what Tessa would always misspeak when they left. She woud say, “Got your eye on you”….and it stuck. Then the last phrase…”Be very careful” was a cue for me to run up and tickle each of them in the car, then get another ” I love you” and kiss from Sarah. It is a tradition for me to never let them leave without this little ceremony. They’ll remember…I’ll remember….because these moments are fleeting…fleeting….and I don’t ever want to forget.

”The story of life is quicker than the wink of an eye, the story of love is hello…goodbye…until we meet again” (Jimi Hendrix)