Archive for August, 2009

“Home Burial”

Sunday, August 30th, 2009


So here is my first little (post kid) oil painting project.  The duo was based on squares from a little quilt I made a while back.  Upon closer examination the quilt seemed to be sort of fresh and hopeful.  However in the process of putting the oil paint layers on I realized that I had to bury that dream.  I guess having those failed ideals of home and nesting buried in this painting is good.  I now have ruminated on the experience, changed my expectations and hung the duo over the fireplace at my new digs.

Deer in a Spot Light

Thursday, August 27th, 2009


On Tuesday we hosted the ALS Association Bay Area Chapter fund raising luncheon.  This event sort of snuck up on our little household.  We only collectively realized this was actually happening a week before.  The fairy garden was awash in dry Bishop’s Lace and the “lawn” was a bit frayed around the edges.  The party was a good excuse for us to overhaul the untended spots.  Mattie forked up the dough, and we bedecked the fairy garden in brand new perennials; Chocolate Cosmos, Dianthus and Coreopsis,  to name a few.  Even the abandoned succulent garden got a face lift.


I thought before hand that I would be fine with this event.  Seth unearthed his hoard, and bedecked the garden in fairy stones.  He wore his shirt that I painted with Grandma Belle when I was six.  We both gave our little speech about how mom was an artist, and her legacy lives on in us.  However, when it was time to leave for the park I felt relieved.

I don’t seem to relate my mother’s ALS experience and death with her.  I remember and cherish all my memories of her, but when forced to confront ALS I skirt the issue.  I can’t even get my brain to concentrate on it.  When you tell people that you mother died of ALS, you might as well have turned a search light on a deer.  ALS is currently an incurable disease with only one outcome.  As humans we survive by not dwelling on the unpleasant and unfixable.  It is easy to be a cheerleader for cancer because lots of people survive it.  No one survives ALS.  That said, I really admire the staff of the ALS Association.  I think they have one of the hardest jobs/life experiences, yet they were all so confident and professional.


Although the event was filled with faces and people, I couldn’t help but notice the empty chairs.  Every time I noticed an empty chair I envisioned my mother sitting in it.  I saw her reading, cutting with scissors, dialing a telephone.  I saw her doing all the subtle quiet activities that make up most of our lives.  The nature of ALS is subtle.  Although each transitional stage of ALS has it’s drama, the disease forces subtlety on everyone.  Days become slow and quiet, and those giving care are forced to listen more closely for the slightest movement that signals a need of their loved one.

Our garden rejuvenation, although cheery reminded me nothing of ALS.  I left feeling that our efforts had no connection to the event.  I have no regrets, I’m sure that everyone thought it looked lovely.  However, next year I will have a much better idea of how to reconnect with my experience of ALS.

Russian Doll Light

Sunday, August 16th, 2009


Spending four days in Butano Canyon last weekend was incredibly visually peaceful.  The light there is not just filtered it’s layered.  Take this naturalized hydrangea bush.  A hydrangea inside a bamboo grove, inside a redwood forest, inside a rocky canyon, inside dry hills, inside coastal mountains…  You get the idea micro climates nested in micro climates, paintings nested in paintings, the ultimate in refined light.

MANGO October 31, 1997 – July 31, 2009

Sunday, August 2nd, 2009



Mango was the most popular dog ever.  We would walk down the street and everyone would bend down to pet her.  Rarely did people ask, “Is your dog friendly?”  They intuitively knew she was.  Mango’s pure and simple gift was transference.  If you had a care, a woe, tension, obsession, mania, all you had to do was pet Mango.  Whatever energy you did not need she would gladly take off your hands, and promptly forget.  Mango was the “pet and forget” dog.  The kind of dog who makes being human bearable.  I will always love her for that.  I did the petting/forgiving, she did the forgetting and together we moved toward bliss.


Before I say more about Mango I must first list her names and their meanings.

Mango – Mango came to us as Margo.  This seemed a little too “human” and serious to me so I called her Mango.

Mangopie – Her full name was inspired by a pie baked by Leala and Tyler and their other friends on the Hali Mano Commune on Maui.  The primary ingredients of the pie were fresh mangos from the garden, and a coconut that they harvested and shredded right there in front of me.  I knew at the time I would probably never taste such a wonderful flavor again, and like Mango the dog it was the best food I have ever eaten.

Margo – Jim always called her Margo.  Out of respect I never asked him to call her Mango because they had their own relationship and she loved/responded to him regardless of which name he called her by.

Moo Cow – Mango made a funny noise somewhere between a whimper and a grunt that sounded like a cow mooing at a rather high pitch.

Mooi – Partly because she “mooed” but mostly because it means beautiful in Dutch.


Mango went everywhere with me, in the car, on planes, on vacations to the office.  However, she was not really “my dog”, Mango was everybody’s dog.  She was a devoted companion to me, along with everyone else in our lives.  She relished days and weeks spent at Kim and Linda’s, nothing like a schedule of pampering and love.  Nights spent in Maggie and Jeff’s walk in closet, oh the soft carpet and girl cave of it all.  Days spent following the sun spot in Amit’s office, perhaps the only dog trusted to sit/sleep in on critical sales calls. And last but not least, her throne on the sofa at the center of Grandpa and Mattie’s life, always ready to receive visitors in her tummy scratching office.

Mango was so relaxed with other people that I sometimes wondered if she was indeed supposed to have been their dog.  One year on our way out of Mono at the end of a camping trip we had to return to the campsite because we forgot Mango.  Mango rarely missed an opportunity to hop in the truck and wait, especially when she saw us packing our camping gear.  We returned to the campsite to find her asleep in the sun at the camp next door.  She had simply taken up with the neighbors and missed our departure entirely.  On her final trip to Mono, Mango spent her free time idly sitting in the dustiest sunniest spot where the campsite road meets the trail to Doris Lake.  There she was perfectly positioned so as not to miss anyone coming or going.  She greeted them all with her tell tale, sitting dust wag and joyous smile – oh here let me bring you this ratty pine cone hull, it looks like you need a “pick me up”.

Kids loved Mango, and Mango loved kids.  There was something about Mango’s ear to body proportion and willingness to be insanely silly that attracted the little ones in droves.  From an early age Mango was trained to be a kid dog.  Martina spent many and hour dragging Mango around on a leash, bedecked in dress-ups and “jewels”.  Mango learned how not to snap when squeezed a little too tight, and how to endure 12 pairs of hands “petting” you at the same time.  Her early training was a small price to pay for the lifelong adoration that she received from almost every kid that passed her way.  They doted on her, and she doted on them – an ever giving cycle of the purest happy energy.


Mango was a hilarious burrower.  Many a morning I would roll out of bed, brush my teeth, dawn running attire and yell for Mango.  As I grabbed leashes I’d hear her “mooing”.  Inevitably she would be stuck at the bottom of a comforter cover, a gyrating lump of purple flannel trying to nudge free from a well sewn corner.

Mango was an excellent co sleeper.  All those years on the sleeping porch I stayed cozy with Mango snuggled next to my tummy and Blue at my feet.  Mango and Seth snuggled from his first moment, primarily due to the fact that he was in my tummy and, well that was where Mango slept.  Mango never relinquished her tummy spot, she served as a fabulous body pillow, snored incessantly and never complained a bit.   A few weeks after Seth was born I realized there was no point in trying to pry Mango from his side, because she felt compelled to guard him whenever I was or was not around.  Maybe if Seth had slept in a crib it would have been different, but we slept on mattresses on the floor.  The minute Seth was left alone to nap she would hop up and settle in next to him.  Guarding, or if all was well (which was usually the case) snoozing.  This went on at night too.  I would shoo Mango to the foot of the bed when I was awake, but every time I slept she would burrow back to Seth’s side.  When Seth hit the 20 lb mark Mango lost interest, I think she figured he could fend for himself seeing as he then weighed as much as she did.

The introduction of a small child changed Mango profoundly.  She abandoned the bed and made her own sleeping space.  When we moved into the white house she was thrilled.  Here she had her own room!  She loved it, the floor was carpeted, and the door could be locked such that Seth and his barrage of flying toys would not disturb her.  Mango had “arrived” and made no bones about flaunting her good fortune.  I missed her when we slept upstairs, but it was more important for her to be happy, so we let her be.


Mango’s official breed was “Chidaquador” –  One half Chiwawa/Daschund, the other half Labrador surprise.

Being one quarter Chiwawa Mango loved dust.  She was content to sit all day in the hottest, dustiest spot panting, eyes barely open looking very zen and absorbing the world around her.  When we lived in the cabin she dust bathed on the path between the garden and the field.  At the white house she had several dust baths that she cycled through during the day, ambling from one to the other every few hours like clockwork.  At grandpa’s she had it all.  The dust bowl right outside the back porch served as command center of the dog universe.  Mango could lounge all day as people came and went, rousing only to bark at passing dogs or to drink the sweet nectar found in the shallow dishes under potted plants (yuck).  Her final resting place is in the hottest dustiest spot of all.  Seth unknowingly, but happily surrendered his “private digging area” to Mango.  After we returned from the vet I wrapped Mango in her beloved David Lee Roth bed and let her soak up the sun for a good while before we buried her.  It felt right to put her to rest with hot fur and dirt everywhere, just the way she liked it.  She is buried to the left of the stairs under the kitchen windows where she will have lots of company.  Her new job is to grow Seth’s “birth lemon tree” that we planted over her.  I look forward to many a beer with a slice of lemon, courtesy of Mango the party dog.


Mango was the life of every party.  Upon arrival, she was always the first to hop out of the car, wagging her tail furiously and heading for the door.  She would enter and people would scream “MANGO”.  I loved this, because Mango simply made people happy.   She always had a reason to celebrate with a tail wag that approached levitation, a joyful grin and her ears parted, ready for a good scritch.  If you were not paying her the proper attention she would “moo” and paw your pants leg.  This never seemed to bother even the most stayed adult, and people were thrilled by the interruption, as if Mango were in the right and it was they who had neglected their duty.

Mango was famous – it’s true.  I swear everyone in a one mile radius of our office on Polk and Jackson knew Mango’s name.  One day we were walking down Polk Street.  I was talking on the phone and Mango was “checking her email”.  Someone behind us started making really impressive cartoon like dog noises to get Mango’s attention, and she replied vigorously.  I was engrossed in my call, and only stopped to look when the extend-a-leash halted me.  Sure enough Mango was having a conversation with Robin Williams.  He saw me, grinned and froze.  I said, “Look Mango, someone more famous than you.”  Robin laughed and squirmed into the passenger side of a waiting car.  I was never surprised that this happened; a testament to Mango’s true star quality.

Mango was a rock star.  I always thought of her as the Madonna of dogs, charismatic yet tough as nails, demure yet ruthless in the pursuit of pleasure.  Mango taught me to be bossy, that’s how things get done!  Demand that people let you love them, and let them love you in return. She taught me not to worry so much about what people think, but to go out and tell them what I think.  Mango went outside and barked because it felt good!  Mango lived a full life, even with a body and lungs packed with cancer.  It was not until she refused a jog last Friday that anyone really realized something was wrong.  How great that she only spent one week of her life dying and the rest of it living.  I like to think Mango has found her “La Isla Bonita”, but really I know she is somewhere on “La Isla Bonita” partying and wagging her tail to the tune of Mambo Number 5, by Lou Bega!

(Substitute your dog’s name anywhere in this chorus.  Please note that Blue, Farley, Alan, Jessie, Ruby and all of Mango’s other dog friends were simply left out because their names don’t rhyme quite as well, but we don’t love them any less)

A little bit of Millie in my life
A little bit of Amber by my side
A little bit of Seti’s all I need
A little bit of Kima’s what I see
A little bit of Brandy in the sun
A little bit of Zoya all night long
A little bit of Madison here I am
A little bit of you makes me your dog

I do all to
fall in love with a dog like Moo
You can’t run and you can’t hide
You and me gonna touch the sky

MANGO Number 5