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Unmarked Crossings: a poet and her journeys

In and Out and About at Connemara

March 21, 2010

I’ve been a bit under the weather for the past few days. Oddly enough, when it is bright and sunny here, I prefer to wait to go outside until the volunteers and staff have left and locked up the front gates and there are only a few hardly hikers or walkers about. Yesterday was a glorious day. I could see dozens of people coming and going between the goat barn and the main house: families with small children in tow or in slings or backpacks, solitary walkers moving quickly, people with their dogs, and elderly couples holding hands.

When I did go out to sit on the porch bathed in the evening sunlight that was still bright and warm, almost immediately I had a visitor. Winding his way down the gravel drive that passes the Farm Manager’s Cottage (then continues to a building that resembles the bunk houses I remember from the old TV westerns back in the 50’s) came Tiger, one of the two barn cats. He is a short, dark, and handsome and has obviously fared well in the issue of being fed. We had met a few times and he has become my friend. To sit on a porch of a historic house with late afternoon sun streaming across my face and a fat and sassy feline purring away on my lap was pretty close to the end of a perfect day. Tiger wanted to join me when the sun’s light was failing and it was time to go inside, but knowing barn cats and their propensities for marking new territory, I had to tell him goodnight at the door with a last stroke of his lustrous fur.

Friday I had gone out for a quick, unexpected trip to the local Lowe’s store to pick out flooring. My friend James, who is caring for my dogs on his farm (lucky, lucky dogs get to be farm dogs for a few weeks) informed me that he is tearing up the floor of the half bathroom off my kitchen. When I moved in the floor and wallpaper were both just fine. But when Petunia was about eight months old, she was joined by Trillium, who was about four weeks old. That’s too young to be taken away from her mother, I know. I hadn’t even planned to get another dog when I went into the Petco in Lexington on Memorial Day, 2005. I had done my shopping, checked out, and was on my way out the door when two ladies wheeled in a grocery cart with a tiny little puppy in the child seat. Trillium, who was coal black, was lying on a red towel and wearing a tiny purple collar with rhinestones and a baby’s bib that read: No Pain, No Gain.
It took about five minutes for me to leave Petco with that little black pup, her towel, and bib. I was the proud owner of a half-registered-English Bulldog/half-registered Mountain Cur puppy with only three legs. What else could I do?

Unfortunately, between Petunia, who was still teething and Trillium who had lived in a child’s swimming pool in my dining room for a few weeks until she could get around (albeit stumbling), the floor and wall paper (not to mention the painted baseboards in the kitchen and bath) were a shambles. They’ve been that way ever since, even though Trillium became the darling of my friend James when he dog sat and has become a real farm dog. She now swims in the duck pond, chasing frogs and ducks, emerging covered in moss and duck weed. She rides in the farm truck and is the queen of the farm. Even though there are four other dogs living there, Trilli is the only dog allowed to sleep in the farmer’s bed.

Yesterday was a down day for me, but not in a bad way. I slouched around in pajamas all day (even after I took a shower), reading and writing, until my aforementioned tryst with my friend Tiger. For some reason, when it is raining or overcast, I want to get out of here for a few hours. Perhaps it is that I need the company of other people, although I rarely talk to anyone except waiters or waitresses. I had not had breakfast when I went out today, so for $5.99 I had a huge breakfast at Waffle House: waffle, two eggs, hash browns, sausage, and two slices of toast! Of course, I couldn’t eat all that, but I was sated with warm food and the conversation of the waitress (a History major at Western near here).

I went to see the film Green Zone with Matt Damon and Greg Kinnear. The film is a fictionalized version of what [may have] happened in and around Baghdad following March 19, 2003, the day our country declared war on Iraq. The fiction and/or the truth aside (and the American public were fed plenty of both back then), it always troubles me when I see what soldiers are capable of in a time of war. It’s nothing new; it’s the same old story over and over again, since the first man wanted something from or disagreed with his neighbor. It knows no ethnicity or religion or location. I couldn’t help but think of Sandburg who lived through several wars and himself served in the Spanish-American War, yet who valued people above country or countries.

I sometimes fear we are a hypocritical country, from the top on down. We kill babies by the thousands in other countries, calling them “collateral damage,” yet we can be the same people who kill the doctors who perform abortions here on our own soil. We let our old people wither from neglect, then make laws to take even more of their money, making the drug companies and HMOs more and more profitable, while the elderly often have to choose between buying food or medicine. Our country stands for freedom and right, yet until recently, secretly tortured prisoners from whom we hoped to gather a bit of information (as if someone who feels they are dying would not say what is wanted to be heard).

I often wonder what patriotism is. We are told that to be patriotic we must support war, that we must not question those in authority, that we must allow our taxes to be spent as others see fit, regardless of whether we agree. Is that patriotism? I don’t know. But I know what patriotism is not: flag-waving or flag-burning radicals on either side (or one of many sides) who believe that only they are right and that only they have the right to spew hatred and prejudice, whether racial, religious, or political. But I have to tell you, I pledge allegiance to the republic for which a flag stands that allows people the rights to their opinions and beliefs and the freedom to enlighten and challenge the public with those opinions and beliefs, or to make utter fools of themselves. I am not really a political person, but rather try to make my decisions based on the candidate and his or her platform. In fact, I’ve voted Democratic, Republican, and even voted for Ross Perot (couldn’t quite bring myself to vote for Ralph Nader—he’s a bit of a space cadet). And, for now, I feel we have an administration that is trying its best to make positive, much-needed changes in how we see ourselves as individuals and as a country and how the world see us.
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