Like a Potted Plant

Dear Darling Readers,

It has been some time since I have posted regularly to this little blog, I know, and I want to let you know how much I appreciate you all hanging in there with me. My dear mother’s sudden death in April was quite a jolt to my spirit. And since then, I have had issues with technology and blogging itself. For some reason the comments I try to post–whether on my own or other blogs– are not working out right, and my WP Wizard, Colleen, will not be back from California for another few weeks.

So, please know that I treasure every one of you, and that your comments always brighten my day. Also, I love reading your insightful and uplifting posts–even if I must remain silent at this time. Alas, I feel as if a pane of glass separates me from you all, which is why I am enclosing the following poem.

Blessings and love to each and all of you…and please stand by!

Potted Flower

By Hayim Nachman Biyalik

From the window

A potted flower

Every hour

Toward the garden peeps

All of his friends

In the garden there

And he lonely keeps

Standing here

**Translated from Hebrew by Joan Myles

The Audacity of Love

The audacity of love

Pushing its childlike shape

Upon the heart

Upon the mind

Twisting sensibility into silliness

Silliness into sensibility

Tripping and skipping alongside dastardly headlines

Trying to grasp

My attention

My hand

To climb into my pocket

To be carried home

Where she will grow up among my children

and sleep under my pillow

Working her magic in every room of my life


Chubby crayons work best for tiny fitst

Red spike towers

Orange swirling streams

A trace of yellow

A trembling of violet

Never mind the countless o’s

Rolling their way across paper railroad tracks

They are a bygone breed


More ancient than the sun

Following you in and out of sleep


The audacity of a rainbow

Urging its form

Its palet upon the eye

A prism of light and color

Upon the mind

The heart

Symbol of peace and blessing

Glittering in morning mist

Winking from pavement oil spill

Every child’s delight



Stairway or slide

This Writer’s Life: It’s Ari’s Birthday (part 3)

My motivation for coming to Guide Dogs for the Blind was simple: all I wanted was to move about in my world more freely, with a greater sense of independence

My class consisted of a dozen men and women between the ages of 40 and 78, with varying degrees of blindness, and varying levels of independent travel experience. Most were there to replace dogs that had reached retirement age…a concept I couldn’t even imagine at the moment. My roommate Gina and I were among the first-timers.

We spent the first couple of days getting used to handling a leash. We practiced shortening and lengthening it over and over, and learned how to tug it just firmly enough to show we meant business.

Then we learned a few basic commands: Heel; Sit; Come. We practiced with invisible dogs. We practiced with a dog on wheels. Finally, we practiced with our trainers who did their best to imitate good and bad doggy behavior.

At last we met our dogs.

I remember waiting in the office as my trainer Caroleen went to get Ari. I didn’t know what to expect, of him, or of myself. I had heard all kinds of stories about this moment–how emotion-packed it was for students, how they imagined their entire futures as free and open and totally accessible, how travelling with a dog would free them at last.

My mind was absolutely blank.

At last a leather leash was placed in my hand, and Caroleen’s voice said, “This is your dog. His name is Arnell”

Once she left us alone, I reached out and stroked my dog’s big sturdy head. He did not lick me, but his tail was wagging. I had him sit. He did.

“Arnell…” I tried the name, and he seemed to be paying attention to everything I was saying to him. “Sorry big guy, but That sounds to me more like a little girl dog’s name. Maybe we can find a more fitting nickname, like Ari. Ooh, yes, you are a lion-dog, my Ari.”

From that moment on, Arnell, now secretly dubbed Ari, was solely my responsibility. Feeding, relieving, grooming were all up to me. He slept on a lambskin rug beside my bed, and suddenly became my first thought upon waking, and my last concern before closing my eyes for sleep at night. The hours in between we crammed with daily bus trips to Gresham or Portland, learned to handle rural and city traffic, stop signs and traffic lights, in daylight and darkness. We went to malls,and coffee houses, as a group and independently. We walked in rain and freezing rain, on pavement and through the woods.

It was the honest-to-God hardest thing I ever did in my life.

Training to become a Guide Dog teammate required me to push my body

Beyond exhaustion, and my concentration to the extreme. Ari knew just what to do. I was the dope making mistakes.

You should have heard the trainers cheer as I finally made the connection between where my right toe was pointed and Ari veering off in the wrong direction. I had held up the group for an additional forty minutes, and dragged Ari and myself back and forth a dozen extra times in freezing rain, when suddenly the lightbulb went off.

“You did it”, Caroleen congratulated me. All I could do was cry– as I hugged her, as I got down on my knees to hug Ari. His fur was coated in ice crystals, but his tail was wagging furiously.

“We did it,” I burrowed my wet face into his damp fur, “We can do anything.”

And so it was for over ten years. In all kinds of weather, Ari and I walked the half mile to the synagogue for my Hebrew classes. He attended High Holy Days services with me, went with me to the grocery store, a couple of concerts, and was welcomed into the homes of family and friends. He travelled with me by plane to St. Louis several times, and was there beside me in Cleveland when I graduated from Grad School.

Now we are both officially retired. But Life goes on, and learning goes on, and the love of a good dog–especially a Guide Dog– goess on and on. Happy Birthday, Ari!

This Writer’s Life: It’s Ari’s Birthday (part 2)

This Writer’s Life: It’s Ari’s Birthday (part 2)

Yes, I applied to get a Guide Dog, to be part of a mobility team. But it would take a lot more preparation.

First the school needed to evaluate my current mobility skills. Sure, I was using A traditional white cane to get around the synagogue building where I taught Hebrew to sixth graders every Sunday morning. But it had been years since I had regularly navigated streets

Independently, not to mention handling the ins and outs of crossing them. Back then I thought nothing of rounding up my three youngsters, putting the baby in a front-carrier, and trotting everyone down the street, around the corner, and up the road to the local library for weekly Story Time . We even ventured to Dairy Queen once In a while.

That was then…a different time, a different town, and a different me. Needless to say, when the GDB (Guide dogs for the Blind) trainner eventually visited me, I failed the initial evaluation.

“If you are really serious about travelling with a dog,” she informed me, “you will need to be a good cane-traveler first. You will be the navigator, not the dog. He will guide you around obstacles, but it is up to you to get where you want to go.”

I arranged for additional mobility training with my local Commission for the Blind, and got serious.

It wasn’t long before I was out in the rain, the heat, and the blustery chill, crossing the streets in my neighborhood, and pushing my limits up that long, long hill on the bark path of the park. My instructor didn’t set my pace. He followed a few steps behind me, a friendly hooded presence, there when I needed, but otherwise invisible to me. We crossed at stop signs and traffic lights, devised a loop around my neighborhood, and even explored hallways in the synagogue I had never known about.

It took about a year, but eventually I was ready to reschedule my evaluation for Guide Dog training. And what do you know? This time I passed. All I needed now was n opening in the school’s training calendar, and their choice of my perfect teammate.

The call came in February of 2008. Could I be ready in about two weeks?

“You bet!” I responded like a spring wound too, too tight.

I started packing according to the list GDB sent me: good walking shoes, rain coat, winter coat, gloves, hat, reflective wrist bands for night training. Then there was all my regular shirts and trousers, and I threw in a couple of notebooks from grad school classes I would be missing for a month, along with the pet rock my daughter had given me a decade earlier when she didn’t need it for Kindergarten any more.

When the big day finally came, my husband and I drove the hour and a half to the school’s Boring, Oregon campus, joking all the way about how my time away would naturally be anything but boring. The truth was, I had no idea what to expect. All I had was a longing to move about my world freely, and independently.

(to be continued)

This Writer’s Life: It’s Ari’s Birthday!

This Writer’s Life:

It’s Ari’s Birthday!

Twelve years ago I made the big decision to get a Guide Dog. You see, we had moved to

A different neighborhood here in Salem, and not only were my daughter and husband walking or riding their bikes to work every day, a lovely park was situated not too far away. I remember feeling like everyone was soaking in all this sweet Oregon fresh air and strengthening their bodies… everyone, that is, except me.

After a spell of self-pity, I told my family how I felt.

“Okay, we’ll just start taking walks together once in a while,” my husband offered.

So that is what we did. But it quickly became apparent that his pace was not my pace.

“Slow down,” I panted, feeling my resolve to exercise diminish heave by heave.

“Aw, you can do it. Keep pushing yourself,” he urged, “you’ll be fine.”

But the day finally came when I realized I wasn’t going to be fine. In fact, if my pace didn’t fit me better, I was going to quit.

I remember we were rounding the bark path at the park, and I was panting my way up the long. Long hill.

“This is where you should speed up,” my coach advised.

I couldn’t speed up, and I didn’t want to start another argument…so I just let go. I let go of his arm which I had been hanging onto for dear life lo these many weeks…well it felt like many weeks to me.

Then one day I got the idea to check out Guide Dogs for the Blind on the internet. Their website was so encouraging, so inviting, so exactly what I needed…that I couldn’t resist. I applied. Yes, I applied to get a Guide Dog, to be part of a mobility team

*to be continued*