I’m not a dog. Just in case some of you might have thought … As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t want to come back as a dog. To be someone’s Chihuahua traveling in a woman’s purse or Great Dane to impress the neighbors’ hissing cat, no, no. If I do come back for a second try at life and happiness, let it be as a seagull, flying high and free over Long Island’s beaches and bays, yes, I’ll take that. As I am slaving away in my yard, I see the gulls gliding in sensuous abandon, carried by the wind, a mix of silent flight and piercing cries, ready to dive for that unfortunate fish or for a quick sweep by our picnic table left alone too long.
My dog, Nina, might have dreams of coming back as a person in a free country, wealthy enough to indulge in a limousine and chauffeur, a French cook, also, a masseuse and whatever else people of affluence possess. Of course, Nina does have a chauffeur already, and a cook as well. Perhaps she’s happy. Well, yes, she is. But lately I have felt some sadness in Nina. Why? Oh, the obvious, she’s getting old. Like I am. She and I are going through a new experience together.
In the recent past when I would open the doors to my garden, Nina would fly out of the house like a champagne cork out of the bottle. She’d make the rounds and, beware rabbits, she’d be on your tail. Amazingly, she never caught one. I am grateful for her hunting failures.
The same was true with my dog Lady. There was a difference, though. When Lady was in hunting mode she wouldn’t make a sound. Nina announces herself with excited barks. No chance she’ll catch anything. Never, never. She can run all she wants. The rabbits have their tricky moves, into a bush at one spot, out at an opposing end, forever frustrating Nina. No dead rabbits in my garden among the red and yellow tulips.
I have always been a fast walker, passing most people on the street. Now I make an effort to keep up with other pedestrians. My mind is as quick as it ever was. I think. It’s the body that lags behind. Oh, I don’t complain. I just observe. It all happens slowly and we remain unaware for a while. Then the walks around the house take a bit more time, the stairs are steeper at the house of my brother and sister, the dog heavier when I pick her up to settle in my car. Yes, I can still take long brisk walks and go up and down stairs with ease. I guess it’s more a matter of wondering what’s next? What to expect and when will it happen?
To learn how to let go: books, prints, furniture I don’t need, old jackets I don’t wear. Let’s call the Salvation Army or our local thrift shops to benefit Eastern Long Island Hospital or Floyd Memorial Library. No more buying books. Donate books.
No stopping at yard sales. My sister asks, “Why would you want to go to yard sales? You don’t even have room for what’s already in the house.” Good point. But I tell her, I like going to yard sales, to see friends doing what I am doing, buying what people are getting rid of. Of course, that’s what garages are for, to pile up what we bought for which we had no use.
Yet there is pleasure in uselessness. Why should everything make sense? Why not a little foolishness in our lives? Some of us are quite gifted that way. I need my yard sale moments. The walk from car to people’s yards, always with a nervous hope for some incredible bargain. When I realize I don’t really want to keep what I just acquired after a few “Could you do better on this ?” queries, be it a silver-plated bowl or a cracked vase which was not a Minton, after all; almost immediately an urgent need to give the new treasures away.
My sister is a favorite recipient. “I just got this English teapot down the street. Would you like to have it?” She usually says yes to help an obviously burdened brother. That large petit-point tapestry in the living room of the house she shares with my brother, yes, that’s from an East Marion sale. It’s actually quite pretty. Whenever I visit I am reminded of my yard sale temptations. I may even tell her, that’s a nice thing I gave you.
Their house is about 125 years old. It was my house, too, at one time. I always liked old houses, old books and prints, old china and silverware. They didn’t have to be expensive. Mystery and magic about what comes from past lives, from a time when we were not even born.
Later this evening I will have tea in a cup I bought in Seattle. I was there with Nancy on a visit with her family. These were the good old days. That cup and a few matching ones will always bring back the memory of a happy time with the young woman who would become my wife, the artist Nancy Cheadle from the West Coast. She had come to paint in New York, contributing so many illustrations to the publisher Harper Collins.
A cup of tea, one more walk with Nina. Where did Nina come from? Perhaps from faraway. I’ll never know.
Pierre Gazarian is a poet and a writer of one-act plays. Email: [email protected]