Sunday, August 2, 2015

Love and Happiness

I just came back from a ten-day vacation in Northern California where my good friends Di Walsh and Lawr Michaels hosted me at their Lake Tahoe vacation house and their Bay Area home.

Nearly two decades ago I was introduced to Di through my sister, who recruited me to paint a likeness of a recently deceased pet of Di’s then-boyfriend.  I remember Di walking into my sister’s kitchen on a bright morning: she was funny and feisty and cheerful and I liked her immediately. Several months later at a Christmas party I was introduced to her cousin Cherie, whom I also liked immediately. Ever since, I have counted these people among my dearest friends.

Many parties later—Di’s parties at her place on the Fox River were legendary—we found ourselves going back to school getting our university education in biology: Di for her BS in Anthrozoology at UC Davis, me for a PhD in plant biology at UAF. I described Di to my Alaskan friends as “the other fifty-year-old college student.”

For eight years Di has shared her life with her partner, Lawr Michaels, a sports writer and musician, and their seven or eight animal family members, consisting of roughly equal parts canine and feline. Fittingly, they describe their household as a “pack.”

I got to be part of the pack for a few days. Everyone who knows me knows I’m not a “dog person,” and yet for some reason, several of my closest friends and neighbors are dog people. So, in order to be with them, I have had to deal with hot, fishy dog breath in my face, lots of barking and fussing, lots of dog hair, drool, nasty dog farts, and worst of all, picking up German Shepherd poo in the middle of the night because dear old elderly Mahi had an accident in the living room where I was sleeping. Di and Lawr told me I was the easiest house guest one could ask for, and I have to agree :-)

Coming home early this morning to my beloved house on Kiwi Korner, to my car Kaneesha, my pet tarantula Wata, my laughing Buddha statue and my pet cactus Bartholomew, I realized that the pack love I had been basking in at Di and Lawr’s is something I want for myself in some version or other--but I don't quite have it yet.

I see their life the way one hears a song never before played; I didn’t quite realize such notes existed, beautiful and tangled as the leashes on the side table in the living room, beautiful as the cupboards stuffed with dog treats in front of the granola and pancake mix, beautiful as the mounds of clean laundry that never seem to get put away in the tide of busy days, beautiful as the plants in the backyard garden that stand vulnerable to accidental annihilation by their large and playful four-legged children. Each night, the pack goes into the bedroom and drapes itself across the bed to watch “Family Guy” before falling asleep.  Even though this is not the way I choose to live my own life, I realize that in spending time with them I have seen the things that make life worth living.