I’ll love you fur-ever.

I know how you’re supposed to fill in the blank. But I’m no Dorothy. My go-to rejoinder for “There’s no place like ________________” is “the next place on the map, please.”. My favorite trip is the one I’m planning during the trip I’m currently on.

So color me ruby-slipper surprised when five days into our last trip I became seriously, painfully, unbearably homesick. Or, more specifically puppy-sick.

I was miserable. Asleep, I dreamed feverish Lily dreams – she was lost, she was sick, she was in distress. Awake was even worse – I teared up at the sight of every Golden Retriever I encountered. On the flight from JFK-LAX I was openly sobbing while I watched (and please don’t – it was a great book but a terrible movie)  The Art of Racing in the Rain. Even that handsome Milo Ventimiglia couldn’t redeem the overwrought dumpster fire that was this movie. But I watched it all the way through and I cried and cried and cried. I was beside myself with longing for Lily. I just wanted to go home to her.

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What is it about dogs and the people who become insane about them?

According to Jeffrey Kluger in a Time Magazine article (July 20, 2018), remains dating back 14,000 years have been found of humans who chose to be buried with their dogs.  The word “puppy”, he says, “is thought to have been adapted from the French poupée, or doll—an object on which we lavish irrational affection.”

Irrational being the key word here, at least for me.

We didn’t want a puppy. We weren’t even sure we wanted a dog, so potent was the grief we still suffered over our departed pair of pups. I still look deep into the eyes of every taffy-colored Golden and windswept little white dog I see trying to find a message via the Rainbow Bridge from Chloe and Soho.

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Their place in our hearts is immutable, a deeply-etched “Keep Out” sign hung upon it. And taking that step forward to a new dog seemed fraught with danger. “We’re too old”. “It won’t be like Chloe”. “Sleepless nights? Ugh.”  “Housebreaking? Ugh ugh ugh.”

For a mere $13,000 we could have had a grown, trained replica of Chloe, but we chose not to be financially reduced to eating kibble ourselves for the rest of our lives. So that was a no. Instead we went a different direction. I don’t think we even knew what question we were asking, but the answer turned out to be Lily.

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I won’t kid you. Those first weeks were tough! She slept through the night from the get-go but we quickly discovered that she is, um, let’s put it euphemistically, an independent thinker. Thank goodness we have a village to help raise her. Our family members, friends and neighbors delight in her. Her dog-mother, Tammy (and family), trainer par-excellence Wency, and dear courageous friends Christi, Lori, Dave and Karen and Kim have all generously volunteered to Lily-sit, all pouring out gentle love upon her. In her eight months on this planet she has known nothing but joy and kindness from humans.

According to Kluger’s observations about humans and dogs, “there are a few genetic scraps that make a powerful difference. On chromosome six (in dogs),,,investigators have found three genes that code for hyper-sociability—and they are in the same spot as similar genes linked to similar sweetness in humans.” So aha! The magical bond has a genetic source!

I’ve been home nearly a week, and that little restless voice is already starting to whisper to me to get out a map and start planning the next trip. But Chromosome 6 is telling me to play with Lily. She is at peak puppy right now, sensing our daily rhythms and finding her place in them, usually by our side. Never mind that she a) digs holes, b) eats horse poop, c) rolls in the dirt after jumping in the pool and d) fails to materialize after I’ve become hoarse calling “Lily come!” again and again. Chromosome 6 does not recognize these failures. It simply instructs me to bury my face in her fur and wrap my arms around her while she thumps her tail back and forth in joyful exuberance.

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With apologies to beer and Ben Franklin, I firmly believe that dogs are proof God loves us and wants us to be happy.

It’s so (irrationally) good to be home.

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Family Album: the long road home.

It’s been too much fun.

Vegas with this crew already seems like a long time ago. Amazing time with them!

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Then NYC, special as ever. Best, of course, always, is seeing this kiddo.

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And wow, some other memorable moments, too…

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But this trio whispered to me that winter was on the way.

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It was time to go.

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Said a fond farewell to the Atlantic,

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And hello to a dazzling detour in the OC…

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It has been an incredible sojourn. Our hearts are full.

But 6,000 miles later, it’s time to move on. Because, you know, there’s no place like home. And all roads lead to Lily…

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And just like that…

Overnight, poof! In the snap of a finger, the snap of a leafless twig, a season has departed.

We walked home from the Upper East Side late night before last, the pavement dark but glistening from the day’s drizzle. It was warm, almost 70 degrees, warm enough to dally; we stopped and chatted a long while with a carriage driver and fed carrots to his horse.

This morning, 40 degrees! Whipping wind, not just brisk but cold! Time to be serious about coats, scarves, gloves. Time to say goodbye to the russets and golds of autumn. Time to put our heads down and be brave in greeting the leaden pre-winter.

I am inconsolable. It’s not the cold, it’s the sense of loss. Fall used to be my favorite season. But now I am old and I have begun to understand all too well how fleeting, how achingly ephemeral are the beauty of summer and autumn, of youth, of cheer. It will all turn gray and we must be brave.

Farewell to another golden season.

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“And the colors are much brighter now

It’s like they really want to tell the truth

we give our testimony to the end of the summer

It’s the end of the summer,

You can spin the light to gold.” 

— Dar Williams/”End of the Summer”

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Husband goes shopping: hell freezes over.

Yes, I can assure you they are wearing mittens in hell this weekend.

Because NEWS FLASH: the CE voluntarily walked into a department store! He walked, in fact, the entire three blocks from our apartment to the new flagship Nordstrom department store on West 57th Street. On opening day, no less!

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First impression? It’s seven stories and 320,00 square feet of shiny and new.

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Clothes? Oh yes, they have clothes. At first glance, my take was that they are skewing upscale and young. Didn’t see a lot of sensible/frumpy/affordable things, i.e., my style, although that aqua leopard coat did sing out to me…

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I liked seeing the West Coast vibe of Jenni Kayne…

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And looks like they’ll be doing some interesting partnerships, as with Everlane.

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So yes, plenty of clothes, including the mens’ store across the street. Also, plenty of calories. Besides a gluten-free donut bar (singing out to the CE!) and seafood spot Hani Pacific, there is Pacific Northwest leaning Wolf and for Italian, Jeannie’s, which serves pizza and pasta in a minimalist space.

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There are even lounges on the upper shopping floors, presumably to capture non-shopping husbands like my own, who zeroed right in on the Bistro Verde sports bar.

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So there are clothes. And there is food. But you know what there is most of?

SHOES! SHOES! SHOES!

Nordstrom has always been shoe-forward, and they are celebrating it big here.

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Our most favorite moment of the excursion was happening upon the “Shoe Bar”. I mean, seriously, this is everything. A little Pinot Grigio with your Manolo’s? Yes, please!

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Too bad the CE doesn’t drink, because you definitely need the Pinot Grigio before you look at the price tag on the Gucci crocs. Guess those won’t be in my stocking this Christmas…

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Nordstrom has made a big bet on this store at the same time that brick-and-mortar retail is sagging and stores like Barneys and Lord & Taylor are fading from the scene. But the company says that NYC is historically their biggest source of online sales (I wonder if that correlates with when I’m in town, just saying…) and they have high hopes for the midtown location. Hey, if they can get the CE into Nordstrom, anything could happen!

I’m hoping to be their biggest fan, especially come February when it’s a bitterly cold hike over to Bloomingdales or down to Saks. I’m simply priced out of Neiman Marcus, and Macy’s is a no-go for us with all the tourist hordes.  So Nordstrom it is. You’ll find me at the Shoe Bar…

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Family Album: Sinfully Fun.

No one falls for Las Vegas like me. Not even close. I can prove it: one shattered radius, one fractured ulna. And oh, the icing on the cake? Remember how I kept saying my back hurt? Fracture at L-4. I have a feeling I might not be quite 5’8″ anymore.

But ya gotta stand tall (I’m trying!) and get back on the horse that threw you, so here we are again in Sin City. Not exactly good as new, and I’ve got some definite PTSD around marble floors. Which are everywhere.

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You know what else is everywhere?

Restaurants.

The best of LA and NYC have outposts here. We can now vouch for Carbone (thanks for the rec, Tina!)

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We only looked at these. Added five pounds just walking by.

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Just a little taste at Milos.

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Had no choice but to order dessert because we were stalling to watch Olivia Jade and dad Mossimo Giannulli one table over, dining with friends. They were not looking the least bit concerned about going to jail.

Speaking of criminal activity, Wolfgang Puck should be locked up for serving this at Spago: Pot de Creme with Caramel Popcorn!

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The real fun started when these guys showed up:

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But wait. There’s more to come tonight and we cannot wait! (Thanks, Angie and Randy!)

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I hear she tumbled off the stage the other night! Yikes! Everyone falls for Las Vegas, I guess…

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Highly seasoned.

As a Midwesterner marooned in SoCal, it took me decades to accept what passes for seasons here.

January through December, all I saw was weather that was never too cold but never quite warm enough. No, of course it doesn’t snow (so what are you complaining about, asks every sane person in a northern climate), but if you plan on sitting outside for dinner, even in August, you’ll have to take your Patagonia puffer vest. That phrase “marine layer” is simply a euphemism for bone-chillingly damp.

Here’s what was served up this year: May Gray which flowed right into June Gloom; a glum July that made me cry, followed by a month of frankly AU-disGUSTing weather. Overcast and foggy every single morning. Yes, the skies would eventually clear – just in time to watch the sun set.

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Thank goodness we have chickens, for they keep their own seasons and remind me to pay better attention to the nuances. In the upcoming darker winter months they will cease to lay, fluff up their feathers and chow down the cracked corn.

Come March and April, they are one the move again and Egg Season will commence with a vengeance.

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Broody Season comes next, usually starring Bella,

And then Baby Chick season. Who cares if the sun comes out when you have these cuties to watch?

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But it can’t all be fun and games. Lately, the sun has finally shone, but now we are in Molting Season. Nugget took it the hardest this year.

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No matter how often you broom up the mess, there are feathers everywhere.

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There’s no time to miss the traditional segue of the seasons when all this is going on. Next up: Acorn Season, where the oaks will shed their fruit and pelt the hens on their little noggins. I guess it makes up in entertainment value what we lack in fall color…

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“California, where the spring comes in the fall and the fall comes in the summer and the summer comes in the winter and the winter never comes at all.”  — Inez Haynes Irwin

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Loquat-ious.

Do you ever wake up feeling utterly useless?

No, of course you don’t. Because you didn’t stupidly fall recently and pulverize your arm and do who-knows-what kind of violence to your back.

Ugh. A lost summer.

The arm is coming along, kind of. The back, not so much. So here I sit, fuming, impatient, pretty much useless.

The CE is not useless. Look what he did this week! He made a sweet little garden path:

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The back side of his garden path is set right next to our loquat tree. Which, as it occurs to me now that I’m on the subject, began as the definition of useless.

It was merely a stick with a few leaves, a shabby four-foot volunteer on the parched west side of our property. This was what, fifteen, twenty years ago – probably courtesy of a passing crow who dropped its fruit and somehow, inexplicably, it managed to take hold in a patch of dirt. Exactly the patch of dirt we were about to dig up that day.

The CE had his saw out, ready to cut it down, but at the last moment, grabbed his shovel instead. The sad little stick of a tree had somehow made its way this far; it didn’t seem fair to take it down. So he lugged it over to some other misbegotten, unused part of our property. Called it a “survivor”, dared it to survive yet again.

And somehow it did. In fact, it flourished. Grew a couple feet or more every year. And that ignored swath of our property eventually became the domain of our hens, generations of which have sheltered beneath its branches. A hawk sounds, they run under the loquat tree. A squirrel scolds, they scurry beneath the loquat tree. A puppy bounds toward them – head for the loquat!

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It fruits reliably every spring and the hens gobble it up:

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Admittedly, it’s still not much to look at.

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But it has managed to have a presence, and a purpose. And, while I don’t usually think about it other than as a place to search out the hens, the lowly loquat popped up in my reading this week. Penelope Lively mentions it not once, but twice, in her charming horticultural memoir In the Garden. According to Lively, the loquat has a presence in the gardens of North London! She explains that the tree is actually native to Cyprus and was brought to London by Greek Cypriot immigrants. Our tree is not shabby – it’s an international jet-setter!

So today I am feeling quite proud of that useless little stick of a survivor. And thinking that maybe, if I take the dare and just simply survive long enough (without falling down!!!) the seasons will go ’round and bear fruit.  Holding onto the hope that usefulness is just around the corner…

 

 

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