Equinox

Did you know that at 8:58am this morning (GMT+11) it was the equinox? Which means that for that if the earth continued at that exact tilt, day and night would be of equal length. It means that until winter solstice, days will just get shorter and shorter. It’s also a supermoon tonight. This one is called the Worm Moon for a reason that doesn’t mean a lot for Australia – apparently it’s around the time in the northern hemisphere when the ground would start thawing and earthworms would begin coming to the surface. These two things coinciding feels a bit… prophetic. I wonder if Nostradamus had anything to say about this. Apparently it won’t happen again until 2144. It’s always an odd kind of feeling, experiencing something and realizing that you will never – can never – possibly experience it again in your lifetime.

Apparently the word equinox actually has nothing to do with horses, as I initially suspected, but is derived from the Latin aequus and nox, which mean equal and night, respectively. Now you know. And I have yet another bit of impractical trivia to add to the collection.

A few things are happening:

Posie is being adorable (see evidence). Actually, all the animals are. Clover has taken to sleeping cuddled up to me every night, and Plato is shockingly confident about his place in the household, based on how often he will just sleep in the middle of thoroughfares like he owns the place, knowing that nobody is going to step on him. We are having some challenging times though with Rupert, on a few fronts – dementia, pneumonia and some new continence problems. We are hoping that it’s just a result of him coughing too hard, but researching belly bands all the same. All part of loving an old dog, I guess (it’s still so worth it).

Our washing machine broke weeks ago, and the particular spaceship-of-a-unit that we chose can’t get delivered until next week. Not having a working machine and having to take everything to the laundromat has been kind of shocking, in that I now realize what a huge amount of laundry our household generates. Delivery and install day can’t come fast enough. If only for getting to test it out for the first time – apparently it sings a little song when it’s done (how sad that that is so exciting?).

I got my ears pierced. It’s all pain and bruising and leaking now, but I will feel like such a grown up when I can finally change out these starter studs and actually accessorize earrings with my outfit. I spent years psyching myself up for it, and it ultimately wasn’t that bad – they say it just feels like a pinch, and it was true. I went to a proper piercer who used a needle rather than a gun (I read that guns basically force a blunt object through your ear, and thus create more trauma than a sharp cannula needle), so maybe that helped.

The summer kitchen garden has well and truly run its race. The chilies are still going strong, my eggplants still have a bunch of flowers on them, but the cucumbers and tomatoes are totally done. I didn’t have the best growing season overall, and I’m not sure why… but I’m leaning towards needing to enrich the soil a bit more next time, perhaps. I am still very much a beginner gardener. For this next while, I’m going to try to diversify so I don’t end up with a glut of something I will easily get sick of. I want to grow spring onions, garlic, kale, fennel, broccoli, broad beans, parsley, radishes and cabbage for sauerkraut.

Last of all, I am absolutely convinced that Duchess Kate is going to have another baby soon. I mean, look at this:

Struggletown

It has been a hard week. Apart from one good night, I was averaging 3-4 hours of sleep a night. Then, with the puppies and kittens, it was just bananas. Oh, and Nathan was in Canberra, so it was all on me. A regular daylight hour would look like this:

Sit down to get some writing done.
Get up – somebody has jumped on the dining table; Posie barks.
Sit down.
Get up – the water bowl is empty.
Sit down.
Get up – Posie needs to go outside.
Sit down.
Get up – Posie needs to come back in.
Sit down.
Get up – the kittens have knocked over a lamp; Posie barks.
Sit down.
Get up – the mailman knocked on the front door; both dogs bark.
Sit down.
Get up – the kittens have gotten tangled in the cords behind the TV; Posie barks.
Sit down.
Get up – Rupert needs to go outside.
No, just tricking, he just wants a treat.
The cats heard the treat packet, and now they want a treat too.
Sit down.
Get up – Rupert really does need to go outside this time.
Sit down.
Get up – the kittens are scratching the furniture; Posie barks.
Sit down.
Get up – Rupert needs to come back in.
Sit down.
Get up – Rupert and Clover are fighting; Posie barks.
Go and fetch the crate; set it up; put Rupert inside.
Sit down.
Rupert is upset and whining for my attention; Posie barks.
The phone rings.
The kittens jump and drag their claws down the curtains; Posie barks.
Look at the clock, look at my word count, and despair.
Go insane and jump out the window, running far away, never to return.

There were a few stretches here and there where everybody was asleep and it was heavenly, so I did eventually get some writing done. Which was just as well – I had a deadline this week. I had to submit work for a masterclass I am attending in April, and it was nerve-wracking. I can’t say too much, other than that this class is a golden opportunity. It’s a very big deal. It wasn’t an ideal week to have such a big deadline, but I got there in the end and I’m so proud.

I can’t wait until I can finally share my work, or be able to say “you can buy my book at X”. It will be indescribably sweet.

Oh – it was also Valentine’s Day! I was completely taken by surprise when a lady knocked on my door with flowers and treats (as in, completely taken by surprise – I was in pajamas, looking like I’d been dragged through a hedge backwards). Nathan wasn’t here, but he still made it lovely. And I also did Galentine’s oysters and Pimms with Mum and Caitlin, any excuse.

Dread

This is going to be a sad one, fair warning. Here is my dread face, so you can see what we’re dealing with here:

We are getting kittens this week and next year we are planning on potentially adding some human mini-Johanna-and-Nathans to the family. These are both perfectly normal things for a 31 year old newlywed to be doing. These are even things that I should be very excited and happy about. But somehow, I’m a wreck over both things. When I look at my life with Nathan and the dogs as it is now, I would trade every unknown kitten or hypothetical baby to capture this little slice of my life forever. We have had the best time, we truly have. On weekend mornings when I wake up next to Nathan and those little wriggling pups clamber on top of us and frantically kiss our faces with their sleepy puppy breath because they missed us so much for those hours that we were asleep… that is heaven. I can’t imagine ever being happier than those mornings, I couldn’t even contain that much happiness, I’d just burst or die.

I’ve been terrified of Nathan dying for a while. A blogger I’ve followed for almost a decade lost her husband a couple of months ago to pancreatic cancer – he was healthy and young, then felt sick one day and was dead in a matter of weeks. Another blogger I used to follow lost her husband to melanoma a few years before, and her unimaginable grief has turned her life into a horror show ever since. And even before that, an uncle of mine was struck down by a brain aneurysm in his forties. It feels unfathomable that those little moments of heaven I just mentioned could be a mere hour away from one of these things, or any other number of countless ways a person can be snatched away before their time.

The dread of losing the dogs is more pressing though. Not because I love Nathan less, but because I know that statistically, all these terrible things that could befall him are unlikely. But with the dogs, it’s not an ‘if’ but a ‘when’. Posie is nine years old and Rupert just turned thirteen. I don’t even know how to describe what these little dogs mean to me and how fiercely I love them, but the knowledge that I only have a handful more years with them… I just can’t. I don’t know how I could survive losing them. They have both been so much more than I thought possible, I have loved them more than I ever dreamed I could love anybody or anything. They are so perfect and precious, and I wish more than anything I could just pause them and love them like this for the rest of my life.

I was so excited about these little kittens we are getting at first, but it feels like they are signalling this next phase of my life where at least two terrible losses are inevitable. I am trying so hard to look on the bright side and let myself be open to the possibility of more love, more joy… but again, I just keep coming back to my weekend mornings in bed with my three loves. Maybe the problem is the limits of my imagination. I just can’t conceive of anything better than that, and life feels like it would never be as bright or colourful ever again once these days are over. And one day will be the last day ever that we’ll have together as a Fab Four, and I won’t even know until it’s gone.

It’s just so stupid. I am looking at Posie and Rupert right now, snoozing away after a day of playing and treats on tap. They have such wonderful lives, and when they die, the grand sum of their existence was that they were happy, safe and loved infinitely. I read something online that makes me feel a little better – a little braver or nobler, I guess – in the midst of all this dread:

I think about it this way– it makes me much much sadder to think about myself dying before my dog (for altruistic reasons, not for “I don’t wanna die” reasons)…
I have the faculties to process the concept of death, at least more than my dog does. I know she will die, and that I will die, so we’ll someday be parted. If she were to get terminally ill, I would be able to prepare for that. To her, though… I would just be not there one day.
So I think of it as something I’m willing to do for my dog, and probably the dog after her and probably after that: I’m willing to live their respective lives — their entire lives — with them, and try to make them as happy as I can for as long as I can. After she’s gone, I’m willing to bear the burden of being sad so that she doesn’t have to. And life goes on and soon all I’ll be able to remember are the happy times. I don’t know that a dog is capable of getting over something like that, so I’m glad that it happens this way.

It’s a nice thought, to know that even if my heart breaks, at least it will be mine and not theirs.

So, about these kittens. I was excited to get them until they became a symbol of all my existential dread. It makes sense to get them. We are hoping they will be enriching for the dogs, friends for Posie when Rupert goes, and then they will be a comfort to us when we have no dogs. The cats will be lower maintenance and require less attention when we are in our busiest parenting years. They will be easier to make arrangements for when we travel. There are a lot of good reasons for bringing them into our family, but it just hurts to be kicking off this kind of succession planning, because it forces me to acknowledge what is coming next.

I’m trying to look on the bright side, I really am. I am trying to be like Posie and Rupert, and live wholeheartedly in the moment. But the dread remains, tainting all this love and joy with the possibility that it could be taken away at any moment. I’m reading the Rainbow Bridge poem over and over, trying to console myself that if there is a heaven, we’ll all be reunited and it will be those weekend mornings forever and ever. I’m thinking of Titanic where Rose ‘goes on and on’ and lives an amazing happy life, knowing that even eighty years is a relatively short time until she’ll be reunited with Jack in eternity. I’m really trying, and in the meantime, I feel like I’m so full of grief for the living that I won’t be able to enjoy the time that we do have together, or let myself love the kittens like they deserve.

Anybody out there have any tips, besides “try not to think about it”? If we have years left together as a pawsome foursome, or only a few weeks or months, I don’t want it to be poisoned by my sadness, because when I’m sad, Posie and Rupert are sad too. How can I just pull myself together for their sake?

I’m going to try harder tomorrow. I will take them for a walk. I will give them snacks and cuddles and rub their little bellies and tell them how precious and clever they are. I will take photos and videos of them so I can show my future children how lovely they were. I will read in bed after I wake up and before I go to sleep so that they can snooze curled up against me for a little longer. The time is short for me, but it’s everything for them, and I want it to be nothing but wonderful for them.

How P+R Got Their Names

Inspired by Taza’s post this morning, I wanted to share a little about how Posie and Rupert’s names came to be. I have been obsessed with names since I was a little girl, and I was always trying on different names and begging to be called something else like Danielle or Henrietta. Luckily, I’ve come round to being perfectly happy with Johanna Rose! These days, I have a huge and ever-growing list on Nameberry – I seriously have enough for twenty kids, so it will be a bittersweet task pruning it down for the much smaller number of children and pets that I do end up having in my life.

Anyway, Posie and Rupert.

Obviously, we got Posie first. I didn’t actually know that we were getting a puppy until the weekend that we got her, and I was so enchanted by her that at first I couldn’t think of anything to name her. As we sat in the car with her minutes after receiving her, we ran through a bunch of names but nothing seemed to suit her. She was Miso (because of her colour – like white miso paste) for about five minutes, and I also suggested Claudia and Gretel and Cinderella and Pixel. She was spunky and independent, even in those first moments, so I knew she needed something unique. She seemed like a Rosie, but I suddenly remembered the Noel Streatfeild books about the ballet sisters and had a vague memory that one of the sisters was called Posie (actually Posey).

So Posie it was! I liked the fact that we both have floral names, and that it lends itself very easily to a Chinese name – Xiaohua (literally ‘little flower’). I also liked that Posie is traditionally a nickname for Josephine, which is a nickname that I am often called. And Josephine was an Empress of France – we didn’t know it at the time, but Posie has definitely grown into her role as queen of the household.

Nathan wasn’t immediately sold on her name. Posie has him wrapped around her paw nowadays, but at the time I know he had some reservations about having such a dainty little white fluffy dog with such a cute name. But it suits her so perfectly now – I can’t imagine her being called anything else. It’s unusual and a bit sassy, but so classic and conjures up images of a perfect little cottage garden full of fairies. Posie is a relatively rare name these days, but it is always exciting when I encounter people called Posie/Posey/Poesy in the wild.

Rupert actually came with his name when we adopted him, but it ended up being perfect and it’s what I would have chosen for him anyway. It means ‘bright fame’, and was the name of a historical King of Germany as well as a cartoon character. When we had been searching for a second dog, we’d debated names for our future dog (I can’t remember what any of them were now), thinking we’d have to change their name. But when we got Rupert, his name suited him so perfectly that we dropped the idea and never revisited it. I love that his name is warm and soft, classic and cute.

Together, the dogs sound like an adorable old couple in an English country nursing home. We have toyed with the idea of them having middle names, but can’t agree or decide on anything, so I guess they are just Posie and Rupert. If we ever get another dog, we will continue the theme of cute, unusual but old fashioned names for our animals.

As for future human names, I will never tell until it’s written on a birth certificate – seen way too many people with way too many opinions about this kind of thing, so it’s better to lock everybody out of the decision-making process until it’s already said and done, and there’s nothing they can do about it. But it’s going to be agonizing to decide one day. Though I suppose that whatever I don’t use, I always have the opportunity to use all these gorgeous names on characters in my writing. Or I can get chickens. And then more chickens, and more, and more. 🙂

Only the Best Boys

Yesterday was such a hard day – Rupert saw the vet on Tuesday who found that he had a cracked tooth, so he was booked in for dental surgery in less than 24 hours. Yesterday, all we could do was sit at home keeping all our fingers crossed for him. It’s a big ask for an almost thirteen year old dog, especially one with pre-existing health issues.

But he did really well. He ended up needing four teeth out – we were horrified and felt like the worst owners in the world, but apparently the vet worked on a dog the day before who needed twenty seven teeth out and was only nine years old… so we felt slightly better. Aside from the cracked tooth, one of the other ones actually had an embedded/infected ring of shark cartilage causing some problems around it (one of his former favourite snacks). I felt so bad that he’s been in pain and we haven’t even realized.

Since he got home, he has been up and down. Extremely floppy and miserable, sometimes crying and needing to be held all the time. Being strange in that he wants me to be close to him and look at him at all times, but also feeling vulnerable and growling at me. However, I went into the kitchen to get him a snack when he first got home, and he immediately leaped out of bed and came trotting in to see what I was doing. He ate some tinned oysters (only the best boys get tinned oysters), wet dog food and half a soft bread roll, and he has seemed very interested in anything that I am eating. The vet told us that he could be a whole new dog after these extractions, because after the initial recovery, it won’t hurt anymore. I hope so! It would be really good if he could gain about a kilogram.

I’m just so ridiculously grateful that we’ve cleared this hurdle with Rupert and can get back to him living his best life. He has had struggles that would have seen most dogs in his position being put down, but he’s still here, and aside from what he’s going through right now, he has a pretty great life. He is still spritely and can be as zany and hyper as a puppy. I really hope he’s around for a long time yet.