Maggie, the rescue dog whose tale I've told among these pages before, my cat, Max, and I are holed up in a cocoon of silky white, a chrysalis of blue green ice, with bands of gold and black --- Tutankhamen's, the Monarch's, colors. They are also those of the reigning ruler of butterflies, Danaus Plexippus, of the family Nymphalidae, the southward migrating, never weary, spinning Monarch, familiarly known as "the wanderer". Just think --- when we're reborn as a monarch, we'll have six legs --- shank's mare par excellence!
Ah, if only we were cruising the cataracts of the inundating, steamy Nile right about now, Maggie, Max and I curled up tight, under my grandmother's quilts, our breathing so slow, so steady, and in such unison that you can count the stars by us! One and two and…. In this wonderworld, the care-less, dreamless sleep of lucky children, my bed floats on high, a felucca as old as time. We'd then rely, like the butterfly, only on the breezes to see us through, touching, gracing the air with our songs:
The Butterfly upon the Sky,
That doesn't know its Name
And hasn't any tax to pay
And hasn't any Home
Is just as high as you and I
And higher, I believe
So soar away and never sigh
And that's the way to grieve -
--- Emily Dickinson
Maggie's here, at The Dog House, for the winter, while her Mama basks in the sun in Naples. Florida. Were she in Italy, Maggie might have gone along, since Italians adore their pups. You often see them (dogs and owners!) lounging at backwater cafes in dusty Umbrian towns or on the streets of Rome, tongues lolling, knocking back a Pellegrino or two; maybe even Proseco, as it rushes and bubbles through the nose. Noses. Sniffing. Smelling. Flaring. Lusting, and after. Dogs and humans. Closer than we know!
Though Maggie's an old girl, and her arthritis makes her wary, fragile on ice, she could learn new tricks, and would soon respond, ears perked up towards heaven, to espressioni sui cani. Guess I could, too! Expressions like "non accemenda lu cuane ca rorme. Ca quiere ss'mena (the aphorism, "Let Sleeping Dogs Lie.").
And lie I'd let her as I do here, giving her her hard-won due, while she quivers, shakes, and noises off in tiny, plaintive yelps. What does she know of dreaming? Of Tutankhamen? Of philosophy? I imagine she's trying to tell me something, attempting to convey a dark secret with her pond brown eyes. And, speaking of cataracts…that pale, airy, faded denim blue is there, tripping her up once and a while, glowing in the dark, a pair of nicked marbles, slight flaws at their centers.
Aging. Ugh! The vicissitudes of time and chance lay as bare and unforgiving as empty shells on the sand, sans their former occupiers. Yes, of course, aging comes along with perspective, from the Latin, perspicare, a seeing through, the keeping of a correct mental view or outlook, a chastening, chafing chitnous chaser, measuring, giving the correct impression of height, width, depth, distance --- inter-relationships --- the barriers, leaps, bounds, fences and defenses we lay in against caring too much, expecting too much, against heart rushing love.
And that's a shame, for it's Valentines's Day this week, the Feast thereof and, as Wiki tells it, a once liturgical celebration of the early Christian saint, Valentinus. It is said he was imprisoned for performing weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry and for ministering to Christians, who were persecuted under the Roman Empire; during his imprisonment, he is reported to have healed the daughter of the jailer, Asterius. Legend states that before his execution he wrote "from your Valentine" as a farewell to her. Oh for the love of such a saint --- a living Saint in human form!
Hmm…remember the thrill AND the disappointment of sending and receiving those tiny, one-dimensional brightly illustrated Valentine's Day cards? Sometimes a sticker sealing the back flap against prying eyes? Our teachers put them in a "mail box", a card-papered, decorated shoebox, with a tiny slit in the top, and would painstakingly draw them out, one at a time, keeping up the expectation. Some kids got many, some a few, maybe some, none. I'd surreptitiously (or so I thought!) open the desktops of boy heart throbs, and sneak mine in, nestling them among the dog-eared, black and white speckled hard-covered composition books and ersatz leather pencil cases, always signed "an admirer." Didn't have the guts then, and sometimes even now, to sign my own name.
Oh, to receive an unexpected one now! I'd wonder for days who… and those heart-shaped boxes, the too sugary candies nestled in their little foil beds, like the seven dwarfs, with their names etched on the heads of their beds, the underside of the lid. The gardenia wrist corsages, The red velvet dress with tiny pearlized buttons, worn to the Hop. Worn once.
Loved the funny ones, too. My Funny Valentine. The jokes that brought a shy smile, or an embarrassing snort. Always promise in the air, the promise of something to come, of something never spoken or said aloud, but felt all the way to my timbers.
So…here's one for dogs from Edward Lear:
There was a Young Lady of Ryde,
Whose shoe-strings were seldom untied.
She purchased some clogs,
And some small spotted dogs,
And frequently walked about Ryde.
And one for you humans, too --- one of the loveliest valentines of all:
[i carry your heart with me [(I carry it in)]
i carry your heart with me(i carry it in)
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)
no fate(for you are my fate, my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)
Oh, happy day!