Thursday, October 6, 2011

365 Photo Project - Day 277

Taken: October 5, 2011
Location: Brooklyn, NY

I took a side trip to New York City this week -- for a bit of business and a chance to drop in a see some friends and relatives. The best part so far has been taking the East River ferries to and from Manhattan and to different stops along Brooklyn's waterfront. It's a beautiful week in New York -- yesterday the temperature was in the 70s. Perfect for a boat ride though that part of me that left New York for the West Coast can't help but wonder how this trip is going to be like when the temps drop and the ice and snow arrive.

Makes me happy to be heading back to Northern California on Saturday.  Still,  as the song says, I'll always love New York.

Monday, October 3, 2011

365 Photo Project - Day 275

Taken: September 15, 2011
Location: Healdsburg, Ca

Since I talked about our new little pug man a couple days ago, I figured it was only right to introduce him to y'all. That's Ulysses on the left. That striking fellow on the right is Chamuco, who also happens to be Ulysses' uncle. See the resemblance? Seriously, take a good look.  Ulysses is a mister fluff ball with the most amazing teddy bear feet and a penchant for licking face, unfortunately. He has taken to waking my husband and I up in the morning with a full-on face-lick attack and we have taken to hiding under the covers until he goes away.

The first few weeks were very difficult. The new guy terrorized his uncle incessantly and we had to separate them a few times before someone lost a pug eyeball. But as any pug owner will tell you these are tough little dogs -- a big dog in a small package -- and they seemed no worse for wear. They're getting along famously now, according to my husband. I haven't seen them in nearly three weeks. I miss the little devils. Look at those faces -- I mean who wouldn't?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

365 Photo Project - Day 274

Taken:  July 10, 2011
Location: Healdsburg, Ca

Now that I've changed the way I eat and gotten over some of my more self-destructive habits, I've found some solace in working on my small but growing collection of Converse sneakers.  I believe these are my oldest current pair, dating back about 20 years. I really didn't get into buying Cons until about three years ago when a friend gifted me a new pair for my birthday and when I bought these, I didn't have that much to spend on sneakers (and I probably had a job that required I wear something other than Chuck Taylors to work). Still, I'd like to think the obsession can be traced back to these simple kicks. Every few months, I go through my collection and give away or trade in the pairs I don't wear anymore. These ain't going anywhere.

I often will drag my Cons out to practice shooting and editing pictures. This was from one of those sessions.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

365 Photo Project - Day 273

Taken: August 1, 2011
Location: Avenue of the Giants, Humbolt Redwoods State Park, Northern California.

Hello again.

I wanted to continue this 365-photo blog by putting up photos I take on the day of each post, but circumstances have conspired against me once again.
I'm actually posting this from Washington, D.C., where I'm staying with my brother and his family as we care for my Mom who is recovering from major surgery. I've been here since September 16th and originally expected to be home earlier this week but while my Mom is improving every day, I was asked to stay and so here I am, hanging in the Nation's Capital for another week or so. I am armed only with my iPhone for a camera though as my fancy DLSR is at home. So in the meantime, I'm going to put up some photos from the last year instead.

This one was taken in one of the coolest places I've ever been -- Avenue of the Giants,  a 31-mile road that winds through 51,000 acres of redwood groves that are surrounded by the Humbolt Rewoods State Park. This was one of the stops on a road trip to Calgary, Alberta my husband and I took summer. Our stops included Eureka, Ca.,  Portland, Or.,  Spokane, Wa., Fernie, BC., Calgary, over the Canadian Rockies down to Salmon Arm, BC., back across the border to Seattle, to Portland, Ashland, Or., and back home to Sonoma County.  We drove more than 3,000 miles in 13 days. I love road trips but it's been a long, long time since I've taken one this ambitious.

I usually take my road trips for a purpose -- like the time I moved across the country and decided to visit as many friends and cools places as I could on the way out West. This one was no different. As many of you know, I had to say goodbye to my beloved pug Louie on May 20. I have written about him a lot on this blog because he was such a big part of my life. Though we were together for only a few short years and he was sick for a good amount of that time, we had a true bond and he was a great friend to me. I loved him as much as I loved any person I've ever known, perhaps more. I know some people think that's nuts. I just think they don't understand and that's okay with me.

It's hard to quantify this loss -- Louie was a part of our family, a constant companion, a true friend, an original.  He came to us as a rescue, sick and half-blind but proved to be stout and full of life, defying some pretty good odds to have made it as far as he did and as well as he did. He went deaf a year ago and was slowing down a bit but he continued to patrol our deck barking at birds, squirrels and all forms of invaders, kept our younger pug in line and never lost his appetite, even at the very end when we fed him some of my husband's grilled skirt steak.

He suffered a Grand Mal seizure, seemed to recover at the vet's overnight and came home with us. The prognosis wasn't good -- the general thinking was a brain tumor and we hoped to have a few months left at least. But that night, it was clear his neurological functions were already compromised -- he could barely stand up, cried and whimpered and trembled the entire night, and the next morning couldn't even lift his leg to pee. I stayed up the whole night with him and uncharacteristically he buried his chin in my arm and did not move or complain, even though he always grumbled in the past when his space on the bed was disturbed. I took that as a sign that he had had enough.

That Friday, my husband and I made the hardest decision we've ever had to make and we drove to the vet's office, Louie in my lap and the window open -- just as we all were when we first brought him home. This time, though, he could barely lift his head to catch the breezes he loved. It's moments like that when you know it's time, as sad as that is. He died in my arms with a belly full of steak. It was peaceful. I cried a river into his fur and said my goodbyes.

It's still so hard. I cried a little as I wrote this. I am fortunate to have so many wonderful friends and in the days afterward, many reached out to me with words of kindness and wisdom.  Two stood out. One said,  "I’m not one of those people who says “it’s for the best” because it’s fucking awful and unfair. But I’ll bet Louie knew how horrible you felt about leaving him…. and who wouldn’t want to die with a belly full of steak in the arms of their favorite person in the whole world? A true friend even in the end." All I can say is I hope that's so.

What else can I say about the King of All Pugs, the dog who we thought we'd rescued but who, if truth be told, really rescued us? He was as good a friend as I've ever had in this world and his loss is like an irreparable crack in my heart. Over the last few months, the pain is easing a little. I'm starting to think of the good days more than the last horrible days and I'm making peace with the decisions I made, only stopping occasionally to ask myself if I did the right thing, that question for which nobody has an answer. 

Another friend said "the heart is big enough for the whole world." When she wrote this to me, I was in the first days of grief and a pug person I know (who bred my other rescue pug Chamuco) had offered me a 2-year-old pug that had been returned to her. I couldn't believe I was already considering another dog, a "replacement" was how I put it. But my wise friend said Louie could never be replaced, that it would just be a new pug to learn to love. She was right of course. 

That pug happened to be on a ranch outside Calgary, Alberta and that is why my husband and I decided to take a road trip. It's been a long, hard year for us, full of personal challenges, family illness, new and difficult responsibilities to take on. We needed a vacation and I convinced my husband that this road trip would be just the remedy we needed, especially since waiting at the end would be a new friend. My husband was reluctant and we had some things to do before setting off -- weeks went by and then one morning, I noticed my 16-year-old cat had seemed to lose a lot of weight suddenly. Then I realized she had lost her eyesight -- just a few days earlier she could see just fine. I tried to get her to eat even brought her out to the deck for the sun she loved to roll around in. There was no rolling around, just stillness and a few sad meows and, eventually a trip to the vet. She had kidney failure. There was nothing I could do except say another goodbye.

That evening, I told my husband is was time to go on the road. We packed up my car and set off, most of the trip not knowing where we would sleep until we got there. It was crazy, ridiculous, liberating and invigorating and we picnicked and laughed and saw mountains and vineyards, valleys, winding roads and highways, towers, rivers, lakes and, when we pulled into our driveway on the evening of the 13th day, the pug we named Ulysses snoring peacefully in the backseat, we both knew the journey had been worth it. Even the bad parts.

See you tomorrow.

Note: I realized in prepping to restart this blog, I've missed a few days. I will fill them in as I go along. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Time to Finish What I Started

It's almost been a full year since I last posted here. Every day that has passed without my posting on this project has been full of regret.

Life happens and it sure as hell happened to me. Where have I been? Everywhere.  To Florida and the Nation's Capitol and Raleigh-Durham to be a student for six weeks, I drove 3,000 miles through the Pacific Northwest, to Calgary and then over the Canadian Rockies,  did my first 40-mile bike ride in 20 years, riding the biggest hill I have ever climbed. I even saw the Hollywood sign up close for the first time, which I never did once in the 15 years I lived in Los Angeles. I also lost my best friend, Louie the Pug, in May and my 15-year-old cat Sassy just two months later.

It's not all bad news. There's a new pug in our lives and well, if you recall that diet I started last year, I'm still going strong -- less 40 pounds and nine inches off my waist.

In all that time and those miles and the ups and downs, I never forgot the promise I made to myself -- and by extension to you, my loyal readers, and that was to finish My 365 Photo Project. Lying awake the other night, the thought suddenly came to me: who said I had to do it in 365 consecutive days?

Hell, my project, my rules. And so, my friends, Shyonelung is back. In fact, that's me in Newport, Oregon at the Rogue Ales Public House  (this photo doesn't count -- it's an iPhone shot taken by my husband).

I'm gonna finish this. Starting October 1, I plan on returning to the 365-day blog so I can finally bring closure to this project, day by day, photo by photo.  These will mostly be new photos, taken each day though I will post some of my favorite from the last year, too. I hope those of you who remember this will drop by and say hello. You can follow me on twitter @shyonelung if you don't mind me blabbing about my sports obsessions.

See you October 1.