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Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

“What’s black and tan and looks good on a lawyer?

A Doberman,” was the answer to an unfunny lawyer joke.

Anna

       Anna

But it was no joke for me. Our beloved Doberman, Anna, spent her last day on earth on December 26th. She was just days shy of her 13th birthday. What a sad way to punctuate Christmas.

As for looking good on a lawyer, that she did whenever she leaned on me. She was a beautiful girl. And leaning is what Dobermans do. Called the “Dobie lean,” it’s a breed trait.

Dobermans don’t give kisses to show affection. They lean on you instead. Often misunderstood and unfairly dismissed as ‘scary,’ in truth Dobermans are just as a friend once described, “They’re Golden Retrievers in Doberman skin.”  And Anna was among the gentlest souls — ever. Although watchful, there wasn’t a mean bone in her.

The past few years, Anna ailed from chronic arthritis. We’d managed it for her. But the past two months, it increased in severity. Frailer and ever more unsteady, her quality of life took a nosedive.

When that happens, those of us who bring these treasured creatures into their forever homes must at the end, honor the pact we make at the beginning.

It’s best summed up by “A Dog’s Plea,” author unknown. For years I kept a framed copy on my office wall.

“Treat me kindly, my beloved friend, for no heart in all the world is more grateful for kindness than the loving heart of me.

“Do not break my spirit with a stick, for although I should lick your hand between blows, your patience and understanding will quickly teach me the things you would have me learn.

“Speak to me often, for your voice is the world’s sweetest music, as you must know by the fierce wagging of my tail when your footsteps falls upon my waiting ear.

“Please take me inside when it is cold and wet, for I am a domesticated animal, no longer accustomed to bitter elements. I ask no greater glory than the privilege of sitting at your feet beside the hearth. Keep my pan filled with fresh water, for I cannot tell you when I suffer thirst.

“Feed me clean food that I may stay well, to romp and play and do your bidding, to walk by your side and stand ready, willing and able to protect you with my life, should your life be in danger.

“And, my friend, when I am very old, and I no longer enjoy good health, hearing and sight, do not make heroic efforts to keep me going. I am not having any fun. Please see that my trusting life is taken gently. I shall leave this earth knowing with the last breath I draw that my fate was always safest in your hands.”

On Anna’s death, a nephew said he admired the courage we have to love our dogs because we are willing to endure the pain of their loss. The reality is that losing these cherished family pets gets harder not easier. But you do it because of love as my favorite modern poet, Mary Oliver, wrote of her late dog, Percy:

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I Ask Percy How I Should Live My Life
Mary Oliver

“Love, love, love, says Percy.
And hurry as fast as you can
along the shining beach, or the rubble, or the dust.

“Then, go to sleep.
Give up your body heat, your beating heart.
Then, trust.”

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https://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/d0eb53e35fd7ff80bc2268a515adb7e2

She remains my profile avatar and muse for this blog.

I will miss Anna’s companionable presence and her soft nudges on my left elbow while I worked at my desk. I will miss her soft murmurings as she’d run in place asleep on her side, dreaming of chasing jack rabbits. I will miss her turning upside down four paws up and scratching at the air. I will miss her loud powerful barks at the start of every walk. Like a bygone town crier, she’d announce to the neighborhood “here I am” and all’s right with the world.

Next to persistently asking for never-ending pats on her head and hanging out with those she loved, there wasn’t anything better than a walk.

Years ago on our walks in No. Nevada, she’d remind me of another favorite Mary Oliver poem, “Spring” and especially the lines, “Meanwhile, my dog runs off, noses down packed leaves into damp, mysterious tunnels. He says the smells are rising now stiff and lively;

“. . . My dog returns and barks fiercely, he says each secret body is the richest advisor, deep in the black earth such fuming nuggets of joy!”

I’ll always think of Anna as our own fuming nugget of joy.

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Life is more than conflict. It’s also about love, emotion and devotion.

And as regular readers know, with three rescues in our household, I have a particular soft spot for dogs and their special connections to us.

This touching, heartwarming video, which was forwarded to me just this morning says it as well anything I’ve seen in a while.

 

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(A heartfelt hat tip to Jay for telling me about it).

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Been a while since I’ve blogged about my marginally mediocre albeit happy-go-hacking golf game. I’ll not do so here.

Instead, the other day, after watching an old guy angrily pounding his driver three times into the turf after an errant shot, I again recalled an interview of a few years ago with professional golfer Davis Love III.

In that interview, Love keenly observed, “Most golfers aren’t that good — to get that mad.”

https://i1.wp.com/images.wildammo.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/24.gif

But too bad so many golfers think they’re“that good.” Case in point from personal experience, the most commonly found lost ball on a given course is a hyper-expensive golf ball meant for professional golfers. But thanks to triumphant marketing to self-deluded high-handicappers, that’s also the golf ball most likely to be found at the bottom of a water hazard or nestled under a bush or buried in a third cut of rough. And at $60+ a dozen, rest assured my game will never be worthy enough to have that pricey ball in my bag. After all, “A man’s got to know his limitations.”

“Don’t want to be rude”– but shut up.

Shut-up | by stoneysteiner

So a Saturday morning later when we were randomly paired with what turned out to be one of those oh-so-serious “good” golfers, I made the mistake of making small talk before our round with this stranger. I recounted my angry golfer anecdote. And apparently, unknowingly making matters worse, I also mentioned the Davis Love III quote.

Moments later, Mr. Good Golfer announced, “I don’t want to be rude —  but I’d rather not talk during the round.

“I can be plenty sociable afterward,” he needlessly added after tooting out that stinker on the first tee. But give the guy props for uncongenial precedent and for muzzling a blabbermouth lawyer. Evidently for some folks, golf isn’t meant to be sociable.

And as for his disclaimer, I once worked with a guy who loved saying, “Anytime someone starts out a story by telling you, ‘this is no lie’ — get ready for a lie.” Clearly the same can be said for introductory pronouncements about not being rude.

Mannerliness: more myth than reality.

Like some lawyers who think their profession is akin to a sanctified priesthood, there are golfers who claim a supposed special mannerliness that defines the ethos of golf. “Etiquette is a word that’s often heard in relation to golf, moreso than with any other sport” one golf beginner’s website proudly proclaims. I frankly doubt that. I’ve encountered enough golfers who equate etiquette with indelicate. Also see this particularly inappropriate way to handle slow play, “Golfer Pulls Gun on Group Over Golf Etiquette Dispute at New Britain Course: Officials.”

No matter that golf’s governing body, the United States Golf Association (USGA) has its comprehensive rules, including an affirmation that irrespective of how competitive players are, courtesy and sportsmanship are the watchwords of “the Spirit of the Game.”

SNC11595.JPG | by bradleypjohnson

But like most high-minded goals of decorum and dignity, too often exalted aspirations end up as low-rent aspersions.

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Photo Credit: “Hey shut up,” by Urs Steiner at Flickr Creative Commons Attribution;SNC11595.JPG by bradleypjohnson at Flickr Creative Commons Attribution.

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Someone once told me laughter is always at somebody else’s expense. I disagreed and lamely rejoined, “What about babies? They laugh and not at someone’s expense.”

On later reflection, I had to admit he was mostly right. And not just about jokes at the expense of lawyers.

Generally speaking, it’s rare to find humor without a ‘victim.’ I think it’s because most people don’t find victimless humor very funny. Take, for example, this victimless jest, “My two sons are a doctor and a major league pitcher — a healer and a hurler.” A real knee-slapper that one.

As for self-deprecating humor, “I am so clever,” said Oscar Wilde, “that sometimes I don’t understand a single word of what I am saying.” I like Oscar, especially when his self-directed put downs remind me of people I’ve worked with. For example, his “I love to talk about nothing. It’s the only thing I know anything about” so reminds me of an ex-boss.

Some people just lack the ability to laugh at themselves

As for making light of yourself, actress Ethel Barrymore once said “You grow up the day you have your first real laugh — at yourself.” Or at least, that’s what Ethel thought about growing up.

But as theory goes, when humor isn’t self-effacing, then someone else is the butt of the joke. As I said, I’m not so sure about the theory.

Everyday examples of humor and laughter abound where a butt of a joke isn’t involved. For instance, every time I walk our dogs, there’s humor and laughter. And people at play find fun and laughter.

And as awful as most puns are, puns don’t hurt anybody and sometimes, even elicit laughter. And pay no mind to wags who demur that “Puns offend the language.”

Besides, who says humor at someone’s expense is always funny? I never thought Don Rickles, the so-called Master of Insults, was amusing. And where’s the humor in Internet trolls and listserv flamers.

It would be a terrible shame if laughter required victims, particularly when as the unconventional, lower case poet e.e. cummings said, “the most wasted of all days is one without laughter.” And what of Plato who claimed “even the gods love jokes”?

Prompting all this about humor and laughter was yesterday’s telephone conversation with my sister. For all of 10 minutes, our exchange was punctuated with chortles of mutual laughter. There wasn’t even a joke, although we did also discuss my problem with . Nor was there any meanness. It was just shared remembrances of growing up that reduced us both to gales of laughter.

The fact is that there’s little better than shared memories between friends and loved ones. And it’s not necessarily that those recollections were funny back when they happened. Years later, they can be howlers — even if they weren’t at the time. But best of all, there’s nothing as much fun as ending a conversation — while you’re both still laughing.

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Photo Credits: “First Chompers” by dee at morgueFile.com;IMG_1884 by xandert at morgueFile.com; “Fits of laughter,” by Doug Ford at Flickr Creative Commons Attribution.

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Long time readers know I’m continually inspired by ‘seize-the-day’ true believers of any age and persuasion, but especially by those still sucking the marrow out of life — even as the sun ebbs.

Last July, I was enthused by Oliver Sacks’ testimony to Sacks, a neuroscientist by profession, offered his life reflections about old age in a New York Times essay on the eve of turning 80. Besides being a time of leisure and freedom, Sacks observed that with old age, those remaining sands of the hourglass also provide a time “to bind the thoughts and feelings of a lifetime together.”

A terminal condition.

But recently, I learned Sacks had returned again to the pages of the ‘Gray old lady,’ but this time to reflect anew not only about life — but also about “his luck” running out on learning that at 81, he has terminal cancer.

Writing last month, Sacks described how “a few weeks ago I learned that I have multiple metastases in the liver.” The news, he declared, gave him “a sudden clear focus and perspective” with no room left for the “inessential.”

Not to be unsympathetic, his was hardly the uncommon reaction. It was Samuel Johnson, after all, who long ago observed, “When a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.”

All the same, Sacks resolved, “It is up to me now to choose how to live out the months that remain to me. I have to live in the richest, deepest, most productive way I can.”

And ever introspective, dwelling on the abruptions felt with the passing of his generation’s contemporaries, he poetically reflected, “There will be no one like us when we are gone, but then there is no one like anyone else, ever. When people die, they cannot be replaced. They leave holes that cannot be filled, for it is the fate — the genetic and neural fate — of every human being to be a unique individual, to find his own path, to live his own life, to die his own death.”

With his concluding thoughtful ruminations, I have to admit how much I gained from what Sacks said so evocatively. He was moving and meaningful. He again inspired those paying attention to live more deeply felt, more fully awake lives. “I cannot pretend I am without fear,” he wrote. “But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers.

“Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.”

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Photo Credits: Hourglass, by AliHanlon at Flickr via Creative Commons attribution license; Bridge into fog by SPC Lasha Harden, U.S. Army at Flickr via Creative Commons attribution license; Flaming From Behind, by AliHanlon at Flickr via Creative Commons attribution license.

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An occasional break from legal profession snark can be welcome, especially when it’s been a good week. And how about this for one more reason?

Earlier this afternoon, I watched an enjoyably memorable 4-minute video Frans Hofmeester created over 14 years of his daughter, Lotte. It shows Lotte growing up in time-lapse. Starting in 1999 and every week thereafter, he filmed his daughter from first capturing her animated baby face and then to magically memorializing her developing charm, personality and exultant spirit. And Frans’ project continues.

 

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