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  • Writer's pictureChar Seawell

I am sure there are good things that I don’t know yet.  But it’s  hard to find them sometimes in the tangle of lies and deceit.  Or is it that I let the lies and deceit scream louder than the background noise they deserve to be? My addiction to doom scrolling and catastrophic thinking, both generic and learned behavior, completely crowds out the whispers of any good thing lying beneath the surface of the noise.

Some days, in the midst of the noise, I feel that good thing tugging at me insistently, like a child hungry for my affection and attention, but only out of the corner of my eye or the edge of my brain.  And like an exhausted parent, I give lip service to the possibility of the hope it promises.  Yeah. Yeah.  Maybe someday. But the dishes are never going to get done. And my God, are you ever going to clean your room?

Some days the good things that are already known I feast on and try to recreate.Today’s sunrise was a Monet. Yesterday’s was a Picasso.  Tomorrow?  Van Gogh?  Then again, some days, the sun seems to be in the wrong place, and the clouds crowd out the silhouette of the mountains against the sky, and I think to myself….blah, blah, blah.  Just a boring sunrise. How disappointing. I guess I will go weed the gravel.

But some days, in the midst of the seduction of the monkey tasks or hidden in the haze of catastrophe and confusion,  I feel good things are still waiting to be known.  Like that high school crush who was the object of all desire.  Whose mere presence, whose light scent, whose voice alone created a longing to be looked at, to be noticed, to be seen.

The good things want that.  To be anticipated and adored in the waiting.  To be sought after in the crowded hallways and dreamt about in the midst of the dark chaos. To dance too close for the chaperones’ comfort and accidentally brush lips in an awkward embrace.

The good things waiting to be known deserve that kind of attention.  And that is an act of the will that requires a deep practice of noticing.  The begonia in the indoor planter stretching its peach winged flower towards the direction of the awakening sun every morning. The imprint of my finger in the soil leaving a soft hollow where moisture gathers.  The light catching a glass watering bulb and revealing a jade green Taj Mahal.

A remembered voice calling out in the chaos and the confusion reminding me to rest and be still.

The world will always be the world.  Peace will never be found there.  It will only be found in the shy glance of a young girl tucked against her mother’s breast.  The flick of a lizard tail scurrying across the pavers.  Baby birds in the vestibule peeking their heads through the twigs and the soft down.

This day.  This next moment. This next breath. All wrapped in the certainty of Love.

These good things longing to be known.

  • Writer's pictureChar Seawell

When we gave away most of our possessions before moving here, the hardest to sort through were the art pieces acquired over time. We managed to gift even the most valuable before packing up, but there were two we could not surrender because they were created by our daughters.

One of them was a colored chalk drawing of a golden retriever. Tim had never owned a dog, and he had always dreamed of a golden retriever, so when Melissa took her only art class, she chose to draw a golden for him. I will never forget the day she brought home the picture as a surprise for Tim’s birthday. He did what we all do in this family of people “built close to the water”…. He wept.

The other is of Winnie the Pooh and Piglet, two of Tim’s favorite characters, drawn by our other daughter Alisson, and also given to him as a birthday present. The drawing is accompanied by Pooh’s and Piglet’s conversation. “I just wanted to be sure of you.” Tim wept when he read it and saw his two favorite characters walking away in the picture, so close they are almost touching. It summed up how Tim felt about his journey with both our daughters and it became a model for our journey as a family. We just want to be sure of each other.

Our first year here, as we were approaching Tim’s birthday,I glanced at the drawing Melissa had done, and had this idea that The Boy who had always dreamed of owning a golden retriever deserved to have that wish fulfilled on his 70th birthday. And, through extensive research, I found a “breeder release”… a dog who at two was discovered to have mild hip dysplasia, a condition that prevented breeding for this AKC registered female. So after two years in a kennel awaiting a life of making puppies, this timid, scared of her own shadow, unsocialized Zuni became ours.

This was not a dog like the ones in the movies, running up to every human and licking them to death or snuggling up every night in bed. That doesn’t happen if you miss out on any social interaction for two years. She cowered with her tail between her legs. She had to be taught to play with a ball. And every little sound or movement or shadow in the outside world caused her to become anxious and cower. Her transformation has been slow and steady and has required the patience of saints, as with us all.

But she is a different dog now.

This is a tail wagging, gift giving, hand licking goofball around whom our life centers. We plan our days around her needs, and we have learned the art of the sniff walk and the joy of seeing her respond with reckless abandon to life’s simple dog pleasures. Others who knew her in the beginning have remarked about the transformation they have seen in her.

But I have wondered if it is she who has been transformed or The Boy and I.

The Boy has always been emotionally reserved, but he has learned through loving this dog that a “flat affect” is not welcoming to a dog. And so I revel in observing him come through the door to be greeted by the gift of a slobbery stuffie. His newly acquired “dog voice” is expressive with excitement and joy which belies his quiet nature that served his cat years so well. Zuni has transformed his natural reticence into what could pass for boisterous love and affection.

And I have had my own transformation as well. My need to wander in nature has always been a deep part of me. But it has been hard to justify when the “to do” is always so long and time is always so pressing. But having her as part of the family allows me to “put her needs first” and constantly change my plans to accommodate a drive to the canyon to watch for deer and turkeys or simply to sit by a stream as water flows like liquid glass over stones and branches creating melodies that soak me in peace.

We think we are giving her these “gifts” of time and energy to meet her needs. But maybe she has an agenda as well.

Perhaps in her dog brain she brings gifts to Tim because she knows he needs a tangible expression of love. Perhaps she is training him how to “wag his tail” with joy and excitement when encountering someone you love. Perhaps she stares at the door in longing expectation because she knows that living as I do in a world of competing creative desires, I need to set it all down and have an adventure in the woods once in awhile to keep my perspective.

Perhaps she knows that Tim and I, like Piglet and Pooh, just need a loyal, unconditional love we can be sure of, whatever the circumstance.

She has given us that in spades. Over and over. Every day. Like her owners, she is still very much the introvert, content to lie on her back in the sun in her dog version of a sun salutation or sitting a certain distance from you on the couch, content to stare lovingly and occasionally sigh. But now she strides confidently out into the world every morning greeting the day with tumbling routines on the wet grass and exploring the world on her own terms. She leads her pack only glancing back periodically to make sure of our adoring


And when she is leashed up and on the trail, we are often asked if she is a rescue, as so many dogs here are. I used to say yes, but now I think I would answer differently. After a year of being loved so unconditionally by her, I think I would simply say,

We did not rescue her.

She rescued us.

  • Writer's pictureChar Seawell

In the trauma of war, soldiers cannot avoid deep emotional and physical scars that come with being on the battlefield.  The physical injuries can be treated and hopefully rehabilitated, but the wounds of the soul often are left to fester unexamined and unresolved.

And so soldiers come home, and many become walking time bombs in their own families with no way to process their experiences in a culture that teaches seeking help is a sign of weakness, especially in the macho culture of the military.

But lately I have been thinking about the effects of war not just on soldiers but on the civilians caught in the crossfire, especially in these days when the drums of war beat constantly around the world.  And that has caused me to reflect on my mother’s experience living in Frankfurt, Germany during World War II.

My mother was working in Czechoslovakia when war exploded in Europe. Concerned about her family, she stole a bike to return home, riding at night and hiding in ditches during the day time to avoid encountering soldiers and being captured.  She witnessed Russian soldiers hanging from trees and other horrors I will not detail here. Once, when the air raid sirens began, she raced to a bomb shelter only to find the doors had just been locked. She pounded in desperation as she looked up to see a rain of bombs coming in. Only a gatekeeper who took pity on her broke the rules to let her in.  Her stories were always told in a detached, emotionless way, as though she were reading the captions on a movie screen as the scenes rolled by.

But she survived.

I think the trauma she experienced on a daily basis in a drawn out and devastating war would have to have been so profound that it could not be processed. To this day, I believe her parenting style, or lack of it, was reflective of the survival crises she had to deal with daily, never knowing if today would be her last.

And now in our current time, as I watch the nightly news, I think about the effects of war on other ordinary citizens like her as the scenes unfold before us every day of nations engaged in war.

I think about the Ukrainian cellist who created beautiful accompaniment for several of our song recordings who posts pictures of his beloved Kiev on his Instagram account.  Pictures of bombed buildings and piles of rubble from the window of his apartment appear in his feed.  There seems to be little left of the city he loves.  I picture him composing as the bombs fall and the cries of friends and neighbors fill the air, and I wonder about the wounds in his soul as he seeks solace in his music.

I think about the ordinary citizens caught in the crossfire in Palestine as the death toll continues to mount with no end in sight.  An entire race of people is disappearing before our eyes, innocent men, women, and children, whose lives have no meaning to politicians hungry for power and revenge.

I think about how years ago, Tim and I visited the city of Bayeaux, so he could pay his respects to the men and women who died on D Day liberating the people of France.  Black and white photos of that “freedom day” filled many of the restaurants, and we were told of the continuing gratitude of the people of Normandy for our nation’s sacrifices to help people we didn’t even know.

Americans were revered there for their selfless dedication to the cause of freedom and democracy.

This morning as I watched the news, I  wondered what thoughts would be passed down about us by Ukrainians in the future? Will they tell tales of our sacrifices to help them remain a democratic state?   Or will they remember how American representatives chose support of a tyrannical Russian dictator whose goal was the total subjugation of a once free people.

And I wondered what thoughts would be passed down about us by Palestinians in the future, if a Palestine still exists?  Will they remember that we sacrificed to guarantee them their own land and a chance at prosperity and safety? Or will they remember how we refused to acknowledge the genocide that was unmistakeable and turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to their suffering?

Every ordinary citizen caught up in these wars, through no fault of their own, is giving birth to generational trauma. Their wounds will deepen and fester under rough scabs forged in the fires of hatred and violence. And in some distant future, those scabs will bleed, and I fear these victims will not be posting memories of our compassion and sacrifice as a nation.

They will speak only of our cowardice.

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