Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Tale of Two Emmas

Beloved Emma, faithful dog of Traug and Terry for 11 years, died a few days after Traug. She'd been sick for a while, her kidneys shut down, and in the end, she could no longer stand on her own. Traug wrote several pieces about Emma, which I will post over the next few days. Here's the first:

A Tale of Two Emmas

The moment the woman from Canada delivered the dog to their Connecticut home seven years ago, they began to discuss a name for the pup. One look at the 6 week old Manchester Terrier with the fine lines and noble face of a Doberman and they had opted for ‘Emma’. He’d just finished reading Jane Austen’s novel of the same name and had been impressed by Emma Woodlouse’s looks and general demeanor although he did feel some qualms over her intrusive manner when it came to the affairs of others.

His wife also liked the name because Emma Thompson was a favorite actress of hers . So she was promptly named Emma and has carried that proud name ever since. Little did the two owners realize how closely their newly adopted per would parallel the tempestuous character of Jane Austen’s Emma.

Like the fictional Emma, she was fine-boned and handsome to the eye. Beneath the finery was a stubborn, self centered, intolerant and at times—more often than not—mean creature. She allowed only her owners to touch her. She would snap at anyone who even thought of touching her. She frightened guests to the garden. She frightened the grandchildren who longed to be her friend. At dinner parties, she would lie under the table in a pose and manner so charming that guests felt privileged to be among those whom Emma would tolerate. And then someone would make the mistake of reaching down to pet her.


Shamefacedly, the guest would bring his or her hand back to the table. Emma
would be removed, jammed into her cage and told in no uncertain terms that the bone yard was next. The bone yard never happened and Emma remains, unabashed and unrepentant despite early pup training lessons from a dog behavior expert and enticements of all kinds to change her errant ways.

Then recently, young Harlan Otis Keller appeared on the world scene, the infant son of their middle son and his wife who lived on the property adjoining their own. He was a splendid youngster, blue-eyed and smiling. And fascinated by Emma. They took to each other like ducks to the pond. He smiles and coos as soon as he sees the dog and watches in fascination as Emma dutifully chases a ball around the room. Placed on the rug, he and Emma gaze soulfully into each other’s eyes. Emma reaches over and licks his face. It looks like a match conceived in some parallel universe.

His wife takes the infant for a walk in the stroller. She pauses to go to the mailbox to pick up the mail. Emma hunkers down next to the stroller, vigilant, watchful, a better-not-come-near look on her face. They look for theories to explain all this. She says that maybe this is Emma’s substitute for the baby she could never have; he believes that like Jane Austen’s Emma, she could not find true love until she resolved her own internal conflicts.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Pondering the Imponderable

Traug Keller passed away on Wednesday night.

He so didn't want to let go...he talked about new blog posts until he could talk no longer.

We'll be adding a backlog of his material from the past few years, and photos, on a regular basis in the future. Check back!!!

Here's a reflective piece he wrote this summer:

Sometimes you have to ponder the imponderable.

The beautiful Memorial Day weekend was one of those beauties we get sometimes in the Northeast. The middle day, Sunday, was the highlight, the first really warm, summery day of the year. Abundant sunshine, a cool breeze, just right, and in the gardens around my house, hundreds of visitors, soaking up the sunny day, enjoying the breathless beauty of the gardens that fill the property.

I spent the afternoon reading while sitting in a golf cart at the edge of the marsh that borders the gardens. I had put down a book by the young writer Ishmael Behan whose memoir tells of his two-year trek through Sierra Leone as a 12 year old conscript to fight for the government’s army against rebel groups. He is forced to commit horrible acts of violence and butchery before being rescued by UNICEF at age 16. It’s a vivid and heart-rending account of the atrocities he sees.

Somewhat disheartened I put down the book and began reading Edward Wong’s piece in the Times’ Week in Review section about the devastation in China from the earthquake that shook the Sichuan area a week ago. Wong’s writing reflected his gut-wrenching dismay over the mutilation of many of the victims in a school that had collapsed on the students. He described the plight of a youngster whose legs had been crushed and the anguish of the young boy when they told him they would have to amputate his legs on the spot. He fought it so hard they were forced to concede and the boy was taken from the rubble and moved to a hospital.

It turned out to be only a holding action and once in the hospital, the boy was anesthetized and his legs amputated. Wong, a veteran reporter of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and no stranger to human tragedy was obviously deeply moved by the young boy’s trauma but was unwilling to draw comparisons between the relative tragedies he had been witness to.

I finished Wong’s piece and turned again to the garden. The sun still shone, the breeze was light, and visitors would stop to exchange pleasantries. My dog was dozing next to me in the sun. Great God, I thought, what in the world is going on? How is it that I sit here in such comfort while so many are experiencing pain and suffering and despair? How does anyone square all this. How can a merciful God allow this?

For several years I worked in New York City at the very end of the island and every day I came out to lunch and there was a Hare Krishna standing in front of the building. He had stopped me once to hand out literature and somehow we struck up a conversation. It became a regular thing for the two of us to talk and I became fascinated with his beliefs about the many sequential lives we are all destined to lead. So that while you may be today in a life of sorrow and pain, the great wheel would turn and on your reincarnation you might find yourself a man of wealth and comfort.

Life, he often told me, was like a movie reel made up of thousands of individual frames so the scene was continuously changing, the environment shifting and your position aligning to the changing frames. ”We are called on to play many roles,” he told me, “and often times those roles shift dramatically from one life to the next. Only through this reincarnation can we begin to understand the fullness of the mercy and wisdom of Krishna.”

And while I argued the Christian notion of rewards in the afterlife, I began to question the logic of my beliefs with him each time we talked and I was never quite sure he was wrong. China and Burma and Sierra Leone made it all jump out at me. Somehow, equity had been pilfered.

That was the imponderable on that sunny day in the garden.

Friday, January 15, 2010

I Think I Shall Never See...

I wrote this in May of 2009 when the trees were green and the breezes warm:

The poet said,

“I think that I shall never see

a poem so lovely as a tree

For poems are made by fools like me

But only God can make a tree.”

I thought that strange and prob’ly wrong

Raised in town , I wasn’t strong

On Maples or on Chestnut trees.

But poems I knew and I could breeze

From A.A.Milne through Chaucer’s best

But now I’m old, and trees it seems

Have changed a lot (Or maybe not)

And this I know, there’s a promise here

That year by year the Winter’s sere

Turns with help to summer’s Green

And we’re no less than all those trees

So maybe there is hope for us

That you and I will green again

A second coming, as it were,

For each and every one of us.