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In the Marble

I went to lunch today with my best friend who suggested that I set aside an hour a day to write.  I have been encouraged by so many in the past year and especially in the past few months to just WRITE!  I’ll try to explain my writing as best I can, and as I explained it to my buddy. “Did someone point to a canvas and tell Van Gogh to paint A Starry Night?”  That was my first response to my best bud.  I followed with this little story. One day I was bumbling around Florence, Italy without a map (which is the very best way to bumble).  I would study about what I saw, of course, but in the moment, I just wanted to absorb every single brick, statue, street, smell the veal cooking, taste the wine and be amazed.  In my wandering, and because a creative mind might see things just a little differently, I noticed a long, very old building with a covered walkway.  The building itself was nothing spectacular.  The roof over the walkway was held up by a series of archways.  In the early afternoon light, these archways threw crescent-shaped shadows across the tile.  That’s what caught my eye.  Not the building, not the arches, but the beautiful design that the light played on the tile.  Had to get a picture…or many…now.  I quick-stepped to the arches and then through them onto the walkway, the shutter of my old Kodak clicking crazily, capturing shadows. As I stood there inhaling light and shadow, I noticed a small, rather inconspicuous sign next to a doorway.  Squint.  I stepped closer.  “Admission – 50 lire”.  Admission to what?  Who knew?  Thinking, “Okay, I’ll bite…”, I stepped inside, gave a thin, expressionless attendant behind a podium my fifty lire.  No pamphlet?  No brochure?  No headphones?  “Dove?” I asked her.  “Where?”  She stood there, stone-faced in her spiffy little red bellman’s jacket and pointed to my left.  (I get impatient when I don’t get anticipated information, and I was on the edge of cranky.)  I took approximately 20 grumpy steps when the room opened up and there before me was Michelangelo’s “David”.  My breath was sucked out of me with pure, unadulterated awe.  I had just bumbled into the famous Academia which houses some of the finest renaissance and pre-renaissance works of art in the world.  I had studied Michelangelo, written papers on his life and works, and I was acutely aware that the magnificent sculpture before me was created when the sculptor was 26 years old.  It has been written that he picked out his marble from the quarries in Carrara personally.  They (the infamous “they”) say that he could see David within the block of Carrara marble and “simply” took away whatever wasn’t the David. As an aside, I would like to note that I brought some Carrara marble home with me from that trip with the intent of sculpting it.  After all, it’s in my genes, right?  I ruined every chisel and sculpting tool I owned and couldn’t even scratch it.  It is very, VERY hard, which explains how it lasts for centuries, but how that 26 year-old genius put a dent in it, I will never understand.  I went to the town of Carrara in northern Italy and watched them cut and shape the slabs of marble for shipping.  They did it with water.  Sigh… I spent a good hour staring at the David.  I eventually remembered to breathe.  Every vein in every arm, finger, leg and throughout his body was revealed by the veins that ran through a giant, rough white block of Carrara marble.  It is nothing short of miraculous when you view the detail up close and personal. I finally broke free of the masterpiece, only to find another and yet another; On plaster, on canvas, on wood, gilt in purest gold, the Muses looking down on me from their giant canvas (bigger than any two walls of the room where I now sit), the Madonna and Child throughout the centuries by various artists and scribes, in every medium and at the very back of the Academia…Michelangelo’s unfinished works. Unfinished.  Unfinished?  Why?  An arm and a thigh jutting out of a block of Carrara, and part of a head.  Perfect in every way.  Why did he stop?  Did the Caesar call him away? (“Michelangelo, PAINT!”)  Did it just not come out the way he thought it would?  Did he go blind or die before he could finish? It was at this point of the telling of my “bumble” that my buddy asked me, “Did someone ask him to sculpt The David?” No.  He did it because it came to him.  Through divine providence or pure creative genius it appeared in his mind and in his soul.  He did it because he SAW it and then he HAD to make it real. I am no Michelangelo.  No one is.  But something in me understood that he saw it and HAD to do it because that’s how my writing comes to me; not because someone admires my work or tells me to do it.  It is simply there and I have to, or it isn’t.  It’s that simple. Those of you who know me well also know I’m a bit over a year into finding myself with four English Mastiffs.  You may read that again for confirmation.  Four.  One 210 pound therapy dog with a paw that I’ve nursed, one rescue who had a knee replacement and a tail amputation and two spankin’ new puppies who will also become therapy dogs.  I haven’t felt free to go into my cave as I am now, but I promise you this.  I see things hidden in the marble of my life and they WILL come out.  Thank you all for your patience.

 

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Giant Angel Lands at Girls Ranch

Micah

Micah

As I close the car door and snap on Micah’s purple Gabriel’s Angels vest, I notice the window blinds separate, revealing big brown eyes and hear, “Micah’s here!  Micah’s here!”   I smile.  Little Sammy bursts through the front door, diapered and bare-footed with his mom on his heels and runs to Micah with his arms outstretched.  Sammy is two years old and has spent over a year seeing Micah every two weeks like clockwork.  He can’t tell time, but his teen mommy says that he has been camping at the window all afternoon, waiting for Micah.  He reaches up and wraps his arms around my 200-pound therapy dog’s giant neck, gives him a huge hug, turns on a dime and runs to the house, announcing that Micah has arrived as only Sammy can.

We have some changes this week!  We visit a group home under protective custody with abused, abandoned and at-risk children.  Normally we have about a dozen teen girls, give or take, a smattering of toddlers and a few infants, not counting the ones waiting to be born.  It’s not all teen moms.  We have had girls from “juvie”, some abused or self-abuse cases and occasionally an abandoned child.  This week one of the children has been released, one has turned 18 and has gone to live with a family member and we see three new faces and a brand new six-pound baby.

I introduce Micah to the new girls as Sammy pats the bag I’m carrying, asking for a brush.  Two of the girls are perched atop the back of the sofa like baby birds, eyes wide, staring at the behemoth that has entered the room.  As I explain the history of the breed, focusing on how the mastiff has protected their families and kept them safe for thousands of years, the girls relax a little.  “Safe” is something they crave. But they are NOT getting down or touching him!  “Keep that big dog away from me!”

Micah is already seeking out the infants who are scattered around the room in their car seats or carriers.  He’s kissing baby toes, and the toddlers are following him with their brushes.  The girls watch in amazement as the toddlers lie on top of the “gentle giant” and run their Matchbox trucks along his brindle stripes. Micah doesn’t move a muscle, even when a one-inch dump truck runs over his head and down his nose.

I pull the treats out and announce that we’re going to play “hide the treat”.  I give each of the girls a treat and have them hide it in their hand…toddlers included.  Micah goes to each child (Sammy FIRST!) and they hold out both fists and let Micah discover which hand contains the treat.  The “baby birds” slide down to the seat of the sofa and hold trembling fists out to “the big giant head”.  I show them by example how to hold their palms flat when he spots the right one.  I stand next to them and give Micah a treat first and coax them to respond.  The hand opens, Micah gently takes the tiny treat, barely brushing their palm with his lips, and they are amazed!  “Miss!  He’s so GENTLE!”  The free hand comes up as I encourage them to touch his satin-soft ear.  “Miss!  He’s so soft!”  Their body language changes and they unwind and slip to the floor as I hand them a brush and they begin their relationship with the biggest Gabriel’s Angel.

They have just overcome two huge barriers that are ingrained in their behavior patterns.  They have overcome fear and they have begun to trust.  Many of these children have lived in fear most of their lives.

I show them how I lay next to Micah on the floor at home, as if he’s a giant teddy bear.   One by one they take their turn cuddling their newfound friend.  One of the girls says, “Miss, I think Micah’s thirsty.  He’s panting.  May I give him some water, Miss?”  I thank her for being empathetic and noticing Micah’s discomfort.  She pours his bottled water into his bowl and she smiles as he tries to take it directly from the bottle.  She gets one of the towels that I carry and gently wipes his face when he’s finished.   I thank her for being so compassionate and loving to Micah.

I remind the children that dogs’ memories are often connected to their sense of smell, and they hold those memories all their lives.  I tell them if Micah sees them somewhere 5 years from now, he will recognize them as family.

Time’s up and Micah gets a hug from each of the children as we leave (each teen making SURE he gets their scent in his nose good and proper).  The mother of the newborn holds tiny infant up to Micah’s face so he will smell and remember her baby.

Once again I load my sleepy fur-baby in the back of my car, slide in next to him and hug him myself.  Good job, Micah!

Copyright 2013 by Mary Watson

 
3 Comments

Posted by on August 29, 2013 in Angels Have Pawz, Muddy Pawz

 

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Baggins

Mister Baggins

 In May of 2002, I was lifting weights in our side yard when I felt that someone was staring at me.  I sat up on the weight bench and looked around.  Nothing.  No one.  The third time I paused, I noticed two tiny heads with bright eyes peering out at me from between two fireplace logs at the top of our woodpile.  One was black with piercing green eyes and one was white with markings of a Siamese.  Having lost our 17 year-old Siamese, Ness the previous fall, I could hardly wait to tell my husband.

“Rick!  We have two tiny kittens outside!”

“We are NOT having another cat in this house!” <pause> “Where outside?”

“They were in the woodpile!  They must be from that feral black stray.  Come see!”

We scouted the back yard and found no kittens.  Mama kitty must have moved them.  Later, cleaning the windows in the spare room at the front of our house, I spotted the kittens swatting at a thin spray of water from our irrigation valve and pouncing on evil blades of grass.  I called Rick to the window to see them, and he watched much longer than he meant to.

“They are cute, aren’t they?” he said.  “Look at that little guy killing the grass!  Grrrrrr!  Haha!  Well, we’re NOT feeding them.  Got that?  Not!”   (Yup.  Got it, Sir.)

A few nights later I was getting ready for bed and Rick had disappeared.  I looked all over the house and in the back yard with our Doberman, Houston and our Bouvier des Flandres, Tanker.  No Ricky.  I finally checked the front porch, quietly opening the door, as I had a hunch that proved to be correct.  There sat Rick on the bench out front, feeding two tiny, fluffy little souls…albacore tuna…from a crystal dish.  He caught me peeking at him and simply said, “Shut up.  They were hungry and they’re still not coming in the house.”  I sat down next to him watching “Mr. Tough Guy” now hand-feeding the tiny guys bits of precious albacore from his fingers.  Rick then informed me that the black one was to be referred to as Mister Baggins and the white one was Frodo and our front garden was their Shire.  I know when to keep my mouth shut.

Tragically, we lost little Frodo a few months later when he ventured out of the shire and was hit by a dragon in the road.  I thank God I wasn’t home to see it and thank my neighbor for lovingly taking care of his tiny little body.

Baggins learned from the tragedy and now 10 years later, sticks pretty close to the shire.

Oh, yes…he’s still here despite the decree from our faithful leader.  You see, Baggins grew, the seasons changed and it started getting pretty chilly.  One evening as we relaxing in front of the tv with Houston and Tank sprawled and snoring across the floor, we heard the doggy door flap shut.  We looked at each other, looked at the dogs, shook our heads and went back to watching our program.  Out of the corner of our eyes, we caught a black shadow.  Baggins calmly strolled through the living room, hopped over the 117-pound Bouvier, skirted around one neurotic Doberman and proceeded down the hall to our bedroom.  He glanced over his shoulder once as if to say, “Minions, I have arrived.  I am taking over.  Carry on.”   Ya gotta love cats.  They live their lives with attitude.

 A year later, he was pushing the Bouvier aside to taste what the peasants were eating, camped out on Rick’s lap, tap-danced on his keyboard and generally owned us all. 

Dinner with Tank

One evening, a few years into his takeover, Houston, our Doberman was sleeping peacefully in an overstuffed chair that was angled in the corner of the living room opposite the sofa.  As Rick and I relaxed after a long day at the office, we watched Baggins walk into the room, assess the situation and in full kitty-stealth mode, slip under the overstuffed chair.  Now, Houston was edgy at best, likened to a neurotic cobra on Mountain Dew.  One does not poke the cobra whence it sleeps.  Evidently Baggins felt he had the genetics of a mongoose in his kitty-veins, because as we watched our beautiful cobra coiled peacefully asleep, over the back of the chair appeared “ninja-kitty” from the armpits up.  Ever-so-quietly he reached one black paw forward as far as he could…and thumped the Doberman hard on the top of her head, disappearing like a puff of smoke.  Houston leapt to her feet in the big chair, ready to strike, trembling with eyes darting left and right.  Rick and I sat frozen, too astonished to move!  Sensing no immediate danger, Houston once again settled into the soft cushion of the chair and had no more than closed her eyes when Baggins came over the rounded arm of the chair, thumped the Dobie’s skull hard and disappeared under the chair again!  Houston again jumped to her feet in full, fierce attack form…to nothing but air.  After his third attack on the fearsome guard dog, Baggins evidently bored of the sport and marched off to conquer yet another world.

 Houston and Tank went over the Rainbow Bridge and we are now on our third and fourth English Mastiff.  Baggins remains, has brought us three more strays and is neither intimidated nor amused by over 300 pounds of canines. 

 If you would like to meet Mister Baggins, he can be located at the kitchen door at 3:30 pm each day awaiting his dinner (warmed 11 seconds in the microwave), or at 8:00 pm tapping his Rolex and stepping under the noses of two Mastiffs, overseeing the preparation of his evening snack.  If you happen to work late, you can still see him retiring for the night with his attendant, Mr. Tough guy, who will be tucking him into his fluffy bed with two soft blankets…on the hood of his Range Rover. 

Cats actually do rule the world. 

© Copyright Mary Watson 2012

 
1 Comment

Posted by on March 8, 2012 in Muddy Pawz, Uncategorized

 

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My Thanksgiving

I have to admit that over the past few months, I’ve been kind of a whiney-pee-pants.  (That is MY noun, and I’m keeping it.)  This has been a tough summer at Casa de Muddy Pawz, beginning with the loss of our baby/guardian/best friend, Bentley, a 4 1/2 year old English Mastiff.  Both cars broke down, one after the other, the vacuum literally flew into pieces at my feet as I was cleaning and the hose bib in the back yard started squirting me in the eye every time I turned it on, and I even backed over the cat food dishes with my Range Rover and learned the true meaning of “smithereens”.  We had the biggest dust storm in a century right after we had drained and refilled our pool, resulting in the largest water bill in history.  I went through a biopsy and surgery for skin cancer, paying for the sins of my youth as a sun-worshipper.  I talked to the real estate commissioner who informed me that commercial real estate wouldn’t be regaining a pulse until at LEAST 2014 to 2016, i.e. “Your career is toast!”  My unemployment had run out and I couldn’t BUY a job.

Damn…things were looking pretty grim.

Now, some good things happened, too, this summer.  I got a grant and went through Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and graduated from their New Media Academy to gain some street cred and increase my smarts.  After months of research, my husband found THE healthiest puppy on the planet in Indiana and flew him home.  Our female Mastiff, Nala (also known as the Princess or the Honey Badger, depending on her mood…) made a turnaround from her fear of men and became Daddy’s Little Princess, complete with kisses and snuggles.  I even reconnected with a couple of long lost friends and made some new ones.  I even learned the definition of “haboob”!  You know…the good stuff!

Yet it seems like the economy has tanked in the good old USA and now Europe is following suit, right down to rioting in the streets.  (More to come…film at eleven…)  People are robbing banks and homes to feed their families.  There enough are droughts, wildfires, earthquakes, tsunamis and floods to make you wonder if the whacked-out 2012 End-of-Days people might not just have something.  And of course, we’re all watching our president vacationing on Martha’s Vineyard and charging $35,000 a plate (Let me repeat that…$35 grand per PLATE!)  for his campaign fundraising dinner, while telling us about his plan for turning our economy around.  (Did you kinda choke on that one, too?)  Well he’s going to make those big bad boys that have corporate jets pay more taxes, by golly!  And he’s gonna find jobs for our nation and get America back to work…somehow…by golly!  (Thanks, Pres’…)  I’m choking on both dust and politics.  It’s a political haboob…

We discovered that our new puppy came with an intestinal parasite, but we quickly got that licked, We fixed the cars, got a new vacuum cleaner with a four on the floor and cherry-pak mufflers, got the puppy through obedience school,sprayed down the dust from the house, drive, cars, patio and leafy things, back-washed the pool 46 times, got my stitches out, and I even landed my first paycheck in 2 1/2 years doing some independent contractor work.  Hallelujah!

On 9/11 the puppy developed a rare joint infection, collapsed on the floor, and I found myself once again staring at forty-eleven bottles of pills and a treatment schedule.  My dear husband had been beside himself through this after losing his best friend with fur, another friend at work and putting in 50-hour work weeks to keep the boat afloat.  Walking the puppy into the same clinic where we said farewell to Bentley just four months prior was too much. It tore my heart out to see him walking in circles in that parking lot, wiping away the tears of grief and fear. We were both red-lining both emotionally and physically and trying hard (sometimes unsuccessfully) not to strike out at each other through it all.

Micah, the puppy is back on all fours again, but it seemed to be one hit too many.  Generally I walk through crises and fires with full body armor and do my bleeding, whining, crying and blistering post-crisis when it’s safe to fold the WonderWoman outfit and drop it in a box.  This weekend I dragged around in slow motion, spent a lot of time in bed with the Honey Badger and only got up do pill the puppy and look at that damned treatment schedule again.  I hit the wall, feeling raw.  I lost my flak vest and helmet and I even shed a few tears.

I woke up this morning, and sat on our patio watching the sun break over Camelback Mountain, and something in me just…tipped.  I realized that I was looking across a beautiful, manicured lawn with trees heavy with fruit, past our warm, sparkling pool at one of the most beautiful mountains in the valley.  I had just kissed my husband and sent him on his way to work for a wonderful company where he works alongside a man he respects more than any other.  (…and ya know, my husband is very easy on the eyes, even in his 50’s!)  Our two mastiffs were stretched out in that beautiful golden morning light, washing each other’s faces and the sun felt warm on my skin.

There are families who have lost everything…lots of them.  I was struck by a news report of a man who was recently arrested for robbing a bank to feed his family and asked the officers to please take care of his dog who was still in his car.

I have a warm, cozy little home, we have been cautious enough to live within our means, even when we lost our juicy second income.  We have food in the fridge, health insurance for us and our pets, a roof over our heads, incredible friends, two beautiful dogs and absolutely worthless silly cats.  Best of all, we have each other.  We’ve had each other about 15 years now, and are getting ready to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary.  I took a fresh look around this morning and I am overwhelmed with gratitude for my husband, our home, our animals and our life together.  Life is suddenly looking pretty shiny compared to yesterday.  I took a deep breath and…

just

said

“Thanks”.

Copyright 2011 – Mary Watson

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7eYAKZ8_dPQ

My Thanksgiving – Music and Lyrics by Don Henley, Stan Lynch and Jai Winding

Well a lot of things have happened
Since the last time we spoke
Some of them are funny
Some of them ain’t no joke
And I trust you will forgive me
If I lay it on the line.
I always thought
You were a friend of mine.Sometimes I think about you.
And wonder how you’re doin’ now
And what you’re goin’ throughCause the last time I saw you
We were playin’ with fire
We were loaded with passion
And a burnin’ desire

For every breath
For every day of living
This is my thanksgiving.

Now the trouble with you and me, my friend
Is the trouble with this nation;
Too many blessings,
Too little appreciation.
And I know that kind of notion
Well it just ain’t cool
So send me back to Sunday School.

Because I’m tired of waiting
For a reason to arrive
And it’s too long we’ve been living
These unexamined lies

Cause I ‘ve got great expectations
I’ve got family and friends
I’ve got satisfying work
I’ve got a back that bends

For every breath
For every day of living
This is my Thanksgiving.

And have you noticed that an angry man
Can only get so far
Until he reconciles the way he thinks
Things ought to be
With the way things are?Here in this fragmented world,
You know I still believe
In learning how to give love
And how to receive it.
And I would not be among those
Who abuse this privilege.
Sometimes you get the best light
From a burning bridge.And I don’t mind saying that I
Still love it all.
You know I wallowed
In the springtime,
Now I’m welcoming the fall.For every moment of joy
Every hour of fear
For every winding road
That brought me hereFor every breath
For every day of living
This is my Thanksgiving.

For every one
Who helped me start,
And for every thing
That broke my heart

For every breath
For every day of living
This is my Thanksgiving.

 

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HOPE

The AZ Heat program, combined with Phoenix Workforce Connection and SOAR allowed me the opportunity to attend the amazing Walter Cronkite School of Journalism…and gave me hope for a bright new future!

I had spent the previous 30 years in an all-consuming, successful career in commercial real estate and development which disappeared like smoke in a breeze with the economic downturn.  Friends, family, acquaintances and people I have never met encouraged me to pursue a career in writing after simply reading little e-mails that I had written on life here at Casa de Muddy Pawz with our English Mastiffs.  I fought them all for a considerable length of time while searching for non-existent positions in “MY field”.

Two years later, my unemployment had run out and “my field” had still not gained a pulse.  As a matter of fact, it was flat-lining.  That’s when I gave in and turned my focus toward a new career using my God-given talent with words. I had some college under my belt, but nothing to support a career in journalism.  In my quest for knowledge in the area and funding to accomplish this feat, I discovered those programs and the venue mentioned above.

I’m currently enrolled at Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and have discovered that you can, indeed, teach an old dog new tricks.  I started this blog site and have already written articles for the Phoenix Police Department and a pet rescue organization in the past few weeks.  I’m becoming “known” and I haven’t finished classes yet!

In my mind’s eye, I’m running barefoot to my house on Mohawk in the Michigan Northwoods with my sneakers in my hand yelling, “MOM!  I learned WordPress and PhotoShop and all about Flickr and Twitter and Facebook and EVERYTHING!”  I wave a brightly printed photo of my new website and squeal, “Look what I MADE ya!”  Of course, she tapes it to the fridge to show Daddy when he comes home.

Except I’m all grown up and I’m waving it at my son and my husband…and I do believe they’re proud.

© Copyright 2011 Mary Watson

 
2 Comments

Posted by on July 8, 2011 in It's a Brand New Day

 

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