Thursday, September 15, 2011

Shem Creek and Sydni

Update: Okay, the original post is still below, but I find I need to apologize to those who know me and know my dog.  I am so sorry for scaring everyone.  Especially both my oldest daughters, my sister, and my former spouse.  Sydni is still with us and doing great for a 13+ year old dog.  But she's slowing down, can't climb the stairs by herself, is deaf as a post, and can't make it further than around the block before she's ready to be done with the walk.  Not that she isn't as excited as ever to get out the door--she's just done by the time you turn the second corner.  Still, she's as beautiful as ever (really, she looks better than she has in five years), and fuzzy and loving and she smiles.  Especially when she's sleeping, which is most of the time.  (I find I'm back to that stage I was in right after my girls were born, when I checked on them during naps and in the middle of the night to be sure they were still breathing.)  And all of that is why I said I'm going to miss her.  Both of Laura's old dogs passed this past year, and so I'm just hyper-conscious of Sydni's age and more grateful than ever for every day that begins and ends with nuzzles and husky-hugs from her.  That's all.  My bad.  So sorry.  Truly I am.  I expect better of myself when it comes to proofing my own work from a reader's perspective, but clearly I skipped that step entirely with this quick little post whipped off during the workday to capture a nostalgic moment.  Clearly.  When my ex called tonight she'd been crying, as I expect I would to think I was hearing similar news of her dog.  By the time she was laughing, after my profuse apologies, she summed up the gaff pretty well.  "That's the last thing I would expect from you, the Wizard of Words."  More like the Scrivener's Apprentice today.  Again, sorry.

For some reason, the smell of the ocean is strong to me today--possibly not a good thing, it being about 100 miles away.  But what has been nice is the flashback to all those morning and evening walks with Sydni in Charleston that usually ended on the pier jutting into the tidal marsh of Shem Creek, back in those days when the tide charts were part of my daily crosscheck.  I am going to miss my dog.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Value of Silence

As a youth, I actually had little to say, but it didn't keep me from talking a lot. When I consider the difference between me now and me then, I often wonder that the friends who've known me the longest don't sometimes think I've been replaced by an alien double. Not that I'm shy or rude or taciturn. But when it really matters, I try to measure my words more carefully every year.

There are tons of adages that urge us to such behavior:

I've often seen signs that read, "Better to keep one's mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt."

My stepmother, not long after she came into my life, hung a plaque in my childhood kitchen that read, "A wise old owl, the less he spoke, the more he heard."

Early in my military career someone shared the sage advice that, "When in the presence of a superior officer, you should never miss an opportunity to keep your mouth shut."

But all the adages and anecdotes in the world pale next to experience.  And that's what's really made me quieter as I've aged--the simple truth that through the years I've far more often regretted what I did say than what I didn't.

Silence is a blank canvas that can be filled with beauty if we're careful enough when we choose our words, but the barbs that escape us before their time can never be called back, and sometimes, the damage they do can't be repaired.

After nearly 52 years, I think the best adage I've seen to express it is the epigraph with which Brian Turner opens his poem "Sadiq," and which I will use to close this post.  Peace y'all.

"It is a condition of wisdom in the archer to be patient because when the arrow leaves the bow, it returns no more. -Sa'di