31 July 2008


It's been altogether too serious around here lately. So now for something completely different. If you've got a webcam, you can take pictures of yourself, with all kinds of fun special effects, at Cameroid. Here's a silly one of me:

29 July 2008

The birdies and the bees

Bee on a blossom that looks like a badminton birdie. It's a Purple Coneflower, near the rose garden at Stanley Park.

28 July 2008

The early bird gets the worm

A friend is visiting from Paris, and today we went to see the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden. We saw this robin bringing food back to her babies in the nest.

(Cricket is still hanging in there, but getting more and more droopy, for those who have been following her story.)

24 July 2008

New set of wheels!

Cricket is now traveling in style. We've retired the leash (she wouldn't be able to run away anyway) and joined the baby jogger crowd. I bought this stroller today at Toys 'R' Us. I lined it with a foam pad and put one of Cricket's beds in it, covered with an underpad in case of any leaks. And off we went to Pacific Spirit Park for a stroll. It's the first time we've been there in months, if not over a year. She hasn't been able to walk very far and I haven't had the desire to go for walks by myself there. But I need the exercise, and she is getting bored being cooped up inside all day. The front lawn is a lovely place to hang out and watch people go by, but I thought it would be nice, for whatever days she has left, to let her see a bit of the wider world once again. Even if this is her last day in this life, I feel we've already gotten our money's worth on the stroller. What a joy it was! We got all kinds of interesting looks and a few comments from people we passed. And Cricket LOVED it! She perked right up and was so engaged with everything she saw.

21 July 2008

Not dead yet

Cricket is still with me. She seems to be in some sort of remission. This photo of us was taken by my friend John when we went to visit on Thursday (three days ago). She doesn't look like a dog with one foot in the grave, does she? Compare that to how she looked in her "hospice" bed (in my living room) on July 1, the day she stopped eating and went four days without food. After telling all my friends that my dog was in the process of dying, now I'm wondering whether they'll believe me next time when it's really happening.

I came across a quote in Richard John Neuhaus's As I Lay Dying of a poem called "Adjusting to the Light" in which Miller Williams "reflect[s] on the embarrassment of friends and neighbors when Lazarus returns from the dead. He was gone only four days, but already it is not easy to fit him back into things."

Lazarus, listen, we have things to tell you.
We killed the sheep you meant to take to market.
We couldn't keep the old dog, either.
He minded you. The rest of us he barked at.
Rebecca, who cried two days, has given her hand
to the sandalmaker's son. Please understnad
we didn't know that Jesus could do this.

We're glad you're back. But give us time to think.
Imagine our surprise... We want to say
we're sorry for all that. And one thing more.
We threw away the lyre. But listen, we'll pay
whatever the sheep was worth. The dog, too.
And put your room the way it was before.

18 July 2008

Chicken Hearts

Cricket and I had the most divine time on Wednesday at Heavenly Spa, with Cindy Horsfall, our canine water therapist. We spent time in the water just holding her, crying together, talking about this special time. Cricket was very relaxed and enjoyed the warm water and the loving attention. Afterwards we took her outside to lie on the grass and dry in the sun. It was a gorgeous day, the birds were chirping, and Cricket was in bliss. I told Teri, who runs the spa, my story about Cricket and the organic chicken heart. She replied that she always feeds chicken hearts to her older dogs, and in fact had a couple of tubs of them in her kitchen right then, which she brought out and gave to me. And you'll never believe the brand name -- Rosie Chicken Hearts! Cricket loves them and is eating well for the first time in weeks, putting weight back on. I'm also feeding her sardines which Teri recommended. Ah, poor Cricket, that she had to wait until this late in her life to eat like the amazing being she is. But she's enjoying it now!

16 July 2008

Waiter, what's this fly doing in my soup?

A fly died on my windowsill a few days ago and was perfectly preserved. I thought it would make a great prop for a photo. (For the past two weekends, I've been hanging around guys who spend enormous amounts of time setting up perfect lighting for a shot for a film, so the idea of doing studio set-up didn't seem as odious to me as it once did.)

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you know by now that I enjoy humorous juxtapositions in my photos. So I thought of the classic joke: "Waiter, what's this fly doing in my soup?" "I think he's doing the breast stroke." I made some homemade cream of chicken soup out of the bones from that Hunterston Farm chicken. My intent was to eat it myself, but I decided I could "waste" one bowl for this staged shot and give it to Cricket (minus the fly) afterwards.

I carefully picked up the fly on a piece of paper so as not to damage its pristine wings and brittle rigor mortis legs. I set up the camera on a tripod with the right lighting for the soup bowl, and then slid the fly into place. Didn't want to put him there too soon, or he might have gotten a bit soggy. As it was, he flipped over on his back when I first dropped him in the soup, but I was able to right him without getting any goop on his wings. Then I shot away, messing around with framing and depth of field until I got it just the way I wanted it. Be sure to click on the photo to zoom in so you can see the fly in all its beautiful green glory.

Cricket liked the soup, by the way. She seems to be having a bit of an Indian summer of her life now. Ever since that chicken heart (and the phosphoric acid that the homeopathic vet had me start her on a couple of days ago), she's really been perking up. She took herself for a little walk down the sidewalk today and I had to go follow her to keep her from going in the street. That's the most spunk she's had in quite a while. I think she's up for her canine water therapy session tomorrow, so we're going to go for it. Here's my favorite picture of her and me in the dog pool where we're meeting Cindy tomorrow.

14 July 2008

Life mimics art

I was working on a film shoot for the past couple of weekends, doing the production stills photography. At one point, someone noticed the resemblance between one of the lighting guys and a painting on the wall in the home where we were shooting, so I shot this photo of him posing beside it. Jean-Sebastien wanted the make-up artist to do him up in green and blue like the painting, but she never got around to it (or was joking when she promised to do it for him). So I took care of it in Photoshop.

Something to drool over

Cricket is still around. Not much has changed in the last couple of days except that she had quite a treat on Friday - a fresh raw chicken heart, from a chicken raised on Hunterston Farm. And since then she's been eating a bit of that chicken every day. There must have been some elixir of life in the chicken heart, as she has decided that this chicken is too good to pass up and she's sticking around for a few more days. She has always been a big drooler whenever she drinks water, as this photo (taken a couple of weeks ago) illustrates. (Just realized you have to click to enlarge it to see it.)

11 July 2008

Raindrops that fall on my nose and eyelashes...

Cricket has always had the most beautiful eyelashes, and still does. This photo was taken just a few days ago.

These days I've been doing a lot of crying, and sometimes when I cry, when I'm close to Cricket, my tears fall on her nose and eyelashes.

10 July 2008

Another day

Cricket is still here. I am so grateful for this run of beautiful days we've had the past couple of weeks. We've been able to sit outside every day for long stretches of time. There's no rain in sight for the forseeable future.

This poem has been on my mind:

Death - by Emily Dickinson

Because I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me;
The carriage held but just ourselves
And Immortality.

We slowly drove, he knew no haste,
And I had put away
My labor, and my leisure too,
For his civility.

We passed the school, where children strove
At recess, in the ring;
We passed the fields of gazing grain,
We passed the setting sun.

Or rather, be passed us;
The dews grew quivering and chill,
For only gossamer my gown,
My tippet only tulle.

We paused before house that seemed
A swelling of the ground;
The roof was scarcely visible,
The cornice but a mound.

Since then 'tis centuries, and yet each
Feels shorter than the day
I first surmised the horses' heads
Were toward eternity.

09 July 2008

Death by inches

My beloved dog Cricket is slowly slipping away. I keep thinking each day might be her last, and yet she keeps on surprising me, as she has all along with her longevity (she's 17).

Waiting for death to come is a profound and holy experience. It has its moments of extreme sadness, but it is also a unique opportunity to observe up close what the approach of death looks like, something which I will one day have to go through myself. There is also a peacefulness about it. She is not in pain, just losing her appetite, slowly losing weight, and spending most of her time asleep. When she needs to pee, she is still walking out the door on her own. She still likes to spend time lying out on the front lawn enjoying the summer breeze, taking in the scents, watching people walk by, barking at the occasional dog.

A friend of mine who is a composer likened this phase, the winding down of Cricket's life, to the coda at the end of a piece of music, which often builds up anticipation for the end so that when it comes there is a sense of resolution. My friend understood why I'd decided against euthanasia. As she put it, "Euthanasia takes away the coda, and jumps you straight to the end without preparing you for it."

I've been reading Henri Nouwen's Our Greatest Gift: A Meditation on Dying and Caring. He writes of how being in solidarity with those who are dying can heal us of our fear of death. "Only when we are willing to let their dying help us to die well will we be able to help them to live well. When we can face death with hope, we can live life with generosity."

As humans approach death, we become more and more dependent on others and have to let go of our own abilities and receive the gift of others' caring. (I'm guessing it's somewhat the same with dogs.) Nouwen writes, "Through our caring presence, we keep announcing that sacred truth: dying is not a sweet, sentimental event; it is a great struggle to surrender our lives completely. This surrender is not an obvious human response. To the contrary: we want to cling to whatever is left." But when we surrender to this most common human experience, instead of fighting against it, we can have a good death. "If we grow in awareness that our mortality, more than anything else, will lead us into solidarity with others, then death can become a celebration of our unity with the human race."

Cricket seems not to be quite ready to let go. She has been trying valiantly to rally, perhaps because she doesn't want to leave me and knows I'll miss her terribly. But as her body gradually shuts down, she seems to be becoming more resigned to the fact that she won't be living forever, at least not in this body. I don't know if she knows what she'll be transitioning to, but I believe our canine friends will be with us in eternity. I can't imagine the God of love not letting that be so for these blessed creatures who give us such unconditional love.

08 July 2008

Production stills

Well, life has been a roller coaster for the past month or so. I was away for a couple of weeks in mid-June (family reunion in New York, etc.), and two days before I left, my dog was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. So I've had my hands full taking care of her and preparing myself to say goodbye. It's been a very precious time. Nothing slows life down like waiting for death. We are taking things one day at a time, as each day could be her last. It's amazing how much more I notice when I'm slowing down like this.

In the midst of it all, I've still had time for a fun new endeavor. I have the privilege of being the stills photographer for a film called "Pop Switch" that a friend of mine is directing, starring Lucia Frangione and Michael Kopsa. Here's an interesting video on what a stills photographer does. Here's a still from the film and some shots I took of the filmmakers at work.


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