Sunday, March 9, 2014

E Ticket Ride

Bunny Tibbs--before her bath

In the first 20 years or so after Disneyland opened in Anaheim, park guests purchased a ticket book if they intended to go on any of the rides. Attractions were rated A-E, with the A venues being of a milder sort, such as visiting with Mr. Lincoln, while the E tickets were reserved for the wildest of rides, such as the bobsleds (also known as the Matterhorn).

I have been riding, in this past week, that well known roller coaster of emotions, ranging anywhere from pure joy to very intense anger, and everything in between. Thanks to a couple of truly great friends who have listened carefully while I vented about the anger parts and validated those feelings ("It sounds like you were really angry..."), I've moved past all that.  So, on to the highlights!

1.  I finished reading Brian Doyle's soon to be released novel, The Plover, this week. I spent two weeks savoring his words and the love with which he imbues them. It is a novel about the sea as much as Moby Dick is about a whale, and that is to say that, while he sets his protagonist squarely on a boat in the ocean, the tale is as much about the human condition as it is anything else. It is beautifully rendered. For those of you who love literary novels and stories of people who are broken yet still able to love and love lavishly, buy it. Well, pre-order it if you're reading this prior to April 8, 2014. Just click on the highlighted title in this paragraph.

2.  Bunny Tibbs reappeared. (To find out who Bunny Tibbs is, read the blog post which precedes this one.) I came home from work to find Bunny lying face down on Thom's comforter in the garage. Apparently he'd been doing a lot of excavating that day. Or maybe he missed her and needed to spend time with her. I have to confess, that after promising him I would no longer touch his toys, I did pick her filthy self up off the blanket and toss her in with a load of rags. She was spotless and ready for bed that night, and he seemed surprised to see her in her beautified condition. Twenty-four hours later, she'd been buried again, but this time somewhat half-heartedly, as one ear remained above ground. Since then he's brought her out of his own accord, and she hasn't gone underground again. Waiting to see how much my dog now trusts me.

3.  Thomas went for his first real hike in the mountains today. In the first weeks after he came home, he wasn't able to travel far due to getting car sick, a result of his extreme anxiety. (Cleaning huge gobs of dog barf from the floor of the extra cab made me glad I opted to buy the Ranger Edge--with rubber floor mats.  Easy-peesy!) I've been taking him on car rides a couple times a week since then, going just a little farther each time. Last weekend we went to the far side of Upland. Today we went to the foot of Mt. Baldy. And oh, what a great time we had. For him, being able to hike along a forest path without cars whizzing by or particularly boisterous bully breeds barking at him from behind fences gave him the opportunity to act like a dog, sniffing the air and the ground and peeing on stuff. Atta boy, Thomas!

Bonus points to #3: Thom went everywhere with me on the lead--over rocks, under tree trunks that were fallen across the trail and, most importantly, into the stream, actually placing his dainty 'My toes shouldn't touch moisture' feet in the water.  Good boy!

And: On the way back, we encountered two lovely young women who had brought their three dogs out to enjoy the gorgeous spring-like conditions. One of the girls was a former student of mine, and the other is a volunteer at the Upland shelter, so as we approached and I called out, "Hi ladies! Are your dogs friendly?" I heard in stereo, "Is that Ms. Murphy?!?" "Is that Sgt. Tibbs?!?" (My dog is no doubt a greater celebrity than I am.) While I reminisced with my former student, she walked right up to Thomas to pet him and, amazingly, he didn't pull away, just stood calmly as she held out her hand, then patted his head. He's never let any stranger approach him like that before. Guess the hike was good for him. In addition, their dogs surrounded him and invited him to be part of their pack in a wonderfully diplomatic way. Thom stood his ground; like me, he's not much of a joiner. But again, he didn't pull away, just let them sniff and wag to their hearts content.

4. Finally, on Friday I read Yeats' poem, "The StolenChild," to my freshman Honors classes, and I showed them this video. These are the moments in teaching that I love the most. Taking them, hand in hand, into the land of the imagination, is like Thomas into the forest. They could go their entire lives without it, as could he, but how much more their lives are enriched by these experiences.