Thursday, May 17, 2012

A Puppy and a Juicer

We got a new puppy two weeks ago and a new juicer a week ago. So life has been messy…but fun. 

When we were shopping for dogs, or rather, when we started telling people we were getting a dog, since the actual shopping had gone on for about seven years, everyone said the same thing: “They’re a lot of work.”
As an official dog owner for the first time in my adult life, I can confirm this fact. Our puppy is a lot of work. But he is every bit worth the work he requires and then some. In fact, I can say this same thing for the juicer Ryan gave me for Mother’s Day, which was shopped for more quickly but hoped for almost as much. It is a lot of work: Taking apart, cleaning, keeping the kids’ fingers away from the moving, grinding parts, taking it apart again, emptying pounds of fruit pulp, scrubbing and reassembling, but its renderings: sweet and clean and pure and totally fresh and nutrient rich, are every bit worth the work to get them.

Since Mother’s Day, the girls and I have made five or six fruit and vegetable juice combinations. It’s one of the messiest things we’ve ever done together. Piles of pulp and rinds and seeds cover the counter. Sticky fruit juice coats our arms to our elbows. The floor is even stickier than usual. But from the simple: fresh squeezed blood orange juice or cold press apple cider, to the complex: kale, cucumber, watermelon and lime coolers, each juice has been exciting and thoroughly enjoyed. 

But a strange thing happened this week as I started juicing. After 24 hours of gorging myself on fresh squeezed organic juices, I started to feel deeply morose. I can only describe the place I’ve been this week as in deep brooding. Elements and memories of the past keep rolling up into my conscious, haunting me, in some cases tormenting me. I have felt the gamut of regret, disappointment, loss, anger, resentment, bittersweet joy, gratitude and deepest sadness. 

Some say that the liver stores our emotional memories and that to cleanse the liver in any way means a spring cleaning of our emotions. Maybe they are right.

I sat outside yesterday afternoon with nothing else to do with myself or my fighting daughters but banish our motley crew of sick and tired and emotionally overwrought to the front yard where a summer snow of cottonwood drifted through the air and collected in drifts on our driveway. 

I sat pondering the past, unresolved arguments and grudges that I thought I had let go by now, letting them hover around the edges of my mind as I watched Twila and Jada roll baby strollers up and down the driveway and the puppy frolic and leap through the cottonwood, barking and snapping at the drifting puffs, occasionally catching one in his mouth and hacking it back out. 

There was a nagging sense that I had countless things to do: emails to return, phone calls to answer, things to clean, food to cook, errands to run and the like. It caused a kind of dull anxiety that sharpened with the realization that I couldn’t think of the first right thing to do. It wouldn’t have mattered if I could because I felt so completely incapable of doing anything. Yet the feeling wasn’t lethargy, my heart pumped strongly along and my eyes were wide and alert, no doubt energized by the concentrated phytochemicals of many juices. It was more like the need to stay in one place when you’re giving birth. The impossibility of walking up a flight of stairs during a contraction is something like what I felt yesterday sitting on the slope of my lawn, chewing on all my regrets.

I could no sooner have gotten up and started making dinner than our puppy, Django, could have. But while his thoughts were engrossed with chasing airborne cotton, mine were entrenched in chasing my old emotional wounds. It was a strange sort of pain, one that distracted me almost completely from my responsibilities. I felt inert as I passively waited for the parade of thoughts to march by and stop distracting me.

They finally did late last night. My thoughts today have been free and my energy good. I had a new lease on life as the sun rose in the eastern sky. I took the puppy before the rest of the family had gotten up and ran with him for two miles. I felt invigorated by the fresh morning air and with each stride I felt more grounded in the present. I thought of the beauty of the sky, the sun, the cotton wood, the frolicking puppy and playing children that I had been gifted with yesterday. I laughed out loud when I realized the obviousness of the lesson: When you’re lost in the past you can’t enjoy the beauty of the present. 

In a flash I remembered the cottonwood pouring down in great waves all around me, glinting in the sun, brushing my face as it streamed by, the laughter of my girls’ voices, like bells, all the joy that surrounded me that I was immune to, so insulating was my grumpyness.

Here in the morning sun, in the cool quiet of dawn, I am part of the beauty and joy, running in it, through it, helping create it.

The normal noise and messes of the house where waiting for me when I returned. Everyone was hungry. As I cooked breakfast, the girls circled me like sharks. Twila kicked the dog’s water dish, slopping water everywhere, Jada tackled the dog and made him yelp, I tripped over everyone as I moved from the oven to the toaster to the sink and back around again. I begged them to find something to do, but what could be more exciting than tumbling around under mom’s feet as she tries to cook?

Just after Ryan left, Jada pushed her chair back too hard and toppled backwards onto the floor. It was a high top chair and the fall was hard. She sobbed. My coffee went everywhere as I leapt to stop her slow-motion fall. As I watched over Jada, taking a premature nap, wondering if I was remiss not to call the doctor, the puppy peed on the floor in front of Twila. An hour later he peed on the floor in front of me, a karmic reminder that I shouldn’t have blamed Twila the way I did for the accident. 

Our day gallops along in predictable unpredictability but the sadness and dejectedness that memories of my past brought up, haunting me this week, have left—maybe for good. Maybe all the powerful juices forced out the last remaining shadows of childish regret. Though releasing those thoughts and memories was difficult and painful to go through, I can’t say it was bad. Like crying on a rainy day, it felt right. 

If there is one thing my juicer has taught me, it’s that its worth making a mess and getting dirty to create something really sweet and divine. And if there is one thing my puppy has taught me, it’s that you don’t always have to have order or organization…or really very many rules at all, to enjoy each moment fully.