Sunday, December 02, 2012

Arden, RIP

                                                                 My dog Arden died.
                                                       He died about three weeks ago.

     I'm still getting used to him not being around.  I will blame my tardy blog entry on this event.  It's only partially true.  But still, I'll allow Arden this one last gift to me.
     My world is very different.  No more walks every day.  This is both terrible and fantastic.  No Arden to greet me when I come in the house.  For at least a week, after he died, when I came in the door, I could hear the jingling of his tags.  Auditory hallucinations embedded by repeating situations.  I hear his familiar click along the hardwood floors.  I still wake up at night and think of his last moments alive, which I witnessed, and for which I'm deeply thankful.  We knew he didn't have long, he had a tumor on his heart after all, but he'd lived so much longer than anyone expected he would (in that sense, he was like my brother Bill.)
   One night Arden was breathing particularly quickly.  Maybe even hyperventilating.  He wouldn't sit down.  Michael and I stayed up with him. It was hard to tell if he didn't want to sit down or he couldn't sit down. I figured if we went to bed, he would lie down.  We went to bed, and then I got up at 11 p.m. and he was still panting and standing.  I went back to bed, but got up at midnight, he was still doing the same thing.  I called the emergency 24 hour vet and they said to bring him in. Michael and I got dressed, Arden happily got his leash on, jumped into the car, looked out the window with expectation. I was in the backseat with him.  Then he wanted to get down off the seat.  I helped him get down. He died right there in the car. He did not look like he was in any pain, he just laid down and put his head to one side, but all the muscles in his face relaxed in this very final un-alive way.  I said to Michael who was driving "I think Arden just died."  Michael put his hand back behind the driver's seat, stroking Arden's fur.  "Yes." he said.  "I think he's dead, too."
    It was so dark outside, I could only see Arden when we went under a street lamp.  It created an eerie otherworldly effect.  But yes, he was dead.  They took his body at the emergency vet's office.  They were very kind.  There were many tears.
    Now, as I type this, his ashes are sitting on my desk.
    I am very sad.  In shavasana, at the end of yoga class, I am often crying - thinking about Arden.
    On the other hand, I am deeply relieved.  I was tired of worrying about him, tired of all the responsibility.  I don't want another dog.  That was my dog.  I had a dog.  I had the best dog I could imagine for me.  I have ten years of memories about him to enjoy for the rest of my life.  I wouldn't be surprised, when I reach the end of my own life, to see images of Arden running towards me.  His existence is so deep inside me.

    But let's move on, people.

    My book is done, done, done! It is coming out April 3rd. I am very happy that it's over and I'm already onto two more projects. I am writing a screenplay named "Fork."  This is something I am going to try to direct myself, here in Wilmette.  It's a small delicate story about a couple and their two kids graduating from high school.  I can shoot in my own house.

    The other project is my next book, "My Beautiful Loss-of-Faith Story."  This is the book that goes along with "Letting Go of God."  I am finally writing this book, something I've threatened to do for so long. I feel productive and able to accomplish things at the moment.  I didn't realize that just completing my mother book would give me such confidence in finishing other projects. I heard someone say once about their father, "He was a great finisher of projects."  Wow, what a great phrase. I struggle so mightily with that. I have no problem starting things!  But isolating the specific act of finishing projects is helpful when thinking about it.   It's an act unto itself, the finish.  Just the idea of being "A great finisher." I love it.  I want to be a great finisher.  I must say, at the moment I'm optimistic.

    I haven't listed my movie watching for three months now.

    Here are the movies I watched in September, October, and November of 2012

    1.)   Melancholia, 2011, directed by Lars von Trier
    2.)   An Unmarried Woman, 1978, directed by Paul Mazursky
    3.)   My Summer of Love, 2004, directed by Pawel Pawlikowski
    4.)   Alice: Darkness, Light, Darkness, 1988, directed by Jan Svankmajer
    5.)   Grapes of Wrath, 1940, directed by John Ford
    6.)   Another Country, 1984. directed by Marik Kanievska
    7.)   La Havre, 2011, directed by Aki Kaurismaki
    8.)   Lady From Shanghai, 1947, directed by Orson Welles
    9.)   How Green Was My Valley, 1941, directed by John Ford
   10.)   I Want Someone To Eat Cheese With, 2006, directed by Jeff Garlin
   11.)   Drums Along the Mohawk, 1939, directed by John Ford
   12.)   Great Expectations, 1946, directed by David Lean
   13.)   The Earrings of Madame Du, 1953, directed by Max Ophuls
   14.)   And Then There Were None, 1945, directed by Rene Clair
   15.)   Wee Willie Winkie, 1937, directed by John Ford
   16.)   Judge Priest, 1934, directed by John Ford
   17.)   Jolene, 2008, directed by Dan Ireland
   18.)   Man on Wire, 2008, directed by James Marsh
   19.)   Lincoln, 2012, directed by Steven Speilberg
   20.)   Street Angel, 1928, directed by Frank Borzage
   21.)   History is Made at Night, 1937, directed by Frank Borzage
   22.)   The White Ribbon, 2009, directed by Michael Haneke

    Considering this is three months of movies, it's not very many.  I usually watch more.  But wow, now that I've typed them out and looked at them all, what a wonderful group of films! I couldn't honestly say which one had the deepest impact.
     I only saw one movie in a movie theater, and that was "Lincoln."  I loved it, I ate it up, I think this is one of Spielberg's best films.  (My personal favorite is "Munich")
    The biggest surprise:  "My Summer of Love."  This film got so little attention.  It is Emily Blunt's film debut.  I think this is a perfect film. Really, there is not one moment, not one frame that I would change or that doesn't work. It's plot is inevitable and yet surprising.  When my friends come in January (I have three friends who come here every January for a little four or five day film festival - we watch movies in our basement home theater) I am going to show this film to them.  It's gorgeous and horrifying - a story of two girls and their friendship. One of them is wealthy and one is very poor.  Emily Blunt is great, but the other girl - oh my god, Natalie Press, she is incredible - astonishing.  This film is creepy and puts you on edge.  It also breaks your heart.  And makes you angry.  And - god, just get this film and watch it.
     One day Mulan was sick and home from school with a fever. We watched Alice, Darkness Light Darkness, a bizarre surrealist film by a Czech filmmaker.  It was the perfect kind of hallucinatory experience to have when you are a little bit sick.  Mulan loved it.  We talk about it together all the time.  It's a version of Alice in Wonderland that Salvador Dali would make.
     "Great Expectations" exceeded my expectations.  I think it's David Lean's best movie.  I watched it twice, once alone, and another time with the whole family, including my mother-in-law, Norma.  We all enjoyed it thoroughly.  I think it's time for me to finally read Dicken's book.  I have read so little Dickens.  Like none.  And he was one of my father's favorite authors.  In fact he called me Pip when I was little (he also had a dog named Pip, but to be honest, I never thought of this as an insult.)
       I watched "Wee Willie Winkie" with my own mother and Mulan one afternoon just before Thankgsiving.  I wanted Mulan to know who Shirley Temple was.  This is her least cutsie-singing-tap dancing role and directed by John Ford.  It's pretty good. I was glad that Mulan liked it.  That's another one we've spoken of several times since viewing it.
      "Street Angel" - oh God! I am discovering Frank Borzage, he directed at Fox along with Ford and Murnau.  Janet Gaynor is so entrancing in "Street Angel" - a classic, maybe THE classic Whore-Madonna story.  A lush, gorgeous silent film.  I'd seen Borzage's "History is Made at Night" many, many years ago.  It has the most ridiculous plot, it just proves that if the actors have chemistry (and Jean Arther and Charles Boyer really combust) it doesn't matter how ludicrous the story is.  You just want to watch them together.
    When I finished the book, I gave myself a present: the "Ford at Fox" box set, 50 movies he directed while at Fox.  I got it on sale for $250 (regularly $300) and now I see that it's $187.  You have to get it people!  The documentary that goes along with it is quite good, and there's wonderful commentary by Joseph McBride, and others, on some of the films.  "How Green Was My Valley" and "The Grapes of Wrath" both have incredibly insightful and informative audio commentaries that I watched right after seeing the films.
   "The Earrings of Madame Du" is possibly the best film ever made.  The DVD I got has extras too, great commentaries and even the original short story.
    I am still digesting "White Ribbon."  I had wanted to see this film for a while, since it won the Palm d'Or in 2009.  But I put it off.   I thought it was going to be a long, long film about child torture and molestation.  Children who all become Nazis later.   And, well, that's true.  But it's so magnificent.  And the film leaves so much unanswered, expertly unanswered, it's not dogmatic or manipulative.   It's not just about kids turning into sadists from being used sadistically either.  It's about the legacy of pain and how it plays out, it's about the half-life energy from oblivious land-owners and the desperation of migrant workers and the deep psychosis in the underbelly of religion and about the gossip and claustrophobia of small towns.  God, it's so magnificent, this film.  I watched it twice.

  Now, onto books.  I actually have no idea what books I read in the last three months. I know that at this moment I'm reading Barbara Kingsolver's "Flight Behavior: A Novel."  It's breathtakingly well written.  In fact, I want to stop writing this blog so I can go read more.
   I do have my Kindle in front of me, so I can tell you what I've recently read from looking at that: "Writing in Pictures" by Joseph McBride.  This is the best screenwriting book I have ever read. It is head and shoulders above any other one.  I have it both on my Kindle and I got the hardcover version.  "Drift" by Rachel Maddow and "What's The Matter With White People" by Joan Walsh.  They are both political pundits with whom I feel have a great deal of important things to say. I recommend both books heartily.  "Render Unto Rome: The Secret Life of Money in the Catholic Church" by Jason Berry.  Of course I am obsessed with the Vatican and money.  I shouldn't say "of course" because I tried for many years to keep my disgruntled feeling towards the Church concerned mainly with their dogma.  I tried to look the other way when it came to the sex abuse and the money scandals.  But now I'm ready to know, and jesus  (ha!) there is so much to know!  "The Vatican Exposed: Money, Murder & the Mafia" by Paul Williams is good too.
    What else?  I will say I am not so into the Kindle anymore.  I like an actual book. My need to flip through pages, glance at the back, see how far it is until the chapter is over - all these things are annoying or impossible on the Kindle.  Actual books I read?   I did read Ayelet Waldman's "Love and Other Impossible Pursuits" which I thought was fantastic. I still have images in my mind, scenes from this book, that I feel were directed - they were so film-like.  I love her details.  I read "Sense and Sensibility" again - I think I have to read all of Jane Austen's books again.  As you get older, they just get better.
   Oh, I forgot.  I read, "Carry the One" by Carol Anshaw.  Brilliant.  Just a wonderful narrative and it all takes, well it mostly takes place here in Chicago.  She is one hell of a writer.  Great details, like Ayelet Waldman.

   All right people, that's all I can think about for right now.
 

24 comments:

Tim Bryant said...

Warmest sympathies and puppy condolences for your loss of Arden.

Thanks for the great book and movie recommendations. As always, I keep my Netflix queue open when I'm reading your blog.

We had a screening of "Lincoln" at the studio a few weeks ago and I'm also going to see it at the Arclight today. Love me some Tony Kushner.

Cheers.

T

Anonymous said...

We have missed you, Julia. Congrats on finishing your book project and "you go, girl" on all the others, because we want to read more of your words.

Marjolaine Hébert said...

So sorry about Arden.. the idea of me losing the only dog ever to be in my life, an animal who's a piece of me, kind of frightens me.
I'll have to check out 'Summer of Love'! Isn't it near impossible in the last several years to know what's out there & what's worth watching? In Canada, it is, since the death of Hollywood.

David said...

Very sorry to hear about Arden. My own dog died about five years ago, a Westie, and the thought of ever replacing her seems so remote. Funny how our furry friends become such a part of our families and our lives.

I was surprised how many of the films on your list I've seen! Alice is truly bizarre, disturbing and fascinating on so many levels, but an intriguing window into childhood fantasy and imagination. Melancholia was beautiful and a spot-on depiction of living with depression. And I've almost forgotten how much John Ford's (and Shirley Temple's) films form the backdrop of my childhood.

Very excited to head about the book! I will be pre-ordering as soon as it's available.

Jim Snowden said...

I'm sorry to read about Arden. I remember him from your mentioning him in Letting Go of God, which has been much on my mind lately. My father died three weeks ago, and I drew some solace from listening to your description of your father's death.

So my condolences and thanks.

Bill said...

You write like you talk: fresh, fast, strong. It's a pleasure to read you and I am glad a book is finished and another on the way. Ever looked at The Four Loves by C.S.Lewis. You seem to be strong enough to read Lewis even if he is a Christian and you no longer are. I mention that book because before he gets to his four loves (friendship, affection, eros and agape) he has a chapter on love between humans and animals.

Laura said...

I am sorry for your loss, I have been through the same thing lossing a much loved pet.

Anonymous said...

I really love your writing. Please consider joining twitter just to notify your fans when you post new blog entries, have upcoming gigs etc. I missed you once in NYC and was very peeved.

HIlario said...

Condolences for the loss of Arden. It's good to see you writing again though.
Can't wait to give your book a read.

btdex said...

So sorry for your loss.
I'm looking forward to reading your new book! You've made quite an impact on my thought processes!

Todd.

J. Scott Smith said...

Delightful to hear all those good things--fan of Carol Anshaw--she'll moderate Glencoe Writers in the spring, should you be interested in sitting in . . .

Anonymous said...

I am genuinely sorry to hear you have experienced another loss this year.

I was intrigued by your discussion of "White Ribbon", which I found to be a beautiful, but disturbing film. Watching it was like looking through an album of antique photographs, luminous and fading at the same time. Are you familiar with the films of Guy Maddin? His films have a somewhat stylized aesthetic, particularly "The Saddest Music in the World".

If you are interested in current Canadian films, I recommend "Small Town Murder Songs" (incredible understated performance from Martha Plimpton) and "La Donation" (one of the most beautiful films I have ever seen).

I can't wait to acquire your new book.

Manda said...

So very sorry about Arden. I've grieved the loss of several dogs in my life, and know too well the auditory tricks the mind plays.

Really looking forward to your book! And thank you again for your movie and book recommendations, many I would have missed out on without your blog.

Georgina said...

I am sorry that your dog has died, but glad that you loved him. So much of what you said resonated with me - I have had a lot of animals, and every one of them has been the last because of the strain of watching them age, and wondering if I will know that moment when they have had enough. The click of nails on a hard floor is so strange and certainly lasting....

Jim Hudlow said...

Julia...have you watched Man from Earth? It is a low budget movie starring people I had never heard of but then I don't watch many movies. It all takes place in a cabin and is a mix of personalities and interactions that I found surprising and quite interesting. It bounces around theism but is more about peoples thought processes and reactions given their world view. You should check reviews and see if it is something kind of unusual that you might like. It is short (87 minutes) and has some amusing comments in the interview and out take section.

Anonymous said...

What is it about our pets that fill our hearts with so much love?? They're just animals fer chrissake, lol Im 43, never had a pet, always to busy. Then 4 yrs ago I started working out of my house and all the sudden had two neices with two little dogs that needed rescuing. Ill admit, never having had a child or even a house plant it was a bit odd getting used to the constant need to potty them, feed them, walk them,,.pet them. I was taken back by it all but got used to,, got to liking it , now I love it! Had a few tragedies over the last year. Having a big family like you Julia, we had a car accident, a burst anyuerism, a divorce and custody battle all in my immediate sibs. Well, as it turns out, my little dogs.weren't rescued by me..... I was rescued by them.

shn525 said...

Congratulations on completing your book! I too hope to evolve into a 'finisher'. And as ever, thank you for the media recommendations!

I'm not sure if you're 'into' podcasts, but an RTÉ (Irish state radio) documentary came on the other day that recalled to me your description of your brief desire to become a nun.

As an Irish immigrant (as in I emigrated from the States to Ireland - I was always contrary like that) from a Southern Baptist upbringing, I'm always on the look-out for things that help me appreciate the warp-speed changes in my adopted homeland. 'To a Nunnery Gone' was originally aired in 1979 and paints a picture through interviews of the changes brought about by Vatican II, JPII, and general 'liberalisation' of certain aspects of a nun's life.

Over thirty years on and you'll be hard-pressed to see one 'in the wild' in Dublin, but this programme still helped me appreciate the variations of women who took orders in the final half of the 20th century, in a world so very different from a generation before. http://www.blubrry.com/doconone/1620098/docarchive-to-a-nunnery-gone/

Edward Copeland said...

So sorry to hear about Arden. I lost my corgi Leland more than three years ago and I swear I still hear her sometimes.

Pamela Smith said...

Julia,
I am new to blogs. In fact, this is the first blog I have read, ever. At 37, I have joined the modern era. I mean to say that my smart phone has opened my eyes to the possibilities of the internet. I found your blog when you accepted my friend request on FB. Thank you, btw.
You opened with your touching memory of your companion, Arden. My sincere condolences for your loss. Such a special friendship happens so infrequently.
I discovered your rejection of religion when FB suggested you as a friend. There is a shortage of public people/celebrities who are brave enough to come out as atheists. I applaud your strength. In my own experience, mentioning my rejection of religion can lead to people rejecting me. That's cool, though since I have zero respect for religious people.
I look forward to checking out your books soon. Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

Hi Julia...so sorry to hear about Arden. I'm glad he died with you in the car and didn't have to have that final awful visit with the vet.

I just want to offer that I felt the same way a few years ago when my 18-year-old cat passed away. She was my girl, for the last 3 years of her life she watched over me when I was very sick; when I was not so sick, she was was gone. I said, "No more pets." Well, a few weeks later, silly me, I looked at my local SPCA's website and on the front page was a 10-year-old kitty in the shelter because the only owner he ever knew unexpectedly passed away. I said to myself, "Ten-year-old cats don't get adopted," and I went and got him. He is the most marvelous, quirky, full-of-personality companion and has enriched my life so much...along with my husband and two rescue dogs! Don't close off your heart.

I have taken in SO MUCH from your work over the years...thank you.

Mary Mangold said...

Julia, I haven't been on blogspot for a long time, generally building custom websites. But I'm setting up a website for Camas Prairie Food Bank and happened to see your entry. I'm so very sorry for your loss of Arden. He looked like a Queensland Heeler mix. I had a beloved dog Pilgrim who was a red Heeler and had epilepsy. Finally it took him to a non-stop seizure and we had him euthanized to relieve him. It was one of the saddest days of my life. But the love Pilgrim filled in my heart is irreplaceable, and I know, from your words, that Arden too, was a very special spirit in your life. Its so hard to love a pet and see them leave this world. We have one other dog, Diesel, who was Pilgrims brother. he's getting old and blind and slow and his time on earth is ticking by. But we are with you, no more dogs, at least for awhile. We don't seem to travel and thats what my husband and I will do when Diesel goes. We'll start seeing the American west again, like we did when our doggies were young pups.

Anyway, I wanted to send condolences as I know how it feels to lose a four legged best friend. :)

Sincerely

mary

Anonymous said...

Julia,
So sorry to hear about your dog passing. My deepest condolences.

I'm writing because I've just listened to your segment on this american life about your faith. It was heartening to hear you speak about the mental and emotional processes you went through. I've been through a very similar experience.
thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Julia,
You might like to watch the 1948 film "Enchantment" starring David Niven and Theresa Wright.

G-Prep 1979

Joe said...

Just learning about Arden now from reading your book. I guess he died a few years before the 13 years cited there. RIP and since he was not exactly planned (ha!), who knows if you will have another!