Wednesday, December 30, 2015

If you go down to the woods today...

Not three, but four wibbles in tow...Fortunately all four so well behaved, although Claire wanted a bit more freedom...
 Woooohooooo! Playing with fallen leaves, perfect fun on a dry sunny day...
 Woooooooohoooooo! Let them fly!
 Woooooooohoooooooo! Get in there and roll in it! 
 Oh yeah, this is the life, sunshine, kids, leaves, a walk in the park....
 Watching the wains, no hunting today, just making sure everyone is safe and happy...
 Walking with the family, what a great way for a setter to end the year...Happy Christmas, everyone :)

Monday, December 28, 2015

2015 in review

Claire wearing my beautiful new woven scarf, crafted by Tokuko Kondoh, which was a Christmas gift from a doggie friend who is a gifted artist and moves in creative circles. 
 It's been such an intense year as I look back, wedding, pregnancy, birth in the young family; academic papers to help write; the caring for, moving homes and passing of the old generation; clearing out Mum's stuff in Europe and saying goodbye; a passionate gypsy samba performed twice with teacher Kent in a dress I designed myself; professional dancing and memorable end-of-year performance with partner Ken; some fantastic photo-shoots modelling kimonos; my usual university courses to upgrade, teach and of course, grade, and then this year a special  Economics Faculty development presentation on teaching subject-matter in English under my belt; visiting loved ones in hospital; and losing Chiaro di Luna, sweet moonbeam wonder I'm feeling strung out and hysterically exhausted. Perhaps I've forgotten has been such a roller coaster ride.
 The upside of Luna passing is Claire's visible delight at a return to her usual twosome relationship with Nobunaga. She skips and trips on walkies, setting the pace and choosing the paths, finally able to do things as she pleases. 
 They're such a team, these two, respectful and generous, no need for the hustle and bustle and jostle which Luna brought into the pack with her haste to eat. Claire used to take her bit and go back to her cage to eat in peace, now, once again she can get up close to the source without feeling crowded out.
Photos by Lelantos

Monday, November 23, 2015

Setter on Tsumugi

Come autumn I love wearing this Ohara tsumugi from the Kyoto area, the autumn leaves reds and ochres brighten even a dull day with warm rich colors. I don't remember where I bought this kimono, but I have fond memories wearing it on short breaks exploring Nikko and Kyoto with people I love, autumn, of course, and for me, each year as I wear it I relive Proustlike the experience over the years.
I vividly remember the excitement of finding this blue tie-dye tsumugi: the kids in kindergarden, and off I went with a great friend to explore her invitation to a kimono sale in Shinbashi. She was a big fan of Kihachijo, way beyond our budget, of course. Neither of us were expecting to purchase, simply to enjoy the wealth of fabrics and colors and the freedom from motherhood, only by chance I delved in and picked this kimono out of a pile of fabric rolls and was instantly smitten. Haggling desperately to bring her down to a price I could afford with the kids and education and all, I was overjoyed with my prize! Although I've worn it many times, I particularly remember donning it for a jazz live in the boonies some years back music, inspired musician friends, relaxed and happy times just letting the music lift us up and take us away. 
I couldn't be doing this with Chiaro di Luna, she was a slobbery wee sweetie, kimono fabric cutoffs are a prize to be made into cushion covers, bags, chouchous or Japanese shoe straps, ohana. I miss her sorely....
Photo of Oshima tsumugi with chirimen obi: Lelantos 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Rest Assured

 Rest assured you will not be forgotten, little Luna. The day begins with a thwack at the little cymbal, a stick of incense and a wee candle-lit prayer as the chimes reverberate round the room. The beautiful pictures of Luna are courtesy of Pension Olive in Nasu, taken when she was having the time of her life, running free in the giant dogrun and enjoying tidbits from their delicious food, passed out surreptitiously under the table. Rest assured, little sweetie, that the mundane bliss of regular meals, varied walkies around the neighborhood, snuggle time and play time, will go on, just as though you were here, and who is to say you are not?
The autumn air is balmy and the trees are beginning to share their splendor. Nobu and Claire enjoy the freedom of a slightly longer leash now I'm not busy with three setters. Claire particularly seems to enjoy the space, she took care of Luna, making sure she didn't bump into things, reminding her to slow down and stay in the group. Walking in the park the leaves rustled along behind me today, in spite of there being no wind to stir them, as though Luna was speeding to catch up, and walk with us again.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Goodbye Chiaro di Luna

The Japanese grandmother passed away early Sunday morning, so we snuck out of the house leaving the three dogs sleeping, and drove over to do the last honors. After the doctor pronounced her dead, I cleaned out the cupboards in her room, packed up her stuff and loaded it in the car, waiting for the body to be washed. They asked me to help do her last make-up, so there I was at three in the morning painting lipstick on a corpse. After that we had to wait for the hearse to arrive and carry her to the crypt until the last service and cremation: Yokohama is overcrowded right now, so it took some time to organize, (the crypts were all full until 1400 that day when a cremation would take place, so she had to be carried to a provisional crypt first) and we finally got home around 5 am. 
Meanwhile in the evening I had a professional show dance performance, so I was then slapping on foundation and painting lipstick on myself to hide the shadows of a sleepless night...when I got back around eight in the evening, it was like Luna had been waiting and waiting, the neighbor came by to ask after granma, and we all sat round chatting and stroking Luna, and she peed a great lake, sighed, and passed on, ever so gently in the warm circle of love. I was so wrecked by then, I called the pet ceremony organizers and CACI and then just fell asleep next to her, stroking her gently as usual.
I woke around three and she was quite cold, and it felt like I could go upstairs and get some rest alone before morning walkies with Claire and Nobu. I spent some time clipping all the flowers I could find in the garden: chrysanthemums, tsubaki, tsuwabukiso leopard plant, and purple lantana. It seemed fitting, because Luna loved to run around in the garden for hours on end. At the crematorium we arranged her lovingly at the final altar, her head resting on Sofie's little memorial box, it felt like Sofie had come to greet her and be with her, and indeed a friend has confirmed she dreamed the same thing.
After a prayer, and a final goodbye kiss, the body is cremated while you wait upstairs, I was zonked out on the couch for an hour, and then we go to pick the bones off the tray with chopsticks and put them in the urn, starting from the tail and working our way up to the crowning head on top. Luna's wee skeleton was so cute, just like the energy of her living self, a very moving ritual.
Finally the bones are pulverized and you can take her home in her wee urn inside the beautiful brocade box with a bunch of time to set up an altar yet, it was off to the human funeral parlor to dress granma in a cream silk satin damask kimono after a professional make-up session, and then lift her gently in all her glory into her white linen brocade coffin, looking ever so pleased with the film star treatment.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Time origami

Time seems to slow down and fold in on itself, no need for rush and surge and passion, a slow gentle progression of weakness and awareness, a slow shutting down of will and way...
Today Chiaro di Luna would not eat her breakfast of bok choy and pumpkin with bonito flakes, brown rice and chicken breast, not even the smallest bite...and even that most delightful of smelly delights, cheese, the real French deal, not your processed stuff, was unable to whet her palate. Nobu and Claire were dancing in the wings jostling to get in at the unexpected feast, but I've put it away for supper.
A friend brought by some freshly caught raw deer meat from the mountains: wonder of wonders, she wobbled to the door to greet her, and has swallowed a few tiny slivers of red meat while resting on the kitchen mat, surrounded by the inane bustle of the other setters. Somehow around her time has slowed, the universe is softer, gentler, blurry at the horizon which is folded in to greet her. Such a miracle, such strength is needed to be close to a passing, a relentless pressure of foreboding and prescience behind the ears, a dull cloud hanging over the brain...loving and weeping and loving, and slowly, stillness creeps in.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Moonbeam Fading

I've spent the best part of the day suffering from fatigue and sleeping with Luna after returning home late from St. Paul's 21st Williams Cup judging all day yesterday: great speeches, an excellent show of creative young people at work, particularly also on the part of the organizers...Meanwhile Luna's no longer wobbling around, more like staggering, but still valiantly goes out to the garden. I go with her to catch her if she collapses on the way back in.
She's turning up her pretty little anemic nose at dry food, so gets special VIP treatment, a whole pack of delicious soft food all to herself: normally reserved for topping and split between three dogs. Ordinarily it wouldn't be enough, but since she only gets up to pee and is mainly resting, it should be sufficient. Out walkies the locals are all asking after her, surprised to see the other parent with just Claire and Nobu. Thank you for all the love and prayers to ease her passing, we are blessed. 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Chiaro di Luna

This morning the moonbeam princess has not been able to walk far, just to the corner of the block for a poops and peewees which used up every ounce of her strength, so I carried her home discover a huge puddle she made with the effort of walking to the door. 
She's still able to lift her head and sit up, poddle over to gulp her drinking water, but no way she can cope with a walkies with Nobu and Claire.
Nobu is close by watching over her as she rests on my coat, probably the last time she'll be upstairs...Nobu is right there offering moral support, he's the man of the house, gotta watch over the ladies...two years of love to warm her heart on the long journey when she goes.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Friends Rally Round

Feeling so blessed, a friend helped me driving to the vet as I was quite distressed, and in the evening another friend brought some delicious pork stew with carrots and radish specially blended for Luna to digest easily. 
 Absolutely delicious, thank you! This morning I've been wobbling round the block separately with Luna, and now we're waiting for Claire and Nobu to get back to have a hearty breakfast...freshly caught trout from the mountains, specially deboned for Luna. So much love and support coming our way, feeling truly blessed.
Fortunately with the garden, even if she's not up for a long walk Luna can wobble around outside rootling in the leaves and getting a breath of fresh air, and since she's got a very loose stool right now, it's great for her to be able to make a dash to the loo at her leisure. As you can see, she's still valiantly riding the waves of life, however scary things may be. Thank you!

Friday, October 30, 2015


Luna has had trouble with shallow breathing, flared nostrils, cold paws, white gums and wobbly legs for a couple of days and I was going to take her to the vet this afternoon after my dance class, only she collapsed this morning on the walkies up the hill to the minute she was trotting along slowly, the next minute her legs were at an odd angle under her and she was down on the tarmac in a puddle of pee, which was fortunately streaming off down the hill. 
I sat down with her, straightened out her limbs and clipped Nobu and Claire's leashes to my belt, and after resting a bit I managed to pick her up like a forklift and prop her on my chest to carry her home with Nobu and Claire in tow. So it was straight off to the vet's...where I was able to watch my Halloween Kimono national TV debut on Fuji's Nonstop programme in the waiting room, with a heavy heart for sure.
 To give the bad news in a nutshell, Chiaro di Luna is getting worse, not better, and is borderline euthanasia...I'm not ready to let her go that way yet, there's too much life and enjoyment in her eyes and body, she still wants to be with us, if only a short while longer...
Although she has put on a little weight, after a battery of tests, it is clear that she has
  • incipient pulmonary edema (not quite enough to warrant invasive treatment) 
  • cardiac arrhythmia - occurring every four beats or so
  • large splenic mass- affecting the entire spleen
  • huge numbers of bubbly mass in the soft tissue of the abdomen
  • suffering from anemia with low HCT (33.6%), hemoglobin levels (11.2g/dl) and red blood cell count (5060,000/dl)
  • white blood cell count off the charts ( 52800/ul)
  • elevated platelet count (PLT)
Just having her keel over like that is such a shock, although she's quite happy to laze and doze away the day with me nearby, and still loves her food: clearly she is having trouble breathing in between gulps, but she does love her tidbits and is fully involved in life with the family yet. 

The vet gave me some strong pain-killing rectal suppositories for when the pain gets too intense, she'll be gasping for breath and you'll know, he said. The side-effects are bloody diarrhoea, so I'm not looking forward to either her pain or the side-effects...never easy, this business of dying...

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Halloween Hat

Nothing like a Halloween hat...who wears it better, Claire or the wain?
 Making the needed adjustments...
 Important to get the angle just right, just so...
 Don't move now, Claire, this is a work of art...
 I think I need one hand to steady it, just to pose, the two of us, together, smile please for the camera Claire...