2015 was the year I discovered how much I like beer. Not just any beer, but the particular style of beer brewed to withstand the journey by sea to India: the India Pale Ale. Balanced but bitter, strong, full-bodied, and hoppy as all hell, I have joined the ranks of the IPA lovers, although I certainly wouldn’t throw a nice sweet brown ale out of bed, and extra special bitters = completely delicious. 2015 was also the year I began making homemade mayonnaise (big thank you to Amy Jackson of Amy’s Takeaway for the lesson, conversation, and lunch in the garden – that afternoon easily makes the short list of loveliest moments of the year). My husband, who would gladly eat homemade mayo on a slab of cardboard, is eternally grateful. Not surprisingly, 2015 is also the year I’ve seen my weight creep up to a new “normal.” I blame menopause.
I write this on a dark Sunday morning, El Nino-inspired rain dripping onto the tin roof with irritating familiarity. It’s been a rainy December that brought us the one year anniversary of Mica’s death, and the discovery of a dead coyote in the woods… on the same day. Looking back at my records, that also happens to be the same day, 12 years ago, that I drove to central Massachusetts to pick up Iske. She still hikes and plays fetch, despite her ridiculous age. A collection of coincidences held together by a date. Tom and I and all 5 dogs released Mica’s ashes on a date I didn’t mark, sometime over the fall. We buried the coyote on Christmas day.
2015 was by all counts a great year: dominated by the completion of The Mica Movie (it even has an IMDb page), it was also the year I won the Freeditorial Long Short Story Contest, and saw the publication of my essay in the anthology Being Biracial. I’m discovering that I adore the short story format with a newbie’s passion. Since Queen of the Catskills, I’ve written Wolf Heart and Fresh Oil, Loose Stone. I think I have a few more stories in me, and at least one of them will be a sequel, prequel or side-quel to Queen. I have to admit, writing that story might have been the most fun I ever had at the keyboard.
During the first half of 2015 I also worked (yes, a job, with a paycheck and everything) outside the home. That came to a surprising and sad end over the summer, which I liken to a bad divorce – and they got to keep the kid. I have visitation, but it’s just not the same.
The second half of the year was dominated by the construction of our new house, the shell of which went up in September. “When will you move in?” is the question of the hour – not unlike the pregnant belly begging the question “when are you due?” You’ve heard the old adage “you lose a tooth for every baby you carry”? Well, with a house, it feels more like a few internal organs and a chunk of your brain. Tom has had his first construction-related trip to the ER. He’s fine: it was only a flesh wound.
The other thing I do (besides drinking beer, writing, hiking, and not having a job) is make jewelry. And the big news in that department is that my business, Malaprop Designs, is changing its name to haliagrace. Why? In part because it is time for a website, and in seeking to obtain my domain name, I realized that Malaprop Designs isn’t unique – another crafter uses the same moniker and has the web address to go with it. It was time – time to take the next step with the business, design a logo, create a website, and rebrand myself. I’m working with John Virga of Bovina Brown Bats to come up with the perfect design – and rest assured, it will be badass, kickass, and wiseass. It will be utterly haliagrace, passionately Catskills, and 100% gluten free.
The backdrop to all this is the dogs. Isn’t it always? I measure time in dogs. Not 2 months after Mica died, word reached us via Facebook (goddamn Facebook!) of malinois puppies dumped nearby. On Friday February 13th (I should have known!!! Who picks up a dog on Friday the 13th?!?!), with Christine at my side, we made the trip to the shelter and wrapped a very stinky, very sick and sad, striped puppy in a fleece blanket. Christine gets best friend status forever for holding that mess on her lap for an hour, enduring the smell and risking bringing ringworm into her home. I spent those first few nights sleeping with the pup, and she slept all night curled in the hollow of my belly. I spent the first few weeks administering medications, supplements, and bandages, trying to get her wounds to heal. And I spent the first few months worrying about her like only a Jewish grandma could – fretting over every meal, every poop, every demented dingo breath she took. She rallied, healed as best she could, and is my squeaky wheel. She is a bit of an oddball, but I have fallen deeply, profoundly in love with her.
And now the year turns over again, and I’m knee deep in all manner of “stuff.” There’s the perennial dog stuff, as I watch pack dynamics shift and change. Iske grows truly ancient and Peeka comes of age, Hawkitt matures (a tiny bit) and Cinder and Lily remain steadfastly middle children. There’s hiking stuff, house stuff, and just life stuff. Maya is in Thailand until April, and as much as I am delighted for her, and so excited by this adventure, I’m also acutely aware of the distance and the largeness of this world. When your offspring is on the other side of the planet, you start to grasp the bigness of it all.
It’s been one hell of a year the world over, but somehow, for no good reason, in my little mountain corner I feel hopeful. If I can figure out how to live in a cramped muddy shack with five dogs without killing Tom, I think there’s a lesson in that. A lesson in love and tolerance and commitment. A lesser man and a lesser marriage would have crumbled under the weight of all this dog hair. We just keep laughing and making it one more day.