Spirituality Past, Present and Future


Why are my thoughts drawn so much to the past
where pleasure and pain of remembering doth last?
How is it I struggle to ponder the Now
where life is most vivid but wrinkles my brow
in confusion and wondering just why there is haste
that moves days so swiftly — and they have no taste?
The future is also approaching with speed,
with oblivion’s grave and the thing I must heed.
So into the past I find anchor to slow
the pace of the march played by Now’s singing bow.
The music remembers the living while young
and vibrates the harp from which thinking hath sprung.
A time that was strengthened by youth in its age
of vigor and wishing outside of the cage
that aging doth bring with its ups and its downs,
its joys and its pleasures with smilings and frowns.
Experience teaches a spiritual tune
that prompts us to seek from the holiest rune
a whisper of God in our mid-life-tuned ear
that something else needed is coming quite near.

© 2000 Arthur Ruger

for anyone trying to figure out why the Republican Party looks and acts so strangely and with no apparent sense of civic interest in the common good … what it says makes a lot of sense.

Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, walks away from the microphone during a news conference after a House GOP meeting on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013 in Washington. The federal government remains partially shut down and faces a first-ever default between Oct. 17 and the end of the month. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, walks away from the microphone during a news conference after a House GOP meeting on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013 in Washington. The federal government remains partially shut down and faces a first-ever default between Oct. 17 and the end of the month. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

Recommended reading …. Not an attack article … but for anyone trying to figure out why the Republican Party looks and acts so strangely and with no apparent sense of civic interest in the common good … what it says makes a lot of sense.
Unless of course one doesn’t want to read it because it’s not Fox News or Conservative-approved.

Why Today’s GOP Crackup Is the Final Unraveling of Nixon’s ‘Southern Strategy’  – Tea Party rebels are exposing the deep rifts between country-club elites and social-issue hard-liners. (The Nation Magazine)

Man’s Best Friend: A Memorial

Jake and Mom take a showerJake and Mom take a shower

On a day at work some 14 years ago my sweetheart and I were contacted by friends who advised us that there was a six month old beautiful dog being held at a local veterinarian’s office. He was picked up on Highway 6 East of Raymond and brought in to the vet. Apparently vagrancy for a dog carries capital punishment and we were given to understand that if no one claimed the dog within 4 days he would be put down.

Sweetheart required that we immediately go over to the vet’s and see the dog.  He was a 50-pound Australian Shepherd who looked like Lassie but with a shorter and blunter nose and ears. Sweetheart fell in love with him but I thought him too big and too rambunctious … and was overruled.

I was allowed to name him and after rejecting the idea of calling him “Larry” after the guy who told us about him and in effect saved his life, I pronounced his formal name as Turner Jake (after two male characters in a novel I wrote).

We shortened it to Jake.

Later a granddaughter, Emily, called him Jakers and that name stuck as well.

My Sweetheart loved that dog from the get-go but I insisted on remaining standoffish … you know … cool calm and detached. For a six-month old dog he was surprisingly dog-mannered … did not poop or tinkle in the house. In fact Jake refused to poop in his own yard. Oh, but it was okay with him if his friends came into the yard to leave some poop.

So I was detached, aloof and above all that goo-goo ga-ga pet stuff.

Until the day he took off after a school bus with a grandchild in it and ran down toward the school dodging traffic right and left. Scared the hell out of me as I followed in our Mountaineer. When I got hold of him and put him in the truck with me he gave me that big wide grin

Grinning Jake

and a look that said, “Boy! Wasn’t that fun?”

I was so angry I busted him right in the chops with my closed fist. I was immediately regretful and he was appropriately humbled and we went home and never spoke of it again to each other.

But … by smacking him I apparently taught him that I am the Alpha Male in our little pack. Having formally initiated him into our “pack” by use of the ancient ritual of discipline, I had forever become his commanding officer. His role was as a faithful subordinate and he would spend the rest of his life trying to establish that if I was the Alpha Male, he was to Bravo Male (er, dog) and my wife Lietta could only hope to be the Charlie Female.

He got his revenge however. Although we lived in a rural neighborhood in a rural community (South Bend, Washington) I still had to keep him on a leash when we went walking in order to keep track of him. So there we were walking down a grassy slope. I stopped for a moment and when the hesitation became too lengthy he took off with a jump, jerking me forward and downhill … which caused an immediate pain in my knee that was in fact revealed to be a torn meniscus which would require surgery.

 you ARE taking me for a walkYou ARE taking me for a walk!

He turned out to be an instinctive herding dog. Also a hunting dog where critters of matching size or smaller were concerned.

Jake would herd anything that moved. He used to herd our Mountaineer when he heard us coming. He’d meet us like a tugboat meeting a big ship and escort us right into the carport. He once herded kids on a moped when they drove into our unfenced back yard which ended on the banks of the Willapa River when we lived in Menlo. Rather than chase them away he ran along side them trying to nip at the tire and bumping the moped with his butt.

We always thought that the ultimate Christmas present for Jake would be two or three sheep and a fenced yard. He’d have them sheep all skinnied up and well conditioned.

Then there was his hunting. I lost track of how many times we came home from work to find him circling one of the trees where there was either a possum or a raccoon. He stayed after them for hours but would then lose interest or get distracted long enough to wander off and the critter would sneak down and flee.

Maybe that was his game and he did it  on purpose so they could play tree-climb some other time.

For that matter, in a fishing village that could fill up with gopher holes on all the lawns where possible, Jake kept the holes on our yard to a minimum.

He met his first porcupine in Bay Center and it took only once to teach him a lesson. He learned it so well, the first time my mother-in-law’s Aussie Shiela showed up, he took her to meet the porky and got out of the way.

Sheila on beach Willapa BayShiela

On another occasion, I think because she was barky and bossy, he and a couple of other friends took Shiela for a walk and abandoned her about a mile away. Next thing I know, I get a call from my sweetheart who is in Tacoma with my mother-in-law telling me that they got a call from the vet telling them that Shiela had been found a mile away and identified by the dog tag on her collar.

I drove over an picked up Shiela and glared at Jake but his look said he knew nothing about it.

dont make me put a hex on youWho me?

I think that when he was still quite young he might have been shot at cause he didn’t like gunfire and we came to learn the fireworks terrified him. Not being aware of his terror, we left him alone all day and overnight one 4th of July in Bay Center. When we came home we could not find him for a long time and eventually found him hiding deep within a stand of willow bushes in another yard where we could barely see him almost buried in the ground.

We never left him alone on noisy holidays again.

Gunshots, even in the distance would trigger him. Sunday Mornings in Bay Center often meant bird-hunters in the marshes or on the beach. At the first gun shot, Jake would throw himself at the back door and bang on it until we let him in the house where he would promptly try to find the safest place to hide. It got so bad around the 4th of July and on New Years that we eventually took to giving him benedryl which caused him to practically sleep through the clamor.

hiding behind the reclinerHiding behind the recliner

Ever seen a dog singing “Oh Come All Ye Faithful?”

Ever seen a dog singing Oh  Come All Ye FaithfulJake was quite intellectual and could hold his own in an argument. I have photographically documented one of our exchanges:

Debate about Socrates and Yosemite SamSocrates did not say that, Yosemite Sam did.

I did NOT say Hi to the cat first  I did NOT say Hi to the cat first!

Ok Ok kiss and make upOk Ok. Kiss and make up.

You see, I dealt with Jake as an intellectual equal.

Although we had several philosophical discussions, we rarely addressed the issue of canine criminal conduct or the notions of Dostoevsky. As a result I am aware of at least one criminal episode involving Jake (to which my Sweetheart and also my sister can testify.)

One sunny barbecue day where you could smell the cooking all over that little fishing village, Jake came prancing down the street to the house with a steak the size of his head in his jaws. He had taken it from someone’s grill or picnic table and was bringing it home to celebrate. My sister got it away from him and with Jake anxiously following her all over the 3 square blocks of the village, failed to discover who had previously owned the steak. Besides, who would want a steak full of teeth marks and dog slobber back anyway?

LeisureOnThe BayYep, I did it. Dostoevsky be damned!

His mother, on the other hand, well … let’s just say Jake brought out her mothering instincts.

Jake in sweaterI TOLD you an TOLD you!

DON’T leave me alone with her for too long!!

In the late 2000’s Jake was jumping around in some kind of excitement or maybe got too excited in the night treeing a possum. Anyway, the next morning we went outside and found him walking on three legs. His back right leg was useless. We took him to the Vet in Astoria who diagnosed a torn anterior cruciate ligament (you know, what football players do almost casually).

So Jake underwent ACL surgery:

ACL surgeryOuch

He recovered the use of his leg almost totally but the Vet also explained that as is usual for dogs of his breed, he was already into arthritis in his hips and that it would get worse over the years. Eventually he prescribed an arthritis medication (etodolac) that in retrospect seemed to sufficiently suppress or mask his symptoms that he essentially gave us little indication of how badly the arthritis was progressing.

We moved to Spokane in 2012 and his days as an unleashed marvel in Bay Center came to an end., He had been affectionately known as the “Mayor of Bay Center” because he patrolled everywhere in search of soft-touch neighbors who would give him treats.

Hey Dad! Wanna see me bring a school bus to a complete halt?

Hey Dad! Wanna see me bring a school bus to a complete halt?

City life in Spokane turned him mostly into an indoor dog and he was already considerably slowing down from his earlier pace of living. We walked him leashed two or three times a day, watching for poop before we went back to the house. I didn’t like the sissified garbage bags to clean up after him but used them when  had to. Some times on Spokane streets you can nudge the poop to the curb and get away with it … but not always.

His last excitement as a hunter was at an apartment complex that was full of trees and where squirrels were all over the place. By this time his straight ahead vision was severely restricted by cataracts and he could see best only peripherally. But when he saw the squirrels I’d release the leash and he’d take off like a rocket (well a very slow rocket since the squirrels easily avoided him and went up the trees.) And I will confess that with his limited vision, he often charged after sprinkler heads sticking up out of the lawn until he got close enough to recognize them.

A good day for a hunter like Jake was not how many you hunted down, but how many you treed. Those walks where he treed a squirrel seemed to lighten his mood considerably,

He stayed indoors and spent most of his time sleeping. At twelve years (84 human years) He was slowing down more than I realized but as a member of the family we resisted the idea of his end times approaching with any immediacy. When we moved to our condo, his walks were more frequent but much much slower. We were on guard for indoor accidents and as his enthusiasm for walks began to wane, walks became essentially sniffing tours from bush to bush, hydrants, trees and strange objects on the ground.

Eventually his discomfort became more and more obvious and when the arthritis in his hips extended down into his back legs (including the leg surgically repaired) he lost most of his leg strength. Much more frequently he would fall on his behind an be unable to stand without help or a lift from one of us. His appetite for regular dog food waned but his enthusiasm for dog biscuits increased dramatically. He couldn’t see clearly but unless I put a weenie in with his dog food, he was not immediately after his dish. But his eyes were on our hands looking for biscuits. It was reminiscent of the Sesame Street Cookie Monster.

At age 15 he began to show more and more deterioration – more to Lietta than me. She believes that he was more willing to be the real old and pain-ridden dog in front of her but when I was around (The Alpha Male) he was the Bravo Male and would get all brave, sit up an look to me for his next orders.

After a long time of agonizing we decided to take him to the coast to the Vetrinarians who operated on his legs years earlier. Our idea was that unless they could present a reasonable argument against it, we would have him  put to sleep and drive him up to Bay Center to bury him where he was the “Mayor” for so long.

Jake on the Beach

It was heartbreaking. The journey to the Coast allowed us to see his struggles in the car and in other venues where he was not sheltered, protected and catered to as he was in our home. It was a struggle to pick him up and put him in the car but we were able to then see completely his pain and weakness in being unable to remain standing.

The night before we left for Astoria, he stopped eating, no enthusiasm for food, biscuits or weenies. He struggled out into the middle of my mother-in-law’s duck pond and drank an enormous amount of water. I expected him to pass away that night but he didn’t.

When we got to the vets it was obvious that we had made the proper decision and she was extremely helpful and encouraging as to what needed to be done. We elected not to bury him in Bay Center, rather that we would keep some of his ashes with us and sprinkle the rest over an assortment of places where he romped, and hunted and herded in his own sheer delight.

Im the Lord of all I surveyThat’s a Harry Lauder Walking Stick tree behind him

where he has invited many a possum and raccoon

to play climb the tree.

Twinkle Toes: Sock-Hop Arthur escorts his Swan Lake Sweetheart to the Senior Center Dances

I was never trained to dance.


I remember us boys being led into the gym when I was in grade school and taught to dance a waltz with  girls we didn’t want to touch but were told to grab one of their hands and put the other hand on her hip.

Then we all moved like stick robots counting to three over and over and stepping in some sort of box figure while listening to classical waltz music.

My sweetheart trained to dance.
We have at least one picture of her at an age between 8 and 11 on a stage and part of a line of beauties in lacey dresses posed in a graceful dance move with arms extended like delicate branches of a willow tree.

While I was perfunctorily taught to dance stick-like in a parody of the tin man movements in The Wizard of Oz, she was learning to prepare for essentially solo performances – even if in group formation – but involving no partner taking her hand, placing his other hand on her hip and driving her around a dance floor like one would push a wheel barrow.

So there we go … dancing for the first time in twenty years at one of the several senior centers we joined a couple of months ago.

Let me tell you about the Corbin Senior Center in Spokane

and their weekly Monday night dancing.

2-3 hours dancing to music of the 1940’s to 1990’s (but mostly the 50’s and 60’s) played by a professional two-person duo with one playing an electronic guitar and singing and the other playing an electronic keyboard and singing harmony.

Fast stuff, slow stuff, graceful couples who dance like they graduated from Arthur Murray ballroom dance class and others who dance like they learned it the way I did. Only difference is that after a while they don’t look like stick robots – which is exactly how I felt when I first wandered out on the floor (cause they played a slow one) and Sweetheart and I could dance slowly and leisurely and cheek-to-cheek like we both used to do 40 years ago in our separate high schools.
If the dancing music is faster, then … well …. there’s always what we used to call the Jitterbug which, when I was a boy, I learned to do by watching American Bandstand.

Back in the present and most of the quick-step stuff is from the 60’s and later, the slower waltzy stuff from earlier times or from a source I’ve never appreciated that much: Country and Western.

Regardless, after a while my Sweetheart and I (who in our twenty years together have done very little dancing) sort of figured out how to get comfortable … except for one thing.

If you tell an Idaho farm kid all grown up to grab a ballet-trained dancer and drive her around the floor like you’d push a wheel barrow, yer askin fer trouble.

She learned to dance SOLO performance stuff. She never learned to follow a wheel-barrow driver’s lead … but –

Well, when she’s moving jerkily in almost a parody of the stick-movements I learned in the 4the grade,  I’m assuming that it is not because she never learned how to be led, but that I’m just a rural kid whose grace and movement can’t compare to her flowing and stylish movement.

And I ain’t exaggerating. I remember the first time I saw her work in the kitchen when she invited me fer supper. Now, when I pull dishes down from the cupboard or put them into the cupboard I do it directly and almost roughly like I was bucking hay bales.

Not my Sweetheart. She reaches up to the cupboard and touches a plate lovingly and gracefully as if she were carefully plucking a leaf or planting it back on the  branch.  And her posture is right out of a museum where a beautifully sculpted woman looks like she’s … oh you know.

So we’re on the Senior Center dance floor and she’s moving jerkily because she’s trying to follow my lead and you can almost hear her counting the steps in her head as she tries to move in tandem with me … which ain’t no easy task since my old high school habit of dancing came back alive as soon as I had to start dancing.

Finally she tells me that she doesn’t know how to follow that well cause she didn’t dance much couple dancing in her previous life – mostly the rock and roll stuff of the late sixties and seventies.

Well don’t that beat all … she’s graceful and old Club Foot Jackson isn’t aware that the problem is not just his big feet.

Then she tells me that during one song when we changed partners with another couple at our table, the guy dancing with her told her she was always trying to lead.

Well … we’re working on it. We do well together and each dance session seems more fun that the previous.

One more thing … my Sweetheart absolutely does not want me to do my “chicken thing” which is what she calls it when we are jitterbugging and I go solo for a moment moving my hips, raising my elbows to shoulder height and start waving them while jazzing around in circles.