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I Would Drive 500 Miles

Our beloved pets often journey with us lifetime after lifetime... 
-Zen to Zany

With apologies to the Proclaimers… but I would drive 500 more, just to be the [person] who drove a thousand miles right to your door…

This week was a whirlwind of the unexpected and exhausting: Last week we discovered that the breeder where we’ve gotten our second generation of huskies had a four-month-old boy she needed to find a home for, since she’s suffered several traumatic health events in the past year. We’d been tentatively considering expanding our pack now that we’re settled into a new, dog-friendly place of our own; my timeline had been more toward the end of the year, so I could build up the time off to be able to spend the first week with the new baby of the house.

My timeline did not match the universe’s timeline. Wolfgang stormed into our hearts from his first picture, combining traits from two of our first-generation huskies in ways adorable and endearing, and reinforcing my belief that our beloveds do return to us if we open our hearts to that possibility.

Wolfgang, a black and white Siberian Husky, curled into the corner of our kitchen cabinets
(c) Tonya Cannariato 2022

So we drove the nearly thousand-mile round trip last Friday and Saturday and came home with our fourth husky. The first of our third generation. And we were reminded of how much work puppies are – though to be fair to Wolfy, he’s figured out the house training thing already, and after the first few nights of sleep-interruptus, we’re all back to our more regular sleep schedules… Even if that means he’s training us to go to bed earlier than had been our previous practice.

The amount of sleep deprivation we’re recovering from, though, had me wondering all week if I weren’t fighting some bug, since my symptoms included random low-grade fevers, dizziness, and headaches. I was grateful for the flexibility in my job that allowed me to work remotely for those hours I could manage while we figured out how to establish our new normal.

The puppy has given us all a welcome dose of joy, which I’m sure will help improve my resilience to micro-stresses. I would be curious whether, anywhere in the world of language, there is an “untranslatable word” that encompasses the wonder of the echoes of the lifetimes of connections we have with our fur-kids.

Interestingly, there’s been recent research on the nature of our connection with our stuff, that speaks to the fulfillment and completion that can come from furnishing a unique-to-you, comfortable home. How is it that beyond recognition that from a grief-counseling perspective losing a fur-baby is as traumatic as losing a family member, there is no corresponding language about the nature of this chosen-family, cross-species kind of connection?

From a completely non-scientific, non-randomized, non-rigorous review of what other authors in the SFR realm self-report about their animal companions, I find it interesting to note that those who write well about shifters and aliens and the deep, meaningful relationships that can be formed between those beings and humans… all have animal companions living with them. In my experience, the mental flexibility to represent a unique kind of cultural translation between beings of different species who’ve chosen to spend time together in harmony takes first-hand experience to portray with any fluency.

This latest change in our lives means I still haven’t officially started writing book three of my Planet Seekers series, but… it’s not far off now. I’ll keep you posted, as the shifters of my story take shape and impact the choices my characters face.

Cover Reveal: Planet Seekers: Team Shifter

Book Cover: Planet Seekers: Team Shifter by Tonya Cannariato

Presenting… the cover of book 3 of my Planet Seekers series.

I finally have some confidence that I’ll have the energy and time to write the story that concludes this arc, so I”m happy to share the excellent work my cover artist at Sleepy Fox Studio produced for me… last year.

As per my previous practice, I’m adding the word counter to my sidebar so you can track my progress. If all goes well, I should be able to publish this next year.

Wish me luck!

Sacred Space

[woman with a galaxy for the top half of her head] Quote: "Wisdom and compassion flow from simplicity and clarity; from having nothing to prove and nothing to defend." - Barry Magid

Another year round the sun completed. It’s ironic to me that the heat and humidity of my least favorite season also means adding a number to my age. This year, there was a lot to celebrate, but very little time to do so. I’m spending more time at the office again these days, notwithstanding reporting that the “3-day return to the office is a dud” or that “the return to the office isn’t working“. As with most things, generic answers don’t fit all circumstances, and certain roles and industries require more flexibility than others.

Still, I miss the days of being fully remote, now that we have a house where I can create endless projects for myself. Our solar installation passed county inspection at the end of July, and the electric company estimates our system will be approved to go live by the middle of August. The first phase of our landscaping revamp went in shortly before my birthday, and now that I have my first raised bed in place, I’m spending more time searching for asparagus and artichokes than words and wisdom. I hadn’t ever considered that in zone 7 (as Virginia is) you could have a late-summer round of planting to allow for a late fall harvest. And we’re starting to get acquainted with the local wildlife – just this afternoon, I watched a young buck munching the tall grass in our back meadow, and this evening I discovered an eastern rat snake curled up and digesting (and being harassed by a mockingbird) at the foot of a tree at the front of our property. There’s also apparently a fox who’s mightily interested in the raised bed, as our cameras have recorded his investigations at 10-minute intervals the past few nights. All of which makes for an interesting, local interpretation of the wildlife infrastructure movement underfoot around global roadways.

Spending time at home with these kinds of projects has certainly given me time to listen to my own heartbeat. Research about the power of interoception points to that being a reliable marker for emotional intelligence, which I find an interesting commentary about humanity’s choice to live in cities, where ubiquitous mechanical noise makes it much harder to pay attention to the subtle signals coming from within. More obvious are the signals for weariness.

I’ve written in the past about the challenges I face as a congenital night owl. In the past couple months, I’ve run across two more articles highlighting the reasons to pay attention to the impact of those habits. The first reiterates findings about the increased likelihood of night owls to have shortened life spans, and the second points to the unrecognized cognitive deficiencies associated with sleep deprivation. We have been doing better recently at enforcing earlier bedtimes on ourselves, though my increase in office hours has ended up meaning a net-zero impact.

In a word, while we’re mostly settled, we still don’t have a rhythm that allows us to fully relax into the wonder of our new home. Nor even fully catch up with the correspondence I’d promised to answer in my last blog post, nearly two months ago.

It seems the state of the world in general is rushing forward, though to what end remains murky. Reporting on how democracies spy on their citizens compounds reporting on our post-Roe world. I hope more people are willing to find the space described in “How to stay open and curious in hard conversations,” since we’ve all been wrong about something at least once in our lives. It would mark significant progress if our society could back away from the polarization that seems endemic now, and recognize the shades within absolutist positions.

In the end, seeing how long it takes to get things done, I suspect I’ll remain in this liminal state for another month or three. Gayla and I have been discussing the possibility of kicking off a new, co-written project, but she, too, is caught in the whirlwinds of change, so we’ll see how far we get – especially as we have officially zero words actually written.

As always, I’ll keep you posted here.

Totally There

"Wherever you are, be there totally."
-Eckhart Tolle

I’m back. Or at least, enough of a degree of settled into our new place that our updated rhythms are starting to feel normal, and we’re finally past the most urgent of pushes to put things where they belong and fix the things that weren’t quite up to standard. Strangely, someone visited the blog today to read the post I’d written about the heartbreak involved in getting our Milwaukee home ready to sell. It was an odd reminder of the predictable and unpredictable ways houses need upkeep and maintenance.

And an interesting reflection on the state of the rental property we left behind. As we packed out, we discovered extensive black mold along the entirety of the north wall of the basement, on top of the other issues that plagued us. Within a week of being in the new house, we both noticed the improvement in our health. Even our youngest Husky, who last year scratched open her whole face for several months running with extreme allergic response itching, hasn’t been scratching as much or as hard now that we’re here.

Our intrepid real estate agent, Susie Branco Zinn, had recommendations and guidance to respond to every question we had – from getting our home inspected, to finding contractors to put in a husky-proof fence before we moved in, to pointing us toward reliable service-providers. She made buying our house in an overheated real estate market as stress-free as was possible and I will sing her praises for the rest of my life for her contribution to our miracle. Interesting new research about how “Sesshaft” (German word describing a sense of being rooted to a place) Americans have become, and stories from colleagues who had spent months searching, and had multitudes of offers declined, were the backdrop for why I see our experience as such an outlier. I also followed some of these tips for lightening our load prior to our move… and yet we still ended up paying movers to move nearly 11,000 pounds of our stuff. The State Department’s old rule of thumb of 1,000 pounds per year of a family being together… was distressingly on target.

Luckily, for as stressful as moving is, neither of us hit the burn-out threshold. The ones who took the move hardest were our dogs. They completely denied their breed’s basis of having been companions to nomads and therefore more likely to be flexible in the face of change. The girls don’t like the new, permanent dog doors at all, and are leery about all the stairs in the new place. I’m crossing my fingers that as the number of daily disruptions decrease, their level of comfort will increase.

All of that to say… I know there are people who have reached out in recent months who’ve fallen to the bottom of my newly exploded to-do list. I apologize and will reach out individually in the next month or so. Since I’m still catching up on my day job’s to-do list, too, my evenings and weekends aren’t quite available for word-herding yet, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I’m looking forward to committing book 3 of the Planet Seekers series to paper. You’ll see my progress documented here, so keep an eye out for a return to my more regular cadence of blog posts. Thank you, everyone, for your patience in the meantime.

Control and Changes

I am never in control of what happens around me, but I am always in control of what happens within me.

The landscape of the various health issues that have plagued me in recent years has changed in the past few months. I’ve had more trouble with asthma as I wean myself off my steroid-based inhaler, but also a little more energy as we bring the h-pylori and candida under control, along with changing some of my hormonal profile. As is generally the case, that bit of extra energy got hijacked by some thoroughly unexpected news last week: Our landlord decided that for personal reasons, seven and a half years was enough. We are being forced to move by the end of April.

Initially the distress and shock of the announcement gave us a sleepless night. Then we started haunting Zillow. Monday (Valentine’s day) we found a new listing that we were able to see Tuesday afternoon. By Tuesday night we’d made an offer that was accepted Wednesday night.

We’re actually buying a house. A few years earlier than the timeline we’d imagined as necessary.

Now our move is on the fast track. Now we’re dealing with entirely different stresses. And the old Psyche article about “being on the fence” is our lived experience. Our pups are keeping a close eye on us, and it’s interesting calling back to a Guardian article summarizing some of the cognitive research about canine emotional resonance with humans in this new context. It’s also useful to implement some of the coping mechanisms outlined in “Sunday-night scaries” – even though the level of existential dread described there doesn’t quite line up with the just… very-busy-brain experience hubs and I are dealing with. And then there’s the extra bit of adjustment required for my evolving cadence of hybrid work.

The news that soothes my spirit is that our new house is in an HOA-free community, so I can proceed with plans to rewild our 4+ acres, and do what I can to counteract the sixth extinction event in my little corner of the world. I may or may not experiment with an electricity-free way of keeping food cool, too.

Interesting research about black holes stretches my brain to think about some of the stories that have been simmering in the back of my mind over the past year. And then there’s the recent discovery that being in space causes humans to become anemic. Closer to current reality is the fact that after decades of hubs and me seeking out the streaking, bright light of the ISS in the night sky… it’s close to its fiery end.

On top of all that, I recently read research about the universe being a neural network, and the nature of consciousness.

It’s always fascinating to me to see the current shape of just how much we don’t know – and the corollary arrogance of those who are sure they can explain away these mysteries.

So I’ll be going radio silent for another few months as we transplant ourselves an hour south under the pressure of an at-once fixed deadline, but also one that affords us the flexibility of making many small trips to shift breakable bits and clothes without having to pay for that privilege. The distance between our closing date (March 9) and our final move-out date (April 30), and the relative nearness of our two abodes means we at least won’t be facing the time/space pressure of limited truck space and a one-way trip.

I am grateful. For so many of the things, big and small, that lined up to allow us to inject a little stability into the uncertainty of our world. And I am confident that being closer to nature will improve my energetic health, and therefore also my ability to return to fiction writing. So keep your fingers crossed for us as we embark on this new adventure. I will return once we’re settled.

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