26 March 2014

Recognizing Grief Grieving for a lost loved one.

Today I have a guest writer, my favorite person in all the world, Kinsey Barnard. She made me say that!!!! I do like this article because it portends nothing but good things for moi. Let's here it for good grief!

I don’t have a lot of experience with grief. I have been fortunate in my life not to have lost very many people close to me. I have lost my parents and that’s it. I have no siblings and my closest and dearest friends are all alive and well. Losing my parents was hard, particularly my mother who was also my best friend. She spent ten long years fading away with Alzheimer’s and passed away August 7, 2002. She was 89. I still grieve for her but in a healthy way. Following her death I made many wonderful changes to my life. Not the least of which was moving to Montana.

I hadn’t lost anyone I loved for over ten years when on February 4, 2013 I lost my best friend and constant companion, Siberian Husky, LAKOTA SUNRISE aka Koty. Koty came to me at eight weeks old and we were constant companions from that time forward. Everything I experienced he experienced. He was by my side for nearly every single photograph I took during his lifetime. To say we were close would not nearly describe it, we were one. LAKOTA SUNRISE OCTOBER 1,1999 - FEBRUARY 4, 2013.

I knew, of course, that losing him would be painful but I was raised on a ranch with animals where life and death is a way of life. People used to tell me “You are really going to be messed up when Koty goes”. I always said “Yes, it will be difficult but I’ll be fine”.

Thirteen months later and I just realized I haven’t been fine at all. I really did get “messed up” and didn’t even recognize it. Sure, I got all teary eyed when I thought of Koty or saw his photograph but that was to be expected. I thought I was coping just fine. What I didn’t see  were lifestyle changes that were not healthy. Before Koty died I was nearly always on an endorphin high. I was so happy all the time I’m sure some people found me quite annoying. I was so bubbly I sometimes annoyed myself.

I just now realized I haven’t been myself at all. For example; I took not one trip in Clementine, the RV, in 2013. Koty and I customarily took several trips each year, a couple of them six months in duration. We hiked nearly every single day unless the weather was too harsh. By my guesstimate, we hiked at least 1,000 miles every year. This past year I am lucky if I hiked 100. That’s probably a bit of an exaggeration but not by much. Since I take the most of my photographs whilst hiking, my photography suffered as well.

This winter I declared the weather too harsh a majority of the time preferring instead to lie on the couch, by the fire, reading a book (Love that Kindle) and eating trail mix. Hey, if I wasn’t on the trail I could at least eat like it.  I think I need not explain how that worked out. To put the cherry on top, I qualified for Medicare in January. There may be a little grieving for my mortality going on as well. I mean, 65?! There must be some mistake. Am I really that close to the end of my runway? Say it isn’t so!

Not long after Lakota crossed over that Rainbow Bridge I did find a replacement companion. I knew there could never be another Siberian for me. Lakota was one in a million. I chose instead a breed I grew up with on the family ranch, an Australian Shepard. Her name is MOLLY MONTANA She is Montana born and bred.

Molly is as bright as a penny and takes the concept of “high energy” dog to a new level. She is also quite sensitive and perceptive. I believe she is aware that she has not been getting the best of me. We’re going to fix that. Lakota was my role model for joie de vivre. The job now falls to Molly. She is the perfect successor and with each passing day we grow closer. The day is sure to  come when we too are one.

I’m a big fan of the idea that you can’t fix a thing until you recognize it’s broken. And, although I don’t see myself as broken, I certainly own up to being in need of some repair. If my runway is getting short, and it is, I’m getting busy. I’m climbing back in the saddle so to speak. I’m working out in the gym doing intense aerobics for 50 minutes four to five times a week and walking 45 minutes to an hour everyday. In addition to the walks Molly is getting twenty minute Frisbee tosses two to three times per day for her aerobics. When the weather breaks we’ll be getting our exercise on the trail again.

I’ve been on this new regimen ten days now and already feel one hundred percent better. There are many wonderful things that come from exercise, not the least of which is; the more you do the more you want to do. Bring on those endorphin highs! We’re planning a photo safari for this spring, that is if spring ever gets here, it’s been pretty wonky so far. Just contemplating it is getting me energized. I’m thinking St. Mary’s. It’s a spring favorite.

Molly & me (not grammatically correct but I like the sound of it) are ramping up for a wonderful year. As they say, better late than never. Time’s awastin’.

WARNING: If you should run into us on the trail or around the Flathead Valley be very careful. We could accidentally bowl you right over with our irrational exuberance!

Be sure and check out Kinsey's new blog The Liberated Photographer.

©Kinsey Barnard

So there you have it. Looks like my spring and summer are going to be the bomb! I'm going to make sure she keeps her exercise routine on schedule and up to date. Whee, I can't wait for my first RV trip!

Molly Montana

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