Come Live This Wild Life With Me

You can’t tame wild things. Who wants to be tamed, anyway? Certainly not me. When I was in high school, I camped with friends, amongst the sequoias and redwoods. They towered over our primitive campsite. I woke up on the first full morning there and looked out toward the Pacific. If you stood just right, the waves, perpetually crashing against the shore, were a distant song, floating through that canyon where we were nestled into our campsite. There in the abandoned woods of the central coast of California, like so many other times in my life, I knew I wasn’t made for normal. The fog had settled in overnight, in an almost disorienting way. It was deeply and wildly comforting. The cold, in spite of it being summer – chilled me to the bone. And I was perfectly content in that wild place. That summer, we camped all over northern Cal. I swam in the “Delta” and wandered around San Francisco and Santa Cruz. We camped on a golden hill – oak trees and wildflowers around us. Those chilly nights by the fire, our feet dirty in our flip flops, as the embers swirled above us – settled deep into my soul.

I grew up on the beach – sand in my toes and wild hair blowing every which way. Between the beach and the pool, I was incredibly tan all summer – so dark you wouldn’t believe. My hair was almost blonde from the sun. The dirt or sand in my toes version of life, my hair wild with sun and salt, and the adventures of a life filled with creativity encouraged and unleashed – was a beautiful way to grow up. I lived for camping near my Grandparents. And then our parents would leave us (my brother & cousin would be left by my Aunt & Dad) after our camping trip and we would stay with Grandma in that trailer on the beach – napping with open windows, the sea breeze blowing and swirling through their tiny home away from home. My Grandma was precious, wild, and terribly inappropriate. I got most of my wild from her. She was an artist. And in spite of the fact that their home during part of the year was a trailer, owned by the state of California (Grandpa was a caretaker at a state beach), it was decorated like a mansion – with her paintings of oceans and flowers and the pretty things that inspired her – on the walls. Her bed was covered in the prettiest lace and she could hunt out the loveliest of trinkets, hidden to everyone but her artistic eye, for her art-filled home. In the morning, we’d hike down between the craggy, sun-bleached cliffs, to the beach. We’d walk for miles, laughing and telling wild stories. She’d pick up seaweed and tell us magical things about the sea. Except I’ll never know if half of what she told us was true – all I remember is she told wild stories. She found seaweed – mustard yellow and squishy – beautiful. She’d talk about it as if it were a treasure from the sea. She taught me, my entire childhood, to take care of and cultivate the wild girl that lived deep in my heart.

I have been caged for a while now. I’m a wild thing, longing to be free again. There are unrestrained words to be written (words others won’t like), mountains to climb, beaches to camp on, and wild love to cultivate. There are places to live from – not physical places – that the average person never reaches and doesn’t even desire. We (me & you – the man I’ve waited for, for so long) are not those kinds of people. I’ve found that version of myself again. The real me that’s been hiding – held back by the fears and clouded by a drive to be accepted. I don’t need that and never have, I just got lost for a bit. What I need, what I’ve always needed – is the kind of deep living that sucks life from the most colorful, juiciest, soulful places. It’s the kind of life that gets you dirty. You know how when you eat the most delicious piece of watermelon, on a hot summer day, and the juice drips down your hand and arm and you don’t care for one single second? That. The sweetest days are the ones that get you real dirty – sticky with sweet and dripping honey. I live for this version of life.

I know it when I see it. I was made for it. I saw it in you. I see it in you, at your best and your worst.

I’ve written so many words to you – my wild thing. I’ve never written so much. The words flow constantly. I can’t turn them off. When I tried to bury them from bubbling up and over, they dried up. And then, in the way that wild things do, they seeped up, from so many holes in my heart. I couldn’t stop them. They rocked my foundation – in spite of my attempt to live a quieter, more acceptable life. I’ve learned my lesson. I don’t want a quiet life that makes sense. I don’t want to write quiet words that feel safe. I want to write words that are drenched in the sticky sweet wild, that remind us of the way that’s not for everyone.

And now here I am standing on the edge of this cliff yet again, more uncertain than I was on a humid summer night, when I wrote these words – visions of what I was made for, in my mind.

I love you and all of your wild things. Come home to me & live this wild life. I’ve been seeing visions of it, for all my years. I know it when I see it. None of it has to make a damn bit of sense. Grace, His grace – it’s wild enough to sustain us on this rocky path. It can be a path that doesn’t make sense. I don’t need to make sense. I don’t understand most of life. No one ever said we needed to. Come live this wild life with me. We’ll figure it out along the way – even when it’s hard.

Abby the Wonder Dog

Boxer mix, Abby the Wonder Dog, Elaina Avalos, Elaina M. Avalos

I have a dog. Her name is Abby. But I call her by many other names. See – I have this problem. It involves nicknames. I usually end up with about a bazaillion nicknames for kids and animals. Abby has a boatload. She is Booty Boo, Boo-Boo Bear, Boo-Boo, Abigail Ann, Abster, Busy Body, Ab, Weirdo, Stinky Pete, Abby the Wonder Dog, and occasionally – well, occasionally she is kind of a brat – so she gets a name of my choosing at those moments. Ten years ago yesterday, on April 2, 2011, I adopted her at the Morongo Basin Humane Society in the desert of California. The shelter is in Joshua Tree – just a quick drive from the cute little house I rented, near the downtown of that weird and wonderful little town.

Abby is something special. She’s crazy and weird. My life would’ve sucked these last 10 years without her. Abby was originally “Irene.” Her sister is the dog I originally thought I’d come home with, after seeing them online. But Abby stole my heart. This is Abby on that day 10 years ago.

Abby is a boxer mix. She was abused and neglected. I’ve been trying to prove to her, for ten years, that she’s good now. She believes me and then she doesn’t. She believes me when she has entire pieces of furniture that become hers (a love seat and now a chaise lounge). She believes me when she gets her very own blankets and comforters, and makes herself comfy atop her throne, on my couch. She gets small amounts of wet food on her dry food because she is an inconsistent eater and I want to keep weight on her. For quite a few months, I made her homemade food in the crockpot when she was feeling yucky.

She is extremely bossy. But about weird things. Like sleep. She is obsessed with it. And if I stay up too late, she does things like this:

Other times, I get this look. I don’t know what I did. But whatever it was, she was not amused in the least.

And then, other times, she still seems to think she’s that little starving pup out in the desert. When they were found, her sister had a brand mark on her side. They were both emaciated and scared of everything (I’m not exaggerating). But they’d been in someone’s home because she was mostly potty-trained, knew some commands, and knew the second we walked into my house that the couch was super comfy. I told her to get off the couch and she made this face like, “But I’m cute. And it’s comfy.” So . . . I said it again and she complied. She’s smart as a whip. In her boxer-ness, she is a born entertainer and loves to be silly. I think she is mixed with pit and though this sounds weird, greyhound. Greyhound people always tell me this. The way she runs, I truly believe it.

Abby loves:
– Kids. She misses my boy, so much. She didn’t forgive me for his absence for at least a year. She adored him. She accepts me again – finally.
– Being a caretaker, protector, dogmommyboss.
– Water & snow.
– Running is her favorite thing ever.
– Sleep.
– My mom.
– Car rides (now – she used to puke and shake like a leaf every time we got in the car before).
– Telling me when it’s time for bed.
– Chilling outside. Especially when she could nap in the sun, on the deck.
– Naps (she was meant to be mine).
– The beach – if no one is there.
– Hiking the Neusiok Trail with me.
– Adventures.
– Grown people who know how to ease her into liking them – in very small & specific doses. Haha.
– When I sit on the couch and read or write (as long as I’m not moving around).
– Making sure I’ve eaten. Haha. She will not eat until I do. She is precious.

Abby doesn’t love:
– Noises (hahaha ha).
– Black trash bags (I kid you not).
– The dishwasher running in my apartment.
– The Fed Ex/mail/UPS truck.
– Men. Except for ones I’m fond of, that treat her like the princess she is, & then she likes them more than me.
True story for the above. Her trainer was the wife of one of the Marines in my squadron. He wasn’t a big fan of most of the dogs that came & went but he and Abby bonded. She adored him. They would run together. When he emailed me from Afghanistan about something work related, he literally started it, “How’s Abby?” Hahaha. Not…how are you? How’s Abby? Haha.
– When her schedule is off.
– When I’m working around the house. The more stationary her people are, the better.
– She acts horribly toward neighbors (barking & growling) but then when they pass by she wags her tail and acts like she wants to follow them. Like, “I’m sorry I had to act crazy, just protecting my Elaina. Be my friend.” Lol.
– She is fairly dog aggressive. Except our neighbor’s dogs at one of our houses. She loved the dogs on both sides and they’d “play” through the chain link fence.
– She hates dog toys with squeakers so I have to buy her stuffed toys in the kid’s section at Dollar Tree.

She’s adorable & funny. I’m so grateful she crossed my path. Even though her quirks make things challenging sometimes (i.e. afraid of dishwasher, trash bags, random people and dogs).

Last night, I brought Abby a couple of new “babies” and a sweet treat for our 10th adoption anniversary. 🙂 In typical Abby style, she ignored her ice cream until she’d had time to play with her new toys. Once she’d played for a bit, she came back to the ice cream and licked the bowl clean. So funny. Food is always second to all of her other favorite things.

She is a delight. She has brought many happy moments to my life the last ten years. She’s my best girl.