Chocolate oatmeal cookies

Chocolate oatmeal cookies

Chocolate oatmeal cookies

Steenbeck died a year ago. I can’t believe it’s been so long, I can’t get my mind around how quickly this year has passed. My memory is shot (I forgot to bring my wallet to the grocery store yesterday!) but I remember the day of Steenbeck’s death with unusual clarity. I was wearing grey jeans and a grey shirt with a big black beetle on it. I was in a foul mood, because I’d had a bad weekend at work and I hadn’t slept well and I was worried about the dog. I yelled at everyone before school, and they looked almost frightened of me. I yelled at the dog because she couldn’t stand up. I regretted all of it, of course, the second the boys were out the door. The day was unseasonably, ridiculously warm and sunny, it was hard to stay cranky for long. I made grits, and I don’t think I’d ever made them before. I turned them into grit cakes for dinner, which were delicious, but I regretted it later because I shouldn’t have stood at the stove cooking grits, I should have spent the time with Steenbeck. I went to the store and came back late to pick up the boys, so I left the dog in the yard, because she liked to stand in the sunshine, swaying on her shaky old legs, staring at nothing. I didn’t have time to say goodbye, I didn’t want to be late to school.
And six months later we got Clio, although mere weeks before I swore I’d never be ready for another dog. I remember that day with odd clarity as well, but I won’t bore you with the details. I can’t believe we’ve known her six months! It feels as though we’ve just met. It feels as though I’ve known her forever! I was thinking that it’s funny that we named her Clio, the muse of history, because dogs are natural historians, uncovering layer upon layer of the past with their sharp noses. And I feel as though I could measure out my life according to the dogs we had. From childhood dogs to Steenbeck, the first dog that was my adult responsibility, a daughter-dog, if you will. And now to Clio, who is my son’s first puppy. I could define eras in my life by which dog we owned at the time. I have a little memory of myself as a changing person with each dog, like a polaroid snapshot. Tessie died after I’d left for college, which felt like growing up, and felt horrible. A few years later I tried to adopt Easy and couldn’t do it, I wasn’t ready. Which felt like not growing up at all. Memories of Clio will be so vivid to my boys – how she cuddles with them when they’re sick, how she races around like a mad thing when they play in the yard. Clio is so much like Steenbeck that it’s spooky at times, it’s like history repeating itself. It might seem strange to say it, but when Steenbeck died, it felt as though she’d already left some hours or days before. Her body was stiff and her eyes were vacant. All summer I felt her spirit in the yard, or maybe I just needed to. I’d sit out in the dark warm night and talk to her. We don’t know for sure how old Clio is, but it’s less than a year. I suppose this is something I need to believe, too – that when Clio makes a certain face, or stretches in a certain way, or gives me a look with her bright, smart eyes… Well, it’s too foolish to put into words! But my memories of Steenbeck are fading into my knowledge of Clio, and I don’t feel as bad about it as I might, I think she’d understand. I suppose it’s a comfort to believe that everything is connected. It’s all a part of our history, of ourselves as changing people, moving through the world.

This year the last days of winter are decidedly not unseasonably warm! The weather is grey and icy and dripping. And so, we made chocolate oatmeal cookies. Our natural antidepressant. This is a sort of variation on oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, I suppose, with a little element of flapjack thrown in. The chips are melted, but not incorporated too thoroughly, so you find some nice patches of solid, soft chocolate. The cookies are quite crispy, very tasty, and very comforting.

Here’s Dog on Wheels by Belle and Sebastian. It’s not a real dog, but it’s a childhood memory.

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