A Luminous Halo

"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end." --Virginia Woolf

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Location: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

Smith ’69, Purdue ’75. Anarchist; agnostic. Writer. Steward of the Pascal Emory house, an 1871 Second-Empire Victorian; of Sylvie, a 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SL; and of Taz, a purebred Cockador who sets the standard for her breed. Happy enough for the present in Massachusetts, but always looking East.

Thursday, May 11, 2006


Yesterday, while waiting in line at the pet store, I heard something interesting. The woman ahead of me was telling the cashier that she had just come back from Maui. All the dogs there were wearing leis, she said.

I couldn't wait to get home and check out this intriguing factoid online. Sure enough, there's a whole industry devoted to leis for dogs and cats. Made of artificial flowers of course, but I'm sure if you're in the islands, you can buy them fresh.

I decided to make one for Taz right away. My reddish-pink azaleas were just coming into bloom in the front yard, so I picked some blossoms. Then borrowed a few white and peach azaleas from impossibly large and full bushes growing around the apartment complex. In short order, I had strung them into a fine lei.

Taz was a surprisingly patient model. But I decided that pictures taken in daylight, outdoors, would be even better. I stuck the lei in the refrigerator, and had a second photo shoot in the morning, next to a blazing red azalea bush in the park.

This time, Taz was far less cooperative. After four or five shots of the back of her head, I gave up. I pulled the lei off of her, and she snatched at it as we walked home. Ate half of it, in fact, before I could grab it away. A few minutes later, she upchucked it on the porch.

Lucky for her that she was immediately sick, as it turns out. The ASPCA lists azalea as one of the plants toxic to dogs. Azalea and rhododendron contain grayantoxins, which can cause not only vomiting and diarrhea, but weakness of the central nervous system, and, in severe cases, coma or death from heart failure.

I wonder about those dogs on the islands. How can they placidly endure leis, real or artificial? Don't they try to chew them? Taz, like any dog with even a drop of labrador blood, would just as soon eat a brick as a biscuit. And even silk flowers are not the healthiest snack for a dog.

"Aloha" can mean both hello and goodbye in the Hawaiian language. I think I'm going to say "goodbye" as fast as I said "hello" to this charming island custom.