It was a cool Sunday morning…following on the heels of a very sunny and warm Saturday. Not many more of these before the hot, humid air takes over. Last night, I was surprised. Sitting in the living room…in the dark…with the windows open wide…I noticed a brief flash of light outside down near the road. Too early, I thought…fireflies are my sure sign of Summer. But, this is April…surely they’re not yet out and about. As I stared into the blackness…I saw another…and yet another. Flickering on and then off…silently teleporting to a new location before repeating their cold, luminous signals to each other…gliding among the trees and shrubs. I can’t remember them appearing so early in the year…usually late May or early June. Lights peeping out of the darkness…maybe a sign of some sort?
This morning, I grabbed my walking stick and set out down the road for a walk. My destination was the creek that crosses the road about a half-mile from my house. It was still early, and the sun was slanting through the trees, highlighting dogwoods and red buds in full bloom. Birds were singing everywhere…all seemed to be right with the world on this beautiful Spring morning. My spirits were lifted.
When I arrived at the creek, the water was slowly meandering through its channel. I stopped for a while, peering into the woods along the creek, perhaps hoping to see some wildlife. I then crossed over to the other side of the road to look upstream. When I looked down, I saw something that momentarily took my breath away. Five or six feet below me… was a large white dog laying in the creek bed, its head partially submerged in the running water. There was a large blackish bruise on its hindquarters. Perhaps having been hit by a car on the highway, she had wandered off…dazed… into the woods? There was no collar with identification…nothing to link her to the outside world. I wondered what her life had been like…
When Belle, my Pomeranian, died several weeks ago, the animal hospital sent a little sympathy card that spoke of a Rainbow Bridge…a mythical place where deceased pets finally meet up with their loving owners, when they, too, pass on. It’s a nice thought…and it brings a smile to your face when you need it the most.
As I trudged the half-mile back to the house this morning…the wind suddenly taken out of me…I wondered, is there a Rainbow Bridge in store for this poor, nameless soul that ended up alone in the woods? I find myself these days in a borderland, half-way between civilization and the wild…just a mile of dirt-gravel road separating the two…a tiny remnant of what once covered this entire continent. And whether it’s pondering the one or two week life span of a firefly…or the lonely demise of a dog in the woods…or the strange nocturnal song of an owl…I’m grateful…just for being here in the first place…being a witness to something I don’t yet quite understand.
In her book, Loving What Is, Byron Katie writes:
If you want reality to be different than it is, you might as well try to teach a cat to bark. You can try and try, and in the end the cat will look up at you and say, “Meow.” Wanting reality to be different than it is is hopeless. You can spend the rest of your life trying to teach a cat to bark.
I’ve been ‘arguing’ with reality the past few days.
Last Thursday night at seven o’clock (coincidentally, my birthday), I received a call from the animal hospital where Belle, my 13-year old Pomeranian, was being cared for after suddenly becoming ill the day before…the vet thinking it might be a heart problem. I had visited earlier in the day, holding her in my lap for about an hour…having the feeling that this wasn’t going to turn out well. I left her to rest, hoping that she would feel better in the morning.
But later that evening, the vet called to say she wasn’t doing very well…her heart was racing…and she was gasping for breath. I jumped into the car and drove into town. In the darkness, I knocked on the side door of the animal hospital, and was let in. Belle was lying on an exam table…huffing oxygen from a tube held in front of her little nose. The vet spelled out the options for me…none of them really good…most requiring more suffering on Belle’s part. I tearfully gave the word, and within a few seconds…as I softly stroked her head and back…she was gone.
Born in Arkansas…Belle came into our lives when we lived in Florida on the Gulf. She moved with us back to California…walked the cliffs at Santa Cruz…saw the desert as we passed through Arizona on the way back to Florida…and then on to the Carolinas. Her journey is over now. She was a sweet and gentle spirit. I miss her…and the house is very quiet now without her.
We experience grief when we’re separated from something that we’re attached to. Over the past few years, I’ve continued to learn that arguing with reality doesn’t do any good whatsoever. But…it doesn’t make it any easier. And, it still raises a lot of questions in my mind…questions that I’m not sure have any satisfying answers…at least not in this life. I’m trying to love what is…because that’s all we’re really given.
I awoke this morning to a gray…post-apocalyptic looking world. When I came home yesterday evening, the heavy rains had stopped, but I noticed the creek that crosses my road was roaring through its bed with full force…the highest I’ve ever seen it. The amount and intensity of flowing water took me quite aback, since the McAteer branch of Cane Creek, as it is named on the local topographic map, is usually just a pokey little waterway a few inches deep. But the fact that it lies within a channel about five feet deep and ten feet wide, cutting to and fro through the woods, is evidence that it occasionally comes to life.
Closer to my house there is a nameless little creek that usually only trickles along…past the huge sentinel boulder. But after yesterday’s deluge, even this tiny rivulet was overflowing its banks and cascading through the woods over rocks…forming little white-water falls along its path.
It rained again most of today, but when the last line of grumpy thunderstorms had passed through, I grabbed my walking stick and took a walk. As I approached the tiny creek, I could hear the water shooting under the road through a culvert…coursing through its moss-covered banks…single-mindedly searching its way downhill towards Cane Creek…the Catawba…the sea.
Whenever I cross it from now on, I’ll never look at this mighty mite the same way …even after it returns to its diminutive, unassuming nature. It needed a name. Tinker Creek, I thought. Yes…that would be good. Named after a favorite book…and after a favorite little Pomeranian.
Yesterday morning as the sun was rising, I stepped outside…and peered into what seemed a primordial mist that was enveloping the trees surrounding me…with a soft orange glow in the East. The unusually mild air foretold an unexpected taste of Spring…in January. It did turn out to be a beautiful day…a welcomed interlude from the cold weather we’ve been having lately. By mid-afternoon, the sun was warm…and there was a peacefulness in the air that defies description…the best of Autumn…and Spring…in one new, short, ethereal season occurring in mid-Winter…here in the Carolinas. Half-expecting trees to blossom forth at any moment in the warm, moist humid air…along with the pungent-sweet scent of burning leaves.
It was not to be wasted. I quickly grabbed Belle, and we went for a drive through the countryside…windows open…lapping up the nectar borne on the winds of this strange new season. Belle…thoroughly enjoying herself…
riding shotgun…glancing at me from time to time…“Is this for real?”
When it was time to turn around and make our way back…we took the long way home.
After spending the week in Southern California…touching down late last night in Charlotte…today I have this floating, disembodied feeling as I move about. Here…but not here. Physically here…but mentally in a different time…a different space. It usually takes a day or two to catch up…to get back into sync. But in the meantime, I’m enjoying the sensation. Sensory overload…the green of the trees…the rich, organic scent of the soil in the air.
I picked up Belle at the kennel this morning. I was wondering how she would do…first time by herself. But evidently, she did great. She always gets a lot of attention from the good ladies at the kennel…and I’m sure she enjoys that. Even greeted me with a stylish new haircut…
Spent the rest of the day in a quiet, expansive mood…reading and listening to music. I came across this moving clip from one of my favorite films, Gladiator (an interesting note is that Lisa Gerrard wrote the song, Now We Are Free, in her own private language…called idioglossia in technical terms…a language she has developed since the age of twelve).
I love happy endings. It’s good to be home again…