“You know how you let yourself think that everything will be all right if you can only get to a certain place or do a certain thing. But when you get there you find it’s not that simple.” ~ Richard Adams, from Watership Down
Wednesday afternoon. Sunny and hot, 85 degrees.
I know that it’s been weeks since I have written an actual post, one that was primarily my thoughts and not a rehashing of something else. I apologize, but my state of mind has been mired in sadness, and my body has been protesting mightily. If it were one or the other, I could cope, but with both hitting me, it’s all just been too much.
Right after Corey got home, I started to feel terrible physically—very weak, lots of muscle pain, lots of headaches and nausea. I made the mistake of offering to keep Olivia for the whole weekend, and it really did me in. I probably should have begged off, but I had already said that I would. I mean, it was my idea in the first place.
Corey has been concerned that I’m upset with him about something or that I am angry, and I had to tell him that it’s not any one thing in particular. It’s a whole lot of everything and nothing to do with him. So hard to explain.
And then yesterday happened.
“What cannot be said will be wept.” ~ Sappho
The night before, Alfie was throwing himself all over the bed and whimpering. It was horrible. I would get him to calm down, and then it would start again. We knew what we had to do. But it’s so damned hard.
Corey insisted on going alone. I told him that whatever he decided to do I would support. In his heart, I think he thought that Alfie could still be fixed; I knew that we were past that point. Luckily, the vet told him that because of his age, he would probably not survive any kind of surgery. She said that she thought that Alfie’s problems were much worse than tooth abscesses, possibly cancer.
And so Corey came home with the small body wrapped up in a towel, and we began the heartbreaking process of burying Shakes’s brother. Brett asked if Alfie could be buried beneath his window, and I agreed. And while Brett and Corey dug a small grave for our smallest dog, I sat on the bed holding the still warm body and allowed myself to keen, to weep and scream until I had nothing left except for another tear in my heart, another scar that doesn’t show.
“We are all full of weakness and errors; let us mutually pardon each other our follies.” ~ Voltaire
So after, we all retreated to our various places of comfort—I to my bed, Brett to his computer, Corey to his backyard—until Eamonn came home from work, and we began to emerge once again. Eamonn cooked dinner for everyone, and then we watched some mindless television until sleep came at last.
Today, I feel mostly numb, except for the migraine that began in the night. And during my periods of wakefulness in the night, I found myself searching with my hand for the small body that usually placed itself against my back or thighs, and it wasn’t there. You see, after Shakes died, Alfie became quite the cuddle monster, seeking curves to curl into in search of warmth and comfort, all of the places that Shakes had claimed as his own.
I suppose it is fitting that the two brothers should leave us within months of each other, having come into this world together in the same litter. They spent their entire lives together, and they left this world in the same order in which they were birthed.
“So much that can neither be written nor kept inside!” ~ Tomas Tranströmer, from Cry into the Nordic Night
And so I come to you again, seeking to find words in which to immerse myself, hoping to write my way out of this hollow, for it has always been the words that have saved me, words that have calmed me, words that have been the balm to my ills. And I sit here with my fingers on my keyboard and try to write my way out of this, and all I can think of is how it should have been better for Alfie, but it wasn’t.
You see, Alfie was like the middle child of the dogs, the one who never quite got enough attention. He was so hard to love because of his persnickety disposition, the whole canine rage thing. He could turn on you in a second. But in the last month or so, he had seemed to mellow, and I don’t know whether it was mellowing or that he was just resigned to his fate. All I know is that he certainly seemed to enjoy being around people more, and he seemed to want more human touch.
And again I wonder about the depth of a dog’s soul. As sentient beings, how much do they sense? Of what are they aware? The canine capacity for love seems boundless. Witness the dogs that will show affection to even the foulest humans, the ones who beat them, who starve them, who maim them and kill them.
If I think about this too much, I just might go crazy, but it all seems so very inhumane, how little value is placed on beings whose humanity is often more than the hands that carry their fate.
“In the end I would rather wonder than know.” ~ Mary Ruefle, Madness, Rack, and Honey
What defines humanity? The ability to feel? The ability to reason? The ability to communicate? Or is it the ability to do harm? The ability to kill? The ability to inflict pain deliberately?
It is a question I ask again and again and again, each time I am confronted by loss, each time I have to make a decision I would rather not make, each time life blows up in my face. And still I have no answers.
The reality for me is that I will probably use the last active cell in my brain to wonder why, even though I know there is no answer. I don’t understand life, this I know, but I keep going, keep moving forward. And sometimes it’s as arduous as foraging the Serengeti with a machete, and sometimes it’s like traversing the English Channel on an inflatable raft, and sometimes it’s seemingly as simple as slipping down a stream on an inner tube, feet dangling in the water, cold drink in hand.
I’m still looking, still searching, still finding, and still losing. I don’t have the answers, and sometimes—like—today it seems as if I don’t have any answers at all, but I suppose that’s okay, too.
More later. Peace.
All images by British artist John Scorror O’Connor (1913-2004).
Music by Aron Wright, “And Still, The Darkness Comes”
It is true that my heart does not exist.
It is absolutely true that the birds are not mine,
the river will not stop for me, the leaves will not
stop aiming for the very ground where I stand,
that I cannot hold the smallest amount of air
in my hands. The closed fist of the moon
punches its way through the lake.
Someone else might talk about the moon as a heart,
but that’s all I’m going to say about it.
On this night when the stars begin their lies
about the light beyond them, when the young men
from Tuzla are hanging from lamp posts
instead of lights, I am here to tell you
my heart has never existed.
The only feelings I have ever heard of
take to the highway with the carts
and trucks of the other refugees.
Why do you think you need to join them?
If it were a violin my heart would not rest
between anyone’s chin and shoulder. It would
sit in a pawnshop window for someone’s supper.
On this night when my heart does not exist,
I eat out of the hands of yesterday.
If it did exist, the fist of my heart would
grab the hanged man by the collar of his soul
and turn him away from his own death.
But who can say anything about the soul?
The soul, too, is just another migrant.
I have heard that the soul and the heart are
the two best scavengers of whatever past
you have discarded by the side of the road.
You can find them sneaking around in some orchard
behind the smoke a farmer uses against the frost
or plucking the hanged man’s weight like a pear.
See, it is not so hard to say something about nothing.
The stars are already leaking their light into dawn.
But I can tell you that my own heart has never existed.
That’s all I’m going to say about it.
~ Richard Jackson