Treading lightly the path to enlightenment.

Posts tagged ‘Dignity’

Old Bear

The old bear limped the last few yards along this ancient and intimately familiar path, until he burst from the thicket on the banks of his own private, secret pond. He gently eased himself into the placid pool. One step, two steps, paws sinking ankle-deep in the mucky bottom. A third step, and he was immersed to his neck. He let the chilly bath fold over him.

Washing away the mud and blood, the cool water easing the dull pains of his injuries. He drew a deep breath and let himself sink. A brief and mild stinging in the eyes, then total silence as his ears submerged. He hung there, buoyed by the water, lifted and embraced, the cold a tonic to aching muscles and fresh flesh wounds. If only he could stay here. Right here, beneath the soft, sheltering water. He drank in another moment of stillness before his lungs began to burn and pull at his instincts. He burst from the water, exhaling, and drawing a deep breath of the piney forest air. He shook his head violently to throw off the water, only to be reminded, cringing, of the pain at the base of his neck.

Directly above him, a black crow alighted on a dead elm branch.

“Gwak.” he called out as he eyed the bear.

“You’re early, Crow.” came the reply. “I am not yet dead. You cannot peck my eyes out. Not yet.” He heaved a sigh, rolled onto his back as he floated out from the shore.

He had had no intention of fighting that golden autumn day. There were far too many plump, ripe blackberries to be eaten, their canes, top-heavy with fruit, bowing to bear browsing height. He hadn’t even seen the interloper. A bear reaching maturity. Venturing forth from the safety and security of mother’s watchful eye. Time now to find his own home, establish his own territory. To begin that lifelong and never-ending process of defending one’s ground and fighting for mating rights. Old Bear had paid no attention to the sow scarfing down blueberries at the distant hedgerow. Hadn’t seen the strapping Romeo until he charged from the brush.

His countenance was immediately recognizable. After so many years, so many mating seasons, past is prologue. And here now was the latest model, the newest offering. Young and powerful, eager and energetic, bold and fearless. In his rippling muscles could be seen an impressive beast in the peak of condition. Hormones and youthful energy fueled the charge, eyes fixed and gleaming, nostrils flaring, grunting growls warning of the imminent collision.

What was one to do? There is no place in bear ethic for acquiescence, peaceful withdrawal, surrender. Almost without control he turned, planted his feet, put on his war face and prepared for the onslaught. There was no backing down or backing out. This had been his meadow, his dominion, for more seasons than he could remember. This very scene replayed year after year. Going all the way back to the day when he was the challenger on the battlefield. It was his rippling muscles, bone-crushing jaws and eight-inch claws dominating the competition that day. Not one or two, but three contenders sent running off to the safety of the wood. It would be the last day of the last Old Bear to be the Old Bear here. He would amble slowly into the forest, one long, last melancholy look over his shoulder, never to be seen again.

The first blow seemed the hardest. It shook him so, his eyes lost focus for a second, and he was shoved back onto a hindquarter, indicating the challenger topped his own weight by several hundred pounds. For his size, however, he was not slow, and took advantage of the old bear’s semi-reclining position, reaching in with huge jaws, lined with sparkling white, sharp young teeth. The first blood spilled.

Adrenaline and endorphins flooding both brains, the defender was quick to his feet. Smaller and older was he, yet to his advantage were the many battles he’d fought and won. The newcomer charged again, but the old-timer went low, nearly rolled himself at the rear legs of the upright youngster, who toppled in a cloud of dust. The old man was on him now, gnashing teeth and plunging his snout toward the neck of his opponent. A good bite and a twist, a patch of fur rent from its moorings. With surprise and shock at the pain, the younger bear scrambled to gain an upper hand. As the old bull came around for another mouthful, the younger swung his heavy foreleg equipped with razor-sharp claws. If not for a last-second dodge, the defender would have lost more than a piece of ear.

On the battle raged. Youth and strength and stamina slowly overtaking skills, maturity and aging sinew. Bound by instinct and without alternative, the aged bruin came around again and again. A third round, a fourth, a fifth. Dust and flying fur and spatters of blood surrounded the warriors. Now the young bear began to doubt himself. An anxiety deep in his gut told him there was perhaps good reason why this was, before him, the reigning Lord of the Glen, the King of this hill. Blow after blow met with resilience and tenacity and a seeming total lack of fear. He began to wonder if this was indeed worth it. Surely there were other sows, other fields, other hills, where success could be had without such exertions and pain.

The old man was tiring. Winded now, he began to rely more on wit than might. Used all of his best tricks; dodging and weaving, placing the sun behind him, throwing dirt, running circles around his foe. One by one the newcomer worked through the oppositions, continued to stand and charge as strong and fast as at the first.

“If I turn my back, he will have me.” Dozens of such back-turnings were recalled. The years he watched the rumps of the vanquished racing off to shelter and safety.

One misstep, and the blow landed squarely at his temple, almost knocking him unconscious, his vision went black. He felt himself fall to his side and roll. His sight slowly returning, all he could do was strain to see the next attack, look for the death-blow that would end this battle. The last battle. His last day to be the Old Bear here.

Suddenly, he felt the Earth drop away beneath him, as in his partial blindness he rolled off the edge of a precipice. Down into the gaping maw of the river gorge. Free falling twenty feet, he slammed onto the solid ledge of shale on his side, cracking ribs, his head bouncing off the rock before he slid off the edge of this shelf. Another twenty-foot drop and he landed on his opposite side, crashing down through Juneberry and Thistles, twisted tangles of grapevines and willow saplings, and coming to rest on the river bank. Stones and dirt and dust followed his descent and settled on and around him.

He laid there quite a while, assuming the New Bear would track him down to insure his demise and retreat. Near silence reigned over the sunny fall day. No wind stirred the leaves in the trees. No birds could be heard calling. The only sound the tinkling water a foot away. He wondered for a moment if he was dead. He rolled to his feet and was immediately convinced otherwise. Death could never be this painful. His eyes closed against their will.

When finally he awoke, the full moon was watching over him. Its soft light illuminating the trickling water, the banks of the gorge, the shrubs and trees, now devoid of color in the light of darkness. Fevered days and nights passed and merged and blended until the moon set three-quarters full, nearing the end of this odyssey.

It seemed so long ago, now in the light of day, floating in his own secluded reservoir. His secret, sacred place. Here no ill could best him. There was no sickness or injury, nor malady of the heart or spirit that could not be cured by this magical place. This is where he would choose to die. Where no fear could invade. No challengers would arrive to try to commandeer this for themselves. There would remain only the crows. Welcome friends and shareholders in this sanctuary.

And when he would finally heave his last breath, the crows would gather and mourn his passing. Perched wing to wing in silent reverie, the funeral would last from the first red light of the dawn, to the last rays of the golden sunset.

And then they would peck his eyes out.

And this would be agreeable to him, as he wouldn’t need them any more. They were welcome to them. They and the Coyotes and the Skunks and the Fishers. All the flying, hopping, running and crawling things that might regard his passing as something of a bonanza.

They were welcome to his hide and his flesh, his aged bones and cartilage, the entrails of his very core. He would need none of these. Nor the challenger or the sow, nor the meadow or the blackberries. There would be no need for sharp claws and rippling muscles, no need for the efforts of the hunt. No hunger. No pain.

There would be just this, forever.

Floating in peaceful solitude on his dear old friend, this most familiar and beloved patch of water. This wild, wet Heaven.

Suddenly, snapping branches and crunching humus invaded his dream-like thoughts. Snapped open his resting eyes, sharpened the focus of his ears, now one-quarter smaller overall since the assault. He was finally coming to finish the job, one could presume.

Coming to insist that even this distant and once-welcoming, sheltered and secure vestige was no longer refuge from all that there is in this great wide world from which to seek it.

Old Bear lay floating on his back, unmoved. Let him swim out here and drag me to shore. Or drown me.

Or pace impatiently on the banks of the pond, in a hurry to grow old faster, and be the New Old Bear on his last day to be the Old Bear here.

Cracking limbs and padding footfalls of the largest predator on the continent grew nearer, until the raspberry canes and hoosiers parted.

Old Bear would give no satisfaction if the intruder expected any sign of panic, any look of fear.

He looked up to the crow in the elm.

“Fare thee well, Crow.” he bade, as he slowly and deliberately directed his gaze to the commotion at the shore.

It was the sow.

Page Two

This is the second of a two-part journal entry. For the backstory leading to this, read the previous post “The birds, the bees, the cat, the possum and the people”. I realize both posts are quite lengthy, and apologize for that. I could have broken it into four posts, but wanted to maintain a good continuity.

Paz

Okay, so here’s this possum caught in a live-catch trap and it’s ten o’clock in the morning so the sun is beating down on the black plastic trash bag which covers the back half of the trap to camouflage and conceal it. I seriously doubt this possum is what the Market Manager was intent on catching. I think it wandered over here in the night, probably from the wild areas between here and the Hudson River. He had said they thought there were raccoons roosting in the Black Horse farm building.

Now, there are two more qualifiers that influence or explain my following actions. One is another part of my personal philosophy, made almost respectable by being a quote from Charles Dickens. In his story “A Christmas Carol”, the main character Ebenezer Scrooge has survived a night with the spirits compelling him to change his selfish ways and to open his heart to the world, particularly those less fortunate. When he awakens to find he has been granted the opportunity to live and pursue good works, he is overwhelmed with joy. And humility. Realizing the error of his ways, he breaks into a brief song to the tune of “All Around The Mulberry Bush”;

I don’t know anything.

I never did know anything.

But now I KNOW that I don’t know.

All on Christmas morning.

So that’s item one, where I admit I have no idea what it is that I don’t know. I bear this in mind always, along with a teaching from Richard Bach’s book “Illusions”: Everything you know could be wrong. I’m just doing the best I can with what I have.

The other qualifier may be difficult for me to describe. I know that seems odd coming from a wordy poet, but it’s a feeling deep in my soul that I must try to relate. I have this relationship with the Universe. The Great Cosmos I call it. If you’ve read anything of substance at ACZ, you’ll know I feel as insignificant as one could possibly be in a giant universe. Just a speck. Less than that. Not even a grain of sand on a beach, but a chip off a grain of sand in a limitless expanse of space. At the same time, I feel part of it all, like the grain of sand. Every grain of sand matters, and is needed to make a beach. No one grain of sand could be proved to be more important, more significant, more worthy than the next. Herein lies my value in my relationship with the Universe. I am equal. Equal to every grain of sand and every tree. Every human on the planet and every other animal from the blue whale to the black gnat. Equal to every planet and satellite, every comet and meteor. To every last bit of every last inch of an immeasurable Universe, I am part of it all. My solemn agreements, my silent prayers, if you will, are directly between me and the Universe. We have a close and inexorable bond. Therefore, I answer only to the Cosmos. As I describe what follows, there are a hundred optional actions and endings. Some people may vehemently espouse their versions of what is right, what is not. What is fair to wildlife, what is duty to humankind. What is callous and cruel, what is kindness and caring. Sorry folks, this is between me and my Cosmos.

My first step is to open the trap. Show the possum the door. Touch the ground as if she’s a trained dog. I speak softly in a sort of baby talk. “Come on. You can come out now.” In my best effort at Disneyesque fantasy, I anticipate the possum will walk out. Perhaps wink at me over its shoulder as it makes its escape. Well, that didn’t happen. I suppose possum has never seen “Bambi” or “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”. In her cornered, trapped, fearful defensive place, possum sees a giant animal, twenty times her size, trying to dig her out to kill and eat her. Reality knocks on my brain’s door and says “As long as you hang around the trap, she’ll stay frozen in the rear corner under the trash bag. GO AWAY!” Liberation of the possum the primary goal, I heed this advice and disappear, foregoing the opportunity to bask in the glory of watching the culmination of my efforts, the gleeful trotting off of the former captive.

I give it a while but I’m fascinated with the possum and curious and impatient as the rings deep within my spirit that remain a ten-year-old boy. I check the trap, and she’s still huddled in the corner, waiting for darkness, probably. I tried tipping the trap up and dumping her out. Unceremonious but effective if it worked. It did not. She hung onto the trap as if it was her home. Okay, I go away again for a while. Half an hour later, she still hasn’t moved. Okay, I grab a short stick and have the stick prod her from the back part of the trap so she’ll move toward the door. No dice. She’s not afraid of a stick, and the corner under the trash bag feels like the safest safety available to her. If I was at home I’d carry the whole trap out into the woods, put the open door up against some dense cover, and walk away confidently, content the animal would eventually walk out of the trap. Here at the Market, I don’t want to get caught undoing the trapping, so I’m trying to be a little stealthy.

“Alright. If Guy from Market comes around now you’re as good as dead, so it’s time to go, like it or not.” I thought-transfer this to the possum to apologize in advance for the somewhat rough and rude action to follow. I grabbed a piece of threaded metal rod from the shop at work. In hindsight, I should have used the broom handle. I pushed the rod through the trash bag at the back of the trap to nudge her. This just made her redouble her defensive stance. So I broke down and pushed harder. “Come on.” I’m speaking out loud in my talking-to-animals-and-babies voice, “You gotta get out of there!” I pushed on her more. Re-positioned the rod. Prodded her again. Assertively, I pushed against her to literally shove her out of the trap and she finally moved. She needed another prod and then, yes, success! She saw the opening or decided it was less risk or discomfort, and she trotted out of the trap and across the gravelly ground, disappearing beneath a stack of pallets behind the buildings. I hurriedly reset the trap to appear nothing had sprung it.

I felt pretty good about my liberation of the trapped animal for about a minute or so. That’s when I saw the baby. Yep, baby possum. Almost naked, it was probably a week or so old. It looks like a newborn kitten in that first week when they can’t even walk but try to move in stumbling fashion. It was lying in the open in the direct sun, about a foot away from the closest part of the pallet pile. At first my brain thought it had crawled out of its nest, looking for mother while she was incarcerated. I looked beneath the pallets and metal carts for signs of traffic or a nest. Wait a minute. Brain catching up. Hey, opossums are marsupials. The baby would have been carried in Mother’s pouch. Oh no. She had dropped this one as she ran away in self defense. This thing was tiny. As small as any kitten I’ve seen born, and yet baby possums complete their development in the pouch. This one barely had half a coat of thin, fine fur, and was probably just about blind.

Then it made the tiniest noise. You might imagine a newborn kitten trying to meow for its mother. Sometimes their mouths open and no sound comes out. Sometimes a breathy squeak. Eventually, they learn to “mew”. Possums don’t meow. I don’t know what repertoire they have, but the only sound I’ve ever heard come from a possum is a hiss, like an angry cat. I guess that’s what baby possum was trying, but it came out as just the shortest burst. As if you were trying to demonstrate the sound a “K” makes without using your breathing, you know? Well I figured baby is calling Mom, so after placing baby out of the sun and beneath a cart, I too make K noises, hoping to attract mother’s attention to return for the foundling. After a minute, I go away to give her the opportunity to do so. The ten-year-old needs to check the situation every two minutes. The wildlife liberator knows you should give it twenty. It’s now midday, and the time of the hour at which I’d break for lunch. One last check on the orphan. Still there. Still bobbing its tiny head, moving its tiny feet almost ineffectively.  Still barking for Mother. “Let the Cosmos handle it.” I say, probably aloud, and I brush the sparrows off the Funbus and head out for lunch. Possum has a quiet spell to come back for her kid, and I can keep ten-year-old Me from obsessing over the orphan.

Lunch does not go so well. I can’t stop thinking of the orphan. I know I can’t save and raise a newborn possum, but I could probably make it feel warm and safe until its passing. I bail on lunch. I buy a pint of whole milk at the convenience store, and head for Rite-Aid to buy an eye dropper for feeding. Rite-Aid does not sell eye droppers, by the way. Maybe no one does any more. Everything like it is a graduated syringe so you can measure your baby’s liquid Tylenol and squirt it into their mouth. I search long and hard. I ask Jim The Employee to help. No eye dropper. Now I am looking for ear drops or Mercurochrome. Bottles with eye droppers. I’ll buy that and wash the dropper out. Nope. Nothing has a dropper any more. Finally, I purchase a syringe bulb, a nasal aspirator, thinking it’s at least soft-ish. So armed, I return to work. I’m ready to warm the milk and offer it to the orphan. I’m thinking I will put it in my shirt pocket. It’ll be warm and in a “pouch” and might even be fooled into a sense of normalcy, comfort, security for the matter of mere hours I expect the thing to live without its own mother.

At the spot where I’d last seen the naked, wriggling baby, there was nothing. I spent quite some time on hands and knees, looking everywhere the wobbling, toddling tiny thing could have moved to. I made a few K noises, listened intently for the tiny whisper of a bark. Nothing.

And so my tale anticlimactically draws to a close. What happened to Baby Possum will forever remain a mystery. I’d like to think Mother retraced her steps, looking for the “missing one”. Or perhaps she heard the tiny thing’s tiny bark. Mothers are in-tuned to such things.

Down at the Hudson River, less than a quarter-mile from here, I’ll often see Bald Eagles. Majestic birds we almost lost with our penchant for killing things, in this case via DDT in pesticides. Eagles are scavengers. Here in my parking lot, crows abound. Grackles and Jays, too. Perhaps one of these had found a healthy meal.

That afternoon I stood on the back dock.  As I looked out, I saw Cat sitting under a car. Cat looked me in the eye, and I looked back. “Hi kitty.” I said, which hitherto had the immediate effect of making her run. She sat and looked at me. She looked away, then back again. She seemed relaxed. Now that winter is over, I can no longer fill the dish.

You see, we need to be vigilant about vermin here.

 

Seek peace,

 

Paz

Tree Attitude

“Getting back to the roots” of Armchair Zen, so to speak. This post was originally published in May, 2011.Stand for somethingThe mighty oak from the tiny acorn grows.

This old adage seems to reflect a wonder and reverence for this amazing feat.

I love trees, I really do. I could easily personify them, impune them with human attributes, worship them as spirits. Something about a tree, standing firm and tall in the same place, day in, day out, year ’round…it brings a sense of stability, longevity, solidity, groundedness.

I like to subscribe to what I call Tree Philosophy, or Tree Attitude. So many things in our lives appear to be a conspiracy of circumstances, the times we live in, where we live, the way we live, with whom we live. Choices we made back in…when? Things we shoulda woulda or coulda done.

My grandfather always told me “Take shoulda, woulda and coulda in one hand, and a nickel in the other, and see which one will buy you a donut.”

Trees waste no time on such worries. A little tree seed plants its first tendrils into the soil—and is committed! From day one, that tree is going to live or die, stand or fall, right on that very same spot.

I like to imagine trees thinking about that. “I’m going to be the best tree I can right here, where I am, working with what I have.”

This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes, from President Theodore Roosevelt: “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”  That is, after all, a description of our entire lives, really, isn’t it?  We are where we are, there’s no denying that. We must work with what we have, be it employment, a dwelling, our people, money, transportation, brain power, energy or spirit. And doing the best we can within these parameters is all we can do.

For philosophers such as President Roosevelt and myself, this means we don’t throw in the towel just because the odds are stacked against us, the task is overwhelming, or we’re short on assets, even if tasked with great challenges or the seemingly impossible. It also means recognizing that there are limits to what we can do, and we shouldn’t punish ourselves for being unable to do more.

I imagine a tree’s life is similar, but to the greatest extent. Tree doesn’t agonize over location. Perhaps prospects for success might be better elsewhere. Perhaps the climate is something humans would want to escape. Perhaps the very home of Tree is in a precarious place, on the side of a cliff, at the edge of an eroding riverbank, or at the last edge of the tree line, far up a tall mountain. Tree can’t move, but can only hang on and throw all of its efforts into the present.

Neither can Tree do anything about the changes in its life. Perhaps it’s struck by lightning, maybe loses a limb or suffers damage to its trunk. Perhaps humans come along and saw pieces off. Maybe its roots are immersed “knee-deep” in water during a flood season, or a drought season makes survival difficult.

If Tree is an evergreen, it will keep it’s needles as it goes into a dormant season. Granted, I have wished more than once that I could have a dormant season for myself, to rest and recuperate from the rigors of my own seasons, storms, lightning, chain saws, floods and blizzards. If Tree is deciduous, it will awaken, depending where Tree lives, sometime between February and May. As it stretches its limbs to the sky, it gets down to the business at hand: budding, developing and flowering. Sounds a bit like our lives again, doesn’t it? For its season, however long it may be (and without groaning that it is either too short or too long) Tree will produce thousands of leaves, each one a near-perfect copy of the others. For pines, tens of thousands, maybe millions of needles. Year one, year 50, year 200, Tree goes right on doing what it is born to do, producing those leaves or needles, growing when the conditions are right, and resting when it is necessary.

Tree will keep up the good fight, no matter what, and will try until defeat and death. As it is with all living things (and, in fact all things in the universe on its grand scale), eventually there is an end. I like to imagine Tree retiring. “I’m going to lay down, right here, next to the rest of you.” At that time, Tree is okay with this end, whether it is after 5 years or 500. Call it destiny, call it nature, call it the randomness of the universe, the circle of all things.

Saplings can be heard all around “Good job, Tree, and thank you for your silent service. You have been a fine example of patience and perseverance. A great neighbor in our community, shading the tender shoots and plants at your base, welcoming, with open limbs, the wildlife; squirrels, chipmunks, woodpeckers, sapsuckers, wasps, and anything else that came to you seeking refuge, a home, safety, security, something meaningful and solid that we can know and understand and rely on.”

Even after death, Tree remains an influence. Flora and fauna of certain types will flourish thanks to Tree’s legacy. The many generations growing around Tree will look on, seeking and seeing the testimony to its determination, learning and benefitting from the example, and the knowledge that Tree stood by them, and gave selflessly whenever called upon to do so.

I don’t need riches, recognition or immortality. If my life, and its own end, can be to any degree worthy of Tree’s example, I too will be able to lay down in peace, and return to the earth from which I came.

Be at peace.

Paz

Kind Words versus Critical

Rerun: This post was originally published in 2011. – Paz

 

I was reading a thing recently about a crew demolishing a building. Someone asks the foreman how long it would take to knock the building down, and what sort of skills were required by the crew. To sum it up, the guy replies that they should be able to knock the whole thing down within a week, and aside from knowing how to work safely, no special skills were required. The observation concludes that it would take many weeks or months, maybe a year or more, to construct the building, and the construction would require many people with well-developed skills. Masons for foundations, welders for steel, electricians & plumbers, painters & roofers, and perhaps consultants for interior design.

In short, it takes longer and requires more skills to build something up than to tear it down.

This is also true of people, and the words we use with one another.

Like the unskilled demolition crew, anyone can speak words of criticism. Complaints, judgement, even derision. These words are pretty easy to come by in the human brain, especially when motivated by aggravation, frustration or anger.

By contrast, it requires greater effort to hold one’s tongue, keep one’s opinions to one’s self, to avoid getting on the band wagon with others complaining or condemning, and especially to keep hurtful things from spitting out of our mouths in the course of an argument, particularly an angry one.

So too, it requires a different and perhaps greater skill to look for the good in situations, to compliment people on the degree to which they got things right, not criticize them for the degree of wrong.

In the heat of battle or when someone is railing or ranting, the conversational side of the brain will feed you many thoughts that it wants you to speak. Maybe it’s the way you feel, or maybe you want to defend a position, or maybe you want to agree with a condemnation being offered.

The sage will understand the old adage “less said the better”. With concentrated effort, one can express that one understands or at least hears the other’s point of view without agreeing or arguing.

In any situation, look for the positive. With any person, look for the chance to share a kind word, and watch for those verbal grenades your automated-language-based brain tries to toss past your teeth.

We went to see an apartment into which someone had recently moved. The street was not well-to-do, or of the newest part of town. The houses were mostly multi-family rentals, and were generally well-worn. One could not describe the sidewalks or alleys as neat or clean. The apartment was at the top of a steep, narrow, windowless staircase. The windows could have used cleaning, and with some effort one could see above the dormers of the house next door, and catch a sliver of the sky and the city beyond. The kitchen floor was from the last century. It looked, in many places, exactly like what is was: a medium-sized second story apartment in an older house, whose tenants probably never stayed more than a year or two.  A few marks showed on the walls and woodwork, where families had probably raised rambunctious children, and the landlord probably repainted only when needed.

When asked, I described it thusly:

“It’s quite spacious, with good-sized rooms. It has a brand new carpet in the living room, and a brand new space heater, like the ones I have in my house. A Big kitchen! The windows are big. Tall, old-fashioned windows that let in the light. On sort of  a side street, where the traffic seemed pretty light. And cozy! Probably quite efficient to heat!”

Next time you have a chance to describe something or someone, an apartment or even adversary, put your effort into the use of the skills of “craftsmen of the human spirit”, “masters of language”, developed by being practitioners and tradesmen in the arts of compassion and empathy, and build with the materials of positivity, hope, caring and dignity.

Be at peace,

Paz

22 Suicides Every Day

As a proud American, this post is dedicated to Veterans’ Day. It is addressed mainly to my fellow Americans, currently enjoying the liberty purchased with the lives of Veterans. We cannot thank them enough. This one, humble and grateful American wishes to thank all those who serve and have served. As a member of The Wounded Warrior Project Advance Guard, I’m doing what I can to support Veterans returning from duty. I hope you’ll sign up, too. If I can get just one person to join me, it will be a small achievement. For our Wounded Warriors, many say their goal is to stop one fellow Veteran from committing suicide. Wounded Warrior Project can help. Please join, give, or visit http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org to read the stories of these Veterans, and how this organization is saving the lives of real heroes. In my book, EVERY VETERAN IS A HERO.

-Paz

US Navy Veteran Jessica Coulter

That’s not a dramatic, sensationalized title of this post. It is a sad fact.

On average, twenty-two United States Veterans commit suicide each day. 22 per day.

All Veterans do not look like “big, strong men”, nor do they all bear physical signs of disability following their service.

This post is about the Wounded Warrior Project. Jessica, above, and 100,000 other Veterans of U.S. Service now benefit from this organization.

Sadly, there are 22 Veterans on any given day that can’t fight “the brave fight” any longer, and feel their only way out is suicide.

US Marines Veteran Eric Delion

Not all Veterans returning from combat have scars or missing limbs. Many suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and many suffer from Traumatic Brain Injuries, physical damage to the brain caused by continued exposure to concussive explosions or direct contact with explosive devices. Many Veterans suffer from “survivor’s guilt”. They feel guilty they are still alive, and in many cases physically unharmed, while the brothers and sisters they serve with are killed and injured on a daily basis.

US Army Veteran Bill Geiger

While these are some nice photos of whole people, many Veterans seeking the assistance of The Wounded Warrior Project are not so. Many men and women return from battle with serious injuries. Missing limbs, scars, burns. Some face long recoveries, repeated surgeries, painful recuperations. Some would rather have died on the battlefield. Some wish to die now.

US Air Force AND Army Veteran Keith Sekora

The Wounded Warrior Project is comprised of Veterans that have connected with others that can truly understand what they have experienced and continue to experience after service. Many members are directly involved with outreach, seeking out those that can benefit from WWP’s programs and people. In so many stories, you’ll read how Veterans feel they are alone and adrift until they find fellow Veterans that have gone through much of the same things.

US Army Veteran Josh Sommers-and mom, Lisa Hopkins

It’s not only Veterans, but their families too that are affected by the trauma of battle, injuries and recovery. Spouses, children and parents are caught up in this nearly as much as the Veteran. It can be a very difficult transition back to civilian life, even without serious injuries or handicaps. Many Veterans speak of flashbacks, nightmares, sleep disorders, rage, guilt and depression. The Wounded Warrior Project supports the whole family.

US Veteran Anthony Villareal

This excerpt is from Mr. Villareal’s bio at Wounded Warrior project.org.

On June 20, 2008, in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province, Anthony Villarreal’s life changed in an instant when a roadside bomb blew up the truck he was driving, setting off a secondary explosion from his vehicle’s ammunition.

“More than 30 percent of my body surface was burned. My right hand had to be amputated and my left fingers as well. I had third-degree burns everywhere. I was in a coma for three months, and it was like I was having an out-of-body experience – like watching yourself sleep. I didn’t think I had lived through it. In a way, I didn’t.”

Anthony’s journey back to life started with two grueling years at Brooke Army Medical Center and more than 70 surgeries.

“Before I discovered Wounded Warrior Project, I was shy and timid about my looks and appearance. I withdrew from people and was always cautious about my surroundings, never doing much. Now, it’s like I’m carefree. I’m more outspoken and outgoing than ever before.” 

Anthony credits his emotional breakthrough to the self-confidence he’s received from the support of his fellow injured veterans.

“We can relate to each other. We don’t judge each other, and it makes me feel pretty awesome that my experiences can help others deal with their experiences. I understand unbearable human suffering. When you can shoulder that burden for someone else, the good feeling you get is like walking on water.”

However, Anthony is quick to point out that the bad days can still overwhelm the best of warriors.

Please visit http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org to meet many of these heroic people and read their stories in their own words. Join or give if you can.

As the motto of The Wounded Warrior Project says,

The greatest casualty is being forgotten.

On this day, perhaps more than others, seek peace,

 

Paz

Beautiful Yesterday

Ordinary Folk

I saw my Beautiful Yesterdays in the passing strangers.

Perhaps I should refer to them as “The Unacquainted”, as they are far from strangers.

Now, at 57, and having raised five children, they are almost a flashback.

They are walking in the park, these four, this pack. Two in the prime of their youthful adulthood, the four-year-old toddles along behind him, and she is pushing the stroller with the littler one.

He (and toddler) string out ahead a bit, pause, wait for the other two. They catch up. He looks up from his phone to address her. (I cannot hear their words, if any, at this considerable distance.)

She is saying “Put up his hood, it looks like rain.” or “Do you have three dollars?”

He is saying “Do you want to get lunch?” or “What time will your mother be over?”.

Their clothes are ordinary. Not old or worn, nor necessarily new or fancy. Perhaps they’ve bought these things, perhaps some were gifts. A winter coat from Grandma. A new shirt from sister. Fuzzy lounge pants from a sweetheart.

They’re walking and pushing a stroller because they have no car. Maybe they are saving for one, hopeful for this summer. That he may reach out for that better job across the river, so she can bring groceries home in a trunk, not a stroller laden with bags and bundles. So that they may drive to the lake on a Sunday afternoon and have a picnic while the children play in the cool water.

Maybe they are city folks, and have no need for the expense and burden of a car. Buses take them to work, to the barber, to Cub Scouts. They will almost never use a taxi. Cab fare that could be spent elsewhere. Two suppers. Formula. Diapers.

The apartment is small, in Woodbine Square, known to be…affordable. Perhaps they dream of moving to the Gramercy Apartments. Tall windows, Victorian stairs. Maybe this year.

The challenges laid before them come at a steady and manageable pace. They appear not as mountains or even boulders in their path, but rises in the road ahead.

She wants to take up knitting. Has a few needles and things from Mom. She parts grudgingly with the six dollars for a skein of yarn. She knows she will have three warm and pretty scarves to give to her little family when her labors are through, but still feels a slight twinge of guilt spending this money which could be milk and eggs, apple juice, bus fare. Still, she must have this small comfort. The price of one small beauty in this world surely will not break the budget.

He is saving his money. He thought he was saving for a new pair of waders for himself, just in time for Trout Season.

But then, next month is Mother’s Day, and his savings are three-quarters the price of the Mother’s Day ring she admired in an advertisement. Perhaps waders will wait.

Each day they bring the energy and spirit gifted to the young and the young at heart. He rises with the sun and goes off to work, to return twelve hours later, a little richer, a little older, and a little tired.

She follows a different clock, independent of the sun and Earth and the world spinning around her. The slightest coo in the crib that shares the master bedroom, and her “mother alarm” sits her bolt upright.

“Hey little girl” in hushed tones, heard only by these tiny ears, quiet, so as not to disturb the others, “Is it time to get up?”. A beaming smile greets the child.

Life is far from care-free. Fortunate enough to have a decent job in the richest country in the world, they are taking care of themselves, independent, paying their own way. Some bills may need to be put off a week, and there are few extravagances. Yet there is comfort, and simple joys.

There will be a few arguments. There will be some heated debate about topics which are very important to those in this stage of life. Sometimes it’s about money. Their goals and desires, the someday place we want to be. Sometimes the money is a tyrant, lording over them mercilessly. Slaves to monetary society. Sometimes it feels like the money is so finite, we fear our little tribe will go under. We think this last thought in silence, in the darkness of night, the solitude of rational fear.

Sometimes the argument is centered on symbols. Behind the argument is a ponderous pile of memories and imaginings. Childhood dreams she feels are slipping away. A dream of the person he imagined for himself, before he vanishes into the “Mr” of “Mr & Mrs & Family”.

Underlying the sentiments are fear and uncertainties. health and success for ourselves and our children. The not-knowing of the future. How can we be sure we’ll “Be okay” as dad says? Will you really stick by me? Like the old song about old people, written by a man at the ripe old age of perhaps twenty-five, “Will you still need me when I’m sixty-four?”

The little family walks on, down the path and turning left into the apartment complex.

And I see in them the beauties of untold tomorrows. It’s not necessary to make a morbid account of those (we pray few) Black Days which seem to visit most lives. I see in them all the beauty of my own beautiful yesterdays.

Lunch in the park over, I must return to work now.

You see, I’m saving my money…

Earthbound Angels

 

Seek peace,

 

Paz

They Have Names and Faces

Syrians. Refugees.

What I call healthy democratic debate some call controversy and conflict.

People are polarized and incensed over the nameless, faceless commodity known as refugees.

 

The faces of "Refugees"

The faces of “Refugees”

Some people need to look into these faces. I see my wife, my sister, my son, my daughter. These people are somebody, and they are somebody to someone else.

Schoolboys

Schoolboys – with names

If you sat on a bench next to them, would you tell them to their faces?

Here I live in the land of liberty and plenty, the richest country in the world. In my big, warm house, driving my big shiny car to the huge supermarket to buy whatever I want.

But you can’t come along. Oh, sure, I know my brother-in-law’s sister’s husband is Iraqi-American. Sworn in as a citizen the year before they married in 1982, when no one knew anything about Iraq. Yes, one of my pals at work was a Greek citizen until the age of five. Now he’s American, same as me.

My grandfather? Well, do you mean the Irish one or the Italian one? Technically two Irishmen and an Italian, since my mother’s dad abandoned the family.

My wife’s family? Yes, we go every year on memorial day to place flowers at the graves of Sina and Olaf and Waldemar. They dropped an “i” and one “l” when they changed their names to “Nelson”. Born in Sweden, Sina Kristina wanted a more Americanized name. Or maybe she didn’t. Maybe the folks at Ellis Island spelled it that way when they wrote it down, and the Neillson family was renamed henceforth.

My son-in-law? They’re mostly of German descent, but who can tell now? My daughter-in-law’s family was all English, but her first marriage brought me a granddaughter with an Italian last name, and Julie is now “honorary Irish” with her married name taken from my son.

My friend Mohammed Zhabzavari, an Iranian, gave me one of the funniest real-life stories about language I retell often. He was a student, and worked with me selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door. The hours were flexible and fit around school, where he studied engineering when he wasn’t home with his wife and kids.

My friend Cecil was from Barbados. We worked together at the fabric mill, and he drove a ’73 Nova I admired. He left his wife and kids behind on the home island to come to America and work. With his smooth island accent he would tell us of the rich life he and his family would have. He just needed to work five years or so to save $10,000, worth ten times that at home.

Mishu Yarkony? How I loved that man, running a hotel in our home town. He reminded me of my grandfather. Everyone in our family worked for his family. I did some electrical and communications work for the hotel. My wife and daughters worked in the bath houses. Sons were bellhops. I loved to listen to his accent. Every now and then his shirt sleeve would pull back as he reached out with his left hand. A lump would form in my throat every time I saw the serial number tattooed on his forearm.

Here are their faces

Here are their faces. What will you tell them?

The Buddha said to his monks “Go out and walk the earth for the good of many. Out of compassion,  for the happiness and benefit of gods and men.”

Notice Buddha did not say “if it’s convenient for you.”.

Generate the wave.

 

Seek peace,

 

Paz

One Step of Our Journey

This is the third of a 3-part journal entry. To follow the story from beginning to end, read The Call, and The Longest Ride (ACZ Archives, November 2014) prior to reading this post.  – Paz

First Frost

First Frost

Our journeys together have the power to overcome that endless river, the cosmic clockworks, time itself. Our lives are filled with memories of moments. Each of these, like a snapshot, a sound bite, can be recalled repeatedly, at will. It is the essence of timelessness. It is the attainment of immortality, in a manner, in that we each live on in the hearts and minds and lives of others, long after our imminent demise.

This I have learned from my grandfather, the original “Pop Pop”. From my sainted mother, Marie Lillian. From a few others that have gone before me. Their faces, their voices, their smiles are engraved in my memories. They have shaped me and continue to do so. Every so often you may hear a little New Jersey in my pronunciation. You may be showered with proverbs credited to my grandfather. “My grandfather always said…”

This day, my journey with my beloved dog of nearly fourteen years, Chuy, brings us to the Veterinary Clinic, following a sudden onset of a loss of control over his legs. Unable to stand without assistance, unable to walk without careening side-to-side like a drunken man, this appointment is one I sorely dread. What is the prognosis for an old dog that can’t walk? I couldn’t say the words out loud to the receptionist.

“I’ll wait outside in the van with Chuy.”, I told the kind woman with the saddened face sitting behind the desk.

Why is this tale fitting for Armchair Zen entries?

More than any time in my life I felt an inner calm, an inner peace, a sort of “knowing”. I find it difficult to express. Here was one of the dearest things in my world facing the real end, yet I felt prepared to move through this. Yes, it saddened me. Yes, in spite of years of stumbling down the zen path, I still felt some impending loss. Still, it was not a fear of loss. Not a sense of longing for past days, nor so much the feeling that something big and important, a constant through so many years, was to be taken from us forever.

There seemed, somehow, to be a natural ending occurring. A shuttering of sorts, akin to the putting-away of domestic things in preparation for winter.

These things are not gone or ended forever. They are squirreled away in storage quarters, or buried beneath the frozen soil, or in some cases, standing right where they’ve stood all year, but now without foliage or flower.

Vernal equinox brings that which fades into Autumnal equinox. The book of moons remains unchanged. Such is the way of all things.

Doctor Durie walked out the front door of the vet clinic. He had that concerned Doctor look on his face. Not the “it’s great to see a happy dog for another well-check.”, nor the caring half-smirk of “So, he didn’t learn from the first porcupine, eh?”. But the look of “Oh [sigh]. What do we have here?”.

I described the symptoms robotically. He can walk, but has no balance, falls over. His eye is twitching. His head is tilted to the right constantly. Maybe a stroke?

“Strokes are extremely rare among dogs,” Doctor Durie stated. Kind of him to share, but that didn’t help me. He picked up Chuy’s head, listened to his heart.

Doctor Durie patted Chuy’s head. Then he looked me in the eye, poker-faced.

“He’ll get over it.” the doctor concluded.

“What? Seriously?” I nearly shouted. I was dumbstruck, elated, confused, anxious. I hugged my dear puppy.

“It’s vestibular syndrome,” Doctor Durie stated, and went on to explain how tubes balance air pressure between the two ears, affecting balance. A tube or vestibule stops working on one side and their balance is shot. “He’ll learn to compensate for it. A few days to a few weeks. There may be some permanent change, but he’ll be okay.”

I paid the nominal vet bill. “Best twenty-five bucks I’ve spent all year!” I said to the happy-faced receptionist. Glee all around, for the receptionist, for Doctor Durie, for me. Chuy wasn’t all that gleeful, but if he could have understood the conversation, he’d be gleeful in his heart.

One more step in our wonderous journey together. A reprieve, however brief!

It would be a few days before Chuy could really walk on his own without bouncing off of my leg every third step or so. Today, more than four weeks after I first received that startling call that Chuy had collapsed, he’s almost back to his old pace.

He retains a crooked head, cocked slightly to the right almost always. If he shakes his head as dogs are wont to do, he sometimes staggers afterward. I think his hearing is worse than before, and his dog-tracking is off a bit (his rear paw doesn’t land where his forepaw was lifted while walking, as has been the case hitherto.)

Day two of his ambulatory recovery, we pressed, both of our old, less-than-perfect selves, to walk the trail all the way to the top of Nishan Hill, as we had done hundreds, perhaps thousands of times before. Our place of reverence and serenity, our hilltop cathedral.

“The longest journey begins with a single step.” says an old proverb. There is only one journey for each of our conscious minds, and it is our lifespan here on Earth. The single step is forgotten long ago. It was a day in 1960, when my mother’s beaming smile let go of my hand that first time, that moment.

She knew what she was doing. She didn’t want to let go of her baby. For me, it was the first, single step.

For her, it was but one step of our journey.

 

Back on Top

Back on Top

 

Be at peace,

 

Paz

The Longest Ride

This is the second of a 3-part journal entry. To follow the story from beginning to end, read The Call prior to The Longest Ride (November 2014). The third part is One Step of Our Journey (December 2014). -Paz

Hilltop Cathedral

Hilltop Cathedral

Yesterday the call came. My dear, thirteen-plus year-old canine companion had collapsed. He was conscious, but couldn’t stand or walk, and a rhythmic twitching of one eye gave us dread, this must be the end of our trail. I stroked and cuddled my pup, and reminded him that he was the best ever before retiring, expecting him to pass silently in the night.

I awoke to find Chuy in the same state as the night before. His eye still twitching, unable to walk, nearly unable to lift his head.

I was prepared to sit a death-bed vigil. Discussing it with my wife, we had to admit that a dog that couldn’t walk would have no quality of life. If I sat a vigil for Grandpa, it could be weeks. At least one could sponge-bathe him. Not so with a dog. “There needs to be some dignity.”, I remarked, knowing what that meant in dog-ownership world. “I’ll need to call the vet now.”

I put it off for a while this morning. After thirteen years together, these last hours seemed utterly precious, invaluable. Once I call the vet, there will be an appointment time. An ending time. A curfew.  For me, it was as if that time would be midnight at the executioner’s.

I helped Chuy up, (actually, lifted him to his feet) and guided him out to his favorite hedgerow where he could relieve himself. Unable to stand, he stumbled in the tangled undergrowth, fell to his shoulder, and emitted a small cry. Three things he would never have done two days ago. It was heartbreaking to see such a coordinated, strong, active athletic dog reduced to this, and no doubt unable to understand any of it.

There was some small glimmer of hope as I called the Vet Clinic, made an appointment for two-fifteen. I thought perhaps we’d discover some strange malady, a fungus on the brain, some kind of allergic reaction, a reaction to poison, perhaps he found and drank automobile coolant. I grasped at any straw of hope.

Now I was forced to decide: How would Chuy spend his last hours at home?

Outdoors. No doubt. We went out, but were unable to walk around because he was so unsteady. I’m guessing it saddened him as much as it did me, as that’s always been our modus operandus. If I calculated it, it would be thousands of hours outdoors. Walking, flying R/C planes, fishing, riding to the store.

Unable to go much further, he settled on the grass just at the end of the driveway, one of his familiar posts. I suppose this is exactly what he’d want, I thought to myself. There’s no bucket list, and there’s nothing better than lying in that grass, sniffing the scents that waft through the air, keeping an eye on the neighbors and bunnies. That’s just where he’d be sitting on the hundreds of occasions when I pulled in the driveway after work, waiting for me.

Finally, the hour struck, and it was time for us to leave this place. It’s the strangest feeling to know we’re leaving, and one will never return. I carried Chuy to the van, laid him on his personal car blanket, held his water dish under his snout so he could drink.

We had to stop for gas at the convenience store. Stewart’s is the real name, but for a decade or more we’ve called it The Snack Store. Every Saturday, we’d load the trash up for the transfer station, and Chuy would leap into the back seat. He’d ride to the “dump”, the post office, and finally, The Snack Store. In his younger days he’d have a chili dog. As we aged together, that switched to Slim Jim and Teriyaki Beef Steak jerky. Folks in the store knew him, and knew the snacks were not for me. I couldn’t leave without getting him a jerky snack. To my surprise, he ate the whole thing down in usual fashion, lying on the floor of the mini van.

We arrived at the vet’s office, and I left him in the van, checked in with the receptionist.

“Chuy’s here, but can’t walk. I could carry him in if necessary.”

“We’ll see if the doctor can see him out there.” said the receptionist. “What are we hoping to do?” she asked in a knowing fashion.

“Well, whatever the doctor recommends, I guess.” We both knew, but didn’t want to say it.

It’s so strange, this place in time. Mercy killing. We’re not allowed as humans. Not allowed to stem the suffering of loved ones. We’re not even allowed to choose our own” time of departure”. Suicide they call it. It’s illegal. But somehow when it comes to pets, or dogs or horses, even deer and moose that have been injured gravely, we are expected to be able to “euthanize” them. It’s killing. You’re going to suggest I should agree to let you kill my dog. My precious puppy.

I waited outside with Chuy, in the van. Sat beside him and talked to him. What do you say to one of your dearest friends when you don’t want him to know what comes next? Death in a strange place. At least it was not entirely among strangers, though my wife stayed home, unable to face this. I wished there was a way this could be done at home. Thirteen years is a long time together. He’s helped “raise” five grandchildren.

I remembered an episode of The Incredible Dr.Pol, a series about a veterinarian, where a woman with an ailing horse received the sad news, this was a terminal situation. Dr.Pol administered an anesthetic, saying the horse would go to sleep peacefully, after which another injection would quietly end its days.

The woman to whom the horse belonged said, tearfully, that it is so hard to say goodbye after thirty years together. Thirty years. I’ve never owned a horse, but know they’re highly intelligent, and develop relationships with horse people akin to that of dogs with dog people. Thirteen years is hard enough for me.

It was important to me that I smile and speak in soft tones. Talk about the everyday as I did with my mother on her death-bed. This thing I must do for Chuy, not to him.

This hardest thing at the end of this longest ride.

It is a solemn duty, one from which I wouldn’t shirk.

He would do no less for me.

 

Next time: One step of our journey.

 

Be at peace,

My furry friend,

And all those who give their fragile hearts

to love.

 

Paz

The Call

This is the first of a 3-part journal entry. Read The Longest Ride (November 2014) followed by One Step of Our Journey (December 2014) for the rest of the story. -Paz

My puppy

My puppy

I identify myself as a “dog person”. This must be understood as a preface to this entry. To many folks, a dog is a fine pet. To dog people, they’re barely a notch below children as members of our family, the beings we choose to love. I have had the privilege of having dogs accompany me in my journey throughout my entire life.

This one, Chuy, is a rare, once-in-a-lifetime canine companion. I’ve known many dogs, but none such as he. He’s very loving, smart, well-behaved (mostly), and has become the neighborhood dog. We live in the country, and he has always known total freedom to come and go as he pleased. He heads across the road to Tom & Lynn’s house, where they feed him hot dogs at their cookouts. He meanders up the road a piece to Mike & Michelle’s, and they were delighted when they could finally get him to come into their home.  If you’re a regular reader of ACZ, you know many entries include Chuy, and our lives together.

Last Wednesday I received the call.

“You’d better come home.” my wife said solemnly. “I think Scoob’s had a stroke.” (While my name for him has always been Chuy, others know him by the name my son gave him: Scooby Doo. Scoob for short. Scoober as the neighbors call him.)

At thirteen and-a-half years old, I can’t say I haven’t thought about the end of our trail together. In a way, though on the brink of tears, I was relieved in some sense that this end would come in a natural and peaceful fashion at home.  Not some terrible calamity, such as being hit by a car. (To understand my devotion to Chuy’s right to liberty, including the crossing of the ever-dangerous road, see ACZ archives Reply to a Senior Samurai, October 2013).

When I arrived home, Chuy was in the kitchen, lying beneath the kitchen table, one of his favorite spots. A typical greeting would include his trotting over to me, tail wagging, or perhaps walking slowly if he’d just arisen from an afternoon nap. Dog people know how a dog expresses emotion. Taffy actually smiled, as I’ve seen a few other dogs do. They imitate humans by pulling up their noses to bare their front teeth. It’s fun if you’re lucky enough to experience it. It’s scary to strangers, as they think your dog has rabies.

This evening, Chuy did not give me his happy face. In fact, he didn’t even lift his head as I knelt beside him to kiss the top of his furry head. His left eye twitched, highlighted by the eyebrow mark on his fur. He could not stand.

We’re never ready to say goodbye.

I was glad for Chuy that, in spite of this strange occurrence that must place him somewhere between confused and scared, he was in his own home with his favorite people. I spent a long time lying on the floor beside him, reminding him that he had done a great job, how he was the best puppy ever.

It saddens me that we can’t explain things to our animal friends. This is the Vet, you’ll be okay. You’re recovering from anesthesia, which is why the world is swimming. I’ll help you ambulate, and you’ll be okay. Thunder can’t hurt you, you must know by now, after all these years. I’m here, you’ll be okay.

Tonight I could not tell my fuzzy friend that he would be okay. Well, maybe I could. Maybe I did. Truth is, while dying and leaving and death and illness are scary or even painful sometimes, once we’re past that, everything is okay. At least for the one leaving.

It was with a heavy heart that I kissed the top of Chuy’s head and said “Good night, good puppy.”. We couldn’t know for sure where we were headed tonight, tomorrow, but we expected Chuy would leave us, silently in the night. What more could any of us hope for?

I slept on the couch so I wouldn’t be far away if he sniffed for me or perhaps cried out. I didn’t want to go to a bedroom where he would be unable to do so.

A great calm overtook me. Not that I wasn’t saddened or heartbroken. Anxious about what the morning would bring. But this is what we do. For our animals, for each other. I’ll put on my brave face, I will smile for you. Whatever needs to be navigated now, I will do so with clear and sober devotion.

I could feel a change in my world already, and knew that when we greeted tomorrow’s sunrise, things would be irreversibly different.

It was a quiet and uneventful night. In the morning, light would streak through the windows of a silent home. There would be no jingling tags on a collar. There would be no wet nose waking me.

Next time: The Longest Ride.

 

Be at peace,

All beings with hearts.

Human animals, and otherwise.

 

Paz

 

 

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