The pairing of bodies of water with stars is an ancient magic. Seafarers used the stars for navigation, but as I look across my pond at Moon Mountain I feel the blessing of open water as the counter point for open sky and a plentitude of stars as only a mountain dweller can. My mountains may be the humble foothills of an eroded plateau, but as darkness falls on this cold November evening they proffer the majesty of the night sky as grandly as any combination of water and rock has ever done.
Just keep showing up, I tell myself. That’s all you can do. I bang into the walls of this self-created structure – work, expectations, money, marriage, more expectations – and shake off the impact. Focus on what’s important, be present, let go of the rest. I may sound like a New Age guru-ette, but I look and live a little too gritty to pass as one. I caught a glimpse of myself in a store window today (yes, the health food store if you must know) and laughed out loud, thinking “my poor husband.” I look like someone who soaked in gasoline all societal expectations of what femininity might be and lit ‘em up. I did set my hair on fire this past summer, by accident. But that’s the lifestyle I live, a life in which setting one’s hair on fire just happens and you roll with it. I wish I could say that self-conflagration was an unusual type of occurrence, but the past year has seen a broken hand, a chipped tooth, multiple serious lacerations, and a wicked back injury. I’m plumbing the depth of this mountain top lifestyle. The fire helped me see into the dark recesses and I peered too closely. Hey, if you want to make an omelette, you must break a few eggs.
Breaking eggs, breaking hearts – same thing. You break them open. What happens next is irreversible. You can’t put anything back where it was. Your best course of action is to add flames and hope the result is delicious.
Today I played with Mica, my “chest-full-of-cancer” 13 year old dog. She wanted to play. Two days ago I thought she might not live to see one more starry evening, but she rallied and there she was, chasing a stick, chasing the puppy, and biting both. Her depth perception isn’t good – she missed the stick and got my fingers a few times. I watched the puppy give up his beloved stick, and allow me to play with it with Mica, letting her shred and tug his stick. He was patient and calm, riveted and watchful because he knew that at any moment it would be his turn again. But he shared. He showed good will to his ailing pack member. I was moved by his kindness.
I was present. And so was she. She made eye contact and moved in closer, receiving my kisses on her muzzle, her eyebrow, her cheek. I watched carefully, vigilant for a sign that I was trespassing upon her goodwill, assuming – as was the norm in years past – that the kisses were for me. Today she moved in closer, receiving my human contact. She did not lick me back. No, that would have changed everything. She was fully present and receiving of what I offered. She was with me in a more profound way than she usually is. Being with me isn’t easy for her. It never has been. I know this and abuse her with kissing and petting and snuggling, and balance all that overwhelming invasion of her personal space with plenty of distance too. Love me from over there, human, has been her motto for most of our brief time together and I’ve honored it as best I could. The cancer, the coughing, the nausea… she crosses the space between us seeking more from me and I am glad to give, despite knowing what this portends. She is still open to learning and growing even now as the cancer advances. Her physical changes demands a change of heart and so she changes. She softens. She receives.
I told my husband of our day together. He cried happy tears knowing that my poor judgment and failure to protect her from her own impulses could well have cost her her life… and that if that is how it happens then she will die happy. Today she was truly, fully happy, as happy as I’ve ever seen her. If this is how she spends her last days or weeks, I can only hope I may one day be so blessed.
The night is clear, the temperature plummeting. Tomorrow we shall be treated to an operatic weather day – a foot of snow is expected to fall the day before Thanksgiving. But tonight, the sky is sharp, inky, and studded with dust and brilliance. And I will show up to witness it, daring and willing the beauty of presence to break me open.