A Prism of Loss

photo by shf

I. Tchaikovsky by candle light

The world is made small today, a softness of browns and grays holding us.

Cross-legged, a man sits on carpet, his hair, a halo. He cups the jowls of sweet Barlow, whose eyes open wide to love’s massage.

A woman, lifted by cushions nearby, floats her fingers over the mottled coat, between the soft ears, down the neck folds and sturdy spine. Barlow raises his muzzle toward her. There you are, he sighs.

At his hips, I hover, supplicant to Barlow’s faithfulness.

We witness his steps to the last water he will drink. We hear the crunch of a final snack offered. We see the impossible sign of the times.

Barlow draws us under a holy veil, the four of us together,

a unison of loss as rain begins.

driving home after Barlow’s passing / photo by shf

II. What feeds these tears?

I drop the empty tin can back into the bird feed jug, kick off my dog-walking shoes, and cry. I scoop the dark clothes from my side of the bed, toss them in the washer, and cry. I pull the gray comb through my white hair, finger the silver triple spiral that dangles from a chain around my neck, and cry.

mystery photo on camera feed upon Barlow’s passing

III. Excerpt from How the Light Gets In by Pat Schneider

“For both the writer and the spiritual pilgrim, an answer is not always the greatest gift. Rather, coming to deeper and deeper understanding of the question itself can give us a place to stand in the presence of mystery, in the cloud of unknowing. Answer builds walls that sometimes seem protective, but they may shut out light.”

Barlow (l) and Brautigan (r) as puppies.

IV. Barlow’s English bulldog/mastiff heritage gave him a permanent scowl so rich with sweetness that he soothed souls who met him on his own burly, camouflage-coated terms, a contradiction of pure innocence and self-knowledge rolled into one. He had a cancer in his chest, grown bigger and faster after the recent death of his kin, his husky brother of over a decade, the pair a trademark of their human family, named by them with macabre delight, and bonded with them from beyond.

V. Revelations of Light

First comes the dragonfly, spotted from the patio door within seconds of stepping inside after three hours under the sun — the time it takes to dig a hole, plant a yellow rose bush for the family dogs we’d lost, trim old growth, weed, watch a honking flock of Canada geese fly north, move rocks, weed some more, break the arm of a succulent, promising to replant it in a better place and burying its broken stalk in the big pot by the standing circle where I was visualizing an altar made from blocks and the broken halves of the marble top of a long-gone antique dresser, design the imagined altar, add ephemera, track Mocha and Happy as they migrate from grassy sun here to grassy sun there, sweep up the weed piles, and exhale at the effort.

A dove lights on the altar as the dragonfly darts over the fence, and I know to grab my pen. This is the way today, peace and transformation. The gifts of grief come in its paradoxes, its waves, its blank lack of answers. What is there to be understood except that the hurt pummels your heart into the striking confession that this, too, is how it feels to be human.

The April breeze, as kind as ever, whispers through tender leaves, fresh with promise, and sends them to dancing. Today I choose spring. Barlow says it’s the only option.

Upon reading the Daily Meditation from the Center for Action and Contemplation today, I link it here as a resource for further reflection, as it provides another layer of inquiry for my soul.

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