August 10, 2013

North Cairn: No keeping dog's death at a distance

(Continued from page 1)

She came out from the reception desk bag in hand, hugged me, handed me the heavy package and said simply, "Kodi."

We stayed suspended there for a split second, till both of us could see in the other's eyes tears forming like the first signs of a storm cloud on the far horizon. Then we turned away and began chattering about tangential things.

Finally, in the middle of our meandering conversation, she looked up from her paperwork and gazed at me intently, and said, "She was a very special dog, very special."

This is how my days have gone for almost a month, with me moth-like, fluttering around the flame of the low burn of my grief. I draw close to it and flit away, keeping myself busy, going for a short walk, doing what the dog would have done: taking a nap.

I have not opened the pencil box. There will be time and ritual enough for that, and I am not steeled yet against the sight and texture of dust-to-dust mortality.

Although it shouldn't -- since I know how inseparable my dog and I were -- it has surprised me to find the specter of her everywhere, in bogs, on beaches, along walking paths, overlooking Nantucket Sound. I am awed by how vivid the recollection of ordinary experience can be, and for how long.

It comforts me, this territory of the mind and heart that is partly characterized by a quality of persistence over time, if not permanence. I already knew that, with will and devotion, I could fan the ember of memory for a long time. But this internal landscape is different, and in a certain way, better, because it is animal memory, blood memory, the imprinting of sight, smell, sound and touch -- the habit of air at the shore, the humidity, the sound of waves under certain conditions of wind, the clang of rigging against masts boat slips, the feel of sand on paws and bare feet.

Now that the dog has been taken back into the elements of earth that she spent a lifetime rolling in and racing through, now that she prances in the ground of being, I am moved to find that dogs, like others of our own species, are place and landscape and seashore -- just as we are and all the creatures we discover there.

We all get back home, drifting from the near shore to the far horizon we can barely envision.

Thank God for the mooring of memory, the vessel of the senses, how we stay afloat after the final hours -- and are anchored by love.

North Cairn can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

ncairn@pressherald.com

 

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