A sturdy little coyote pup is beginning his life this summer, feeling quite at home at the edge of the orchard, sunning himself on the hillside, scampering out of sight with frisky effortless grace if we appear. He…or perhaps it’s a she…has become a source of delight to us. It has something to do with the way life goes on, resilient and indifferent. (I’ll try to get a better photo, but in the meantime, the one at left will have to suffice.) Ongoingness.
It’s a perspective I’ve been needing, for I am still obsessed with endings. Last night I had a vivid dream in which I was tending to my mother, who seemed so tiny and frail. I wanted to take her someplace fancy and special, and she was very excited. But her hearing aid was gone, and her favorite chair had been removed from her room, and her wheelchair and walker were missing too, and the staff at the assisted living residence were so indifferent, I started shouting at them in anger and tears. But what I mostly remember is brushing her silky white hair, helping her out of her bed, and her joy at seeing me. I guess I will be dreaming this kind of dream for the rest of my life.
Yes, I realize it’s depressing and dissonant, and no one wants to hear about it anymore. But maybe it’s normal to feel this way, only six months after her dying, and after sixteen years of trying by myself to make things better for her but maybe not doing it well. And I don’t know if what torments me most is the bleakness of her final year, the sadness of her life overall, or the hard realities of the human condition that have been so vividly and indisputably revealed to me by all that has transpired. My heart is heavy with loss: accumulated, aggravated, and anticipated loss. So we all know where this is headed. The question is what do we do with this knowing? What do we do with the time that remains?
I have found it necessary to cultivate a selective amnesia, learning how to brake when my mind begins to race along the shadowy corridors that lead to the abyss, learning to brake, turn, and look elsewhere. Which brings me back to the wonderful distraction of that baby coyote, as real as rock, as alive as morning, and as full of truth as my own sorry brooding.
My friend Dan Gerber sent this beautiful poem Psalm:
All my dead are with me.
All my dead are at ease,
free of time and what never may be.
All my dead are at peace with each other.
They will never change their minds.
They forgive me whatever I feel
needs forgiveness, and blame
what I think needs blame.
They are sunlight come to comfort me.
They lead me on the trail of my life’s work.
In my hand I see my father’s hand,
holding this pen.
My mother’s eyes, finally free of longing,
gaze at me from the mirror.
When I stand they look up
to see where I’m going.
They can’t see far through the tall grass,
but they see the tall grass,
and they smile to see it moving behind me.