Yesterday’s storm was much less bad- tempered than the previous one.
Not so much of the howling and thrashing.
Less wet. Lightning stayed “in the wings”, flashing somewhere behind the hills, prompting grumbles but none the earth- shattering crashes which sent cats fleeing.
This was a storm with after effects.
Suddenly I glanced out:
Our side of the valley already shrouded for the coming night, the hill opposite was catching the rays of the descending sun.
Whenever I see this, I gasp.
Then I observe, entranced, listening to the excited post-storm chattering of birds and the steady patter of drops in the trees and bushes, a settling of Nature.
Any number of videos exist of such moments, but they cannot capture the scent or the sense of the occasion.
Newly-cooled air caressing the skin.
The relaxing of tension.
Acknowledging the Universe.
It is in such moments that I laugh at the insignificance of man made suffering.
When I was young and full of stress, I used to say to myself that a hundred years hence, it would make no difference that I had been so anxious and distraught.
Then went right back to fretting.
For however long we are on the planet, we must support ourselves and co-exist with others. Our species has made life so dreadfully complicated.
Detachment is not so easy.
It has taken me a very long time to come close, but I shall never detach completely while I still breathe.
After returning to my desk for half an hour, I looked up and saw that the world had turned red.
Sun was determined to makes its last moments count.
Not long after, I retired to read, but found myself distracted by intrusive thoughts that my mind refused to shut out.
Brain is very stubborn.
“Alright then. What’s the matter?”
As much as I try to let them go, some deeply embedded emotions refuse to detach.
One emotion really, with many components.
The day of Willow’s extended walk, I fell to bits. Other cats have gone walk-a-bout at times causing high anxiety, but not the state of meltdown I experienced on Willow’s behalf.
Like relationships between humans, connections with certain animals are just stronger. Willow has had a lock on my heart since the day she crawled into my lap purring.
By the time Willow decided to come home for supper the other day, the restraints I’d put on my deepest emotions had burst.
Out it all came, all the old torment of a long ago cat that never returned.
But Willow was back after not much more than an hour. Surely I could bundle up all that old stuff again?
Something else had sneaked out:
Aunty Kay was my favourite person. When the last of her Cocker spaniels died, she was heart broken. There had always been a dog in her life but in her late 70’s felt she thought she could not have another.
She was so sad. I located an older Cocker spaniel that needed a home and arranged the adoption.
My aunt was healthy. I was convinced she and little Jazz would have happy years together. Denial.
It all went horribly wrong.
Kay’s husband Ray, who had always been difficult developed dementia and by the time he was admitted to a nursing home with other health issues, Kay was a nervous wreck.
Sadly, poor Jazz was also affected. What had I done to that poor dog? It got worse.
Instead of feeling liberated, Kay could not adjust to being alone. When Ray died, in March ’99, she began to fret about attending the funeral which had to wait until the Spring thaw.
In the event only days before, Kay had a stroke and was admitted to the nursing home where Ray had been.
A good friend was caring for Jazz.
Flying up from New York, I found that my aunt could not talk and had lost the use of her right side.
While I went to the funeral, Jazz was visiting at the nursing home. A child teased him and got bitten. Jazz was banned.
Telling Kay this was the most awful thing I have ever had to do.
If I had been living nearby I could have picked Kay up and taken her to see Jazz. I could have had her stay with me. But I lived 500 miles away.
Additionally, I had commitments to my 87-year old father. I wanted to postpone them, but I got it into my head that if Dad died I would never forgive myself for disappointing him. The man who had never done anything but disappoint me.
Looking back I have always asked myself what was wrong with me? I suppose I thought Kay would recover. Maybe she would have if her heart had not been broken.
She never saw Jazz again and it was the last time I saw Kay.
When I told Kay about Jazz being banned, she screamed incoherently and she looked at me with so much anger and hurt. She could not speak, but I knew what she was feeling. I sat watching her rage and pain and tears began to run down my face. When she saw them, the anger seemed to leave and she let me cuddle her for a long time.
Kay knew I had been planning to take my father on holiday. When I went to see her before flying back to New York, I explained that I must keep my promise to him but that I would be back. Kay was the one who had cared for me and loved me from the age of 16, but it was my father I was going to attend to. Did she feel betrayed? Was that a part of her heart break?
As I left, I looked back at Kay. Because of the paralysis, she couldn’t really smile but I know she was trying. I only remember the awful sadness in her beautiful blue eyes.
Before going off to take my father on holiday as it turned out, I had just enough time to fly back up to Maine for Kay’s funeral and to sort out what was left of her belongings. I was totally numb.
My father didn’t even express sympathy that Kay had died. A month after I had pushed her around the nursing home grounds in a wheelchair, I was pushing him around in one. My feelings were inexpressible.
Strangely, between Ray’s funeral and Kay’s, my sister-in-law died suddenly. My brother and I lived on different continents all our lives which made it impossible to be close, but it was important for me to be there for him and his children. Inexplicably, it was at that funeral that I had the hardest time controlling my emotions. Perhaps it was that I felt such an outsider. I remember feeling very alone but I’ve never really worked it out.
It’s funny how our minds shift things about so that nothing one says or does ever seems to be as straightforward as it ought to be.
When Willow was “missing” I felt as Kay must have when I told her about Jazz.
Irrationally perhaps, I feel I must be punished the same way for failing so completely the person I most loved and for what I caused to happen to that sweet dog.
I dread it.
Here Willow sits beside a photograph of “M”. He was the boss of the Foster Suite and he went missing once too.
He didn’t want to be adopted, living out his days with us in Washington.