Every day, I sit here on the deck and look across the purple lobelia and pink geraniums in the flower boxes, over the infinite shades of green that sweep down the hillside to the sun-sparkled lake. I watch the sun rise, listen to the birds greet the day, whisper hello to the hummingbirds who keep checking to see if my red hat has turned into a flower, wave to the loons, and laugh at the ravens trying to solve the problem of thin fruit tree branches that can’t hold their weight.
I sit here with sage carrying my prayers into the blue; with my heart nearly bursting with gratitude and awe, and I start this letter to you.
And every single day, my thoughts turn to death. I try to write what I’m wondering about and then I watch as my words wander away from my heart into the safety of my intellect. I have swaths of paper filled with writing that all fizzles out in convoluted attempts to think my way through the greatest mystery of being human.
So. Not today.
Today I will sit with my heavy heart. I will think about the friends who are dealing with illness and death. This summer, it seems that so many people in my life are in treatment or struggling with illness, others have lost loved ones. A couple of friends are focussing on being well enough to enjoy these halcyon days of what will likely be their last summer.
In my own home, our 14-year-old dog has been getting less mobile every day as his arthritic hind legs fail him more and more frequently. We have been talking about Jed “going to college” for a while now, trying to prepare ourselves and each other for what we know will be a difficult loss.
Yesterday morning, for the first time, he was too stiff and sore to walk the 200 metres to the lake for his swim, so we drove him. My partner and I both cried as we talked about the “college plans”. We swam with Jed and watched as he limbered up and his tail began to wag. The sun sparkled off the water, the loons conducted their morning concert, and my two best friends swam with me in my favourite spot on this whole beautiful planet. My tears kept coming and I let them – no better place for a mermaid to have a cry. This lake has enfolded many of my tears over the years.
Jed and I stood on shore at one point while my partner swam. A loon swam toward her and so she lifted her head, treading water and watching quietly. The loon swam right up to her, stopped a few metres away and sang directly at her. Then the loon turned and swam away. Goosebumps rose all over me.
“What did she say?” I asked my partner through my tears.
“She said, ‘It’s just the way of things,’” my partner replied without hesitation.
Later, after a few hours of work, with Jed asleep in his comfy bed in the cool house, my partner and I snuck back down to the lake. We paddled our kayaks out to the island, away from the beach noise. We left the boats pulled up on the rocks and dove into the clear, cool water. We swam around the island and returned to the wonderful sensation of sun-warmed cotton over lake-cooled skin. We sat in the sunshine and talked about the catharsis of the morning’s encounter with the loon. Neither of us knows what we are to do about Jed’s weakening state, but we agree that we can proceed in peace now, rather than angst.
I see peace in my friends who are struggling with their health, even those who are facing the possibility of death. I see grace and love and maybe even an embracing of the mystery.
I am in a state of wonder as I move through this bright, warm summer of endings. I am alert and awake, enjoying each day of my abundant life with a fierce determination to feel every precious moment with all of my senses and with all of my heart.