An inquiry into ontology or just a letter to my dog on the anniversary of her passing.
“A peace above all earthly dignities,
a still and quiet conscience”
(August 1990 – August 12, 2005)
at the Rainbow Bridge
I miss you, old friend. It’s one of those summer nights, like those last few nights of your short and beautiful life. Do you remember the way it would get warmer in the late evening, before bedtime, after the breeze from the ocean died down? You’d expect the evening to cool, but it doesn’t seem to. It’s the kind of night that makes a little dog itchy. You had some itchy summers in this dank valley with its blanket of sour sea air, didn’t you? I’m sorry for that. The pills weren’t really so much help.
Happy is happy with us here, but you know that ’cause she’s not there. She’s doing fine. You loved her very much, so you’d want to know. She takes a lot of medicine, but she’s OK. The Santa Barbara itch is bad this year. We’ve kept her free of fleas, but there is that something in the air again, that bothers all the dogs. She’s getting lots of baths, since she can’t take the pills.
I was talking to a friend of mine the other day, about the meaning of life. I told him I didn’t think the question “What is the meaning of life?” makes sense. Because meaning and life are two different kinds of things. Like the sound of blue. Life just is – it’s an abstraction with a different answer for every life that’s ever lived, and there’s no way to know what it meant until you get to the end and look back.
A better question is to ask “What does a life mean?” And even then, the answer has to be, “it depends.” Which life? And what do you mean by mean? I guess in this context – meaning life – we’re asking to know its importance, it’s value.
So life doesn’t mean anything until it’s lived, just as music doesn’t mean anything until it’s played, like a toy under the sofa isn’t the same as playing with it. And a leash on the peg in the hall by the door isn’t the same as a walk in the sun. Living is as living does, am I right?
Since this is a letter to you — meant to be mailed by some far fetched intentions of love through the veil into Heaven — maybe you’re expecting me to try to assess the value of your life. No, little friend. I can only tell you that my heart has not been unbroken since the moment when I touched your face as the doctor took your life. I have not turned my mind from that time and place, not for three years. And I guess I never will. Maybe I’m getting used to it, but I gave up hope of getting over it. You understand. At the same time, I have so many happy memories. I thank God for the brief, amazing gift of you.
No, if I have a life to sum the meanings of, it’s mine. I admit I’m one of those guys who keeps assuming the need before the necessary end. Then I can only hope that as you lie with the others in the shade of the trees across the creek, you see me walking through this other world of turning time and think my living has improved. Maybe you wish I had been like this — a little more well in my body, in the world where bodies matter — back then, when you were here to walk with me. I know you understand.
I miss you, little friend. I wish we could start over. And if there’s any consolation, maybe it’s that time is always speeding up. The world is spinning in greased grooves, faster and faster, and every precious dizzy turn brings us closer to the day. Which is maybe tonight or maybe forty years, which is the same difference.
Now it’s midnight, and starting to cool off again. I should go to bed and say my prayers and get a good night’s sleep, because tomorrow is another day. Or not, because nobody has promised tomorrow to me. But if it comes, and if the pale indifferent sun glows scattered through the morning’s vapor on the sea, thank God. I can go visit Happy and take her for a bath and a walk, and try to be a better friend to her than I was to you, and a better man walking on the good earth, trying not to stoop from his petty and fleeting concerns. And that, my fuzzy little well-remembered pal, is the meaning of a life.
My song begins at sundown
when the twilight wind comes up.
A cold wind, brushing
my hair and my tail.
Butterfly light is shining.
Butterflies lift me at nightfall,
and nothing hurts me now.
Look, the light is brighter than …
See the little dogs come running!
See the bigger dogs come running!
See the kitties and dogs come together,
and all the animals singing.
based on a Pima Indian song
* * *
There are love dogs
no one knows the names of.
Give your life
to be one of them.