Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Dowsing For Water

Rainstorms in the desert- I've seen two. One with lightning striking the tall cactus trees; the other with fog wrapping its thick arms around the prickly contours of the land. The sand turns a reddish brown as it washes along the desert floor. Cactuses gleam green and drip with the promise of life. The air is filled with a fragrance of earth and dust and all that we came from. Somewhere a pocket mouse lifts its mouth to the sky for a long deserving drink, and I try to appreciate whatever invisible dowsing rod it is that's led me twice to water in the deep, dry deserts of Arizona.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


A hummingbird paused mid-flight inches from my partner's face and hovered there looking directly into her eyes. Right in front of me, two deer stepped from the woods onto a usually busy road. They stopped at the center line. Mo was in the car with me and we stopped too. No one else was around. The deer and I looked at each other, and I understood that they knew Mo was with me. Slowly, they walked to the side and watched us pass, never leaving the road even as we neared them. At the same time, two rainbows hung over Portland, and thousands of miles away in a little patch of grass in New York, my mom found a four leaf clover. The natural world was calling Mo home, and she was ready. She'd already told me so, but I was still looking for confirmation. Letting go of fourteen years is hard.

I was by her side the afternoon she died. I had been with her all weekend. It was my privilege, those last three days, to cook for her, hug her, and make sure her every need and want was met. Of course, Mo lived her life making sure her every need and want was met, but those last days with her were different. They touched the very edges of perfection. Sweet and sorrowful, each moment was filled with wonder the way they sometimes are when gotten exactly right.

On her last morning, she followed me around, as she always did, limping and wagging her tail. She was sweet and loving, as she always was, and I knew this was right. She deserved to die just as she lived - gently, happily, filled with trust, treats, and goodness. You see, Mo was good. Perhaps not in a "sit, come, stay" sort of way, but her joie de vivre, her forgiving and devoted soul, and her mischievous and kindly spirit were the sort of goodness we strive for in ourselves, the sort of goodness we hope someone remembers us by on some distant day. 

We held her close and told her all of her best stories, including the time she took a bite of the homeless man's burrito as he held it near his knee, and how so long ago, on our first day together, I took her to the river. She was around three and busting with excitement and energy, so I threw a stick into the water. She immediately swam out for it, but kept going until she got to the other side. As she bounced up and down the far side of the Clackamas River without a care in the world, I wondered how I would explain this to the rescue people. I soon learned Mo didn't care about explanations. She lived in the moment, always going for what made her happy. Although exasperating at times, she always gave us a good laugh. Still does.

Her last breath neared. Thank you, Mo, thank you so much, I said, and I hugged her as she returned to that place where all that is good must eventually go.

Mo was, and will always be, my most funny, loyal, optimistic, demanding, and irreplaceable friend. My souldog. Sometime on her last day, it occurred to me that she was taking care of me too, the way she always had. I bent down, put my arms around her, and asked her for one more thing - to please help me find someone just like her who needed a home.

A month later, she sent Emmy, a sweet-natured beagle who was surrendered by her family. She sat in rescue for almost six months waiting for someone to take her home. Mo couldn't have found us a better dog, even the cat agrees. Someone said recently that it seems like Emmy has always been with us. It's not that exactly. It's more that she is the perfect continuation of an enduring love that began more than 14 years ago when I first saw Mo busting at the seams of her one size too small animal rescue vest, confident that life would go her way.