And now we return to the world of memoir. The book is continuing to inspire me, even through the editing process, which sometimes feels tedious. As I work toward completion, next week, June 24th, will be 8 years since Matthew’s loss … the subject of my memoir, as many of you already know. I didn’t begin the book until a year had passed, however. The idea hadn’t occurred to me for one thing, but secondly, I was unable to write much of anything the first year after his death. Maybe a few poems, but nothing of length. Concentration was difficult, to say the least. Feeling like I was in a dense fog that wouldn’t lift, I simply “got through” the first year by curtailing expectations — by turning within.
But the 24th of June has even more meaning this year, because it also will be 3 weeks since we lost our beloved schnauzer, Noah. At 13.5 years, our spirited, sweet guy seemed to know the end was near. For months before, he’d stared at me with wistful eyes, sometimes downright sad in expression. Maybe Noah was trying to say good-bye in his own way, or telling us to make peace with his absence before he departed. Maybe it was nothing, at all. But his deep contentment also seemed to peak this year. He would sit or rest so quietly, so completely. I tried to prepare myself for death–for another ending–but it’s mostly impossible, isn’t it?
I took these pictures not days before Noah’s struggle (health issues) ended. He loved being outside in the grass, enjoying warm, sunny days. Watching squirrels, and our neighbors. Always alert to the next “treat” opportunity.
But when the lovely sunflowers (photo above) arrived from a thoughtful friend (TY, Kathy), I marveled at her inspiring collaboration with Noah. The card said he’d whispered the idea to her, and she’d simply placed the order. Well done, Noah and Kathy. Well done. There truly is something about the bright, convincing sunflower that invites us to remember sunnier days, isn’t there?
This lighthearted story of connection and kindness may seem unlikely in a world that often forgets about the mysteries of the universe — how we are all connected one way or another. But I’m convinced there is another (even more viable) level of knowing available to us when we turn within: court silence, listen closely with heart and mind and soul.
There is a voice that doesn’t use words. Listen. ~ Rumi
Let us be silent, that we may hear the whispers of the gods. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Also taken just days before Noah’s loss on June 3rd, this is how he liked to spend the day … resting in my office, quietly encouraging me to keep writing, keep editing. What a warm, loving presence — what an incredible inspiration. To say I miss him misses the mark entirely. I keep waiting for him to venture in, look at me with his “treat” eyes, and then happily wander elsewhere, or get in his bed for a snooze. Luckily, he is also mentioned several times in my memoir, so I’ve been able to focus deeply on his comforting role in my life when Matt died. Noah was always there. A reason to get up, go for a walk, or just sit in the backyard and watch him enjoy nature and life. I couldn’t have done it without him, seriously. No joke.
His joyful spirit was a beacon of light in the heavy fog of grief.
Next week I’ll be honoring Matt and Noah. Haven’t decided how exactly, because I don’t believe in time. But inspiration will come, I’m sure. In the meantime, I wanted to share a poem I wrote some time ago that seems to nearly predict this moment.
WITHOUT A CARE
Snow arrived early this year
a fresh autumn blanket that
mocked summer’s bliss and
pointed to a winter without
hesitation. I found his leash;
we took a walk. Greeting the
day with Noah, he would know
the season, one of life or one
of loss, but he just sniffed the
air, lifting his bearded schnauzer
face skyward and donning the
silence of morning like a robe.
— da hickman
We have another schnauzer, Orion. About 3.5 yrs old, they were a beautiful pair. With a love-hate relationship it seemed, by and large, they also had a good bit of fun together. I will miss their antics for a long time to come.
If you’re writing a memoir (or anything for that matter), I hope you have a pet or two to keep you company for the journey. It can be a long one, indeed: arduous, thankless, frustrating, and tiring. Thank you, NOAH, for being here … I still feel your presence, your spirit, more than can be properly expressed right now. But, with luck, the next book will be The Zen of Noah. (If you missed that particular post back in 2010, click here.)
We really can learn so much from the light in our pets’ eyes. From their quiet awareness of their surroundings, and their unconditional love. Like good friends who surprise us with their thoughtfulness, Noah, without a word, reminded me of the glorious essence of life itself.
As a last picture taken, here’s to you, sweet Noah. Your spirited ways were a wonderful and unforgettable blessing.
“Just watching an animal closely can take you out of your mind and bring
you into the present moment, which is where the animal lives all the time — surrendered to life.”
― Eckhart Tolle, Guardians of Being
When loss arrives, we must remember we aren’t made of steel. We are human beings; the pain is real. Make it meaningful. Don’t rush through these times of transition, as they are learning opportunities in disguise. A time to dig deeper into the mysteries of existence. Each ending has a special message for us: listen. Really listen. Stay open despite the deep sting of loss. There is so much more to life than surface realities permit us to see, or know. ~ dh
–> Thank you again Richard Gilbert for linking to my prior posts on memoir with your insightful blog post
about the pros and cons of teaching a genre that sometimes generates a few sparks in literary circles. (Read here.)
–> What have you learned during periods of sorrow, loss, and challenge? It was more than an ending, wasn’t it?
It is the writer’s privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart.
― William Faulkner
- Thanks so much for being here. We’ll continue to focus on memoir — the genre, the path, the point of it all — in the weeks to come.
- See you again, July 10th. And remember: When we value the journey itself, new realities are revealed amidst the old.
- Always Returning: The Wisdom of Place was released October, 2014. Generous book reviews on amazon. Thanks so much everyone!