"It's as if a great bird lives inside the stone of our days and since no sculptor can free it, it has to wait for the elements to wear us down, till it is free to fly." Mark Nepo

Monday, January 2, 2012

A New Year's Gift



As I stood on the patio getting ready to take Toby for his first walk of the new year, the branches of the large fir in the back yard began waving a wild invitation. The deodar cedar next to the fir picked up the motion and passed it along to the pine at the corner of the yard. By the time we were walking toward the road, the branches of every tree within sight danced a tarantella, and the air was so full of invisible movement I felt pulled, pushed and lifted all at the same time.

The gusts ebbed and flowed like an airborne tide. Each new flurry washed over me in cleansing waves.

Christmas was one of the best ever. Seated in my living room surrounded by abundance in the form of heart-felt gifts, the company of family, and so much love, I experienced a complete sense of enough. Not the enough of sufficient but wishing for more. Or the enough that is so much more than enough the fear of losing it makes you miss the moment. This enough was warm, clear and easy.

It was also tinged with sadness. A sadness that curled around my heart like tule fog, yet did not diminish the joy of the day. My awareness of that, my acceptance of and surrender to that, is the biggest gift last year brought to my life. Sadness and joy, two sides of the same quilt.

While we opened gifts and laughed and cried together, my brothers and SIL and husband and I, Cooper lay at my feet clearly in her last days. At almost twenty this magnificent cat had been stalking birds just three weeks prior. Her decline, while not unexpected, occurred with a speed that was both merciful and terrible. With our help, she died on Tuesday.

Moments after I felt Cooper's heart stop under my hand, the vet, as she used her stethoscope to make sure, said the most amazing thing when I asked why she was checking. "The heart operates separately from the brain. It can even work outside the body."

While she was speaking physiologically, I heard the obvious metaphor. The heart will have its way no matter what. We love, even knowing there is no way to love deeply without pain. There is no love without loss. And the more the heart feels one, the more it will feel the other.

Walking in the wild wind with my spirited dog, I blessed the memories of those I enter this new year without: my daughter, a nephew, my mom, one beautiful cat. I celebrated my heart and its steadfast refusal to choose anything less than love. I breathed in new air, breathed out old pain, and moved forward with eyes and heart wide open.


35 comments:

Stacy Crawford said...

Nicely stated Deb. You have learned so much and taught me right along with you. Hears to a great New Year for you!

BECKY said...

Once again, your writing just takes my breath away, Deb.....
Hugs to you this new year!

Rita said...

What a beautiful, touching post! :)

Wanda said...

So sad...so sorry for your loss. Your Cooper was beautiful! Hugs.

Retired English Teacher said...

Full of love. Hauntingly beautiful metaphor. Terribly sad. I can't even write my response in sentences.

The photo is wonderful.

Barb said...

Your post gave me chills, Deb! The heart does operate separately - you've given us a gift with this reminder. So sorry about Cooper who lived a long and distinguished life.

Katie Gates said...

You get me every time, Deb. I am sorry for your losses, but so happy that you share your heart with all of us. Happy New Year!

yaya said...

Thank you for sharing such beautiful thoughts with us. I'm glad you had a nice Christmas even though it was coupled with the loss of your pet. I hope 2012 is a good year for you and your family. I love your writing and I'm looking forward to reading your blog this year.

Aisling said...

I read so much strength and peace in your words, Deb. Thank you for sharing those gifts.

patricia said...

"The heart operates separately from the brain. It can even work outside the body."

The heart will have its way no matter what. We love, even knowing there is no way to love deeply without pain.

Wow. Now if that is not from the mouth of God I don't know what is. I could write a whole book on it, I think.

Thank you for being so wise and so insightful and just being you!

Julia said...

Wow! That was worth the wait. Absolutely beautiful. Sorry about Cooper but what a great life and death he had. Being old, sick and tired and held by someone who you love and who loves you back. Have a wonderful New Year.

Anonymous said...

Your words are as beautiful as you. Peace and love to you as you grieve your beloved.

xoxo,
M in Vancouver

Desiree said...

You are amazing, Deb. You always have the perfect words to describe every nuance of emotion. I am sad to hear that Cooper is no longer part of your day to day life, but the precious memories will live on for always. I sense such a deep peace in this post, yet at the same time an eagerness to embrace life completely.

Retired Knitter said...

I have walked this path with so many of my wonderful feline family and it always breaks your heart, even when the life has been full and happy. Their lives are so short compared to ours.

It helps to remind me that we all take that last trip out of life. And I hope that when my time comes, I can leave this world with as much grace and acceptance as they show in their passing.

Wanda..... said...

May your Christmas experience of a 'complete sense of enough' carry through the new year, Deb. The acceptance of life's losses is hard to endure, but our everyday moments can be enjoyed.

Wishing You Contentment and Good Health in 2012!

DJan said...

I am so sorry for your loss. It's always hard to lose a loved one, but especially during the holidays. I'm glad to see you are writing these thoughts, not just for yourself, but for me, too. Blessings to you, Deb.

Mark Lyons said...

This was beautiful...a little too touching since I'm wiping the tears away as I type. I'm glad I was there with you and Cooper for Christmas. One thing I know for certain...Cooper knew she was loved, and so are you.

I love you
Mark

Richard said...

Nice post. Happy New Year.

Linda Myers said...

It's always good to read your posts. They're personal, but universal too, I think. It affirms to me that we're all in this together.

kario said...

Oh. I am so sorry about Cooper. We lost a beloved pet this holiday season, too, and it is so difficult to let them go.

I am thrilled that hosting Christmas proved to be a happy decision. I am in awe of the reconnection you have with your siblings and love to hear stories of you all gathering together.

Love.

Terri Tiffany said...

You had your cat so long! I know the pain of losing a pet and I'm so sorry for you.:(( I pray this year is so fullfilling for you and I look forward to being part of it!

barbfroman said...

Your writing is a gift from the heart. Thank you.

barbfroman said...

Your writing is a gift from the heart. Thank you.

#1Nana said...

So sorry for your loss. I hope that the sense of peace with which you started the year will stay with you throughout 2012.

Amber said...

Aww, your kitty was like my old kitty, Mags! maybe they are hanging out now, waiting on us, shooting the shit. ;)

All jokes aside, it makes me smile that you had peace this year, my friend. I hope the whole year is like that, for you...

oxox :)

Charlene: the Polarblogger said...

That point about "heart and brain" also arrested my attention. I like the metaphor especially as you applied it to your life.

KleinsteMotte said...

The heart is so special and love connected to it makes such a deep bond. Yes the deeper the love the more painful the loss. Cooper will be missed but fondly remembered. I love the way you allow the wind to clear your head.
How is the healing of your psoriasis doing? Our Buddy is currently in a remission and that is a relief for us all. He has it on 80% of his body and his joints ache at times. Right now the skin is shedding very little and the pain has dulled.

Ann Best said...

So beautifully expressed, Deb, the sadness we feel when those we love "pass on."

I look forward to keeping in touch with you in the coming New Year.
Ann Best, Author of In the Mirror & Other Memoirs

Dee Ready said...

Dear Deb,
This lyrical posting touched me deeply and brought to my heart the memory of all those who have blessed my life--those who raised me, those who taught me, those who befriended me.

The photograph of Cooper is of a cat who has fought the good fight and is ready for rest. It reminded me of Dulcy and the words she gave to me--from her heart--two days after she died: "At the end, all that matters is love. My love for my human and hers for me. I have planted the memories of our life together in her heart. She will find them there when I am gone and they will comfort you."

May your memories of all those you have loved so openly and freely comfort you, Deb.

Peace.

Pam said...

Well stated Deb, and can I say well managed with such the emotional issues you face. We need so much strength to deal with loss.
I look for inspiration to others when I wobble in this area,times when I think "how do others manage this".
Thank you for being one of those inspiring people that show that indeed "the heart will have its way no matter what" and how you deal with things from that perspective.
We all learn as we go along, but some are great teachers by being able to express things so beautifully. I am so appreciative of your gift.

kathrynmagendie said...

Oh Deb *hugging you* -- this brought tears to my eyes. Our friends, those who want only our loyalty and love, they are to be cherished.

I love the metaphor, and the science, behind the heart.

Nezzy said...

What a gift of love I felt in this post.

Happy and sad...two side of the quilt, you are also a gifted writer my friend.

Sounds like you had a beautiful Christmas laced with the loss of loved ones. For that I'm sorry.

God bless ya and have yourself an awesome week!!! :o)

deborahjbarker said...

Beautifully told as ever Deb. Thank you for sharing - especially the words about the heart - how true they are.

Midlife Jobhunter said...

Peace for a much calmer year. I understand the heart beating long past the last breath.

Kathryn Grace said...

I am sorry for your loss. I know well what it is to lose a beloved companion and I pray for your continued ease with this loss.

For reasons far too complicated to go into here, I thank you for this: "I celebrated my heart and its steadfast refusal to choose anything less than love."

Would we all could do the same. What a world this would be.