Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Endings and Epochs

Eight week old Hollow Hills female from Aiobheann vom hohlen Huegel X Orus d'Ulmental

Here I go posting a photo of a puppy from a litter I haven't even introduced to my readers. Purple Girl's saga was left hanging, and though some of you have written to ask how things turned out, rather than concluding her story here I've gone and tossed up another adorable face, another puppy representing another litter, another generation, another beginning. Was there any conclusion to the Purple Girl saga? No, her story has really just begun. Her "adventure" didn't define her, and certainly won't limit her, although it absolutely did impact her. Her first couple of chapters were set here at Hollow Hills, but it won't be for me to write her story from now on; she's in Nebraska with her new owner, a veterinarian who has named her Jemma and has introduced her to agility. She's a survivor, and her capacity for meeting the experiences she'll have in life will be imbued with strengths she acquired from having to contend with difficulties early-on.

So, the "J" litter set off for their new homes in December (other than the two I kept for myself), the "K" litter arrived auspiciously on 12/12/12 and has taken up residence in my kitchen, harassing (and being harassed by) the rat terrier puppy "Bling." There's little fanfare at each transition, and yet it feels momentous each time it occurs. It seems about when I begin to know one group of pups they're replaced by another. After thirty years, one would think I'd blithely watch the comings and goings, inured to the necessity of parting with most of them. But no, it has become more, not less, difficult to let them go. As each release date approaches, waves of angst tie my guts up in knots as I imagine a future bereft of this particular guileless face, that inviting little play bow, his calm assurance, her grinning impishness. I embrace them as they come into my world, but they are not mine, not really. Law sees them as mine and yes, I defend that right of law, the legalities of ownership. But I know better- we are Pack; I oversee their joining of other Packs, resulting in the restructuring of my own as some stay, some go.

These exchanges will enrich other lives, to be sure...and while I can empathize with the new owners' joy, their subjective experience doesn't lessen my own sense of loss. In the stage play that is their world a new and exciting life just entered, stage right...in mine, a beloved character just exited, stage left.

So the edges blur. My ending, your beginning. Each new Now is a direct offspring of Then. No endings. No beginnings. Now is all there is...it's the descendant of What Was, the ancestor of What Will Be. Each inextricably bound up in the Other. But if that's the case, where is the chance to begin anew?

With each new breath. Out. In. Let go. Embrace.

How does one embrace something that is impermanent? Shouldn't I harden my heart, shrink from the emotional pain that I know all-too-well is coming? Wouldn't that be the "smart" thing to do? Isn't it foolish, childish, to deliberately set myself squarely in the path of foreseeable (avoidable) anguish?

One of the most common stories people tell me is their version of desire to avoid the experience of loss; that when they lost their last dog, they told themselves they would never have another dog because they don't ever want to hurt the way they hurt when their dog died. That they're talking to me reveals they've worked out the flip side of that coin...not having had the dog, they'd have never known the love that opened their hearts enough to be vulnerable to such pain.

Lock up their heart, let that space grow withered and cold, or open it to another dog? Those who tell me their stories have opted to love again.

Today a woman came to pick up a rat terrier puppy. Gradually, tentatively, she revealed that three years ago yesterday her partner died unexpectedly. The pain of that loss was engraved on her face, not fresh and searing but steady and aching, a constant reminder of the impermanence of all things. And here she was, wrapping her arms around a two-pound pup, literally embracing the very thing that will one day break her heart again.

Dust in the Wind. A favorite (pop) song of mine in my earlier years, and not just because I'm a Kansas girl (it's written by Kansas). Decades before I identified with Buddhism, the wisdom of those lyrics resonated with me.

We must figure out how to live while we're alive.

My kids...once perfection and potential in a swaddling cloth, I blinked and they're adults whose dynamic energy flows in (exquisite joy) and out (barrenness) of my world. My dogs - Ginger, Gwydion, Star, Stano, Ginny, Sierra, Celti, and soon Brianne....once so vibrantly alive, and now? I don't pretend to know. But their past presence in my life benefits those whose lives entwine with mine now.

If the "K's" have perhaps been kept a little too confined, had too little exposure to the great outdoors and all things "horsey", they can blame Purple Girl (Jemma) for my over-protectiveness. I'll undoubtedly relax my grip as time goes by, but the trauma of Jemma's odyssey was not hers alone...the impact it had on my perception of life will remain, reflected in an extra helping of caution and perhaps not-so-healthy hypervigilance. This litter is raised according to the lessons I've learned with every litter that has ever come before. Every previous experience informs every new one. Some say we must leave our past in the past, but I contend we cannot, and indeed should not. We are the Past. We are the Future. We are What Is. Every single Thing, living or inanimate, exists because of the causes and conditions that resulted in the exact circumstances that brought Me, You, the "J's" and "K's" and X/Y/Z's into existence.

Dates, dogs, dance partners, tenants, life partners...they come, they go. We may help, we may heal. We will definitely hurt each other. Embrace it, all of it.