Saturday, June 17, 2006

what thou lovest well

It was a phrase from a poem, a canto by Ezra Pound, that long ago I copied into one of my commonplace books, and wrote in black ink on a rounded piece of river worn stone. You'd think having loved the canto so much I would be able to quote it perfectly now, but I'm sure I am not quite recalling it correctly, and I am too lazy to rummage through my poetry shelves. But it went something like "what thou lovest well/cannot be reft from thee/what thou lovest well/is thine true heritage".

And, in the background of my mind, those little phrases, that old fashioned "reft", meaning taken away, stolen, lost..have for all these years quietly murmured onward. Sort of like the river at summer's height, when it pulls back to the harsher rocks, and stills the rush of the winter fullness.

One thing that took me from posting these weeks was the unexpected sudden decline of my old dog Buddy. Unexpected, because what we love is forever young, and in my mind my yellow lab was still the relatively spry youngster he was when he first showed up at our cabin in a winter storm, soaked through and imperative. But he is 14 years old, possibly 15 now. He no longer rushes ahead boldly when we walk together. And about two weeks ago my partner brought him in from a day in the woods, and Buddy had a huge patch torn from his side, another from his neck. Nothing beyond the first surface of skin, but blood oozed. And he was in shock, and shaking.

What had happened? My partner had noticed nothing. I thought wildly of all sorts of possibilities--a close encounter with a bear, a mountain lion; an unsteady fall down a shale cliff. The next day he could not lift his huge golden head.

And so I prepared for his passing. It brought back all my recent deathbed vigils, my father's death, my dear friend Sally's. It was the year anniversary of my friend Red's death. Death was everywhere, and though I remind myself that once I had a wonderful dream in which Death came to visit me, and she was a beautiful woman in a black and red gown, most elegant, and rather kind--still, the process is a harsh one.

Buddy and I went through 72 hours of around the clock focus. I slept beside him, gave him water, gave him medicines, gave him food. I kept waiting, remembering the passing of my dog Pepper so many years ago, for the moment his kind eyes would meet mine and he'd refuse the food, and then the water, and finally breathe a heavy final sigh and leave me.

I was okay with that, or so I told myself. We've had a long run together, my yellow dog and I. We've done good things and foolish things together, and there's not much you can say about a friendship that is better than that.

I changed his bedding. I tried to keep him comfortable. I slept lightly, as I have slept beside my children when they were ill, as I have slept beside my dying friends and family.

After three days he staggered to his feet and frailly walked to the door. I went with him. We slowly walked just to the rose bushes, and stared at the nesting swallows, and came back.

On the fourth day he pulled--still frailly-and started on the long walk to the store where we go together for dog treats. We had to rest three times on the way, but he made it. Shaking, but determined. He walked every inch of that shop, went to each of his friends, peered at the fish, the hamsters, the birds.

I was sure he was saying goodbye, and my eyes kept filling with tears.

On the fifth day he wanted to chase one of the cats. The cats, mind you, had been solemnly gathered at his side all these days. Pippin kept licking Buddy's ears. My pitbull, Champ, had been woefully quiet and depressed.

Somehow we've been granted a reprieve. For how long--I don't know. He's enjoying himself, almost back to his old self, walking with me everywhere, following me as I move through the bookstore, barking when he doesn't see me.

I went away for a night for a conference just a couple days ago, and in my hotel room woke to hear his imperious bark. My partner swears Buddy was not up at 2 in the morning that night, wanting something--but he sleeps soundly, how would he know? Whatever he wanted, he can have it now.

So why is Ezra Pound really on my mind? I know my time with Buddy is getting shorter day by day. Indeed, so is my time with all my loves. But I think something will endure.

And when I dared hope Buddy was staying with us a while longer, I met an old acquaintance out by the pomegranate tree. "Remember that old rose you gave me?" he asked, "you know, the mossy one?" I hadn't recalled that he had that rose, a refugee from the time my rented house and garden were being bulldozed, some 27 years ago. Unable to save the beautiful plants myself I sent out a call to all the gardeners I knew to come and take home whatever they could--the heirloom roses, the herbs, the various oldfashioned flowers and little trees. I have, from that time, some rosa mundi roses (they are short, open, striped roses that bloom early--I gave some to friends who gave some back to me years later). The moss rose my friend spoke of--now, he said, a huge six foot tall bush, covered with blossoms, was my favorite. It grew outside the bedroom window of that little cottage. The gardener who has it has never figured out its name--it is luminous pale pink and heavily mossed and scented.
"Hey, would you like a cutting now?" he asked. Well yes. The small pink tea rose is also thriving, he said.

It makes me smile. The garden I thought lost, for which I grieved fiercely, in fact spread out all across the county. And some of it is returning to my care.

I loved it well, you see.


Blogger Blue Hole said...

Lovely piece of writing, as usual.

7:36 AM, June 18, 2006  
Blogger Nyx said...

once, along time ago, someone told me that when you are taken away by an angel, one, and only one, question is asked; "what have you loved?"
Whether this is true or not, really doesn't matter. What matters is that you are aware of your feelings. And that you make sure that you love.
Take care dear.

8:31 AM, June 18, 2006  
Blogger Kimia said...

I am happy that he is well now; I got worried in the middle of your post :) You also love you Buddy well; You have the gift of loving.

7:29 PM, June 18, 2006  
Blogger Dr O2 said...

well nothing lasts forever but we gotta treasure every moment. I am also vary of the fact that time is going towards taking our beloveds away but the rivers flow and nth can be done butto make the best of it.

Among all pets, dogs tend to steal the show as they are so friendly. I cried when my cousins dog died!! (and yes men do cry as well ;-))

10:18 PM, June 18, 2006  
Blogger David said...

Sorry to hear about Buddy's injury! I'm glad that he is recovering. Hopefully, you will enjoy a few more years of his company.

I knew a Pound in my High School in Alabama. In fact he told me that Ezra was his great uncle or cousin (I don't remember exactly). However, Tom was just about the most unpoetic person that I knew! Last time I heard, he was a High School teacher. Funny, he really hated High School! :)

I think its great that your former garden was spread far and wide and is still flourishing! I always enjoy going to a former residence and checking on the trees I planted there, or on the trees a friend planted.

9:53 AM, June 19, 2006  
Blogger marlyat2 said...

Yes, that was lovely. The young Jarvenpa, with her smooth river stone.

And I like the way you leave "loose" the connection between affections and the dispersing garden...

4:15 PM, June 19, 2006  
Blogger MellowOranges said...

I've been away for too long it would seem. I'll write soon I promise. Until then I shall read and read what I've missed.

But on the return of things you once thought were lost forever, the world works in mysterious ways - as I said to my mother on the phone the other night 'Life's a bit of a game really'. Swings and roudabouts.

10:22 AM, June 20, 2006  
Blogger graceonline said...

Wow. You have a gift. Thank you. And thank you for reminding us to embrace change, ready to receive its bounty.

10:52 PM, June 26, 2006  
Blogger Lori Witzel said...

The heck...I sit here with tears in my eyes.

Well, must run to gather up my tugged-so-hard-they-came-loose heartstrings.

4:20 AM, July 12, 2006  

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