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Back to the Cliff

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A week later, I was still reliving the whump and the dread and the coppery taste of losing Chet over the sandstone cliff. I couldn't purge them from my mind, especially at night. The only thing I could think to do was to go back to the cave with Chet and Shila and try to come to peace with it all. We chose a fine Sunday, maybe the finest Sunday left, with the leaves just coming off full color, falling everywhere. Yes. Having lived several Sundays since then, watching a fine gray rain fall on bare gray branches, I know it was the best Sunday of the dying year.

If there's anything wrong with me, a photo safari with Shila will usually help. We flash on the same things, dig the same things, notice the same things--and appreciate the heck out of everything we notice. Photography is a way of putting that appreciation into action, of saving the things we love.

Decrepitude, collapsing barns, the whaleribs of their siding jutting and folding in on themselves. Sun coming through it, rusted tin, holes, wholes, details, details.

The Tin Man, cracking a private joke

Red maple, tin roof

The back side, toward the woods. It's not a building any more; it's a ruin, an elegaic husk, a monument.

It's the perfect barn on the perfect afternoon, more shadow and space than light and wood.

And the leaves and their shadows ran together.

At last we reached the parking area for the North Country Trail and set off down through the woods toward the cave and cliff.

There: the cliff he'd fallen from.
There: the last place I saw him before he disappeared. Perhaps the worst of all, for the memory of his scrabbling paws, his suddenly frantic eyes pierces me.

There: the vine-draped lip from which Chet tumbled, the leaves and logs that broke his fall, now cast in slanting afternoon sun.
He on a leash, in my arms, safe, both of us here with Shila's healing presence, and her amazement that he suffered no harm.

Going back to a place that holds such awesome power is the only thing to do, I think. Going back to face it again and face it down.
The trees, impassive, arch overhead and I hold Chet close, kiss him, let him off the lead and then let him go on ahead, straight away from the cliff's lip, from the dark cave, from the horror.

If he is thinking of last Sunday, he doesn't betray it. He is in the moment, something the Angel Beast has such trouble being. And he is no longer a ghost, but just my dog, hoping for squirrels in these beautiful woods. And that is just a slippery cliff to be respected and avoided, and I am all right with it all. I won't need to come back again.

And this is my friend who helps me through

And this, the specific honeyed light, light that will never be exactly this golden again until next October.


Every photo perfect.

Face down the terror, purge the feeling of an awful moment.
Revel in the beauty, stay close with friends, and KISS A DOG.
That ought to do it.

Sooooo glad he's still with you and you can hold him tight.
This was just an excellent post.

Julie, thank you for bringing us full circle with you. Facing down fears is a tough thing to do, and I'm so glad you were able to put this one to bed. I let out a cleansing sigh at the end of this one, knowing that all has been made right in mether's mind and heart. How lucky you are to have such a wonderful friend to see you through the healing. Your photos here are just fantastic. I especially like the ones of the barn where that round piece of flashing looks like an eye... a sign that there was a stove in there to keep things warm when the building was still functional.

I am so glad that everyone is all right.XOM.

Posted by Anonymous November 22, 2009 at 7:32 PM

Your love affair with Chet brought 45 comments last post. This story is riveting, Julie. Thank you, Shila, for being there...

I noticed you referred to squirrels, not squirtles. Serious, I know.


I'm glad you were able to go back with your 2 best friends and find the beauty in the day.


Hugs to you and Chet. Glad both of you are recovered.


the feeling of almost losing a beloved pet is HARD to remember. Our 22yr old cat died three weeks ago, and our springer, orphan annie looked at Lee as he was putting the dear little ancient cat in the grave with astonished eyes as if to say WHAT ARE YOU DOING!! miss our molly greatly. Hold all that you love close. Live to give that love even to yr enemies. bless us all

Posted by Courtney Peterson November 29, 2009 at 8:40 AM
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