Background Switcher (Hidden)

Say Goodbye, Walk On

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Bearing the unbearably sad: it's a thing. Loss, a constant theme. Who knows why it's all coming at once? Sometimes it feels like a pigpile on my heart.

I walk out the miles, trying to make sense of all of it, or rather, of any of it, and I have to conclude that the Universe is sending me the strongest messages it can. And I'm not bewildered by it. I expect it. I know perfectly well what it is telling me.

JULIE: Nothing is permanent. Life is fleeting. You're 58. You have a limited time on this planet. Let's make it good. Wake up and take the wheel. Find your road and drive it to a new reality. 

All right. I will. I am. I AM. 

What was there to do after finding Ellen but walk on, east, into the sunrise?
There's a red-tailed hawk just left of the sun, perched and beckoning, but you're going to have to click on the photo above to see him.

He held his ground until I was fairly close, then flew toward the light. I get it.

All right. I'm coming along. 

Twice more he landed, and twice more took off. And then his tail fanned cinnamon, backlit.

A mockingbird gave a sharp Twerp! as it clambered in the briars.

I looked at the beautiful tracery of black raspberries on the sunrise palette and smiled at one of my favorite birds, so saucy. Come on over a-my house, willya?

The 7:30 AM school bus rumbled by, and I thought, well, Ellen's dead, but life sure enough goes on for us, for everyone.

I paused, lost in thought, and Chet took that opportunity to light out for home. He does this on our morning walk now. I don't know what he's thinking. No, I know. He's thinking if Bill gets up, there will be bikkits and bits of breakfast. Little matter it that Bill's not here. Maybe Liam. Anyway. Food. We're close, I know the way, I'm gone without a backward glance. Ahh Chet why.

Because of course I can't call him anymore (think about life without being able to call your dog!) I had to chase him down, running hard with my big camera, and that wasn't such a bad thing, to get my own blood flowing through my numbed brain and body.

I snapped the leash on his collar and made him come along. Bikkits could wait, dammit. I even had several in my pocket and had been bribing him along, but the promise of bikkits/eggs/sausage bitties at home was evidently better. He's such a little old man.

Finally, we got down to the game feeder, and sure enough there were a bunch of wild turkeys pecking at the corn. Oh boy. 

I was glad I had brought my long lens. You don't get very close to turkeys.  They took off like overloaded 'copters, their wings whooshing, colored leaves flying in their wake. It was magnificent.

Wild turkeys in flight have a rather distinctive profile.
To quote the Stokes' bird guide, in one of my favorite bits of helpful prose, you can't fail to recognize a wild turkey due to their "distinctive turkeylike shape."

Wait. What?

 The best part is the heads, inclined downward with the effort of lifting 15 pounds off the ground.

The best part is the colored leaves, and the turkeys taking off.
The Universe is all over the map with me, smacking me to my knees, then chucking me under the chin.

Finally it was time to turn back home, toward the din of machinery, toward Ellen's still form. It was hard to do.
Chet had the grace this time not to run too far ahead. 

He even stopped to wait for me several times. Who's a good boy?

I love this long row of red maples, the way the fenceline curves with them.

And there lay Ellen.

I reflected that it was a good place for a sky burial. And I have spent all day gathering my photos and writing these two posts, and the shadows of eight turkey vultures have crossed and cris-crossed my field of vision as I write. I walked out to check on her about 1 pm, and they are still circling, ever lower, beating upward, circling low, making sure all is calm and still before coming to a bouncing stop in the hayfield to begin the work of burying her, turning her into feathers and carbon, whitewash and bone and sparkling hazel eyes. 

I'm glad these noble birds are still around to take care of her. They won't care that she's at least nine and likely quite gamey and stringy. I smiled to think that one possible punishment for the Homo nonsapiens who shot her would be having to eat her. 

Little Ixodes ticks were walking slowly all over her. I'd never seen one before two winters ago, when I first found them on Chet in February--tiny all-black elongated things. I became concerned that he could get Lyme disease, and started him on Nexgard, an awesome new tick-killing drug with no side effects. Well. I will never give it to another dog. If you already give it to your dog, at least Google it up good. 

Lyme ticks invading my Ohio Brigadoon, well, that fits with current trending topics such as poaching, deforestation, and devastation. Liam, Chet and I have been bitten multiple times. So far, we're not sick. But we are scared. I picked four off Chet just while we were watching turkeys. Which is how many times I've had Lyme disease in my life. I don't want it again.

Creepiest thing about Ixodes ticks is that they seem to be unaffected, even encouraged by cold. November, December, January, February, they'll come out to get you. You can never relax.

Chet had to make sure that was really Ellen. He sniffed her all over. I kept pulling him away, wanting to keep him away from househunting ticks.

Finally he came to me, a look of sweet concern on his dear face.

He is my good friend.

I looked down and found the first pinkbottom of fall!

Agaricus campestris, the pinkbottom or meadow mushroom, is closely related to A. bisporus, the cultivated mushroom. 

But of course it has this deliciously pink set of gills, rather than gray/brown. In flavor, there is no comparison. Pinkbottoms are Bordeaux to commercial mushrooms' Night Train. 

To a Boston terrier, anything held over his head must be seized. This includes hamsters and mushrooms, to name two.

OK, so not such a big mushroom fan. I'm a big enough fan for both of us.

I couldn't stop admiring its salmon gills, all the way up the driveway.

I had plans for this nice pinkbottom. I would make a little feast of it for breakfast, celebrating Ellen's long and productive life. 

Butter. Maybe one minute over a good flame, and the slices stayed white and pink but went soft and indescribably delicious, with a liquor all their own. 

Two eggs over easy, some nice baked ham.  Scraps for Chet Baker.

And the bonsais on fire, beneath the morning glories' firmament.


Vultures beginning “the work of burying her, turning her into feathers and carbon, whitewash and bone and sparkling hazel eyes.”

YES to THAT!! and the wisdom of Nature, recycling/scattering each atom and molecule for yet more life and beauty, to be known and appreciated. I’ve never understood why humans think there is any glory in being imprisoned in a wooden box locked under the earth; our atoms ought be free! But oh well...

[apologies if this duplicates; didn't seem to go through 1st time]

Thank you for the deeply satisfying walk, for the chance to feel the air of your morning and share your grief and anger over Ellen.

What are you now using on Chet in place of Nexgard? I worry about the poison. But I use it. I live in Home Central for ticks, and with other tick poison we still were pulling 30-50 ticks out our dog's skin every day. Other tick repellers had no effect. Have you found something less toxic that works?

I take the walks with you through your descriptive words. I love how you tell the story. I may quote you, "they took off look overloaded 'copters." Perfect.

Thank you for what you do.

Good morning. Thank you. Love you.
Pink bottoms? Oy!

Posted by Anonymous November 5, 2016 at 5:27 AM

These posts are so hard, yet so beautiful.

I keep thinking of Willia Stafford's poem "Traveling through the Dark."

Traveling through the Dark

Traveling through the dark I found a deer
dead on the edge of the Wilson River road.
It is usually best to roll them into the canyon:
that road is narrow; to swerve might make more dead.

By glow of the tail-light I stumbled back of the car
and stood by the heap, a doe, a recent killing;
she had stiffened already, almost cold.
I dragged her off; she was large in the belly.

My fingers touching her side brought me the reason—
her side was warm; her fawn lay there waiting,
alive, still, never to be born.
Beside that mountain road I hesitated.

The car aimed ahead its lowered parking lights;
under the hood purred the steady engine.
I stood in the glare of the warm exhaust turning red;
around our group I could hear the wilderness listen.

I thought hard for us all—my only swerving—,
then pushed her over the edge into the river.

Beautiful writing, as always. And thanks for the reminder to remain hopeful as life is short and none of us know how much time we have. Thank you, Julie, for helping to make sense of the world.

Your pain becomes our pain, written and described so beautifully. Your words are pictures.

Posted by Anonymous November 5, 2016 at 7:05 AM

You ever get tired of us saying, in so many ways, "That was beautiful"...?
'Cause it was.

Killin me Julie, killin me.

Thank you for articulating the heartbreak and perseverance and appreciation of beauty that it takes to live consciously in our world today.

The story of Ellen’s death somehow encapsulates it all. My reaction to her story was one of acute despair--partially a transference I think from the heartbreaking craziness currently roiling in our nation and the world.

Recognizing the cycles of the universe doesn’t soften the pain and bone deep sadness of the hard bad times, but it does help somehow. And beauty and joy and passing of time, as well as knowing others feel the same way helps, too. As do luscious mushrooms.

Keep the faith, dear Julie. I hope you’re soothed by the loving support of your many readers.

Hi Julie,
You do articulate events so touchingly. I think about the events and words you write all through the days/week till your next post comes along. Thank you for your blog.

I wanted to share a product we found that we have used for our dog (and us too) in a tick region of the country. It is called Wondercide. We used it this whole year with excellent results. It is an all natural product - Chet may not like the smell, but it seems to fit the name they gave it...

Thank you again for your view on life and all your books, paintings and writings!
River Falls, WI

A beautiful walk, beautiful words, beautiful photos.

" overloaded 'copters..." exactly!

so they shot her and did not track her and carry out the body? or the hunters just do whatever? ick. Since I have personally stopped eating meat, I am coming to the realization that I just think hunting (which humans have done forever and most animals do too) is bad.

personally have 2 tick bites right now- no rash. A week ago, I was lying in bed thinking "why does my calf muscle hurt so much? what did I do to it? Am I falling apart? ....did not do anything unusually strenuous.." When I got up, I had a bite and a tick partially attached to my leg. (So like a bad hunter, I unceremoniously pulled it out and killed it, but hey, unlike a vegetarian deer, it provoked me with those hideous mouth parts digging into my leg. ouch.) My dog only walks on sidewalks and pavement ...he can spend about 15 seconds on grass for necessary elimination and then I drag him off actually saying to him: "get out of there; ticks want to suck your blood;" not that I have ruined his life or made him neurotic or anything.

[Back to Top]