life of m

Sustaining the Self and Beyond

gratitude and love for what is

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A time to mourn

This time of year, when the mornings begin to feel more crisp and cool with a touch of dampness to them, I mourn for the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. I mourn for my heart’s unfulfilled desire to pick up and move to a new place.

This year, August was a time to mourn. We put down our rescue pup of three years who had been in my partner and my life for less than five months after a month of trying to save him from an acute stage three Erhlichiosis. It was a too late when his body began showing distinct signs of the disease, but we tried to save him anyway. I wouldn’t change a thing, save that if I could go back and do it again I would make myself clairvoyant so that we could have discovered before it was too late that he had a tick-borne disease.

Even though we have brought home a new puppy, I still cry for my wolf dog every day. My heart feels tempered by the fullness of caring for new life, yet I cannot help but think about the strange juxtapositioning of losing life in order to bring another into our lives. The exchange of life and death is a give and take that has gone one for millions of years. Knowing this truth does not change the fresh bitterness I feel when it touches my own life so very acutely. It is like an injury, quick to occur and slow to heal, tender to the touch for a long time.

I have always been sensitive, and I was tender before the month of August. This year has been yet another in a series of years of transition, unexpected changes in plans, and personal transformation.

Not two weeks after we put Okami down, I arrived home from a quick swim and visit to the college where my sweetie works to find that our home had been broken into.

To be honest, I did not notice right away. I gave puppy her lunch, took her out to potty, and made my own lunch before sitting down to work on my computer and finding it missing.

Assuming I had put it somewhere and forgotten, I began searching around the house for it. It was in my search that I began noticing that small things were different. The window behind the couch was closed.

That’s odd. I never close that window, I thought to myself.

The speaker that generally sat on the windowsill had fallen into the couch cushion. Was it the work of a cat? But a cat could not have closed the window.

It slowly dawned on me that someone might have come into our home and taken my computer.

I began walking around the house and noticed the door to the music and yoga room slightly ajar. I walked in and saw a drawer to a small dresser was also left pulled out a little bit. I opened the drawer fully and could not believe my eyes. Nearly all of the jewelry that had been in the drawer—pieces from my grandmother, gifts from my mother, several rings and earrings—were gone.

I stood there and stared, disbelieving. It was such a strange feeling to know what had been there only an hour and a half earlier and to see it gone.

I called my partner, the police, and my parents. My partner drove home, and together we wandered around the house, looking for what might be missing, and waited for a policeman to arrive.

My car was broken into when I first moved to Lowell, Massachusetts several years ago. I remember walking up to the car and moving to open the door when I realized the window was entirely gone.

I had just stood there, again disbelieving. How could the window be gone? The fact that someone had broken in did not occur to me until I saw that everything inside the car had been taken. I remember sitting down in the driver’s seat and weeping. I had felt so shocked and hurt that someone would do such a thing.

In this instance, I initially felt more shock than sorrow. I was so thankful that I had taken the puppy with me and that no harm had come to any two or four-legged beloveds in my life.

The sorrow came later. As with my recent experience of loss, it did not seem real. Even after I buried Okami, I continued to imagine that I could dig him back up and he would return to me, full of the life and love he had bestowed upon me for the precious little time we had spent together.

With each realization of another personal belonging gone missing from the break-in, I felt a wave of emptiness and sadness. I quickly told myself, It’s only stuff. It doesn’t matter. But I still felt sadness over the ring my grandmother who i had never met had gifted to my mother when she was a teenager and that my mother had gifted to me when I was the same age. I had worn it every day without taking it off since I was sixteen. It was only a month ago that I had taken it off for the first time in a brief respite from wearing any jewelry on my fingers.

What did it mean that I had taken it off and it was now gone?

I kept searching the room where it had been to see if maybe the thieves had dropped it. It was so very small. Surely there were very few pinkies out there that it would fit upon beyond my own tiny finger.

I knew that it could not be worth very much momentarily for any thief who would take it to sell. It’s worth was stored in my own heart and the connection it brought me to two generations of women from my family.

Each piece of jewelry I own comes with its own story. There was the delicate, silver band with a round, flat top that held the image of a bird and a flower that my father had gifted to me for my birthday last summer. This ring I had worn without taking off until only the month before as well.

What did it mean that it was gone? And why?

As with the loss of my wolf pup, the loss of my belongings brought out incredible love and kindness from people around the world. Dozens of friends sent kind and loving messages of support. It is remarkable how the darkest elements of life can bring out the lightest. The yin with the yang, I suppose.

Such is life. I continue to move forward with the hope of one, knowing full well the possibility of the other.

With the loss of one beloved, I invite in a new, knowing full well that heartbreak will inevitably someday follow.

I love with all of my being, in spite of or perhaps because of the precious transience of life.

With loss comes perspective and the chance to gain new appreciation for all that is beautiful in my life. There is an opportunity for gratitude for all that I have in the wake of the disappointment of all that I have lost.

I can feel my heart begin to restore itself and fill once more with love. I can feel the strength in my body as I literally and figuratively move forward, each step a new connection to the earth, an embracing of the present, and an acceptance of whatever future may be.

Change is the only constant, some may say. I think that love should be added to the list.

Baby Naih

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Maybe, we are in Kansas?

Last night was one of those episodes that are so bizarre that you wake up in the morning wondering if it really happened or if you dreamed it all. An exercise in the hilarity of life, to be sure.

I was not expecting that I would sleep very much. My partner, who enjoys a quiet home, gave in to my desire to bring home a new fur baby after our beloved husky/malamute/question mark passed away. The criteria for bringing baby home: she is my responsibility at all hours of day and especially night.

When he asked me this past weekend, Are you sure you are ready for a puppy? I had responded, Right now I am. If you ask me the day after, I might have a different answer.

Well, my answer has not changed, I am just a bit more groggy than I was a couple of days ago.

I have raised puppies before, but it has been a while. I remember vaguely that they are a lot of work. I remember bringing home two labrador siblings from the tender age of 5 weeks and then reading in a dog training book that if you want two dogs, adopt one, train it, and then get another when dog #1 is a year or two old. There was also a clause about how challenging it can be to potty train two puppies as opposed to one.

There I was, a puppy under each arm. Damnit, I thought. Too late now.

At the time, I lived in a pseudo-renovated barn in the upper Skagit Valley of Washington state, a few feet shy of the North Cascade mountain range. Glacial view from my tiny bathroom window, water flowing into my home through a rickety backwoods system

from a creek that likely derived from a glacial lake somewhere up in the mountains.

To get puppies outside to potty, I had to scoop them up just as they were getting into position, lift a trap door that was attached to a cable that ran from the front room, along a line just below the ceiling, out through the back of the house, and then held down with an enormous weight, run down the stairs and out the front door. My partner at the time and I opened and closed that trap door so many times during potty training that one day the cable snapped and the door came crashing down.

When people wished us luck our first night with puppy this past Sunday, I vaguely recalled crying puppies in a crate at the foot of my Washington barn home.

We put little fur baby Naih in a large cat carrier and got into bed. Yipping, barking, and tiny but powerful howling commenced only moments later.

Knowing that it was counter to training recommendations, baby came out of the carrier and onto the bed. She went to sleep but woke up several times and plodded around between us, from one pillow to the next and back again to lie in the valley created by our two bodies.

After this sequence had been moved through several times, my partner groaned in irritation. Knowing that I had signed on for this, I picked up baby, put on a robe, and wandered out (stumbled was more like it) into the living room. We ran back and forth, went out to potty, and settled onto the couch until morning. All in all, it wasn’t the worst night.

The next day, I researched how to get puppy to sleep through the night and realized I had instinctively done just about everything wrong possible.

Do not respond to crying baby by taking her out to play. This will set the expectation that nighttime is playtime rather than sleeping time.

Do not praise the shit (my choice of words, not Google’s) out of baby when she goes potty outside in the middle of the night. Nighttime potty time is business and not playtime.

The next night, we set up a larger kennel and put comfy blankets and a toy inside. Naih was not to be foiled, however. Yipping, barking,and yowling commenced once more. We ignored her, and she quieted down for a bit. Then more yipping, barking, and yowling.

Maybe she has to go potty? I suggested? The article I read said to bring them out to potty if they cry and then put them back in the crate.

Potty trip was successful. Return to crate was less so.

I brought her out to the living room and onto the couch to snuggle.

Hours later, I heard my sweetie’s voice in the night. Looks like she peed and pooped. He scooped her up and brought her outside.

Pee = affirmative. What was thought to be poop = cat puke (not as gross as puppy poop to clean up but still not the most enjoyable)

We traded places outside. I sat quietly while baby Naih wandered around distracted instead of getting to work.

I heard a rummaging sound and looked to my partner’s car. I gave a good kick to the front. Nothing. I kicked a couple more times.

When baby and I returned to bed, I whispered to my partner, I think the packrat is in your car. We had just spent $300 to repair damages from a packrat that had chosen our Honda Fit as the perfect place to store dozens of apples, branches, and nesting material.

My partner got out of bed and walked out into the living room. I heard a zipper and realized he was taking a pellet gun his son had used a few days earlier out of its padded case.

Huh, I thought, and fell asleep.

What seemed like hours later, I awoke and noticed the empty space beside me in our bed. Was that car engine running outside?

A light was on outside. I opened the front door.

The front hood of each car was propped open. My sweetie stood with a pellet gun propped up on his hip. A tiny glass sat atop my Toyota. Was that whiskey inside, I wondered?

I placed little Naih on the ground and instructed her to go potty. She took a tiny branch in her mouth and proceeded to bop around like a baby goat.

What are you doing?

Trying to get rid of the $300 packrat.

Fair enough, I said.

I looked around at the scene. Wandering puppy. Human with pellet gun. This was certainly not an image from my time in Massachusetts, but it was comical nonetheless.

Are you going to stay out here all night? I asked.

I’m going to shoot these rounds and then come back inside.

Ok. I scooped up baby and headed back inside, bracing myself for the sounds. When they came, they were more benign than I had imagined.

Back in bed, Naih fell asleep between us. In the morning, I awoke to find her upper body on my sweetie’s pillow and the rest of her on mine.

Well, I see she has chosen her place on the pillows, my partner said. Should be interesting when she is 60 lbs.

She’s lucky she’s cute, I said.


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The universe may not care, but I do

I like to make plans. Even though advice from friends and experience teach me time and again that my efforts to take control seldom pan out the way I hoped or anticipated they would, I continue to make plans. I think it may be that I cannot handle living in a world where this is no hope and envisioning the life I want is a way to continue going through the motions of living when I don’t want to get out of bed in the morning.

When I imagine what I seem to want or need, I am engaging with the world, and I am participating in my own life and destiny. For me, making plans comes easily. Where I have room to grow is in accepting when things work out differently. It is in the letting go where I need the most practice.

Letting go of the illusion of control is no easy feat, particularly for one as stubborn as me. My sweetie and I adopted a three old husky/malamute/question mark just under five months ago after our husky of ten years passed away quite suddenly at the beginning of the year. Silly me, I was certain that adopting a younger dog gave me some kind of certitude that he would be in my life for many years to come, ten at the least. When his health crashed a month ago, it hit me like a bowling ball to the stomach. But I held on for as long as he held on. And he held on for me, of this I am certain. I think his soul had no intention of leaving mine ever; it was his body that was at its end. And sensing this so deeply from him made it even more painful to make the decision to put him down when his body could not catch its breath even with the aid of an oxygen mask.

I had not gone into the vet that afternoon thinking I would leave alone. In the car were packed a blanket and a bowl for water in case I had to bring him with me to my yoga training. There they remain still, for I haven’t had the heart to take anything out of the car he touched, including the blanket that covers the back seat in its entirety.

48 hours after, I began a bit of a desperate online search to find the new body his soul had moved to. I studied reincarnation and sent out questions to friends from near and far of what might be possible. Everyone told me something different, some more gently than others.

What I began to realize was that no one else’s opinion mattered as much as what I felt in my own heart. So, I began to try to sift through the layers of grief and sadness to learn what may be floating, ever so tenuously, underneath.

And I continued to listen to signs from the universe. One told told me, The universe is mostly 2°K on average and doesn’t give a shit about us. What do YOU want?

The universe may not care, but I do. And what I began to realize was that my heart, so recently nearly bursting with love for my poor fated pup, felt aimless and empty. For me, this was a bad sign. I am learning that my dharma (sanksrit for “calling”) is to be a healer. It is what fills my soul and brings meaning to my life. I know that I need to be a healer for my own self as well.

I searched and found a dog who seemed remarkably similar to be my beloved Okami in body and spirit, but the foster parent would not let us adopt him because of our geographic location. She had had a bad experience with Arizonans in the distant past and had not yet realized that all people from Arizona were bad.

I was devastated, I think less because I felt connected to the dog but because I felt that I had lost Okami once more in losing the dog who most resembled him.

In my mind, I knew this was not true. I know that no other dog will replace him or be him, though some may resemble him. In my heart, I think it quite possible that our souls have been forever joined.

Another friend wrote to me: There is no control. It’s all an illusion. Things happen because things happen. Always be letting go.

Cognitively understanding something does not make it any easier to embody, particularly when one is grieving. So when I learned that a baby male husky had been adopted by a family in Tucson, I was devastated. He had been the only male in a litter of females, which I had taken as a sign.

My sweetie is always reminding me that it is important to dance with the universe. When one opportunity changes, you have only to shift your perspective to see the myriad others. I was so upset that baby boy husky was gone that I could not see the opportunity the universe was presenting to me. I had been holding onto the belief that I needed a male because my beloved had been a male. I had not even considered a girl. But there she was, looking at me through bright, blue, baby eyes.

As I slowly awoke this morning, I remembered something that happened a long time ago when I adopted my last dog. I was living in Washington state when our neighbors had an unplanned litter, the result of a hit and run from an unaltered male, chocolate lab from down the road. There were 11 tiny, black lab mix puppies. Having grown up with a black lab female who was the runt of the litter, I picked out the female runt of the litter. When I went to pick her up, I could not find her anywhere. The large, blue bucket that had been full of water for mom was sitting empty outside the run. When I realized what had happened, I trudged back home, vowing that I would not return. My plan had been changed without my consent. Sitting at home, I realized there were still 10 other babies in need of love and nurturing and an introduction to the world. I remembered a sweet, quiet male puppy that had often fallen asleep on my feet. I walked back, picked him up, and went home with him cradled in my arms.

This morning, I will drive down to Phoenix for the third consecutive week. The first trip was with my Okami; the second without; and now I will return with a soul that may or may not be new to me. I will just have to wait and see.

Non-attachment can be a bit loathsome, yet another friend wrote to me last night.

What I am learning and relearning is that sometimes in letting go, I create the space for holding on.


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Where are you, my love?

Since I felt Okami’s last wave of life leave his body, I have been wondering where his soul has gone. I know that it is with me, but I cannot help but try to find the new body it has inhabited or will inhabit.

I saw two dogs that appeared at a shelter in Tucson that look remarkably similar to my Okami. Could it be him? But those dogs are nearly three years old.

The woman who runs the rescue where we found Okami sent me a video of husky puppies. In the entire litter, there was one male. Could this be my Okami? These puppies are seven weeks old, though.

I don’t think reincarnation works that way, Rich tells me.

How does reincarnation work? Rich tells me. The Tibetan Buddhists believe it takes a certain amount of time for a soul to move from one body to another. Okami would have had to kick out the soul that has already inhabited this puppy.

Does reincarnation really have rules? I ask. It seems like something that would be somewhat mysterious and unpredictable.

Unless, I told him, because he knew he was going to die, he found a way to inhabit both bodies temporarily.

It feels like a sign that such a new life would come to the same rescue. Okami always followed me everywhere I went to make sure I was safe. He would send his soul to a place where he knows I will look for him. I think it could be in this puppy.

Rich and my dad worries that I am rushing my grief.

You honor Okami by mourning for him, Rich tells me.

I have been crying nonstop for three days, I say. And I am so lonely and deep desire to give all of my love to someone who needs it.

I feel a strong push and pull and also a kind of desperation to find Okami’s soul. Can one body hold two souls? Perhaps, he chose to join me. I would welcome him with open arms. Rich tells me Okami is my familiar.

I believe that whatever dog I find will be Okami’s way of finding me. I just need to trust in our connection and love for each other.

I may just be a heartbroken person looking for my lost love who left me far too soon.

In the end, nothing matters but what is in my own heart, and that is what I will discover and honor.


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Stay with me

I have laughed on many occasion driving by the veterinary hospital in Chino, which has a taxidermy shop right next door. I think today I am beginning to appreciate why people would do this to their beloved pet.

I’m going to bury him soon, I text to my partner, who left this morning to take his daughter to college. I just don’t want to not be able to see him.

And that is it. I need to be able to see him, to reach out and touch him. He lies in a grave that I filled in halfway. I went out just a little while ago, moved back the earth with my hands until I could see the fur from his head, and gently placed a heart-shaped, slate-colored rock and a piece of quartz that I found in the creek where we walked many times this past month on either side of his head. I covered him up, dug him out again just to feel his fur, and covered him up once more.

Walking back to the house, I wondered if I should have put the heart somewhere else. Should I lay it right by his heart? I told him I was giving him my heart when I placed the rock beside him, but was that enough for him to really know?

In the end, I am left with questions and no wolf pup. I remember pulling ticks off of him when we first brought him home. Were those the ones? Had he been sick long before we adopted him? I think the beautiful walks we took in the Granite Dells where we live. I think of him running with joy around the dog park, his enormous, fluffy tail curled all the way up.

As I sprinkled soil over him, I spoke to him.

Please stay with me, I whispered. I still need you.

I think he may still be with me. I know his soul chose to live; it was his body that was not able to follow.

I took a shower, my body shuddering from waves of grief and tears. I remembered how he would lie just outside the door. He always needed to be near me, to make sure I was ok. As I stepped out of the shower, I felt that he was there still, keeping me safe. And for a moment, I felt a little less alone.


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Today, I let go of the closest I have known of a soulmate on four legs. My wolf dog Okami. Okami is Japanese for great wolf spirit, and he was and is the embodiment of this name. He was otherworldly, wise, gentle, and my shadow for the four precious months we spent in together in these bodies in this life.

I am not sure I can explain in any kind of language—verbal, written, musical, or beyond—the kind of connection I felt with this sentient being. Perhaps, the connection itself was otherworldly and thus meant to carry on from this life to the next.

People we met sensed this quality in him and told me so. at the vet this afternoon, Technicians kissed him and whispered their love for him moments before and after his heart stopped beating.

And he picked me. I picked him as well. I think it was our destiny to spend this time together, if only to secure our bond for lifetimes to come.

As I type, he lies peacefully on a towel to my left. I am sitting  on the carpeted floor of my bedroom, a fan blowing the stuffy, humid, afternoon heat into the room. Not that I feel it. Periodically, I reach out and stroke his fur. I gently guide my fingers up the slope of his nose toward the crown of his head and bring them down in a circle, ending just behind his eyes. I take my hand and bring it from his neck and shoulders all the way to his tail. His beautiful tail, the one that caught everyone’s attention, especially when he was happy. In response to his joy, his tail would curl up in a glorious wave of the fluffiest, white fur you will ever see.

It is strange to think that I will have to part with him yet again when I place him in the ground. I want to keep something—a cutting of fur just does not seem enough. Perhaps, I could cut off his paw and keep it. Or take an eyeball. How long does it take for a body to decompose? Could I dig him up and keep his skeleton? If we move, can I take him with us?

Of course, I know how morbid and ridiculous this all sounds. It is not these pieces of him that I want but the entire being. I want my dog, my soulmate, the creature I tried so hard to save and thought I had.

There are many “if only’s” that run through my mind, but I know this kind of thinking will not change the fact that he is gone. And I know he is still here, with me in my heart. I just want him in body, mind, heart, and spirit.

Do you need a few more minutes? My writing was interrupted by the gentle voice of my partner’s son came from the doorway. He had been digging a hole.

A wave of electricity ran through my body at the thought of parting with Okami’s body, lifeless as it was. It still smelled like him when I buried my face in the thick fur around his neck. How could I find a way to capture his smell? How could I find a way to keep him?

Of course I’m not ready. I deserved more time. We deserved more time together.

I remember carrying him into the vet and watching the vet and one of the secretaries place him on a stretcher to carry into one of the patient rooms. When they carried him out of the room to bring him to a treatment area for oxygen, he lifted his head to look back at me. I wish now that I had gone back with him. I could have been with him during all of the time waiting for bloodwork and test results.

When I walked into the treatment area at the vet, I saw him stretched out on a long table. A technician held an oxygen mask over his muzzle. I spoke to him as I approached and wrapped arms around him. He lifted his head into my chest so the top of his head touched the bottom of my chin. He let his head fall into my arms. I stroked the fur on his muzzle, drawing my finger back toward the top of his head and around his eyes, over and over again, all the while whispering to him how much I loved him, over and over again.

And for the second time this year, I felt the final breath of a four-legged beloved leave the body. I felt the wave of life pass over and leave. I knew he was at peace, but I just felt empty. I knew we had chosen each other, but I had thought we had more time.

The hole is ready, but I am not.

Of course I’m not ready.

I will never be ready to say goodbye to a piece of my heart, my soulmate.

I will never be ready.



But if I have to say goodbye to your body, I want you to know how deeply you are loved and in my heart forever. That I am with you always and that we are together in spirit and will be together again in body. This I know. This I promise.

Be at peace, my dearest love.

siamese sutra study

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Morning dancing

My mornings have had many beginnings since we brought our rescue pup Okami home from the hospital. For the first several days of his convalescence, he and I get up at the auspicious hour of 2am and then again at 5:30am to walk to the creek across from our house so he could cool his paws in the water and drink.

People have told me he seems to be a mythical kind of creature, and I imagine he must be godlike to want to get up so early. Yogis speak of these hours as the perfect time for chanting, but I had not felt much like singing in the dark until these mornings with Okami.

I like to chant at the creek and walk through the water with him. I chant the sanskrit sutra for quieting the spinning of the mind on repeat:

yogas citta vrtti nirodhe.

I have not been too tired to get out of bed when I sense his face near mine at the edge of the bed. It is so peaceful being near the water and watching my pup, so alive and happy to be immersed in this magical element. If only there were fewer mosquitoes, I would stay there with him all day.

Where the fatigue has begun to take its toll are the later morning hours. My head pounds as I try to get up and out of bed. I have been taking an Ayurvedic yoga course with a focus on creating new behavior patterns, one of which is creating a regular morning routine.

My routine begins with taking care of body stuff (no need for details there) and sitting in my music-yoga room, chanting for a few minutes, and doing some ankle and shoulder exercises before checking my email and drinking my morning coffee.

After chanting at 2am, I can tell you that it can be a struggle to drag myself into the room to do it again.

The feeling I have after makes it worthwhile. Much of the time, I do not feel relaxed or desirous of sitting still for very long, but I do feel proud of myself, like I have already accomplished something meaningful with my day.

I have been trying different routines to see what feels best. Walking outside, taking a deep breathe in, and exhaling even more deeply. Walking with my pup a short distance to move our bodies.

Far and away, I feel best outside and when I focus on my breath. It might be taking a few deep breathes, chanting, or singing. The practice is what seems to lift my spirits the most.

This morning, I took out my baritone ukulele and sang a blues song. Then, I figured out the chords to another song.

After, I did some warm up yoga poses and a couple of sun salutations to move my physical body a bit. Each movement, however small, is a gesture of love for my own self. Not a narcissistic or arrogant gesture, but simply an expression of desire to care for my mind, body, heart, and soul. I should take care of all these elements of self, as they are the only ones I have.

Today is a new day, and I am hopeful for the good tidings it may bring. Whatever the tidings may be, I know that I will dance with them as gracefully as I can and that I won’t have to dance alone.


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