May 07, 2004.
Devastated beyond acceptance or rational thought, I held Mutt and soothed him as he slipped away from us in the vet's office. His passing was marked by keening wails from Katt and Mama who would not leave his side until the end and the mournful howl of a wolf. Ron later told me that three distinct voices were plainly heard in the waiting room where he sat waiting helplessly.
Days passed into weeks; and I was gripped by a crushing emptiness in the place where Mutt had been a part of me. When I worked, it was mindlessly. When I slept, I was relentlessly haunted by dreams of days that would never come again. I knew that Katt and Mama were grieving too; but I couldn't reach out to them. I had lost a part of me; and I couldn't find an anchor.
There was someone in the cabin taking care of it and me; but she didn't have a name. I knew her only by her soft shoes, long black hair, and an endlessly patient voice that cajoled me into doing this or that, or filled the cabin with a soothing chant. I existed in a place without meaning.
May 08, 2004.
One part of me had been aware of a dog and her litter of puppies in the corner by the fireplace; but they too elicited no response. They were simply there until Ron put one of the puppies in my lap this morning.
"He says his name is Wolf." I heard Mama say in my mind. "And he belongs to you."
Surprised, I looked down at the puppy; but felt no answering warmth in my mind or heart. "He is not Mutt," I replied.
"No; but he says his son will be someone else's Mutt," said Katt smugly.
I let the puppy remain in my lap, idly stroking his head and thinking about their words. From far away I heard Ron say, "She let this one stay." The woman answered; but she was too far away to understand her words.
Katt and Mama came to lie beside me, washing my hands and the puppy possessively.
Was it hours, days, or weeks I wondered, as I pulled a few weeds here and there? I stopped often to stare blankly at nothing; but eventually managed to pull my attention back to my neglected flowers.
Watching protectively, Katt and Mama stayed close, keeping the puppy from straying too far away. He would frequently come close as if to see what I was doing, then wander off again as I continued to ignore him.
But today was different somehow. I had come out into the sunshine on my own, feeling as if the very air around me was impeding my every move, yet I must keep trying to get somewhere. But it was so much easier to just sit and mindlessly pull weeds. As if from a great distance, I heard muffled sobs; but did not recognize my own voice as the tears finally began to flow. I cradled Wolf in my arms like a baby as he licked the tears that would not stop from my cheeks, finally feeling a crack opening in the wall that had held me prisoner.
I felt the healing touch of Katt's and Mama's minds in mine for the first time in so long it felt like something new and unknown; and blindly I stood up and stumbled down the path toward the woods. With each step I saw a familiar landmark as if for the first time, seeing Mutt in every shadow or movement caught out of the corners of my eyes. I wandered aimlessly, clutching the puppy to me as if he were a lifeline until he finally began to squirm in my arms, needing to be put down. Finally I reached The Grove, and sank down against one of the Guardian stones, releasing Wolf to scramble from my lap and investigate this new place.
Jun 06, 2004.
The road back from the brink was long and full of setbacks. There were days when I functioned almost normally; but there were more days when I started out okay and then fell into the morass again. Suddenly whatever I was doing would become meaningless; and I would be lost somewhere deep within myself. I knew that Katt and Mama were missing not only Mutt but me also; but every time I stumbled into the void in my mind and heart that had been Mutt I was lost all over again. Eventually those times grew farther and farther apart until I would have whole days at a time that were good.
Jun 14, 2004.
Putting the fish food back in the shed, I aimlessly wandered down the path past the pond and into the woods this morning with the puppy, Wolf trotting by my side. Looking down, I realized that he was no longer a tiny puppy; and I wondered how he had gotten so big without me noticing. I wanted to stop at the swimming hole and look around; but little Wolf just kept trotting purposely on as if on an important errand. I called to him to come back; but he seemed not to hear so I called again.
"Wolf. Wolf puppy, come here. You're too little to go that way alone."
But he just kept on going so I had to hurry after him. I was sure he'd soon get distracted by something; but he didn't. With his tail up jauntily, he just kept trotting up the trail. Wolf, I thought to myself. What a big name for such a little puppy. I couldn't imagine him ever fulfilling the promise of that name; but Mama had said that was his name, so that's what I called him. Almost before I knew it, he was on the bridge, then across; and I was afraid of where I thought he was going. I stopped just on the cabin side of the bridge and shouted commandingly at him.
"Wolf. Come here."
I was sure he heard me; but he was intent on what he was doing and acted as if he didn't. I didn't want to follow where I was now sure that he was going, although I had no idea how he would know where to go. I didn't want to go to the Place of Remembering. I was just getting over seeing Mutt everywhere I looked; and I didn't want to go through any more of that. I just knew that if I went there I would relive his death all over again; and I couldn't face that. But Wolf was barking at something somewhere up ahead; and I was afraid for him. As quickly as he was growing, he was still a little puppy compared to the coyotes and who knew what else lived in these ancient woods. I hadn't seen anything else that would be a threat to him; but he could still get hurt easily just by not knowing the ways of the woods.
His barking was getting fainter; and resolutely I started across the bridge, still hoping I could call him back and return to the cabin without going much farther. However, when I got to the altar clearing, he still wasn't in sight. I crossed it quickly, refusing to even look in the direction of the altar that would so easily lead me into the place I had come to dread above all else; and hurried down the path on the other side that led to the bluff.
As I neared the head of the trail down to the ledge, Wolf's barking was getting closer, so at least he had finally stopped. When I reached the opening in the trees at the top of the bluff, I stopped in surprise. Where normally I might only see one boat on the river in a weeks time, there were three out there; and all three were headed toward the area where the two rivers met.
Curiosity driving out dread, I hurried as quickly as I could down the trail only to stop and stare again. Just above the swirling waters of the confluence a large pontoon boat was moored to the bluff in a spot out of the current. It was serving as a makeshift dock. One of the three boats I had seen was already tied up to it; and the other two were waiting for their turn to tie up. A gang plank led to a tiny bit of dry land at the base of the trail up the bluff; and where the trail made a zigzag turn about half way up the bluff rocks and brush had been cleared to reveal a large opening. Two people were unloading boxes from the boat that was already tied up; and another was walking down the trail to the makeshift dock. Vaguely I remembered that Ron had said no roads in the woods, so this made perfect sense as an alternate way to get people and materials to and from the caverns without disturbing the ancient woods.
I wanted to go down and see what was going on; but I still dreaded going through the Place of Remembering. For now, Wolf had finally worn himself out and was napping. I would sit down and just watch from here while he slept. Maybe tomorrow I would go down through the caverns. Maybe.
Jun 15, 2004.
The sun was barely up as I set off down the trail. Wolf trotted at my side as if on a tight leash although he wasn't even wearing a collar, much less any sort of leash. Sensing that today was different, Katt and Mama followed closely, ignoring all the tiny denizens of the woods that they would normally stalk. I walked determinedly, clutching the pendant through the material of my shirt for strength. I knew that I would falter and maybe even turn back if I let myself think about what I was doing. In my mind, I heard the same quiet voice patiently speaking the same words over and over again.
"Guardian, you must let him go. You cannot heal until you let him go."
I don't know how long I had been hearing those words. Neither did I know who spoke them to me, or even if they were spoken out loud or heard solely in my head. I had only understood them as I lay sleepless last night. I had to go to the Place of Remembering and seek the council of the other Guardians. One of them had to know what to do to close the aching void in my soul. For the sake of Katt, Mama, and The People I had to know if or how I could reclaim some measure of my life. My steps slowed as I thought about where I was going and what I was going to do; but I felt Katt and Mama urging me on and knew that they needed me to do this too.
Finally I reached the altar clearing; and without hesitation stepped up on the platform. I drew the pendant out of my shirt, raised it up in salutation to the rising sun and thankfulness for the new day, and then let it fall into the depression on the side of the altar. As soon as the slab slid open enough that I could barely slip through, I started down the stairs, not daring to take a chance that I would change my mind.
Jun 16, 2004.
Drained of all emotions and thoughts, I finally sat back from the receptacle at Maron's Remembering Tree. I had spent almost as many hours there as I had at my own tree. I was shivering with cold; and just managed to crawl into my sleeping room before collapsing. I felt Katt and Mama curl up next to me, and something warm and soft being laid over all of us, and then nothing.
Jun 17, 2004.
I slept all night and most of the day before I awoke. I felt drained but whole for the first time since Mutt was torn from us. Someone had covered us with my sleeping bag; and it's warmth felt good because I was still cold. Katt and Mama still lay beside me; but were now on top of my sleeping bag with Wolf so I knew that they had taken care of him.
I lay for a long time in a half-awake state that was uncharacteristic of me. I knew what I had done. I had given Mutt to the future. Every moment of his life was now held within the synapses of my Remembering Tree, to be safeguarded there until its death generations from now. I was comforted by the knowledge that he would be known by all the Guardians to come and that his gentle and protective nature would not be forgotten with my death. I knew that there would still be tears; but the raw emptiness was gone. I could feel a difference in Katt and Mama too.
"You are no longer in danger of loosing yourself." said Mama.
"You were shutting yourself away from us too," said Katt.
"But no longer," I reassured them. "I am so sorry for neglecting you two."
"You are back with us now," they both reassured me.
With their words, I knew that the worst was finally over; and I could begin to live again.
Jul 03, 2004.
Things changed; and I was being left alone more and more. Like yesterday. I had been alone except for Katt, Mama, and Wolf when I awoke and fixed us breakfast. I had spent the day at my table by the window; and late in the afternoon, I was still alone. As I uploaded the last of my changes, I sat back and stretched.
Days or weeks ago I had given Mutt's memory to the future in the Place of Remembering. A few days ago I had poured out my sorrow in my poetry. Now all the updating was done; and I was tired again.
Katt lay dozing by the window where she could keep an eye on both me and what was going on outside. Mama was outside with Wolf, teaching him the ways of the world, cat wise. I could feel her chagrin as his gangly legs once again betrayed him; and his first rush missed whatever critter he had been stalking. I smiled, thinking back to how clumsy Mutt had always been because of his size. But Wolf would grow into his legs. Already you could see brief flashes of the grace and strength he would have when fully grown. Perhaps he will grow into his name I thought. Katt agreed with me.
Jul 13, 2004.
I filed the last receipt away; and looked out the window. Katt and Mama were both outside with Wolf this morning. It looked like Wolf was chasing first one and then the other of the cats; and I wondered what kind of lesson they were trying to teach him today.
He was already three times their size; and promised to grow to at least twice his current size. He wouldn't be quite as big as Mutt; but he was still going to be a large dog. He was going to look something like a wolf too I thought with his straight bushy tail, heavy bones, and rough coat. His head was wide between pointed ears with a tapering muzzle, giving his head a wedge shaped appearance. However, his brindled coat and the white tip on his tail looked anything but wolf like.
Finally tiring of their game or lesson, Katt and Mama headed for the patio outside the kitchen. Taking a deep drink from the water dish, they settled down for a nap in their favorite outside spot, the retaining wall around the patio. The early morning sun had been replaced by shade from the overhanging tree branches; and a cool breeze was blowing.
Katt and Mama had just settled themselves when Wolf finally managed to jump up on the wall for the first time; and, unable to keep his balance on its narrow width, tumbled off into the flowerbed on the other side. Laughing so hard I had tears in my eyes, I hurried outside to make sure he hadn't hurt himself. He had already made his way back around and onto the patio by the time I stepped out of the door. Still grinning, I called him to me; and he came over to me as if to ask what had happened. I knelt down to make sure he didn't have any cuts or scratches. He didn't; and I stood up and looked over the wall. He had landed in probably the softest spot he could have, the thick bed of iris that had been just starting to bloom.
"Oh Wolf," I said, "you're going to have to be a little more careful; but at least you didn't get hurt. You guys take a nap while I fix lunch. I want to go find Ron this afternoon."
Dec 26, 2004.
Seen through the eyes of my companions, the last six weeks were a kaleidoscope of disjointed images, cold, dark, and ugly. They were surrounded by concrete and glass cliffs enclosing deep canyons of impenetrable hardness. Outside noisy and hard giant things went rushing back and forth, making it dangerous to walk and belching smells that made tracking scents impossible. There were constant crowds of angry strangers outside and ceaseless, hopeless weeping inside.
Finally all they were able to do was huddle miserably in an improvised den under the desk in the apartment. I knew I had to get them out of the city and back home where they felt at home, where we all belonged. I had missed the Winter Solstice and the full moon was tonight. Both were important days that should have been celebrated with dance and songs. Then I looked at the frail figure slumped in the chair by the window and lost all my resolution again.
"Soon," I told them. "Soon we will go home; but I can't leave Mom just yet."
"Bring her too," said Mama.
"She won't leave this place where they have lived for so long," I replied.
"The one she cries for is not here," Katt said.
"I know; but she doesn't. Soon it will be okay to leave." was all I could offer.
"You must go. You are leaving us again," Katt said.
"Just like after Mutt," agreed Mama.
I stared at them in misery, unable to offer any comfort to them, or Mom, or to myself. This year had just been too much for me.
"Wolf doesn't think we're coming back," said Mama.
"Ron holds him and cries," accused Katt.
"No," was all I could say in denial.
"You have forgotten your duty to the People," accused Mama.
"No," I tried to deny again; but I knew I had. I had fallen so deep into exhaustion, sorrow, and worry that I had ignored my duties as Guardian. I had neglected the land and culture that I had sworn to protect. I tried to excuse myself by thinking that I hadn't figured on Dad's illness and death either; but no one was accepting that excuse, even me.
"No one controls what happens to them," Katt began.
"But they do control how they react to it." finished Mama.
"Whether we sink beneath lifes weight or rise above its trials is up to us." I finished for them.
I rose and walked toward the window. "I must return to the cabin. There are things that must be done," I said.
But there was no answer, no indication that I had even been heard; and I turned away and went to my room to begin gathering up the few things I had brought with me.
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