Discover more from the animal eats
A sweeter arrangement
I learned a new word and had a nice moment with a tree. Mimsy was there too.
Outside the front door of my building there's a dead baby tree. A dogwood sapling that never quite took. For one year only, it flowered gorgeously pink and white and then? One branch at a time it just
From the terrace you can see up and down the whole block. It's a nice block, lined on both sides by old elms, maples, catalpas and others arching overhead toward each other.
Two summers ago we were on our bikes, nearly home, when we heard a high thick crack like thunder too close to be that. A moment after we stopped to consider the source of it, a massive branch came crashing down on two cars just behind us.
The trees, like I said, are old.
Every year the weather grows more fierce.
From the terrace I can see where branches broke off; when the sky grows fiery at sunset; in late spring, small squirrels learning, sometimes failing, to scamper through the canopy; and if I look down and dead ahead from the balcony, where I put my many succulents out to sun all summer thriving, I am looking at the dogwood that didn't make it. Its failure to survive an inescapable fact of our shared existence here, in the speck of world where we are. Sometimes it's kind of a bummer.
This morning I was outside with Mimsy, whose presence has taught me patience, who is on a strict no-exercise regimen on account of her too-large-heart which we learned this week has achieved, after a year of quiet and stubborn triumphant struggle against inertia, stage D2 degenerative valve disease. Refractory heart failure with no medical recourse. My small dog's heart is finally failing, and there's nothing left to do about it.
Or rather, the only thing to do is wait.
For what: the impossible, kindest thing—
the decision when it's time.
We’ve pulled her out of heart failure twice now. The stress of a third attempt, I learned, might be too much. “We can soothe suffering, or we can prevent it,” the cardiologist told me, knowing I knew what he meant. What he was asking me.
To enter into ease.
To let it happen. Welcome change.
Because it’s coming.
We've been through this before of course. It could be tomorrow or, as the good doc suggested with a sadknowing smile, six months from now. I wouldn't be surprised, any more so than usual anyway. I'm in a constant state of awe at my small ancient dog, who was first diagnosed with heart disease five years ago, when the same doctor said she had two, maybe three good years ahead.
So this morning, when I was outside with her, waiting as she made her way slowly, softly across the mulch to do what she was out there to do, I once again came face to face with the dogwood that didn't, and there hanging by thin silk threads from its failed branches were small yellow leaves from the nearby honeylocust draped like a threadbare shawl, held together by bits of abandoned web, catching the early morning sun.
And it was perfect.
Being right there with Mimsy and this ghosttree she outlived by a lot. Mimsy doing what she came to do. Leaves fallen from their lifesource, adorning the ungrown skeleton by tender wisps of silk and the sunshine in the morning after several days of rain.
These wretched little lessons that won’t stop coming, mercy, god, they just keep on coming.
Everything is changing.
Me and Mimsy too.
When I let her go she’ll be at home.
Then one day she’ll be a tree at last.
(Or make a go of it anyway.)
But right now she is here, and breathing gently, asking me to stay close.
So I do.
Little Dog’s Rhapsody in the Night
by Mary Oliver
He puts his cheek against mine
and makes small, expressive sounds.
And when I’m awake, or awake enough
he turns upside down, his four paws
in the air
and his eyes dark and fervent.
“Tell me you love me,” he says.
“Tell me again.”
Could there be a sweeter arrangement? Over and over
he gets to ask.
I get to tell.
Bonus Poem! for Mimsy!
Oh to be me but so much smaller,
crawling about your scrambled eggs for brains.
My tiny oracle.
I'd tie sweet little bows of the scattered threads
that say closer on one end and snacks on the other.
Let me see, just the once, the memories in your ancient eyes,
the calm before those clouds rolled in.
Step tender into the other side of softness.
Be held like this: entirely.
Take a seat any old anywhere, knowing
lord, the faith of you
she'll be along shortly, close and singing,
and all our good things happen.
Okay. Be with what you love today. That’s all.