Passion Vine Pruning

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Cringing,

I cut away

bug infested vines

from stalk and root –

offer tender white filaments

moist dark space –

mineral rich earth

as nourishment.

Will you feed

your verdant

shoot –

the only one

to survive root stalk pruning?

 

A lot to ask, I know.

 

Emerald green spire,

I beg of you,

begin your spiral dance…

Our hands are clasped in prayer

as the Cranes settle in the field.

I imagine you thrive.

 

I own this act

of soulbody slaughter.

 

When I cut your leaves

away from healthy roots

I severed my own leaf

root connection too.

 

Last night

my belly roiled

in deep distress.

I dreamed I chopped down trees.

My body never lies.

 

Postscript:

Yesterday I pruned every vining tendril away from my beloved passion vine, the first one to root last spring after the death of her mother, a passionflower I had for 17 years…

My body responded to the brutal act of pruning with a rush of deep anxiety. The two hours I spent cleaning each severed vine in warm soapy water and sticking them in a bottle to root ( I hoped), re – potting the orignal roots and stalk in new earth seemed to last forever. After disinfecting the entire area where the plant grew I was exhausted.

This year, unlike the last, thanks to Iren who had the other passionflower, I rooted a number of new shoots so if I lost another one I wouldn’t feel so bereft.

Not true.

It is true that I feel less alone when I look over at the other vines, one of which has been showing blooms for months. But the trauma of having to prune so severely it could cause death (though I had no choice) unhinged me. My love for this particular vine is unique and tied up with my hope for her renewal… Each plant has her own soul and each one is as tied to my own as I am to hers…

I have never understood this root-ground connection but it stretches back to my childhood…

When I am forced to hurt one of my plants – even if one has spider mites that refused to be treated – my mind creates anxiety and my body becomes ill. This time even my dream-body had a lot to say…

How is it that so many many people can’t feel what I do? Plants and trees are our relatives and some of the best friends a person can have. How can we support their extinction when to do so is to seal our own fate?

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Uncertain Outcome

(Lucy is on the left, Hope is on the right)

 

Leaving her was the hardest part. She has never been separated from me or from her sister Hope at the same time. I wept, murmuring that I loved her, that I would be seeing her soon…

 

Lucy, my diminutive Chihuahua is almost six years old and for the last week I have been uneasy about her health noting small discrepancies – the way she didn’t inhale her chicken with her usual gusto, choosing not to run in the Bosque when we went down to the river, normally her favorite pastime, the absence of her little face at the window as she waited for me to return from my predawn walk. Three days ago she vomited bile, not that unusual for a Chihuahua, but the next day she developed diarrhea, while still eating relatively normally. I kept hydrating her and I let it go until last night when she refused her kibble, had loose stools, and needed to go out in the middle of the night. Instead of snuggling next to my head she lay at the foot of the bed, her eyes dull, her little body listless, choosing to stay there so as not to soil the good quilt when she threw up…Hope, her adopted sister is the Queen Bee and often bullies Lucy, unless she is ill. Then Hope’s deep attachment to Lucy and her distress become evident. Last night Hope was unable to sleep, continuously checking on Lucy, returning to snuggle up to me. All of us spent a sleepless night and it was abundantly clear that something was very very wrong.

 

Early this morning I called the vet a friend had recommended to me and was told to bring my dog in. What seemed like hours spent in the waiting room did nothing to calm the sense I had that Lucy was really in trouble even as I held her tightly in my arms. Hope was waiting in the car.

 

Still, I was not prepared for the vet’s diagnosis, even though I had had a very troubling dream a couple of days previously about liver failure. Not only did Lucy have a moderately serious case of pancreatitis, but she was dehydrated, a condition I already suspected. I balked at the vet’s recommendation that Lucy stay at this strange unfamiliar clinic for the next two days (or longer?) so that she could be given fluids around the clock. And yet, knowing that pancreatitis can be fatal, I finally agreed. Gazing into her eyes wordless communication passed between us. In retrospect, I think Lucy, was more accepting of this situation than I was. I felt something like resignation or acceptance? Tears flowing I blurted out to the vet, “Oh this is more about me than Lucy.” And maybe it was.

 

Being separated from this dog is like losing a part of myself. My worst fears are bubbling to the surface… two full days without her… maybe more… she’s too young to have this disease… she will die before I see her again… my mind tumbles through dreaded possibilities. Some wiser part of me intervenes helping me to recognize that it will not help Lucy for me to panic because our relationship is too intimate and she will be negatively impacted by my distress.

 

Although I rarely speak of it I am a person who understands what animals are trying to convey, with or without words. We communicate telepathically and because of that I know that for Lucy’s sake I must separate my fears from my love for her. Creating this boundary sounds easy, but when I see her little face in my mind, the child-like terror takes over, and I am unable to sink into any place of comfort within myself. It’s only been a few hours but already I have had to repeatedly break the “seeing – comforting connection” between us before I transfer my fears.

 

I lost three dogs to stomach related issues, one died of pancreatic complications, the second succumbed to pancreatic cancer, the third to diabetes. Bridgee died just two months before I got Hope, and a few months later, Lucy joined our little family. It was after Bridgee’s death that I finally accepted the truth that I would always need dogs more than they needed me…

 

I have been fortunate enough to have a veterinarian as a friend for more than thirty years who believes that animals and the people they love need to be together especially during times of illness, and that healing if it occurs or comfort is deepened by the physical presence of the person who loves the animal the most. Thus, I have never had to leave a sick dog at the vet overnight before and have routinely been allowed to be in operating rooms. The shock of this terrifying physical rupture instantly catapulted me out of my body as my childhood fear took over and only vaguely did I note that Hope was subdued on the ride home although she was lying in my arms.

 

When we arrived I was initially stunned by Hope’s behavior and afterwards overwhelmed by anguish. She jumped out of the car, ran to the porch looking for her sister, scented the ground where they had peed this morning, and when we came inside scratched at closed doors, ran from one end of the house to the other, repeating these maneuvers until I thought I would go mad. I called her to lie down with me for a while because I thought it would comfort her, but instead she continued to stare out one window and then another – a dog possessed. Like me. When I went to feed her she came racing over. Suddenly realizing that Lucy wasn’t with her she ran to the closed outside door scratching at it frantically willing Lucy to appear like magic.

 

I had to get outside and let Nature calm me because there was nothing I could do to help myself. All I knew was that I couldn’t let the god of chaos reign, or succumb to denial. I desperately needed to walk this knife-edge for all of us, regardless of outcome.

 

I dragged an unwilling Hope down to the river and we entered the Bosque. Listening to the flow of water on stone and walking mindfully and slowly so as not to tire or overheat either of us we wandered through the paths returning to the house, but not until the river began flowing through me… I thought Hope would sleep, but unfortunately she is still on high alert, staring out one window or another, and painful as this might be to witness I have to let her be. She has to be allowed to work through her feelings just as I do.

 

For me my life’s challenge is always to move though painful or frightening emotions without getting stuck in them so that I can reach the other side, re –entering my body to “accept what is”.

 

My relationship to Nature keeps me in touch with my senses, keeps me rooted in the present moment, helping me to deal with dis-embodiment.

 

Writing this narrative helps me acknowledge that this story may not end well but that there is also every reason to hope that our sweet Lucy will be coming home to us. It too keeps me rooted to the present.

 

To combat dis-embodied fright I printed out a black and white picture of Lucy and Hope, one where Lucy’s eyes are fastened intently on mine. It sits here in a special place, and now I can look at it, send my heartfelt love and break the connection before the fear takes over…

 

I see my beloved little dog with her dark brown eyes, fox-like ears tuned like radar, magnificent long hair and a feathery tail held high wagging and thumping in anticipation because we will soon be together again. I reach out to her, hold her tenderly in my arms and tell her that no matter what she will be all right. Tonight and tomorrow night the same Cottonwoods that shelter this house will also shelter her for they stand as majestic sentries around the clinic. And perhaps all of us will hear the owls singing. I beg these trees that I love so much to nurture my beloved until we are once again reunited.

 

We love you Lucy.

 

Postscript:

 

This morning I set off for the river just before dawn leaving Hope in bed sound asleep. Padding along the path I suddenly heard the Great Horned Owl call once, twice, three times as I drew closer to the sound. I don’t know what made me look up, but suddenly I saw the owl sitting on the edge of a Cottonwood branch.

 

I was so grateful to Nature – for the presence of the owl and for that Cottonwood tree – In that moment I believed that the owl and the cottonwoods were holding, protecting, and loving our Lucy even when Hope and I were unable to be with her…

Lizard Lamentation

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Ancient One:

Whiptail, sagebrush lizard –

gray striped and slender

you slipped through the screen

into my heart,

swiftly racing across the stone floor

climbing the wall

reaching the window ledge

you basked in the sun.

Peering curiously,

we, your new friends,

(my two dogs, Lily and I)

were delighted to meet you.

Your iridescent blue spotted belly

was barely discernible,

and I thought at first that I imagined a cerulean sky,

or sapphires in the sun…

I named you Shadow – because

you materialized out of a crack or portal

and streaked across the floor or wall

like lightening on the run.

A little girl in me prayed you’d stay.

I heard her say:

“You have plenty of small ants to eat!”

 

When I called your name you listened,

twisting your head in my direction,

silvery slanted eyes fastened on mine.

Was it really with rapt attention?

I can’t speak for you,

but it surely was for me.

I loved you instantly.

In that place between words

where bodies whisper

in what used to be a universal language

long forgotten by humans,

I felt loved by you too.

 

The little girl prayed you’d stay awhile

Perhaps join us for the next round…

The coming of the autumn harvest season…

 

For about a week you came and went

like the west wind

that rules these golden summer days.

In your absence I conjured up an image:

velvet scales shimmering in desert tones,

painted patches of indigo blue.

I respected your need not to be touched.

And after your first disappearance,

I believed you’d come again.

You didn’t disappoint me.

I want you to know that

every lizard we met in the dry cracked washes

I measured against you.

 

Some days you climbed translucent blinds

that protected Guadalupe’s stone house

from fierce white heat;

clinging to the fabric

with spidery fingers

you absorbed the sun

through your skin.

I can still see you…

Stretched out on the screen

a silhouette etched black ink.

Your tail curled itself into a spiral.

It is not an exaggeration to say that

you were a study in pure grace.

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“Do you see the lizard on the screen?”

I asked the woman,

to bring the reptile to her attention.

When she mindlessly slammed the door

I felt the blow, even before I

was blinded by truth.

 

“Oh no” I keened, over and over

as I picked up your lifeless body.

A crushed belly told the tale.

But when I turned you over

you looked so peaceful –

almost as if you were sleeping,

eyes closed for the last time, light gone dim.

Stunned, I carried you to the window and placed you on a flat oval stone

under a small standing goddess that frowned

with fierce anger and haunted eyes…

her mouth opened in a silent scream.

A dead hummingbird lying in the juniper bouquet

had broken it’s neck at the window

just the day before.

That’s when I remembered

the 13 crows I’d seen that morning…

the dead rabbit in the road.

Tonight the horned owl hoots three times under a waxing moon.

Death is stalking me.

 

These sacrifices of the innocent

for what?

To make it plain

that death is calling my name?

I am not that important.

I couldn’t weep then,

but writing these words,

tears slide down my face

blurring my vision and

the distance between now and then…

 

The vulture goddess wheels overhead.

 

How can it be that

whenever I look through a screen

I think you are still there hiding?

We knew each other for a moment…

How did Time stretch herself out

to bind us so intimately?

 

Love has no boundaries.

 

I can’t bear to part with your perfect body.

I have set a firm intention

to release you to Guadalupe

after the full moon.

Tomorrow.

Today I cling to you

like a child clasping a beloved animal

close to my beating heart.

 

Today I ask:

How can it be that every death

slams me back into the first one?

 

8/16/16

Postscript:

After burying Shadow under his favorite spot I came into the house looked out the same window and  there was another sagebrush lizard draped over the stone with his head pointed down to the place where Shadow was buried.

The next morning I saw movement at the window and once again a sagebrush lizard was there in exactly the same place peering in at me. Was it the same one? Astonished I stood there attempting to comprehend what I saw – a sagebrush lizard making eye contact with me in exactly the same way that Shadow had. Then before my eyes this lizard bobbed up and down gesturing to me with his whole body. He repeated this behavior three or four times before disappearing. I had never witnessed behavior like that in any lizard. I know enough of Nature’s ways to accept this acknowledgement as Something  – reminding me that my little friend’s life mattered and that my actions did too…

The following day I dug up some sage to plant below the window over Shadow’s grave while another sagebrush lizard watched me? After watering the plant I stood there quietly as this lizard approached the wet ground. I looked for the blue markings that would indicate that the lizard was a male and couldn’t find them. This lizard was a female. Suddenly she disappeared into the foliage next to the sage. I named her Lightening. She has been sunning herself on the outside of the window ever since!

Do lizards make friends and share territories I wondered? I thought they might do both.