Our Web of Stories

Kito, Tofino — June 2018

Kito, Tofino — June 2018

When we brought Kito home to us fifteen years ago, we had no idea what we were doing.  Maybe in the end, we still didn’t. I scolded him for peeing on our floor no more than ten minutes after he entered our home. My wife Vindu needed him to sleep in a crate in another room as he howled through the night.  Thankfully, it only took a few days to get his crate into the corner of our bedroom.

Off leash, his little fluff-ball self ran behind us to keep up on the trails of Gatineau Park. On our first trip to Algonquin, I threw him in the lake like bait on a line to see if he could swim – “Oh good, YES, he can!” Kito – our little Buddha boy – always calm and steady, solid, a grounding force at the center of our life. Poised with some air of French-ness about him, and joy.  I would often shout enthusiastically: “wave your flag, buddy, wave your flag!” – as his tail whipped in wild circles on his bulky behind.

At home during my lunch hour, one day after I launched my website and posted my first “musing,” I received a call from our vet that Kito’s blood results were off the charts – like arrows shooting up into the sky, no longer pointed to this earth. Kito was definitely slowing down, but he was still healthy and agile in most ways. This picture was taken in Tofino last summer, our last trip as a “pack of four” – Kito still sweet and strong, Mika’s four little legs never far from her brother.

As I shared our story of Kito, other dog lovers openly spoke of their heartbreak and loss of their beloved pets. Friends and strangers told details of their dog collapsing and bleeding on the stairs; their dog’s sudden inability to walk; carrying a pet lovingly to the grass, only to hold them in their lap as they died; a year of seizures that neither pet nor owner could endure any longer. Phones came out of pockets to show pictures. While petting our now solo-dog Mika, a sales clerk at Red Top told the story of the loss of her two dogs within a year, now six years ago.  No matter how much she loves dogs, she can’t bear to get another, to go through that pain again.  Her husband, she says, is worse.  

When we were sure Kito could leave us in a few weeks, I kept saying: “I just want to bottle up his energy; that’s all I want. I don’t want to live without his energy in my life.”  I have been with Kito, more hours in his lifetime, than I have been in the presence of my wife of now twenty-three years.  Any dog owner knows, they follow us around like a shadow of light. Kito permeated the car as he rode on Vindu’s lap like a hood-ornament, or rode shotgun with me alone, or on our long walks and swims at the lake. Mostly, I feel him in my writing space – the hours he sat perched by my side, fixed in my peripheral vision, or in the chair at my back – looking on, beaming, as I dreamingly gazed out the window or created a collage of words.

Several friends that I consider stronger and bolder than me said they cried everyday for a year after losing their dog, or felt strangely disoriented for a year, or needed to run out and get another dog to fill the gap. This terrified me – a whole year?! At Fintry Provincial Park last week, we walked the labyrinth for Kito, in gratitude for his life, and our time as a “pack-of-four.” We also walked the labyrinth with a willingness to move on and honour our new life, wholeheartedly, in our now smaller “pack-of-three” – for at least as long as we are gifted with each other.

As we held Kito’s seriously sedated body, limp on our laps, I kissed his nose for the last time. I still wanted a bottle – I still want his precious spirit alive, here in this room. Hang on, hold tight, but not too tight – we’ve always got to let go of what we love. This much I know.

It was the shared and common stories that helped us the most during this time of heartbreak and loss. I also know we keep alive the spirit, the best parts of whoever we love – human or animal – that somehow, radiate out from inside us as we bring them into our minds and hearts.

Especially, on this round anyway, our beloved Kito. 💜

Flash of blue

Bangalore, India

Bangalore, India

Over these past holidays, three close friends lost their mothers. We are now at that age, I guess, when our mothers are falling from the earth. In another good friendship, the light has been turned off, at least for now. This past year brought family members pushed to the edge of their mental illness. I faced a challenging conflict at work. Winding out the year, a friend had a lamp fall on, and break, her big toe. Maybe an appropriate ending to a challening year.

This image, taken many years ago in India, flashed into my mind as I dreamed up this musing at 2 a.m. Maybe feeling like the bold woman in blue trying to make my way through the rubble of 2018. When we are forced to sit with death, to hold someone’s hand as they leave this earth – we will likely find that we, and they, hold more grace and beauty than we ever imagined. So many are circumstances out of our control – my good friend needing space, an attempted suicide as a wake-up call, to speak what feels true and right amidst conflict. As far as my friend’s toe, well, I guess she’ll have to slow down for awhile.

When we face loss, rejection, walls (real or imagined), we take that blow to the gut and often try to find a way to move on – to turn right, or yield. This seems to be the nature of life – a tree falls, then moss and dropped seeds.  As a writer, I’ve been sending out poems and a manuscript to potential publishers, waiting for some interest. So far, I wait. I have had to buoy myself up (and rely on others to help buoy me), amidst the myriad of rejection letters. Strangely, after I absorb the sting of each one, my determination flares and my creative energy runs wild. I get off the floor fiercer than before – to stay on my one true path of writing and poetry.

Amidst the uncertainty of publishing, I sent out a poem to a good friend and visual artist, asking if she would sketch me a phoenix to accompany my “Tonewood” poem.  She agreed and got to work sketching and painting all weekend. I was thrilled that my poem could spark creation; I was even more thrilled when I saw what she created! Our collaboration turned into our poetry broadside, “Tonewood,” posted on my Book Arts page. I also dreamed up a poetry workshop to offer in my community and felt a sudden urge to complete this website and release it into the world. All creative nudgings. To me, all flashes of blue pulling me into this new year. 

At every gathering we went to over this holiday season, there was music. It started with a friend’s recorder performance to a small group of us in her living room, followed by me reading of a few of my poems. At our Christmas Eve gathering, our friend played guitar and sang in varied combinations with her daughter, her partner, and myself. At another friend’s family gathering on Christmas Day, we played music from around the world — and stomped, and danced, and sang — around their circular coffee table. It is as if we needed music, and song, and dance – it is as if we needed to stomp something into (or out of) our bodies.

The other night, we had our neighbors over for the grand finale to our holiday season. One of our neighbors is also from the U.S., and surprisingly, we share the same Canada Day birthday. We were talking of the political obsession, and just how bad things are in “our other country.” But also, we talked of how this heavy obsession seems to be removing our attention from the small details of goodness in our everyday lives. Our neighbor still generously shovels our snow, or the butcher remembers our name, with a smile. We still gather around food and friendship; we paint and we write. We sing and dance and stomp around tables – all flashes of blue on a backdrop of rubble and dust.