Ah, friends, here we are. We're still here. All is well.
It's a gorgeous morning. Green things are dappled golden and fall is in the yard (I was talking with my friend Sarah the other night and mentioned that fall was close and she said, "Don't you dare use that four-letter F-word!" which made me laugh). But fall is in the yard, and I am glad. I am ready for this difficult summer to be over, ready to even be someone different, myself. There's a stripey cat sitting in the living room, looking at me, and she is different. There's a little calico cat creeping along the top of my new sofa, which arrived yesterday, and she is different. She keeps meowing at me. She's prodding the sofa with her tiny paw — What is this now? — and we're all doing that here, gently poking at our territory. What is this, quiet house, quiet yard, the quiet dog bed I can't bear to put away?
Thank you again for all of your kindnesses, so many tender little gestures, stitching up our broken hearts with the softest, nicest threads and tender little blanket stitches so things won't leak out or fray. I'm so overwhelmed. We read every word of the comments and emails, together, and received all the voicemails and hugs and cookies and flowers and plums and dumplings, and picked up our mail at the P.O. box yesterday, and, over and over again, we were moved to tears by just how kind people are, the ones we know and the ones we don't, and how similarly we all feel about the little animals that we are privileged to take care of for a while. It was a privilege to share Audrey here, the most liberating and embarrassing kind of indulgence that you really can't help expressing, like gushing about a crush to anyone who will listen. For I was infatuated with that dog. I loved her from the day we met her. And even now, six years later, I would only have to look at her to feel that flutter, to throw myself on the floor in a swoon and kiss her soft, soft forehead, and ask her if she loved me, too. But it was just a game I played. I knew about her. That dog loved everything, and with such sincerity. Her enthusiasm, her beauty, her sweetness, her generosity — whenever someone would come over, she would, within ten minutes (after what mauling as could be accomplished via four-inch-long legs), be lying contentedly under their chair, no questions asked. She didn't wonder if you were a dog person, she didn't wonder if you liked her, she didn't care about the stupid crap you'd said or done. Welcome to the family, she said. You belong here. I'll take care of you. I think that dog brought out the best in Andy and in me. She taught us how we want to be, though we still have so far to go.
I think it takes a while for it all to sink in. You sort of just don't believe it, at first. It feels impossible, like you can't get it all straight. We were so lucky to have several days, Andy and I, where we did nothing but talk, and walk, and think about what had just happened. We said a million words. It had to have been a million. I cried openly in public places and didn't care. But they were sacred places that I'm sure have seen many a tear, the Japanese Garden, the Chinese Garden, the Rose Garden, Washington Park, the Oregon Zoo, the Be Good Tanyas concert, the Clackamas County Fair. The pioneer village at the Clackamas County Fair. The rodeo. The 4-H cake decorating contest. The dairy barn as I stroked the soft, soft black muzzle of an eight-month-old little black cow. All those places welcomed us this week, for we did not want to be home. And everywhere we went, people were so kind. We thought about how you should always tread softly, in every encounter, because you do not know what people are going through that day. They probably aren't crying in public with their shirt buttoned incorrectly, as I am, but I never have been able to make a secret of my sadnesses. So I am grateful for every kindness we encountered, because we felt quite wounded then.
But mostly I am grateful that we were able to have that strange, unreal empty time that was filled with only the two of us again, really, though we never felt alone. Now it is back to work, a new routine, a new season and new things to be. She did not like it when we were sad, would go hide somewhere until we'd cut it out and get it together. So we're doing that now, Auds. We're doing that. It's okay. Good girl.
Oh, good dog.