The cycle of life is all around us – birth, growth, death, birth, growth, death. It marches across my heart, sometimes tiptoeing, gently caressing my soul with love, other times stomping on it with hobnail boots. Unpredictable and spontaneous, yet predictable and certain; we know that death will come, but we don’t know just when. And we know there will be new life, but its magic always takes us by surprise.
I stand on my back deck early this summer’s morning, inhaling life around me, my heart so very full. In a tall tree near the ferry dock an eagle cries, and from the telephone post nearest the house a flicker calls to its mate. Over the fence I see apples and pears ripening on the neighbour’s trees, and in my yard my scarlet runners wind their way up the lattice at the back of my vegetable bed.
The baby sparrows in the birdhouse under the eaves chirp noisily as their father, one eye on me, cautiously flies to them with grubs in his beak. The babies are nearly ready to fly, each to begin its solo adventure into the world.
By my feet, my dog Charley breathes in the scent of grass and flowers and birds and fruit, on what may be her last full day on earth. It is three days since she was taken ill – a neurological event that left her unable to walk on tangled legs, unable to see through clouded eyes, unable to eat without assistance. In the past two days, she showed little improvement. And so last night I made the appointment for our vet to come to her one final time.
But this morning Charley suddenly arose, and softly padded after me as I made my way outside. Now, she lies quietly beside me as I sip my cup of coffee and watch the morning awaken. Perhaps she will rally enough to welcome many more mornings with me; or perhaps this is her swan song.
I realize, as I survey the world around me, that life is not linear or cyclical as my initial thoughts suggest. Yes, our time on earth begins with birth and ends with death, but it is not a straight progression. Towards the end, especially, it is often one step forward, two steps back, two steps forward, one step back. The cliché ‘dancing with death’ comes to mind. My Charley is doing a passionate tango with death. As the conductor of her music, I have the power to halt her dance at any time, or the power to let it continue, albeit under watchful eye, until the cosmic force that governs all births and deaths decides that it is truly time for her to move along.
Perhaps the baby birds will fly tomorrow. Perhaps my Charley will not die tomorrow. Perhaps.
(c) JFB 2011