We Stand With Her

I watch my old dog from the kitchen window, lying flat out on her side in the heat: dreaming, I reckon, of the birth of her puppies that day when our two youngest crammed inside her kennel, with her and all six of her pups—while she licked and cuddled and groaned and shone with canine pride. I step outside and she's awake in an instant, watching me walk across the yard—like a hawk, she watches—not trying to make it too obvious: unlike the way she would have ten years ago. I make some eye contact but not too much or both of us will get uncomfortable. Don't want her thinking I'm thinking what she is: time to go wander the universe, to check the traps: the earth, the sky and the stars. To see that there's more life than death out there. For we, the two of us, can't really believe the rumour of our demise, the falling down, the unravelling they call entropy. No way! We will get up and walk, we will! We, the two of us, will see the lights, taste the wind, hear the birds; feel the leaves, smell the air, know that all is well. She knows, I know, we both know, the dying is closer now; so close we have to stand up, stretch and make some kind of noise to the universe: telling her that we stand with her. That we are also not happy about these rumours of her coming collapse. That we feel the quiet indignation of the old stock horse, the old mate trimming his lawn, the sparrow; the friend on chemo and the giant mountain ash—the disgrace of this steady, rolling thunder of decay, of loss. Even of that most lovely of secrets we call memory. Huh! What a pathetic word for such a glory. As if this is simply a matter of electrical signals in some freaking brain cells! This memory of the birth of the first daughter, the first grandson; the first puppies: just a memory? Whatever! My thesaurus says: yes, we have recall, retention and recollection. But then it adds, as if it almost forgot to mention: commemoration, tribute, honour, observance and recognition. It doesn't look like it and we don't want it to look like it either; but me and the old dog are crossing this highway to adore the sun, the earth under our feet: the stars and the trees late at night when you can't even see them—just feel them, hear them—know they are there: behind those clouds, through that inky darkness. And you're tempted to bow down and worship their shy glory, like the glory of that grandchild, yesterday; bringing a flower from my wife's garden, telling me that she also knows what I'm thinking: what we are all thinking and feeling and honouring and commemorating.

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