Though I have been posting regularly on the Tender Graces blog, this is where I started, and this is where those of you who have been around a while heard my stories of the walks in the cove and on the mountain, muse trail, and of Fat Dog and Not Quite Fat Dog. I loved those posts, and really, I do miss writing them. I know the novel and Rose & Thorn has consumed me, especially since the end of last year and beginning of this year. So, I thought I’d let you all know that I released Fat Dog, Kayla’s, ashes today. One year ago she died from a cancer tumor—well, they put her down on the vet’s table when the surgery proved she couldn’t be saved. It’s all in the archives of this blog from end of July and beginning of August, if you want to know about it or don’t recall.
This will be long, but I am writing it for me, because I need to set down the words—that is what I do. I set down words. It is how I process things. It is how I perceive—with words and images and the purging through writing.
The mahogany-colored box Kayla’s ashes came in had not been opened since I received it from the vet’s office almost a week after she was gone. Today, I at last opened it, unscrewing the screws. I didn’t know what to expect. I took off the top of the box, and inside was a plastic baggie tied with one of those bread ties. I immediately wanted to cry—there was my Kayla, the remains of her. This stuff in a baggie—but it wasn’t obscene or ugly at all. I didn’t cry – I used all the old ways I learned from times before to control the emotion, the crying. It’s a powerful thing, and probably a sad one, to be able to control your emotions to the extent you won’t cry when you need to. But I didn’t want to be consoled and when someone cries, the person next to them wants to console, it is our way. But, sometimes when things are swirling so madly inside of you, when grief is joined by other things that demand attention, things that have you feeling surreal, when the very idea of being a woman and the very idea of being a woman of 52 brings both wonder and fear and the idea that time for you is at least half gone, when there are things you have yet to do, when grief and all these things bubble up and threaten to spill over, that is when one sometimes must shut down and just do the work of what has to be done.
I lifted the bag from the box. Roger and I stepped outside with Not Quite Fat Dog, our Jake, and headed out for the walk we used to take several times a week with our dogs, something we’ve stopped doing since they developed, or tried to, Muse Trail, and since Kayla left, and those walks are something I know I need to do again, for my mountain walks here on Killian Knob are restive. We’ve been walking elsewhere.
I sprinkled ashes at the end of the driveway where she always stopped for her first “pee and sniff” – it was the first time my hand touched them. I looked at them—very fine powdery ash mixed with tiny bone fragments. When I released them, I felt reverential that these were remains of a living thing. It felt right, and it strengthens my want to be cremated when my time comes.
I won’t go into all the places her ashes are sprinkled, but they were her favorite places to stop. One such place up at Muse Trail is where Kayla’s Creek used to be—the developers, curse them, ruined it with their road (no one has bought not one lot and I hope it reverts to nature as it is trying to do….but, I also know this is a beautiful place and people will want to live here—I can’t blame them)—so, I sprinkled her ashes where there was water trying to find the creek: Kayla’s Creek was so named because she always stopped there and drank the water; she never drank the water anywhere else but there. It must have been cold and sweet mountain water. That was our beginning into the beautiful Muse Trail that I wrote about here so much and where so much inspiration came from.
I want to tell you about these ashes. I let some ashes drift from my fingers and as they drifted, the sunlight filtered through them so that I could see layers and layers of her remains and sun and light and prisms of color that weren’t really color at all, but I perceived them to be, when in actuality I cannot recall a specific color, but there were prisms all the same—it was amazing. Parts of her hovered in the air, dancing, little tiny parts of her, dancing and hovering in the air before they seemed to slowly disappear, to dissolve, in the very air instead of drifting or falling down to the ground with some of the heavier pieces. I let loose another handful and watched it again, awed. Awed.
There was one point in the walk, way up, where I felt her, or at least it seemed as if I did, when her presence seemed so palatable. I whispered, “Good old Kayla, good old girl . . .” Soon that feeling left as I felt the sad return instead of the light return.
On the way down, coming from the other side, there was one place where my Sister Tree still stands — it is actually a grouping of trees that looks as if it is one, as if it is a close-knit group of sisters and I was never so happy to see that the developers didn’t cut it down as they did so many other trees. I tossed some ashes to the Sister Tree, and some of them drifted in the wind and back and settled on Jake’s shiny black coat—he sniffed the wind and some of her drifted into his nose; he had a quizzed look in his eyes, “what is this? what?”
Down back in our cove, I stopped to toss some in an area that is quiet and cool and sweet and the creek runs right there. A sudden wind tossed Kayla into the air and some of her came back to land on my skin.
All during this, the ashes and tinier bits of bone were in my fingernails of my right hand—the hand I used. At one point in the walk, I sat down for a moment. I happened to look down at my ring that around the circle are words that read: Love, Peace, Mind, Body, Spirit…what struck me was how the words Love, Peace, Mind were completely filled with her ashes, but Body was still dark and unfilled, and Spirit was half filled. I thought, well, that is coincidence, we will see what happens when I am back home. So, back at home, I give two last tosses: one in the little area where we have two benches and a fire pit where Kayla lay the day she had to go, she lay there sniffing the wind as if she knew it was the last day she had, while I stroked her soft fur and talked softly to her. I then climbed our stairs and then let some drift and dance around the breeze from off my porch. I left a little in the bag, for I asked a friend if she would let me send her a little bit of Kayla to place somewhere special in the Louisiana earth—since Kayla was born in Baton Rouge and spent a lot of her life there.
But, that ring – once I went inside, I looked at the ring. The words were all filled in with her ashes, except for BODY – that word remained dark and unfilled in with her ashes. Coincidence? Who knows.
I had to wash my hands, and at first I felt bad to, for Kayla’s remains should be dealt with more ceremoniously, but then, I just smiled and washed my hands and whatever was in the pores of my hand and in my fingernails will go on away down the pipes. However, as I type this, I still feel bits of her under my fingernails.
The mahogany-colored box I will place her collar—it has been hanging on a hook outside, and I will place a few other mementos and then I will close the box, screw the screws back on, and then put it away. Done. She will be Done.
I never knew the depths of emotion I’d feel for a dog. Ever. I was never one to make my dogs into little humans. But . . . I miss that dog fiercely.
Kayla was a good girl, she was a good friend. I respected her as a canine, but I loved her as a friend. She was the best dog I’d ever had and the one I’d had the longest of any dog I’d ever had. She was with me since she was a tiny tiny pup all the way until she was gone at almost twelve years old. She had personality, spark—she was stubborn (like me!), and moody (like me!) and she liked to be left alone sometimes (like me!)—so much more to her than I can write here. Those expressive eyes, and the way she used to do this “yodeling” sound when she was happy, and she’d howl like a lonesome wolf when she was sad. My old girl. My good old girl. Good Good Good old girl.