We come to recognize that we lead more than one life, its iterations multifaceted. We are one being–an explosive body of energy–exploring what it is to be alive.
My current life began by the light of the moon, August of 2010, sitting on a single bed, one of three pieces of furniture I had not sold or given away. I shared it with Gumby, an elderly, diabetic beagle. We were surrounded by boxes of books, an ottoman that doubled as a linen chest, an antique rocker from my childhood.
I was not unhappy but I was scared. In fact, I was more content than I remembered being in my then 58 years. The bottom of the abyss can feel that way, a beginning. There is something about starting anew; maybe it’s that beginnings never end.
Yet on that day in August, death was close. I could not or would not see it. In my eyes, Gumby grew younger every day. I did a lot of lying to myself then but not about managing her diabetes.
I was meticulous in giving her insulin and managing her diet. It would not be enough, ultimately, but in that August, I needed her to walk me through the moonlight, and she did–for miles–every day.
Sometimes being surrounded by uncertainty is the way to see through fear. How else to look through the life lens, wide-open. Death is not always believable in its first glimpse. It’s only the last look that stays.
I think that’s because life does go on and in its absence, we have memory, its edges soft–fears faded–we will never live that moment again. We know how it turns out.
So this life I lead now began with a dying beagle whose blindness led both of us into the life I have now. Gumby only stayed a month after we stopped walking by the light of the moon.
Without her, I cannot know when or how I would have left my other life. It doesn’t seem possible. Certainly, the path would have been different.
Morning after morning, I sat in the dark that comes before dawn–sometimes with moonlight, sometimes not–always staring at a computer screen, waiting for the daily inspirational quote from Oprah Winfrey’s newsletter.
Every quotation seemed to be just what I was feeling. Another sliver of light. I wasn’t looking for answers. I had learned about answers; they are a dime a dozen. Ephemeral.
I wanted to stay curious, to find a way to courage, to face questions I had not yet discovered and when I did, ask them aloud. I was tired of being afraid.
I wanted to be Gumby, starting every morning with a walk, unable to see yet confident in the path. I wanted that kind of trust. Scent memory was her GPS.
It has been years since I glimpsed her face in another animal or had a quick flash of memory that seems so real. For a moment I am with her again, walking for miles, never knowing where we are going but always finding home.
It took me years to trust my GPS.
The more we discover, the more lives we live. Like the moon, they have their phases, waxing and waning. A life can only be dark so long, maybe no longer than an eclipse even when it feels an eternity.
Never fear the path for it is always home.