New post on http://www.jfinkimages.com. Just returned from hiking in Torres Del Paine National Park in Chile. Enjoy!
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This is the second and final entry on the loss of our dog, “Action” Jackson, somewhat suddenly last September. The first entry, “only a dog,” was a bit raw, written the morning after he died and tried to look very directly at that experience. Here’s a link to that post if you’d like to look back: https://oldbonesnewsnow.com/2022/11/20/just-a-dog-on-the-loss-of-a-true-heart-friend/
This is more of a reflection on the many lessons Jack taught me in his life and in his dying. I’ve long felt that dogs can be true Bodhisattvas, essentially enlightened beings returning to this plane of Samsara to help us floundering humans move toward our own enlightenment and that of all sentient beings.
Jackson was a Bodhisattva.
what he taught me
that concrete is always cold
that a stranger may come to embody home
yet fear may always linger
that each of us wants to be loved
but in a very particular way
that it takes great patience
to uncover that way
that trust grows slowly
but may come to have deep roots
that deep roots
are the source of all joy
that a day with a new ball
is truly an exceptional day
that a day with no ball at all
is just as exceptional
that mountain trails
are mainly meant for dogs
that no lake is ever too cold
for a swim
that it’s entirely unclear
which one of us was rescued
that brown eyes in a black dog face
are a form of grace
is the music of the soul
that watching out for each other
is a full-time job
that the most vigilant watchers
must eventually fail
that even if we think we’re prepared for death
it comes suddenly without warning
that death tears a jagged hole
that the pain of this tearing is crushing
that all of this pain counts as nothing
compared to the love of a very good dog
that I will be forever rich
for having shared his life
that from now on my life
will be smaller
that in my next life he will be waiting
just as I waited fifty years for him in this one
that it would best if I arrived in that next life
carrying a brand-new ball
In late September, our beloved dog Jackson suddenly died from a ruptured spleen. We rushed him into surgery, but his heart didn’t survive the blood loss. While he was “just a dog,” this ten year old rescue was my true heart friend.
A small example – when I fell ill in March, Jack wouldn’t leave my side, sleeping next to me every night while I was on oxygen. When I’d wake in the darkness unable to breath, I could reach down and feel him there, calm and warm.
I can longer do that.
I process by writing, so here is the first of two pieces I wrote around the loss of Jax. It was written the morning after he died.
This speaks to the gift and the pain of holding him as he died.
I will always miss him.
He will always be my bright and shining boy.
just a dog I prayed to the gods of several heavens to permit me to bring him home, to give us some time - a day an hour, a moment of peace before parting. but the gods are either deaf or dumb or dead. he’d always been so warm, his soft black fur a perfect place to bury a face. but here, he was so very cold. I'd promised to keep him safe but I failed. they said he couldn’t hear us, that he wasn’t conscious. yet as we held him, stroked his velvet ears and repeated our familiar words of praise and love, his agitated, damaged heart slowed by a third, and then more. his heart stopped and then mine. the indifferent gods only let us bring his collar home.
I’ve written before of the privilege of loving this old dog –
Bedfellows – A Perspective on the Passage of Time. A short post while battling pneumonia. How the sources of warmth evolve with time.
change under the weather lately I’ve been sleeping in the guest room and letting my old black dog sleep on the bed all night his muzzle is going gray and he seems to appreciate the softness on his old bones in the mornings, when I slip out of bed he cracks open one eye to see if I’m going to chase him off there was a time in my life when I’d leave a beautiful, five-foot-tall brunette asleep in my bed both are warm both hog the bed
Here’s another look at life with an older dog – https://oldbonesnewsnow.com/2021/03/07/wordless-love-the-sweet-experience-of-loving-an-old-dog/
And look here for more on growing a tiny bit older – https://poets.org/text/poems-about-aging
a simple prayer his feet cracked, red and worn from the long and lonely walk into this life his mother’s hand a sister’s touch may he be warm may he be safe may he be held
Fisher Chambers Fink, born March 20, 2022; 9lbs 5 oz.
And on a similar note, from Czeslaw Milosz, Forget:
” a grandson and a great grandson are born…you stand at the threshold mute”
To revisit the recent series of Lineage Poems:
And the Final Lineage Poem: https://oldbonesnewsnow.com/2022/03/20/a-joyful-circle-the-final-lineage-poem/
A Joyful Circle – the Final Lineage Poem. And so we come full circle in this series of Lineage Poems. Like medieval astronomers who took the earth to be the center of all things, so does our ego create the illusion that this individual life is the central point of reference in the infinite sweep of time and generations. Past, future, and at the fulcrum, this single life. And I suppose it couldn’t be any other way, however flawed this cosmology of self.
As I write this, I’ve been down for two weeks struggling to recover from pneumonia. It’s honestly been a frightening time. In an earlier post, I mentioned that my only brother died a short time ago, of lung disease as it happens (https://oldbonesnewsnow.com/2022/03/19/sunrise-and-sunset-the-wheel-of-life/.) So losing the ability to breathe triggered both fearful memories and simple animal fear. Just today, it finally feels like my breathing is softening, and the air is beginning to flow.
And also just today, our next grandchild has begun the long, messy, painful, risky and extraordinary process of pushing into this world.
A joyful circle. I wouldn’t have missed a minute of it
And I pray that I will have many, many, more to experience
Little boy, I weep with joy at the prospect of meeting you!
Grandson, Son, Husband, Father, Father-in-law, Grandfather, Ancestor
Two closing poems to bring this home, the first from several years ago
old man in the wild untended fields of my heart sits an old man. the day is late but warm and the low-angled light spreads like butter over the tall grass. his beard is white gone beyond gray, and his hair, long and thin shifts with the wind. he wears a multicolored vest stitched with threads of silver and his boney white feet sit bare upon the land his hands, held still on his long legs, bear the scars of a lifetime of choices -- he sits beyond judgment beyond expectation -- he’s been waiting for a very, very long time he breathes as I breathe his blue eyes are clouded now from having witnessed a life while in the distance the witches’ voices rise in round to the beating sound of his heart he has always known this song has always known all of the songs we are each of us sorcerers all singers of one single deathless song
And a final word written very recently
only that they say it’s our habits, habitual tendencies that are reincarnated, like a wind blowing through a window left open in a newly constructed house. and this makes sense to me – I haven’t suffered enough trauma in this one life to be as confused as I seem to be so I must have swept these old wounds into the womb with me, an intangible blanket of familiar mistakes to keep this newborn warm now, as I stare down this narrowing hall I pray to whatever powers there be to allow me to direct more precisely the next go-round when the last breezes blow and this basket of bones finally fails may only one thing pass into the next life-- may I carry forward only the tender warmth of my fingers as they touch the cheeks of those I have loved most in this world that and only that May these words be of benefit to all sentient beings
To explore more poetry with buddhist themes, click here:https://www.shambhala.com/buddhist-poetry-a-reader-guide/
Sunrise and Sunset – the Wheel of Life. The 9th Lineage Poem. So we near the end of this cycle of Lineage Poems. We began with the roots of ancestors gone long before I was born, but embedded in my every cell; visited and said goodbye to both my father and my mother; welcomed the addition of a new line through marriage; and celebrated the advent of a new generation in the birth of my beloved granddaughter. Now, we turn to the inherent cyclical nature embedded in the fabric of the generations.
Last year I buried my only brother Joseph, and shortly thereafter learned that our son and daughter in law are expecting a second child any day now, a boy this time.
A death and a birth, a brother and a grandson
chance I haven’t met him yet just been told he’s in transit waiting, biding his time in the warm, purple amniotic dark. our oldest son told us that his son is expected in the spring. I clearly remember the morning my wife’s water broke rushing to the hospital, becoming a father for the first time I called my older brother eager to share the news but he was unimpressed just last month I spoke at his funeral, his ashes in a box at the front of the room and there it is, one leaving just as another is beginning and in between, such drama and beauty, love and pain and none of it endures - none of us endures I wonder if I’ll still be here when the son of my son snaps open his eyes and screams at the shock of squeezing into this hard cold world I hope so, though I know in truth there’s no way to protect him nonetheless I’d dearly love the chance to die trying
For more poems about brothers, click here: https://www.momjunction.com/articles/brother-poems_00697143/
And if you’d like to revisit the first in this cycle of Lineage Poems, click here:https://oldbonesnewsnow.com/2022/01/09/a-joyful-noise-root-music-of-the-heartland/
A Joyous Day – Gift of a New Life (8th Lineage Poem) Nearly three years ago, this lineage began a new phase with the birth of our granddaughter Sawyer. Honestly, I never expected to care much about grandchildren.
I was wrong!
Born on the cusp of covid, she’s always had a bit of “stranger danger” and, of course, this extended to me – kind of still does. Yet we have our own profoundly goofy relationship founded on funny faces, silly noises and mutual surveillance.
She is brilliant, exceptionally verbal and, of course, beautiful. Her blue eyes are stunning, and her crooked grin is simply beguiling.
(I feel very strongly that it’s not my job to post pictures of her on the internet, but below are two that I feel do preserve her privacy.)
I’ve born witness now to the birth and growth of two sons and a granddaughter, and I still have no idea where these exceptional creatures come from, how their intelligence takes root and blooms.
This is the great mystery and the gift of lineage.
I am forever in love
mumuration her small voice rising in the dark above the crib a morning murmuration beginning spinning, rising, a flock of freshly hatched words translucent and damp where did she come from? this spontaneous consciousness this ascending double helix of intelligence - pulsing, spiraling wave upon brilliant wave of innate wisdom, elaborating her sweet song, a spark radiating across the endless space of possibility, coming now to crack open the darkness like a star like the first soft light of this brand new day
Equally astounding is how quickly a child engages, learns to stand, to walk and to step into a tomorrow of her own.
hers after a lifetime of insisting on my own importance here I stand, in the shadows watching her watching her the clouds roll in and evening pools in the valley she takes one step forward and then another, venturing to the very edge of the world this world that is now hers and hers alone
Here’s a link to more poems about the special creatures that are grandchildren:https://allpoetry.com/poems/about/grandchildren
And here’s a link to the seventh of the Lineage Poems – https://oldbonesnewsnow.com/2022/03/08/shadow-people-when-the-lineage-merges-and-generations-fade/
And a final closing note- young Sawyer’s little brother is due to arrive any day now.
Can’t wait to meet him.
Shadow People – When the Lineage Merges and Generations Fade. It’s rather easy to look back, to be the receiver and say that “she contributed this, he offered that.” And then children emerge, and very soon you can sense it all begin to flow away, of everything beginning to pass.
When small, there’s a sense of “mine” in one’s children — “my son, my daughter.” But this is a terrible illusion.
In fact, we are theirs.
As Persian Poet Khalil Gibran said in his remarkable poem, “On Children,”
“…their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.” https://poets.org/poem/children-1
But a downstream lineage requires an injection – a partner, a husband, a wife to be inserted into this stream so it can flow onward. And right there begins the obsolescence. Suddenly it’s apparent that you no longer matter quite so much, even it takes time for this to sink in,
that you’re rapidly becoming little more than an old story
someone your child might recall years from now
and, if you’ve been very fortunate,
And while this is natural, it does bring with it the opportunity to love in a completely different way. This is not the love born of biology, nor is it a love shaped from an accumulated lifetime of shared experiences.
This is a love born of learning, of tolerating (in both directions, of course,) of getting to know, of bumping against each other, of embracing, of creating new shared experiences, and ultimately, heaven willing, of standing together to support the launch of the next generation.
Lineage. True Lineage.
shadow people they begin as shadow people two-dimensional, replaceable appearing only for a moment then fading, leaving only a name a story to be laughed about over dinner translucent satellites in temporary orbit around this child you’ve birthed and fed, the one you’ve poured your life into, saw fall and stand again, then mature into the rich three-dimensional life you see before you who one day brings home another and suddenly you sense that this just might be “the one” the one that takes root in the rich soil of your son, the one he now turns to before you, the one who clearly holds all of his new secrets, the one who’s ear hears all of his dreams and though you try to be happy for him and for “them” you can already feel yourself beginning to thin, to lighten, to lift ever so slightly above the floor where they now stand together can feel yourself darkening and spreading up the long wall as the sun drops low in the sky stretching the day’s last shadows which even now are beginning to fade as day inevitably progresses into night
In case you missed it, here’s a link to the Sixth Lineage Poem – This Father’s Imperfect Love: https://oldbonesnewsnow.com/2022/03/01/this-fathers-imperfect-love-sixth-lineage-poem/
The Gift of an Exquisite Love – the Fifth Lineage Poem, on Valentines day no less! We were eighteen years old, in our freshman year of college in a small town in Michigan. I’d borrowed the money from my girlfriend (a long story) to take her out to an old-school, no-alcohol coffee house called “the Troubador” in Kalamazoo Michigan.
The room was full of cigarette smoke, and we were with three other couples, all there to hear a band who’s name I’ve long forgotten. Between sets, we all ordered coffees and the talk was fast and loud. She was seated directly across the large round table from me. Thinking of nothing much at all, I happened to look up and straight into her impossibly large green eyes.
And I was done for. I fell in love in that instant, and have never stopped loving her.
These poems were written a very long time ago
Each one came as a completed poem
Each was a gift
The Gift of an Exquisite Love
I felt myself break I felt myself break and drift back and back, and down to settle here forever on the deep green floor of your eyes
And the second, once that gifted love had begun to breathe.
the soft, soft sleep of dawn I awoke this morning to the brush your lash on my neck like a light on the still darkened stage of our bodies held tight and heavy and warm in the soft, soft sleep of dawn
Link to the first Lineage Poem (the ground):https://oldbonesnewsnow.com/2022/01/09/a-joyful-noise-root-music-of-the-heartland/
Link to the second Lineage Poem (father dying):https://oldbonesnewsnow.com/2022/01/16/on-the-way-to-heaven-2nd-lineage-poem-over-ohio/
Link to the third Lineage Poem (burying my father): https://oldbonesnewsnow.com/2022/01/24/a-father-returns-home-welcomed-by-the-land/
Link to the fourth Lineage Poem (missing a mother):https://oldbonesnewsnow.com/2022/02/01/a-mothers-love-a-sons-regrets-fourth-of-the-lineage-poems/
And a closing link to the incredible Pablo Neruda, Love Sonnet XI:https://hellopoetry.com/poem/9927/love-sonnet-xi/