For Bunker

June 17, 2012

After he came to me in 1996, I began calculating the years. He was a big dog, so I’d be really lucky if I got 15 years. I spent way too much time dreading the day I would lose him. I remember consoling myself with the thought that when he died, he would’ve done his job by then. I would be okay, able to survive another few decades without him.

I never said it out loud, but I knew that Bunker had come to help me heal. He was a therapy dog before there were therapy dogs. He brought me a level of calm I’d never known. Without him, my depression would’ve probably ruined me. He picked up my broken, battered spirit and carried it alongside his. He took away the heaviness, and I still don’t understand how he did it. I don’t understand who he was or why he carried such medicine. I spend my days writing my heart out, trying so hard to explain the tremendous comfort he brought.

He was 11 when he got sick, and he died within 10 days of his diagnosis. The moment he passed, I felt a shift in the atmosphere. The light changed. In a way, I still feel frozen in that spot, still stuck in that sterile veterinarian’s office with his lifeless head on my lap. I write this book in an effort to move out of that room, to share the beauty that was his being, to share our story of healing. How blessed I was to have him.

Fight Your Way Through

The day after I read the memoir manuscript & announced this site on Facebook, I got a rejection from a well known literary journal for a short story I submitted back in February. The rejection wasn’t a five paragraph treatise on why they almost published the story but didn’t. It was a one line, “We’ll pass” e-mail that made me wonder why I’m toiling away at my desk on a daily basis for that kind of response.

I promptly ate a dozen cookies. Then forwarded the rejection to my husband and mom. Then sulked and made my kids play by themselves while I sat on the couch reading a book. I’ve been rejected plenty before. Getting rejected is a big part of this process. It’s just that this particular “no” felt cruelly timed. I was feeling so good about the book, so elated by all of my supportive friends, and the universe had to go and toss a bucket of cold water on all that hope.

After a day of contemplating, moping, cookies, etc., I realize that in the end, I suppose this is why I do it. Because it’s really, really hard.  Because again and again, especially with the memoir, I’m going to have to defend why it’s an important story to tell.  My notoriously thin skin just will not cut it in this endeavor. So today I will put away the cookies and remember that all these little disasters will help prepare me when it comes time to really fight for this book, for this story I so deeply believe in.

Hope

I just finished reading the memoir manuscript for the first time. Even though it’s an incomplete first draft and it has so much work ahead of it, I feel like I could weep because it’s good. It’s really good. And, of course, it’s awful in places.

But really, the story and the arc and what’s happening is so real and true and amazing that I feel daunted and humbled by the progress. I realize that I’m really only about halfway through, but judging the distance until I’m finished doesn’t seem important right now. The important part is that I feel hopeful. I can do this, and this story is so important and worth telling. Isn’t that a miracle?

I miss you, Bunker. This one’s for you.

Amen.

(Remind me to read this tomorrow when I’m thwacking my head on my desk.)

Magic

The magic comes
in the form of gifts
I don’t know how to accept.

A blue jay clings to my office window,
a remarkable feather lays in my path,
the writing comes so easily.

I take them, apologize,
forget to show gratitude
until it’s probably too late.

Then the silence arrives.
No birds. No words.
I worry the magic is angry.

Right when hope fades,
the magic reappears.
The bird always returns.