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October light

October light

It’s said that All Hallows’ / Samhain is a “thin time,” when the separation between the corporeal and spirit worlds is very thin. Celebrated and commemorated through All Saints and Dia de los Muertos rituals, the spirits of those we love but who are no longer living with us are central during this period.

It was very much a liminal few days for me, with thoughts and feelings of loved ones very much present. Halloween, always an excuse for a party in San Francisco, was topped with a parade for the San Francisco Giants World Series victory. It all meant that my city was in a celebratory mood. On November 1st, a neighbor asked me “how was your Halloween?” “Good.” I said, with a smile. His young son was eating candy for breakfast. Actually, I stood on a thin edge.

My emotions were so near the surface that it made being in public a challenge. I cried easily and often, for grief and happiness: grief for my loss and failures, and happiness for the good memories. I included my dad and my dog among those dead to be included in prayers at church. I went from thinking of loved ones to seeing the joy of a family with their 6-day-old child and twin toddlers, and cried for both. I hope people at church just figured I had a cold, based on how often my handkerchief was out.

I felt the blessing of sunshine and the fall breeze on my skin, and missed my dog Phoebe. Phoebe and I would have been together outdoors on a hike or in the garden on such a day. She would have set a quick pace up and down hills a few years ago, but went far more slowly the past few years. Out for a walk at a brisk pace, traveling past our old haunts, I miss her. She’s been gone just 4 months now. At least outdoors, it was sunny enough to wear my Oakley sunglasses, which hid my misty eyes from people on the street.

And then there’s the headache that tends to follow after all that emotion. To give myself a break, I immerse myself in a really good book. Here’s a quote from one by Diana Gabaldon, whose writing made me think of this as a “thin time.”

“This is the thin time, when the beloved dead draw near. The world turns inward, and the chilling air grows thick with dreams and mystery.”
Diana Gabaldon, An Echo in the Bone

Taken by her only dog-walker/alternate caretaker, Jenny (aka Doggrrl)

Phoebe on Bernal Hill

For the first time in many years, I won’t be taking Phoebe to church this weekend. The celebration of St Francis with the Blessing of the Animals is something I enjoyed before I had a dog. I attended the celebration at Grace Cathedral with friends (one of whom had a dog) when Jane Goodall preached the sermon and my friend’s dog Riley got his special prayer. I know I could attend this year, too, with or without Phoebe’s ashes, but it’s too sad to contemplate, and I don’t want to sob in public, which is what would likely happen.

Phoebe was a blessing to me in many ways for nearly 15 years. The regular prayers she & I received during the Blessing of the Animals acknowledged that bond. I’m recalling those blessings, and that bond today, with love.

June 2014