Tail Winds and Rosy Apparitions

by Maria Theresa Maggi on September 12, 2019

“Rosy,” chalk pastel by Maria Theresa Maggi

A little while ago, a Wednesday, the day of the week Romeo died (which for now, constitutes an anniversary each week), came two literal tail winds, or “wooshes,” as I sometimes like to call them. The first one came when a hummingbird grazed my ear as I sat, a bit lost, in a dear neighbor’s yard–how it thrilled me to feel the wings beating, to “hear” them. The second one came in the late afternoon as Cotton and I began our walk. From behind came first the feel and the sound of muted thunder, as the high school athletes who come here to train with their coach who lives in my cul de sac started out their run en masse–and wooshed by us. Cotton was in wonder beside me. We stopped to “feel” them pass–all youth, grace, male, female, brown, white, black, yellow. The tailwind was palpable. For a moment they carried us with them and I said to Cotton, “yes, they are doing what you like to do sometimes,” and though he understood, he was content to stay.

Just days after Romeo passed, a friend wrote to ask me if Romeo had come to “visit.” I said yes but did not elaborate–it would have been too exhausting to describe in that moment. I remembered that Tinne, our golden, tried for the corporeal. The afternoon after she died she did her best to materialize in the kitchen while I napped to reassure me she would help me find another dog (and she did).

Romeo has a more ethereal approach, in keeping with his less “material” nature. He brings the feel of a rosy color or light, and the wooshes, the upliftment of the tailwind. The sonnet I wrote about us, “Scenes From A Valentine’s Day,” comes to mind since it describes a feeling of love that comes from sharing moments of wonder together in the world.

Mock up for Romeo Valentine Card with the sonnet “Scenes From a Valentine’s Day” on it. Poem and art by Maria Theresa Maggi

Scenes from a Valentine’s Day

Romeo, my four-legged Valentine,
focuses on a clump of dead leaves
with the olfactory equivalent
of a microscope, while over us
the sky has opened to sun, then turned gray,
and now a few flakes of snow flutter
in the air that shifts its color with the clouds.
We’re on the edge of campus; a young man
in black sweats crosses our path, his arms full
of red roses wrapped in red paper.
The snow falls but doesn’t stick yet;
the sky is that color of milk hinting
a storm might come, its wide mouth agape,
as if opening to a deep kiss.

by Maria Theresa Maggi, from If A Sparrow, Finishing Line Press

Romeo witnessed my wonder like no other. Those moments we usually have in solitude, he was there for, for years. And now I feel him present in spirit during them, as if to kiss me on the cheek, or, place his head gently on my hand. Subtlety was his gift then, and now. In spirit, he still imparts to me and Cotton such refinement and beauty. We felt our first moment of wonder together as the beautiful young people wooshed by us. If I look for the nuance, I’ll find everything, all the love we need, all the wonder. Romeo has that woosh quality now full bore, like the angels on the San Diego freeway once imparted to me.

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It’s been a little over a month since these very early experiences after Romeo’s passing. Taken from a journal I write early morning impressions in, it was hard to form them into sentences.  Since then, there’s been many “rosy” reminders and apparitions, nearly daily, that buoy me along when they are most needed. I started really taking notice the day we had to go to our first nail trimming appointment without Romeo. The doggy care place we go to offers free pens and I went to grab one. Only afterward did I realize I had grabbed a “rosy” one when I would usually go for another color. I smiled.

In those first weeks of loss, it was hard to be out on a walk and have people ask where Romeo was. It felt like others were touching a burn. I understood intellectually all the kind words and gestures were meant to comfort me, but I really understood, too, why another neighbor who lost her quiet little dog named Jewels at 15, had said to me “I’m okay as long as I don’t talk about it.” That was me a lot of the time, especially when others initiated the conversation. I wanted to choose when to speak about it.

I’ve spent a lot of time on the couch, learning to loom knit, something I started before Romeo died, as a project to focus myself and to humanize those waiting at the border. I’ve been sending my hats and  little comfort dolls to RAICES.  It’s always “home base” after walking out in the neighborhood, the first trip to the store when he wouldn’t be here waiting for us, and much more. Gradually I’ve ventured further afield for longer. The biggest outing came last Friday night when a friend and I went to Newport to see George Winston in concert. I almost never do anything like that but when I saw he was coming I wanted to go. Cotton did beautifully at my side the whole evening as well.

In addition to beautiful piano (and guitar and harmonica) numbers, sitting in that little intimate theater helped bring about an unexpected shift in my grieving process. As we first were seated in the lovely gallery reserved for people with disabilities, I confess my mind went to the horrible what if place since there have been so many public shootings. But I let it play across my mental screen knowing it was passing weather. And then, I looked out onto the audience, most of whom were senior citizens like me, enjoying the beginning of the concert (which was also a fundraiser for the Lincoln County Food Bank) and a wave of profound benevolence swept over me toward all of them. It seemed like a huge protective blanket that allowed me to be present and to let all feelings flow, even those of sadness in remembrance of the days I might have been at something like this with Romeo. I let the tears fall. Cotton sensed this, and looked up at me. He shifted himself to put his body on my foot to comfort me. It was a beautiful gesture in a magical night.

Since then, that woosh of benevolence has proven its staying power. Late one afternoon a few days ago we were out walking past the clubhouse and a woman I hadn’t seen since Romeo died was going in to a gathering about to start. She greeted me and said ever so plaintively, “I just feel so sad when I see you walking around with just one dog. Romeo was such a beautiful creature.” Instead of making me feel like someone was poking at a burn, I got it, in the way I once glimpsed it when back in Moscow, I was worrying to a friend that I felt like I did not do enough to help people. She said, “Maria, you have no idea how many people you help and comfort, just walking around town with Romeo the way you do.” I wasn’t so sure about that but I decided to accept it on faith. And the way this student of one of my poetry colleagues moved me when I was sent what she wrote about “Scenes From A Valentine’s Day” when they read it in a class about love poetry: “I like these poems a lot because they show that love can be had for so many different things. I don’t have a boyfriend, but my dog is my best friend, so ‘Scenes from a Valentine’s Day, is now one of my favorite poems. Despite never having a ‘lover’ on V-day, I love the holiday and appreciate the day to celebrate all kinds of love, much like the speaker in the poem.”

Now that faith helped me understand this woman’s feeling of loss, and so many others who are now watching me and Cotton walk around without Romeo, and how the three of us had become part of their experience here. They are mourning too.

Now I don’t find it quite as painful when people ask or try to say something nice. And I’m glad when they ask about Cotton or say how beautiful he is, too. And it’s helped me reflect on what my special talents to inspire must be. They seem to have to do with just doing my thing. Even the folks with houses on the water have told me how they enjoy seeing me play with the dogs on the beach. When I’m there I have no idea anyone is watching. But apparently they are. Now they’re seeing Cotton and me in the early morning, as we negotiate when he can run to chase crows or when he needs to come back from going too far after a sea gull tacking down the edge of the water.They see us play with his toy, how he waits for me to try and come ‘get it’ and let’s me get it, wanting me to have a turn too. They see how seamlessly he walks with me when on leash.

There are many activities in our neighborhood, like classes, a group of walkers, stitchers, barbecues and chili cook offs. One neighbor I really like who’s here for the summer says it’s like “camp”–and she does as many things as she has energy for, because, she says, she never went to camp–and we laugh. I, on the other hand, rarely go to anything organized. One of my friends suggested the stitching group to me and when I said without hesitation, “no, I don’t think so,” she may have been taken aback a little at my instant definitiveness.

It isn’t that I don’t like visiting with people. I end up doing plenty of that just running into folks on our walks, or having tea with my circle of close friends, or visiting on the way to errands someone takes me on. But when I loom knit, or write postcards to voters, I actually like to do these things by myself. It brings greater focus to my efforts, in a meditative kind of way, and most importantly, it gives me the space to visualize the potential people my creations will go to, and how I can make them lovely and full of tenderness for them. Or if I’m writing a postcard to a voter, how that person might be encouraged by what I write to get out there and vote. I can’t do that if I’m visiting while I knit or write. And in both cases, it’s physically demanding enough that doing it alone means I’ll be better at it because my concentration is focused, and my awareness of when I need to rest is also more present. I’m not keeping up with anyone but myself.

It’s visualizing the positive outcomes for the people I love the most though. Perhaps the solitude I live in helps me be present in this way, and in ways that make me a better blog writer and a good long distance friend or sister. So maybe I AM doing something that is somehow that mysterious “enough.” I giggled that yet again in my life I’m still trying to answer that question for myself. And when I did giggle and look away from the screen my eye settled on a brilliant fuchsia shade in my tie-dyed dish towel–a “rosy” reminder to follow “the encouragement of life” offered to me, as it is described in a beautiful poem by Sufi Master Hafiz. Listen to “How Did The Rose Ever Open” set to music, by David Wilcox and Nance Petit, from their CD Out Beyond Ideas.”

And thanks, Romeo–you still make everything come up “roses” and remind me there’s more than enough love to go around.

“Romeo in Pink Curtain Morning Light, ” Portland, 2015

Maria (moonwatcher)

 

 

 

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Susan Wright September 13, 2019 at 8:04 am

pretty neat thanks

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2 Silvia September 17, 2019 at 4:33 am

Tears, again….

Beautiful words for Romeo!

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3 Maria Theresa Maggi September 17, 2019 at 10:15 am

Thank you so much, Silvia ((hugs))

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4 Gena September 29, 2019 at 8:02 am

Maria,

I’m glad that you’ve been considering your own gifts and special ways of contributing, and especially that you can see how much the very act of you being yourself can help others. Your thoughtful, compassionate, and generous heart is itself a “woosh” of benevolence to the world and especially those of us who are lucky enough to read what you write, to receive your lovingkindness as friends, and to observe the remarkable relationships you’ve co-created with Cotton and Romeo. I’m glad for an update on both of them, and it’s good to hear that certain things are becoming less painful to you as you mourn. I hope you can keep keeping up with yourself, as you say. It’s all you need to do.

xo

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5 Maria Theresa Maggi October 12, 2019 at 3:25 pm

Dear Gena, these kind words are very much appreciated, and I reread them at just the right time. I thank you from the depths of my heart. coco

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