As you know, I’m spending the month of November getting reacquainted with my creative heart. It is great fun to hang out in the studio, tearing images from magazines and calendars, playing with patterns and colors and composition. I’ve also been shaping flying birds out of newspaper and sketching sculptures that I imagine building with found pieces of metal.
And I’ve been pretty easily able to stay focused on the play and process and not worry about producing product for the upcoming Arts Festival.
But what I didn’t expect was how emotional I’ve been, especially about missing Laddy.
Being a Mac workaholic seems to have kept a lot of this tender grief at bay since Laddy died in September. Now, with more time and attention spotlighting my heart, of course I’m going to FEEL other things more. Good stuff, fun stuff AND sad stuff.
Because the creative heart is not a separate place. The whole of the heart feels everything.
In fact, it’s probably BECAUSE of this deep grief that my heart begs to be more creative, more expressive. Because it’s a way for me to touch the sadness, lean into the feelings, move through the sorrow to some peace and healing and sharing.
This past weekend Marika, Mabel and I drove up north to spread some of Laddy’s ashes where we’ve spent many happy weekends camping. We parked in the day use area on the top of Mingus Mountain and walked the graveled road into the campground. The sky was big and blue and clear and, with the campground closed for the season, it was incredibly quiet. The only sounds were the birds and Mabel’s jingling collar and the breeze through the tall pines.
We sat on the picnic table in our favorite camp site and Marika told the story about the night it stormed and the thunder cracked right over our heads and the rain pelted the RV roof and Laddy was so scared that he climbed into the shower.
We walked along the road beyond the campground and crossed the cattle guard that Laddy got stuck in, and turned off onto the dirt trail to the pond, where he liked to swim. The water must have been cold because Mabel only went in up to her knees.
At each place I released a few finger fulls of Laddy’s ashes from the ziploc bag, the white chunks falling onto the dry brown grass and the finer particles blowing back onto me and leaving a layer of salty white dust on my hands. And each time I cried, feeling the enormity of his presence and his absence at the same time.
We had our lunch at a picnic table in the sun, then drove further up the mountain to the spot where hang gliders take off. We sat on big boulders and looked out over the expansive Verde Valley, to the red rocks of Sedona in the distance, pointing out familiar places in the terrain below.
We drove back down the winding mountain road, through Jerome and into the Verde Valley where we stayed overnight at the pet-friendly Little Daisy Motel. It was the first time Marika, Mabel and I had ever stayed in a motel together.
In the morning we headed to Dead Horse State Park, another favorite winter campground. We drove through the park, remembering the early morning pooper walks, and how Laddy would walk ahead of me on his leash, pulling me up the steep inclines.
We walked along the banks of the lagoons where people were fishing and we reminisced how there used to only be one lagoon and the rest was just a big open field where Laddy would dig for gophers. And how one time, we followed the trail really far, and found the dead flicker when we were walking with Zasu and Saffron, even more years ago.
I sat down on one of the benches, imagining how Laddy would sniff around for a while, then find a comfortable lying down spot, preferably in the shade. And I shared with Marika how this loss is so different than any other.
When I am missing my mom, I can hear her voice, even have a conversation with her. But Laddy and I had a more physical connection and I don’t know how to connect with his spirit. I can remember us doing things together but I cannot feel his presence now. And this makes me miss him even more.
We cried for a bit together, then headed down toward the river. We followed a trail to a small cove along a bank of turning cottonwood trees where Laddy loved to chase sticks into the water. His legs were so long and the water isn’t very deep so he mostly just stood in the water up to his belly. But then he would walk out to the very center where the water was deep enough and he could actually swim.
I stood at the edge of the water, remembering and crying and I spread some of his ashes in a circle around me. The water was so clear that I could see the streaming of green grasses underwater. I tossed the remaining ashes into the moving water. As they hit the water, they lit up like sparkles.
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