…and why wouldn’t she be. But I miss her. Oh, she’s right here on the end of the bed… okay, dammit, she’s just broken the narrative and hopped onto her own, but she’s right here in the bedroom. And I miss her. I miss her when I’m painting and she’s in the next room. I miss her when I’m away for a few hours a day in summer, trudging hillside and gully and scrub spraying-dead the St. John’s Wort. I miss her when I’m watching telly and haven’t thought about her for a while. I miss her now when she’s not on the bed.
It’s not a deep longing, not the pain in the chest cold of bereavement, not the yawning chasm of loss, not a grief filing her prematurely with Teddy, Oscar, Old Maggie, Monty, not the everpresent cognitive dissonance of mortality. It’s more a feeling of being lost. Temporarily. Mildly. Like being turned around on the escalators and stairs going down to the platform on Wynyard station and not know which end your train is coming from. Like standing up too quickly and your gravitational sensibilities disagreeing with Einstein’s massive theory. Like hearing a joke and not getting it (How do you get down off an elephant? I didn’t know until I was 17). I’ve an awkwardness, a stop-and-survey wariness, a have-I-just-woken-up-what-is-real mixture of milk flooding into Brownian motion in my coffee.
And then… there she is! “Hello, Missy” (or “Moo” or “Maggoty Baggoty” or…) and I scritch her head and move on because the train has come from the south, the mass of the earth is at my feet, you get down off a duck. A thing in my life that I detect, feel, embrace, as real, really real, the rare-for-me Real Thing, is there. Being her. Being.
An autistic person on Twitter (and a former dog trainer) said, “Tails on dogs are like flags displaying the dog’s current mood. The dog’s tail does not lie. I wish humans had tails”. This is Maggie’s being – truth to mood – and it never lies. We speak our common language, a language neither of us understands beyond learned reflex, and could not fix in books because it can only be defined in mood and because dogs can’t read. When I look at her, when my own being overlaps hers, I see, now, a her, a sentience other than my own. Is it an irony that an animal teaches me, allows me to maybe, finally, almost, grok “Theory of Mind”. I airesnap at her, she airesnaps back, we play biteyface. And our circles intersect, our Venn Diagrams cross at a shared third eye, a commonality that says, “I know you though I am not you and this is why it is good”.
Reality is a fog, people are ghosts, the ground a drowned woods whose loam my feet sink into slowly without my awareness until I am suddenly cold, pressure on my chest, gasping with a defeated desperation. Very few things, places, loom, brighten, firm, become the Real Thing – the wind bending poa atop Carruther’s Peak; the smell of wood and earth in the mud brick and timber warmth of Wombat Bend; so many stars, planets, galaxies suspended in black foam overhead in the crystal cold of rural alpine skies. I reach for them – anchor points, circles of mass, lighthouses in my limited concept of existence, of being outside my self’s conception of itself which is the unmappable drowned woods of the quest for self-awareness – and I reach out and I scritch Maggie’s head. And I flood into being-ness. I am real. She is real. It’s okay.
I miss Maggie.