The Finest Music


There is an old Celtic myth regarding Fionn Mac Cumhail, the hunter and warrior who’d eaten the Salmon of Knowledge when he was a boy. He was sitting with his followers, the Fianna, one day, listening to their earnest discussion about what they believed to be the world’s finest music.


One said it was the call of the mourning dove at dawn; another the baying of hounds in hunt; still others said, no, it’s the laughter of a child, or the sigh of a lover, or the rush of wind across the sea.


Finally, they turned the question over to their leader and asked for his response. Fionn considered in silence and then replied, with a customary enigmatic smile, “The finest music in the world is the music of what happens.”


I’ve been carrying that story in my heart the past few weeks, along with Seamus Heaney’s comment that in creating his poems he tried to “stay close to the energies of generation.” Both Fionn and Seamus seem to be inviting us to bring a focused awareness to the present moment, nothing new in wisdom literature, but stated in ways that caught my attention and pleased me, so both “listen to the music of what’s happening,” and, “stay close to the energies of generation” have become new mantras throughout my days.


I was reminded of the old question, “Do you want to be a human doing or a human being?” Accomplishing tasks and reaching goals show we’re using our gifts, and hopefully, to help the earth and her creatures survive another turn with kindness, creativity, gentleness, and humor, but we can sometimes “do” without pause, as a distraction from just being, and miss hearing the finest music of our lives.


Considering events as the music of what happens keeps me from judging them too quickly or labeling them as good or bad. It’s much more peaceful and pleasing to listen for the music they create, and how these chords fit into the established melodies of my day and life.


I’ve taken a new job, working with seniors at a large facility a far distance from home. I love the people, the place, and the work, but was hesitant, initially, because saying yes meant crating the pups three days a week. (The job is just 28 hours a week, at this time.) Up to now, they’ve only been crated for a nap during the day and at night, for sleep. We were both very concerned about the pups spending long work days so confined.


But I listened for the music and focused on discovering the best possible outcome.

A dear friend gave me the number of the woman who provides dog-walking services for her. I contacted Jill, who came and met with the pups and me, and we were all smitten with her energy and spirit. She is enthusiastic about visiting Mickey and Malarky at midday, and taking them for a walk, so that has eased my heart greatly.


The damage from the roof leak I spoke of in the last post will require extensive remodeling: a new roof, some drywall repair, ceiling work, and perhaps some roof beams will need replacement. We decided to forego replacing the skylights that led to the leak, and I’ll miss the added indoor light they provided, but I’m going with lighter paint colors in the rooms, and that will make a difference. Thankfully, our insurance will help pay for all of this, and Phillip can do a lot of the work. And we wanted to update those two rooms (the dining room and kitchen) anyway. So, what began as something akin to discordant crashing and banging has been untangled and quite nicely woven into the music of what happens.


 St. Clare of Assisi is reported to have said, right before she died, “Thank you for letting me be a human being.” So often, we go through life pinning joy to “someday, not this, not yet,” waiting for all of our expectations of the way life “should be” to simultaneously occur, fall into place, and remain perfect from then forward. Yet, all the while, the finest music, the symphony created right here and now, where the energies of generation in our own once-in-a-lifetime human life are happening, is being played.


So, let us attend, listen to, and love the music of what happens, my friends, and be grateful for every note: the sweet, the sour, the out of tune, and the surprising grace notes flitting through all.


Blessings on your week and the music of what happens.


To Walk in Balance



Wakan Tanka, Great Mystery,
teach me how to trust my heart,
my mind, my intuition,
my inner knowing,
the senses of my body,
the blessings of my spirit.
Teach me to trust these things
so that I may enter my Sacred Space
and love beyond my fear,
and thus Walk in Balance
with the passing of each glorious Sun.
~ Lakota Prayer

 The autumn equinox seems a fitting time to contemplate the balance we manage to hold and honor in our lives.


And the currently overused word, “literally” does seem to apply to my sense of balance: Since July 8th, most of my time has been spent lying on a bed or couch with my left leg elevated and the foot iced, following surgery. Prior to the surgery, the doctor had repeatedly stressed that the recovery would be a long slog, but the foot wasn’t working well, so I chose the misery for improved quality of life. I’m fairly active and need to be for my joy to flow.


The past few weeks, I’ve been going to therapy and am now free of the walker and boot that accompanied the majority of my healing. But I’m still working on regaining my balance. I can’t yet support myself standing on the left foot alone, which impedes (excellent word, meaning “to shackle the foot”) my yoga and work outs. The foot still swells to a stunning circumference if it’s down too long. I call her Hindenburg.

The view during my confinement didn’t inspire too much photography.


I appreciated the 4-legged companions and the friends and family who stayed in touch through visits, messages, and calls. These made all the difference in my healing. The days became static, drifting one-into-the-next, and the world diminished to the size of a bedroom. By week three, I felt like Grace Poole in Rochester’s attic. Highly imbalanced.

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Caregivers are the saints of the earth, and mine was the best. Phillip made Mother Teresa look like an insensitive thug; he was that great a support. There’s a lot to do at Full Moon, especially in summer when the many gardens are in need of tending, and he managed all that, the 4-leggeds, my needs, the housecleaning and laundry, and full time remodeling jobs…I think, for once, he’s very happy summer is over and he can get back to the cushy job of teaching high school students. (!) A good friend visited at least twice a week, sat and chatted, helped clean, made meals…Challenges always reveal so many blessings in our lives, don’t they? And the blessings help to bring our spirits back into balance.


For a time, I felt guilty that I wasn’t doing more with my enforced free time…I could have written an entire book series in the time I sat and watched old movies and read several mystery series that others wrote. I could have taught myself to knit, or taken up some other craft, or bettered myself in some laudable way, despite the pain in my foot and the humiliation of being utterly dependent on others.


But those feelings led to one of the great gifts of my healing time.

 I’ve always powered through my schoolwork, my jobs, my chores, and my days, and done more than I should (I think, trying to make Sr. Mary Someone take notice and validate my wonderfulness) so the second-best gift I’ve received from this experience (Phillip is always the first), is the chance to finally learn how to stop and say, “Enough. For now.” I think I’ve always feared I’d just slide into indolence and never rise again, but I think I’m discovering a better rhythm for my days that allows me both productivity and peace. Both can call upon our creativity.

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For my first outing, we went to the dogpark. The weather was grand and, although I sat at a picnic table with my leg raised and iced (sigh), I cried, just to be there and enjoying the lovely world outside my room.


I’ve managed a couple trips (again, literally) down to the bridge since then.


And I’ve even spent time weeding gardens, although the first time I overdid it, and Hindenburg rebelled. Learning the parameters is tricky, but being in the garden heals other parts of me, so not a loss, but a lesson.

I’m also back in the kitchen, making candy, roasting veggies, baking treats and feeling like myself again.


So we roll around our lovely sun to autumn. The combines in surrounding fields are running from dawn to dusk, when they’re able, and the birds are emptying the feeders maddeningly fast, preparing for migrations. The gardens are nearing the time for cutting back and cleaning, harvests drawing to an end.


We’ve received 15.5 inches of rain since the beginning of August and more is coming tonight and next week. The river is high, but we’re not experiencing the flooding that others are. A roof leak has led to drywall damage we’ll need to rectify, so that will be the Next Big Thing. (At Full Moon, not nationally, as we all know.)


Autumn, the time when our world becomes a thin place, begins, and my spirit feels strengthened and ready for the sweet encounters with mystery it always brings. We make commitments and then we make them again, revising, reviewing, respecting (to “look again”) them, honoring the challenges they present and gifts they yield. The equinox is a lovely symbol of the balance that’s come to me, finally, and which I hope to integrate more profoundly into my life’s dance, however inelegantly executed it currently is. I have faith I’ll be pirouetting on the left foot one day soon.


The Light That Fills the World


I think over again my small adventures, my fears, those small ones that seemed so big, all those vital things I had to reach and to possess, and yet there is only one great thing: to live and see the great day that dawns, and the light that fills the world.  ~ Old Inuit Song

These days, the pre-selected and formatted news of the world comes to us whether we want it or not, it seems.

It seeps through the pores of our days, flashing its dire warnings, keening the earth’s death song, screaming the antics of strange players, interrupting the flow of our choices and preferences, and scrolling across the bottom of our daily round. You turn on an information source to learn the weather forecast and you’re flattened by the psychic attack created by some media celebrity spewing hype about the latest battle between police and citizens, or vying political candidates, or warring countries. Somewhere, a city’s exploded, a plane has crashed, and another murder has robbed us of someone’s gifts. In the wake of what was once journalism, the circus entertainment that’s replaced it never sleeps.


And, truly, there are choices being made by leaders that affect us all and should be discussed, even argued against and protested. There is sloppy thinking, a loss of respect for fact and intellectual reasoning, and a backsliding of concern for the common good. Language is cruder and interactions are ruder.

But I think we can get mired in anger and fear, the result of over-exposure to these things, and lose the ability to think our own thoughts and remain focused on our next creative action in our own little corner of the world. The rush of bad news accelerates our anxiety, and we surrender the time and space necessary to locate the inherent peace and stillness within ourselves that allow us to move in the world with balanced energy and perspective, doing the good we’re here to do.

Happily, Full Moon Cottage has been offering us a lovely summer of sunlight and rain, fireflies and flowers, June’s gorgeous solstice and full moon, and social gatherings that reinforce the light that fills the world and renews our spirits.


Last week, our buddy Jax was our guest once again, and he seemed quite certain that 4:30 A.M. was the best time to wake and enjoy our morning walk. We thought otherwise, but had to agree the sunrises were amazing, making our hesitant efforts to offer hospitality worth it, and far more sincere on subsequent mornings.


The fireflies have been surprisingly abundant this summer, and their nightly show invites meditation and peace. We turn down the indoor lights, grab a window-seat and 4-legged companion, and watch. And breathe. And benefit greatly. Malarky and I enjoyed both fireflies and the solstice together at about 1:00 in the morning, when nature called us, in many and different ways. I’m sorry I’m not a more skillful photographer and lack a better camera, but here you can (kind of) see the full moon and the blinks of fireflies.


Like the early walks with Jax and the pups, this was an enchanting break in the routine for me. I don’t mind losing sleep when it’s surrendered for a silent stroll in light and mystery. These encounters bring me back to hope and joy.

In mid-June, a friend called and offered to bring an entire feast, and her little pup, for a visit to celebrate my birthday. (Well, I made the carrot cake!) It was such a kind gesture and perfect gift of a day; I’m still smiling whenever I think about the fun we had.


Later in the month, I was asked to officiate at another friend’s wedding, a light-filled celebration, if there ever was one. Weddings fill my cup of hope to overflowing. I love creating the service with a young couple, and celebrating their joy with a community of people who love and support them. We’re all changed, every time, it seems, taken back to memories of our own partnerships in life and their deepening.


We also had company visit for a few days, and the weather obliged. My older brother came south from the Twin Cities (although here, we just say “the Cities,”) and his daughter drove west from Milwaukee, and we had a merry visit indeed. So merry, I didn’t take photos, but just relaxed and laughed. A lot. You’ll have to imagine our visits to a local winery, restaurant, antique stores, and then a pub, where we brought a picnic and listened to wonderful music. And our long visits on the back deck with the pups chasing around our chairs, the fireflies seeking true love in the trees and gardens, and the river flowing by in peace.


The gardens are making a comeback from last year’s devastating storm; the freezer is crammed with berries; the bird feeders have been very active; this year’s turkey nursery parades through the yard most mornings; and, except for the annual onslaught of Japanese Beetles, peace reigns and sustains at Full Moon Cottage.


Blessing and gratitude keep me going when the world’s noise and fear crowd in. The light that fills the world shines through, shines on, nurturing our hope, peace, and love, and that is the only one great thing: To let that light lead us into our days and through our lives. Gentle peace to you and yours.


To Travel Hopefully


To travel hopefully is better than to arrive.  ~ Robert Louis Stevenson

I have a treasure of a friend who is a gifted artist and lives in Albuquerque. Sometime this past winter, we were talking about her art studio (formerly the garage attached to her stucco home) and her wish to get it organized and remodeled. Then she began describing her dream bookcase to hold some hundreds of her books…

Somehow this evolved into Phillip agreeing to build the bookcase and drive it down to New Mexico in our faithful pick-up, with yours truly riding shotgun.


The ride was about 19 hours, through bits of Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico. These are not my favorite states. Been there; done that; unimpressed. But either we took a different route, or my perceptions are more generous than they were, or maybe, with age, I’m regressing to childlike wonder once more. Anyway, a lot of views struck me as gorgeous.

“Every perfect traveler always creates the country where he travels,” wrote Nikos Kazantzakis; maybe my anticipation of seeing my friend and helping her create a new space made the journey lovelier. Of course, getting away with Phillip has always been fun, but this seemed an especially happy vacation.


We cleared space, moved books, and helped get the bookcase up the first day. Phillip had honored our friend’s love for steampunk design when he created the bookcase, and also made her some lights/bookends for a belated birthday gift.


The next day, she and I dusted piles and stacks and other redundancies of books and filled the shelves while Phillip built a wall and dry-walled a new storage closet. We found a neat old door at the local ReStore and my friend and Phillip created the handle to her liking.

We also got walls painted, her flat file recovered and trimmed, and then tackled the fireplace: paint, tile, and a new mantle.


You’ll note how I keep writing “we,” but you probably can guess that Phillip and my friend did most of the work. I swept, washed, had frequent conversations with Griffin (my friend’s amazing dog), made irritating lists of things to do, took photos, and rode (shotgun) to the local home store every day.

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Late every afternoon, we showered, dressed, and hit the town for great restaurants and lots of laughter.

We took time off to tour Albuquerque’s Old Town, the Rio Grande Nature Center, several antique stores, and lots of different neighborhoods.

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I’m a northern girl at heart and have not enjoyed the Southwest heat on previous trips, but this time the heat felt great on my sore muscles and joints, so no complaints. At all. The evenings grew cooler and the mornings held the chilled air just long enough for me to take long walks before we started the new day’s activities. It was a lot of fun to study the Southwest plants and landscaping as I explored the neighborhoods, and watch roadrunners skitter through yards.

On our last morning, our friend’s mother, children, and grandchild came to have a look before we all went out for brunch. (I have to say the best thing about this was getting to hold her grandson. What a love!) They praised the space and were as happy as we were with the results of the week’s work. Friends joined us that night and, since they had helped create the studio from a garage, were also pleased to see it reach the stage where the artist can now create.

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We traveled hopefully home in time to see the last of the wild roses on the trail and in the little garden where we trained one over the trellis.


The irises had peaked and have been cut back for another year.

The gardens seem to be taking a breath before the next explosion of color, so we’ve been enjoying our walks, celebrating my birthday, welcoming visitors, and looking forward to the Full Strawberry Moon on the night of the Summer Solstice.


It’s good to be gone; it’s good to be home at Full Moon Cottage. We’re always traveling, never really arriving. Traveling hopefully, though, is a choice, like traveling wisely, peacefully, and joyfully…  I’m grateful for a partner and friends who make such choices easy and challenge me to pay attention to the journey.




The Shimmering of Leaves


The world is holy. We are holy. All life is holy. Daily prayers are delivered on the lips of breaking waves, the whisperings of grasses, the shimmering of leaves.  ~ Terry Tempest Williams

The gardens have been blessing our spring with abundance and loveliness. It’s true every year and every season: I forget how beautiful my world becomes and am amazed all over again, which is kind of nice, like seeing your long-beloved and falling in love more deeply than the first time.


The irises were at their peak this past week. I know when they look this good I’ll be dividing them in the fall. It must be their third year left undisturbed, another fact I forgot, or would like to, since I’m completely out of iris space. Maybe I can surprise the sister-in-law who gave just a few of them to me several years ago with a new hundred or so. The devious gardener.DSCF9617DSCF9618DSCF9619DSCF9624DSCF9786DSCF9828Mickey and Malarky are my frequent companions outside; they follow me around, or chase and wrestle, or roll in anything, until some innocent bicycler or runner makes his merry way down the trail. Then, the pups bark like they’ve sighted a mass murderer. I usually duck behind some large planting at that point and hope they’ll stop. Little Mickey actually pulled his leash free and ran after a runner this morning. Luckily, the runner turned around and laughed at Mickey’s 7 pounds of terror. But Mickey was quite proud of his bravery, dashing back up to the gardens (the runner had led him further than he prefers to go on the trail, about 4 yards from home), then, when he saw us, puffing up and prancing like he was quite the hero. The dangerous runner had gone away, hadn’t he?

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Malarky turned to me and rolled his eyes.


I thought back to last summer, when the yard blew up and our sweet Riley and Clancy took their turns leaving us.


Things turn around. The garden renews, and though its fullness and beauty take my breath away, I know how fleeting this season, this day, this life truly is. So I try to remember to make my daily prayers of gratitude and send them to join those offered by breaking waves, whispering grasses, and shimmering leaves…all is holy and I am blessed.


Deep Bows to the Earth


Our difficult and very urgent task is to accept the truth that nature is not primarily a property to be possessed, but a gift to be received with admiration and gratitude. Only when we make a deep bow to the rivers, oceans, hills, and mountains that offer us a home, only then can they become transparent and reveal to us their real meaning.  ~ Henri J.M. Nouwen, Clowning in Rome


March ended with a glorious full moon. I remember it, because that was the day our dear friend was admitted to the hospital. For a week or more, she had been suffering from violent bursts of headache, much worse than her usual migraine. We’d accompanied her to the ER one long night, when the pain was excruciating and, when it happened again, another friend got her to the doctor who (finally) admitted her. Over the course of the next two weeks, a nimbus of neurologists poked, sliced, scraped and analyzed her brain before concluding with a diagnosis that left her ravaged spirit and body heavily drugged and cautiously hopeful. The headaches continued, but gradually abated to an endurable level.


As with any hospitalization of a loved one, our days slid into overtime. We drove back and forth to the hospital to visit and support our friend and her son, and twice a day, drove to her home, to care for her sweet, old, almost-blind, mostly-deaf pup, Jax. He seemed more at peace in his own familiar spaces, but clearly missed his “mom,” despite our attempts to comfort him. He always perked up for treats, we noticed.

Her son flew home from Brazil and helped mightily for a time, until his mother was discharged, but then, after she’d been home for a few days, he had to return to work, so she and Jax came to us for a week of rest and recovery. Their presence and spirits blessed us.


Malarky, Jax, and I went for a few walks every day, while our friend rested. Malarky was a good host, leading Jax to all of our “treat spots” and waiting for him to catch up.


Winter seemed to be tilting tentatively into spring. One day, we’d hike through a glorious snowfall, and the next, a sunny trail beckoned with robin song and wildflowers. All of it seemed to intrigue Jax, and his spirit and energy thrived.


My friend fatigued easily and felt apprehensive about the thunderclap headaches returning, but, as the week went on and spring began to settle in, I noticed her spirit lifting and confidence returning. Every day, she set new tasks to complete that would support her return to independence after almost a month of being bedridden. She made a meal, did her laundry, came on a short walk. She weaned herself off the pain meds. (I can’t imagine the courage that took, after what she’d endured and feared encountering again.) The syndrome she suffered from is known to debilitate and devour energy, and it can require up to six months before the patient feels like her old self, or—more accurately—her new self, since these experiences always transform us.


My friend deeply honors and tends her spirituality, and we had interesting conversations about the ways she felt herself transformed; the gifts she perceived had come to her through the ordeal; the struggles she anticipated in returning to work; and her hopes for healing.


My heart filled with gratitude to see her strength returning, even in tiny amounts, and I loved how spring’s brighter days contributed to this. My friend blooms in warmer weather, and the sunshine and flowers, open windows, and sweet breezes contributed far more to her recovery than my vegetables and broths. I think I saw her blossom on one of our walks. It seemed like her spirit came back into focus.


She returned home the night of April’s Full Pink moon. My tulips were just opening to the sun that day. We stayed in close touch, and I took her to a few appointments the next week, but her recovery since then has been glorious and all due to her own body and soul-tending.


I missed her presence after she’d returned home. It was fun to have human conversations throughout the day. The 4-leggeds and I had to adjust to the unfilled hours and reserves of energy we now had to fill and spend. Malarky and I took long walks through county parks and marveled at a Great Blue Heron rookery. To see these huge nests tended by their prehistoric profiles, even at the distance we kept, took us deep into silence.


We gardened and watched the spring birds gather at the feeders.       


We watched this fellow court various ladies, it seemed with little luck, over the past few weeks.


But we discovered that we still longed for another presence…and settled on Mickey.


Two weeks later, we’re all adjusting to our new companion. We’re grateful for the hard, often heart-breaking work at the Houston rescue that saved Mickey, and for its local satellite that brought him to us. He’s sweet and feisty, and a good buddy for Malarky. Of course, we planned on a girl, about Malarky’s size (25 pounds) and age (9 months), and came home with a 4-month-old, 6-lb boy. Funny how love works.


And Mickey was in need of love. Full Moon is working its magic on his little body and spirit as it did on our friend’s recovery. And just as her presence blessed us, Mickey has brought gifts to each of us, completing a puzzle we didn’t know was missing a piece. Till now.


And so I make deep bows to the rivers, oceans, hills, and mountains that offer us a home, and to the fields, and flowers, and birds, and 4-leggeds who teach us about resurrection and love, and the possibilities these hold for us in our brokenness and loneliness. May we be healed and offer our mended energy to the world.


To Have A Friend Takes Time

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In a way, nobody sees a flower, really; it is so small. We haven’t time, and to see takes time—like to have a friend takes time. ~ Georgia O’Keefe

It was the last bell, of the last day, of my last year of classroom teaching, and the last thing I expected was Finnegan.

Amidst the cheers, and hugs, and goodbyes, and promises to keep in touch, and the bustle of children hurrying into summer, in walked a parent with a basket full of kittens, fresh off the farm.

Her daughter excitedly took hold of the basket and carried it over to me. “Ms. O.! Look! Would you like one?”

I had two one-year-old puppies at home, Riley and Clancy, and two aged cats, Sally and Tess. I didn’t need a kitten, really, just then, but there he was, the tiniest, with the biggest paws. A great farm cat, built to hunt mice. Would he be happy confined in a home with two puppies and two old cats, the odd man out? It was already too late; I held him and he was mine. Finnegan. He was so small, but I saw him; he saw me; we became friends.

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He was such a mellow kitten, content to play alone, or to snuggle with his much older sisters, or to profess his love for Riley. He adjusted to all of us happily.

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 When he was quite young, he traveled with us to Atlanta to see my family; I can’t remember why, but I have a picture of him in my mother’s family room. He looks quite content, so it must have been a happy adventure for him.

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Finny and I created daily rituals: He developed an affinity for playing in sinks, so I would leave a trickle of water running in the bathroom sink every morning, where he could play, drink, and relax. He liked to grab me and comb my hair with his paw. He waited (in the sink) until I’d get out of the shower, stand on the counter, and grab at my head, wanting me to shake my wet hair over him. After more than 20 years together, Phillip no longer waits, excitedly or otherwise, for me to emerge from the shower (nor I for him, to be fair), so Finny’s daily, faithful, and eager anticipation of my 60-year-old self stepping blindly out of the shower was a kind of special comfort: I’m still here; still beloved!

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He loved to smooch, and he enjoyed sitting on my lap and bouncing while I sang “our song” to him:

Oh, Finnegan, again, again,
I’ll tell you that I love you;
Oh, Finnegan, again, again,
Please say you love me, too!

For a time, after Sally and Tessy died, he was our only cat, and a little lonely, but he adjusted yet again, and I think he began to think of himself as our third dog. He loved to escape out any open door—or window—and then run under the decks to roll in the sandy earth, ignoring my pleas for his return. I’d simply have to spend the next hour in vigil, waiting for him to be satiated with freedom, all his senses filled, before he’d grandly emerge, and always with a look that said, “What are you so excited about? You knew I’d come out.”

Eight years ago, we went to the Humane Shelter to find a sister for him, and came home with two brothers as well. Once more, Finnegan adjusted well to being the big brother, showing them the way to behave and belong. We started our Morning Party tradition, gathering in a circle, singing a song (of course), and celebrating the new day. Finny always sat on my left, my loyal helpmate.

He grew into a beautiful cat. His leonine look made him appear fierce, even threatening. Guests sometimes mistook his affect, and cuddled instead with the always-adorable Murphy, but I knew Finny’s deep affection, playfulness, and gentleness, as he knew mine.


When Fergus followed me home one day a few years ago, Finny wasn’t certain this was such a great idea. He conferred with me quite often, initially, making sure I had enough love to go around. But he adjusted. By now he was The Boss, and once Fergus understood this, life sailed on, usually smoothly.

Last year, both Clancy and Riley died, and Finny’s grief was real and touching. His love for Riley had only deepened over the years. He sat at her place on the window seat, and took a long time adjusting to this loss. But he accepted the change, helping me accept it, too.

In October, I brought Malarky home. Finnegan retreated to my lap even more than usual, or to a quiet cat bed in the back bedroom. I worried about his energy level and mood, and tried to give him extra attention when I could. He tried to please me with his acceptance of Malarky, but I could tell his heart wasn’t in it. I thought, with time, Finnegan would adjust as he always had.


We noticed a more pronounced change in Finnegan’s energy and joy last month, and took him in for a check-up. The veterinarian found an abscess and thought some teeth would likely have to be removed. On March 15th, I took him in to the surgery early, then came home to clean, walk the pup, and continue the usual daily round.

I’d just started to make a little nest for Finny’s healing in the guest room, figuring I’d sleep with him for a couple nights, till he felt able to be up and around again. My phone rang, and I knew, as fast as I’d fallen in love with him, that something was wrong with my Finny. It was way too early for his surgery and recovery to be over.

Our doctor said an x-ray had revealed the abscess was, in fact, a tumor, and the cancer “very aggressive.” A few minutes later, I sat beside my Finnegan and whispered my goodbyes to him. And a half-hour after that, I was home again, without him. Forever.

Our partners and very close friends, but especially, our 4-legged companions see us when we are as we really are, when the phone is off, the internet unplugged, the doors closed, the curtains drawn. Our private face, our instinctive behaviors, our nakedness—they hear our prayers and laughter and tears; they know us better than the world ever could, our better natures and our demons. And they love us. That is true intimacy.

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What a relief it is to be as you are and (still) be loved. When they die, our beloveds take with them that relief we came to know in their presence. All those secrets shared, all those holy moments. Finnegan’s special gift to me had always been his sensitivity to my sadness; he knew when I was grieving and remained faithfully present. Without words, we had some of the deeper conversations of my life.

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I am grateful for memories, though they come with a fierce sting, initially. They begin to weave the stories of our loves back together and, in their way, allow them to continue.

I fell in love with Finnegan the moment I saw him, but, as O’Keefe says, a friend takes time. Finny and I created a 14-year relationship that was authentic and mutual. We gave each other our time and it gifted us in return, infusing both of our lives with light and love.

John Leonard wrote, “It takes a long time to grow an old friend.” I miss my old friend, Finny. He blessed my life and enriched it profoundly. He taught me so many things, and I tried to be a good student but I’ve not yet mastered his ability to go with the flow.


His brothers and sister are making peace with Finnegan’s absence. At times, Mulligan keens through the house, searching for Finny, but the energy is settling and who we are now as a family seems to be knitting back together.


I’m still adjusting.

Happy Birthday, Finny!

April 3, 2002 ~ March 15, 2016

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