Spinning Straw Into Gold

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A hard summer of loss has eased into a colorful autumn full of comforting signs and wonders, like the love and presence of supportive family and friends, a hummingbird’s kiss, encounters with a visiting butterfly, walks on the trail, and last night’s amazing full moon in eclipse. 

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A good friend asked me what was getting me through all this loss…and had I perceived any spiritual invitations? (I am blessed with many friends who are chaplains, healers, and spiritual directors; these are the types of things we ask each other: how cool is that?!) Another dear friend asked when she could come and hear stories about the pups, another profoundly loving response to loss.

It took time to discover invitations, and I’m still working on it. But the question brought to my mind the tale of Rumpelstiltskin, who helped the bragging maiden spin straw into gold. Rumple bartered for her firstborn… but she learned his name, spoke it, and sent him packing.

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Straw is dried grain, and so many tales and parables tell us bread made from living grain is the staff of life. Straw, then, seems a natural symbol of death, loss, and grief. I’ve imagined the grief that marked this summer as straw, piling into mountains before me, waiting…

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So I’ve entered the grief and it’s entered me, and I’ve sat with it and listened and wept and watched, and now, finally, I’ve begun to spin…

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If I wove a tapestry with these golden threads, it would include images from the day my sister-in-law dropped everything, drove over an hour, arrived with a bouquet of sunflowers and zinnias, and remained tenderly present to my grief. At one point, we sat beside each other on the steps of the deck, watching dozens of butterflies flitting so energetically around and within the great purple aster that it seemed it might fly away.

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We spoke of “visits” we’ve experienced after losing those we love, that felt sense that the one who has died is able to be present in new ways. I said I’d received a few feathers from Riley and Clancy so far, nothing more. “But,” I said, “these visits never happen when I ‘expect’ them; they just seem to gift me when I most need them.”

No sooner had I said, “…need them,” than a hummingbird flew to the space between our heads and froze there, for 30 seconds or longer. Neither of us moved as the tiny bird “hovered and hummed,” its wings beating mightily, nearly brushing our cheeks. After a long while, it flew off, its message deeply held in our hearts. We hugged and then sat in silence for a few minutes, both of us tearful. Such a sacred experience, and all the better because someone I love shared it with me. Someone who also believes the proper response to mystery is awe, and silence.

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Spinning straw into gold…All the daily routines that stemmed from the dogs’ needs have vanished, and–as with any loss–there are now many holes in the day when I miss them especially dearly. If I’m home during the day, I take my camera and go out to the gardens, seeking diversions from the constant and tiring “missing.” This butterfly visited the garden another day, and stayed for a few hours. Her company offered delight and peace. When you’re grieving, such hours of respite are truly restorative. She let me follow her all around with my camera and seemed to enjoy posing from every angle.

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It’s been challenging to head out on the trail without Riley and Clancy. I tend to check both directions for bikers and walkers, and when I’m sure I’m solo, I talk to the pups, as if they were with me. I grew quiet watching this heron in the river last week. He looked like a monk doing a standing meditation, calling me to deeper reflection. One of the great gifts that comes with grief is this call to go to the center of the center of our being and houseclean, in a way. All of our values and goals and beliefs come up for inspection and reassessment. Certainly, this is another source of gold on the journey of transformation that grief creates: Grief creates.

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The pups and I celebrated our walks with parties up and down the trail for over 14 years…I’d break little treats in pieces and we’d have routine and spontaneous parties that always ended with Bridge Party. They’d each give me a paw and I would thank them for coming on the walk, and then they would get the last treat before we ran up the path to our home. A little holy communion, like our morning party.

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So it seemed fitting that Phillip and I bring wine, cheese, crackers, and our cameras down to the bridge last night for a perfect viewing of the eclipse. What a lovely Bridge Party, with owls calling, frogs and toads singing and distant coyotes howling. Their cries rose and tangled as the moon became fully eclipsed and shadows disappeared. Then it seemed that everything fell to silence. Definitely a keeper, as far as memories go, and the sense that the pups’ energy surrounded us made it all the more special.

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Something in my heart was woven back together during those magical hours on the bridge. I felt my spirit, eclipsed and resting in darkness, was ready to begin moving back towards the fullness of light again.

I’m still spinning these last piles of straw, still weaving, still healing, but so grateful for all the blessings in my life that are helping me turn the straw into gold.

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We never want to lose those we love. But we do; we will. And what saves us is the rest of those we love, and who love us. They carry us through our grief and help us see the glints of light that guide us towards greater light, until we can stand again in the sun, in joy. Gradually, we’re led towards those wonderful moments in the world when we can see its devastating beauty and the eternally renewing cycle of life. Through the love of others and the love of the world (all of which, to me, is the love of the Sacred) the grief, in its time and the time of our hearts, transmutes to golden memories, a lifetime tapestry that tells us who we are, finally, as lovers and loved.

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7 thoughts on “Spinning Straw Into Gold

  1. Glad you are finding the back door out of your sorrow. Glad you and Phillip made a party out of the amazing moon extravaganza the other night. It was glorious and the deep red hue was breathtaking! I think the idea of new puppies you had would be delightful in so many ways. If we have an opportunity to create new stories to circle around we seem to feel okay. Thinking of you….Hugs…VK ❤

  2. Thank you, VK. When the time is right, we think Riley and Clancy will lead us to the puppy–or two–who need Full Moon. 🙂 I appreciate your kindness and support, so much…truly, one of the best things about the internet. 🙂

  3. What a beautiful post! I have tears in my eyes reading it. You have been in my thoughts each day, especially when I see my dogs running. Yet as you say, we all have to die and we all have to accept death, there is little we can do about it, but oh…how I understand what you have been going through! I felt that pain when my three old dogs died one after the other, I never thought I would recover, now I have gold, spun over five years….
    Oh, hearing of your hummingbird amazes me, how magical, a perfect sign!!! The Bridge party sounded magical too, seeing that moon, hearing all those animals with the pups energy making it all complete is, as you say, utterly memorable.
    The loss of routines after such a parting is so terribly draining, I understand your need to go outdoors, and you and I share the talking to our invisible friends….
    Your photos are so beautiful and pure!
    Know that I am sending you healing each day and that you are always in my thoughts….always. Love and huge hugs.xxxxxxx

    • Your healing, love, and hugs are so appreciated, Dina; you and your sweet pups are often in my thoughts, too: I’m so happy you have them and they have you!

      Keeping active and getting out seem to help my healing, too (along with reading piles of books). My after-school job ended; the grant didn’t come through. So sad for the kids, but I’m subbing a lot, so I still get to be with them. 🙂

      Definitely autumn, now. Dashed home late this afternoon to get all my houseplants (LOTS) inside from their summer vacay…It will be between 3 and 4 degrees Centigrade tonight, so it’s time.

      Have brought out the Halloween decorations and begun looking at the local humane shelters for puppies. Life goes on and they need homes, but yes, my heart still aches for missing Riley and Clancy. I do imagine them together, and that helps a lot. 🙂

      Thank you, always, for your many, many kindnesses, Dina. Joy to your week’s end.

  4. Oh….what a shame about the grant, glad you still get to see your charges though.

    Puppies???? How MARVELOUS!! There are so many out there that would benefit from your loving home and I’m so thrilled that you are looking. When my old guys passed, hubs made a deal that we leave it for a while and go travelling, something we had never really been able to do, then I told the dog staff that I’d have the first pup that came into the rescue, who turned out to be Sam….Annie was the second, she arrived at the rescue three weeks later. I’m so glad your huge heart has the capacity to have more pups, I don’t think a home is a home without them. I must say it was a shock to the system having puppies after old dogs, but so very joyful and rewarding at the same time!
    I’m sure Clancy and Riley are together and you’ll always love them. Meanwhile it’s just about surviving the early months which is easier said than done. I like to think all my dogs who have passed are still somehow connected to me and that one day I’ll see them again, how wonderful that would be, I suppose we never stop loving and missing them.
    Please keep me posted on the pup front, I’m sure the perfect ones are already picked out by fate, often these things are meant to be. I hope your grief eases with time and that you feel happier……You take good care of you. Lots of love.xxxxxxx

  5. I’m thinking Riley and Clancy will guide the search. 🙂

    I feel very connected to my lovebugs that have changed worlds before me…I have a deal with them that when it’s my turn, they show up as my “greeters.” 🙂

    Thank you for sharing a bit about your losses and “founds;” makes the sadness ease when friends share their stories, too. It’s wonderful to see the pics of Sam and Annie and hope we’ll find another 4-legged or two to join the family.

    Bless you, Dina.

  6. Ahhh….so many pups out there, I have NO doubt you’ll find a couple. How those poor creatures need loving homes. So many people refuse to get another dog after a beloved one passes, I don’t see it that way. I’m with you….these guys need to be out of shelters! Welcoming other creatures into our lives doesn’t diminish the love for those who have passed, it merely makes the capacity for love greater.
    Oh…how lovely, having your dogs as greeters…I must think that to mine, the joy of seeing all seven of them at once!!! Fair takes my breath away!xxxxxxx

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