Is it true that the more you love something, the more pain you’re likely to experience when it’s no longer a part of your life?
Is it possible to be passionately in love with an experience, a place, a (non-human) animal, a person — to cherish every facet of the experience and to wallow in your love for it — and yet to suffer minimally or not at all when the end arrives and separation occurs?
Do I waste energy in grief when I have to say goodbye? Is a certain amount of grief inevitable when you leave what you love?
Here are a few of the passions I’m thinking about as I write this:
♥ This past summer I sat in the kitchen at my screen-less open window and watched a dazzling display. The tree right outside my window (no one can tell me what kind it is — I’m thinking maybe maple) was fulsome with leaves as well as helicopter seeds that were tinged a delicate pink. They all became a spinning, swinging, rustling mass as the wind sent branches heaving and sun spears played in and out, making the pink and green glisten. Now all those leaves are dead and believe it or not, I’m still processing my grief because I won’t see that particular beauty again — I’ll be gone before next summer. Here are photos I took last July but they don’t do it justice because in pictures, sunshine isn’t live.
♥ I’m on the third floor and a spider lives outside my bedroom window. I’ve watched her for months and wonder about her if I haven’t seen her for a while. Recently dead leaves got stuck in her web. I watched her go from leaf to leaf, methodically detaching each one in order to keep the web in top notch condition as any self-respecting spider must do. (How ridiculous that humans question the intelligence of the other animals. When does it not take intelligence to survive?) At one point she clung to a strand as the wind strummed it fiercely — I was astonished she could still hold on. One leaf was probably twenty times her size and I watched her work patiently to disconnect it. When it suddenly dropped, it appeared to me that she had plummeted with it and I felt absolutely bereft. But lo and behold — she emerged victorious from behind the window frame much to my relief. One way or another, I’ll see her for the last time in the coming months.
♥ Here’s the winter view from my bedroom. This is my last Christmas here. I kneel on my bed; stick my head out the window even when it’s snowing; and love, love, love my view of the stunning Art Deco courtyard.
♥ To protect privacy, I’ll call this lovely dog “Beagle Girl.” She had a hard life before my neighbor rescued her. She had been neglected and needed five surgeries that were performed by the Oregon Humane Society before he adopted her. In the two and a half years I’ve lived here, it has warmed my heart to see his devotion to this dog. I run into them in the lobby or on neighborhood sidewalks. He told me that it’s not unusual for them to take two to four hours walks, sometimes all the way to City Hall when Beagle Girl wants to. She recently needed surgery and my neighbor paid thousands to have this done. Now, at age eleven, she has just been diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer which is expected to take her life in the next few months. My neighbor allows me and others to visit her while he’s at work so she has as much company as possible. Mostly she sleeps when I’m there. Sometimes she lets me pet her and tell her what a lovely girl she is. I bring work with me. Occasionally I look out the window to take note of how my neighbor’s view is different than mine. He leaves jazz on and I just sense that Beagle Girl finds it as soothing and relaxing as I do. She and I are in the process of saying goodbye.
♥♥♥ Another dear friend of mine is battling cancer. I cherish our friendship one day at a time.
In my novel, Chondo is fiercely attached to her cat, Shopat, and is aware that this may guarantee suffering for her. Yet she also sees that this awareness alone doesn’t change anything. Buddhists say attachment is connected to suffering. A quote from this linked page: “The challenge is not to rid oneself of attachments but . . . to become enlightened concerning them.” Perhaps like so many things, it’s a balance: allowing ourselves to love as intensely as we want to or need to, doing our best to let go when the time comes, and navigating our grief one moment at a time. Maybe some suffering is the inevitable price of love. But for the many things I must say goodbye to, I’m filled with profound gratitude that I got to love them at all.