I have taken you on many walks since last we visited, and although I have not spoken much since then there has been a great deal I've wanted to share with you.
Like the morning not too long ago, when the air was surprisingly cool, almost cold, and even though I wanted to wear a jacket I didn't because there was something invigorating about it, about how my skin puckered up and relaxed all at once, absorbed it and seemed to smile at the relief from the heat. And how on that very same morning, while enjoying the chikka-chikka-chikka of the big sprinklers at the park with Duncan, throwing the ball into their rainbow-colored arcs for him to chase after, a water main exploded, a strange pop-pop-pop, like champagne corks coming loose, and the ground beneath our feet seemed to tremble for a moment before an enormous jet of water broke loose from its containment and ignited the air above us with a brilliant rainbow. Roo danced on his hind legs and snapped at the cascade and didn't mind the wet one bit, while I smiled and laughed and felt my heart ease, if for only a moment.
I wanted to tell you about the lone balloon we saw moving slowly over the fields, low and bright in the evening light, its path seeming somehow careful and deliberate, and almost observant, but I kept trying to turn it into a metaphor that felt forced and grim and I didn't think you wanted to hear about that.
How some friends are not the kind of friends we need them to be and how it seems, especially in times of grief, that only our four-legged companions know what to give us and when to give it, which is what makes their love all the more precious and relevant.
Or the way the leaves are beginning to fall. They almost always begin in July when the Lindens are done perfuming the night air that wafts in through my windows while we sleep, coloring the mornings in my apartment with their honey-mint scent. The moment they are done and their blossoms turn to gold dust their leaves slip like husks from their trees, and even though we have been walking on them for months the appearance of the elms among them has been disquieting and upsetting. And because our nights have been occasionally cool enough to turn off the air and sleep with the windows open, the tips of the maple leaves have started to fray with red and delicate veins of gold. I have never been a fan of Autumn, but this year it seems an especially terrible change, like the passing of the summer means leaving someone behind, watching them fade away in the distance, wondering why you're going and not bringing them with you.
I wanted to tell you how especially handsome Pip looks sleeping on the window sill and in the patch of sunlight where his sister spent so many hours, how his little paws seem to clutch at the carpet as though he's dreaming of her and holding on as tightly as he can.
But then that makes me think of how he's suddenly learned to curl up on my hip exactly as Winnie used to do and how surprised I was when he first did it because he's never done it before and I wondered if she'd somehow told him, "Now Pip, this is very important so you must listen to me and do exactly as I say. Papa needs a soft weight on his hip when he lays down, to reassure him, even when he's fast asleep and it seems like nothing is important to him at all. Your weight will calm him and bring him sweet dreams. This has been my mission every night and now it must be yours. Do you understand?"
And that makes me think of the water glass, still sitting on the coffee table, the one Winnie drank out of, the soft pink of her tongue lapping at the edge of the glass and curling the cold water into her mouth. It is the same glass that was there the last time she drank from it and even though I know it should be washed I can't bring myself to do it because to do so would be like washing a part of her away and that thought frightens me terribly.
I am not a religious person. In fact I'm not sure I believe in God and Heaven the way most people do. But I'm not sure I don't believe either. I have always found comfort in the notion that death is a dream, the sort of place we invent ourselves and whatever we believe in life, whatever faith has shaped the roads and paths we have traveled, is there, waiting for us to make real. My childhood was a wonderful thing, something I miss often, and when I feel the fear of death creeping upon me I try to take comfort in imagining I'll be able to visit those days again, to walk through them and understand with the wisdom of an adult, how magnificent and precious those faces and voices and colors and fragrances were and are. I do not believe in God but in the power of The Universe and the life-force that resides in each of us, waiting to take us back to days when we were young and carefree, when our spirits were still gentle and not as fragile.
When Winnie left us it was difficult because even though I don't believe in Heaven I wanted––and still want––to believe in a Heaven for her. I want to believe there are sunny sills to sit on and delicious tuna to eat, and glasses of cold water waiting whenever she wants. Oh, how she loved cold water from my glass! I want to believe that there is a bridge and that someday, when I am dreaming the long dream, she will be there waiting, perhaps as a kitten, when she was all ears, or as the lean beauty she would grow into. She'll be there, ready to climb up on my hip to ensure all my dreams from that moment on are safe and happy and sweeter than the sweetest ones I've enjoyed on the wakeful side of my existence.
But until then I will keep a glass of cold water waiting for her. I will not wash her away.