“Every exit is an entrance somewhere else...”
~ Tom Stoppard ~
It came to me as I was coming back from the grocery store, and walking up to my front door laden with groceries, watching 3 wee pugs and one big black dog hurling themselves at the front door in excitement, that we are always coming and going, always making our entrances and exits, and then I came upon Stoppard's quote, "Every exit is an entrance somewhere else." And it kind of made me wonder. Was it more important that Alice fell down the Rabbit Hole, or that she came back out? Is birth more important than death or vice versa? and then, there are many little births and deaths in life that change the course of our entire lives, setting us off on heretofore unimagined paths. I am teetering on the threshold in many ways in my life. When my mother passes, along with the sadness and grief, a whole new world will open, the earth, as I have known it, will have shifted on it's axis, and I cannot imagine what my life will be like.
I left the house to do much needed errands -- food for the parrots, groceries, mail a few things -- I like to go in the early evening, or on a Sunday afternoon to the little store nearby because there is a quiet and a peace then. I always have that gripping feeling in my stomach as I walk out the door, and always an enormous sense of relief when I get back, and coming back to a house full of animals happy to see you is a splendid thing indeed. As I am unlocking the front door, juggling groceries, keys, and trying not to let a little herd of puglets and Big Black Dog out the front door, I am calling, "Mommy's Hommmmmmme," and Henry, the grey parrot, starts repeating in a sing-songy voice, "Mommy's Ho-oooommmme," over and over, dancing from one little reptilian foot to the other, and Big Bird (Blossom, the Cockatoo) is shouting, "Hi BIRD, Hi BIRD!!!" and all the other little ones are dancing about, and I am laughing and being bombarded by countless paws and eager little faces and yips and yaps and barks and kisses -- beaky ones, and soft furry ones, and I think I have never felt so loved and welcomed. Every time I leave the house, which is seldom, I am greeted as if I am Queen of the World upon my return, and all is right now that I am here. It makes me smile, just to think of it.
I have been thinking, which is natural under the circumstances, about births and deaths quite a lot lately, and the memories of birthing my children come vividly to the forefront of my mind as my mother moves closer to the door that will take her to that unknown "other side." Birth and death are so closely related, one door closing, another opening. One passing out of this world and somewhere in the world a baby takes it's first breath. The first and last breath punctuate a life. Thinking of that leaves me with a sense of awe and a stillness settles around me like a protective curtain, like at the theatre where the heavy curtains hide the actors and the scenery and the audience waits in breathless anticipation. What is on the other side? When will it all begin? And then the lights go down and the curtains slowly open and with a bang the show begins. I am sitting in the audience right now, wondering what is on the other side of the curtain, wondering what the play will look like when I am the matriarch of the clan and my mother has been written out of the script. It is unthinkable to me, but it will happen, just as surely as the curtain will open and the show must go on.
So must this show, and I find myself needing to make myself breathe, realizing that I am stiff and holding my breath. It's one of the wonderful things about the pugs. I sit here smiling as I listen to little pug snores here and there around the room. It's near midnight and the birds and Big Dog Moe sleep soundlessly, while the three pugs snore in harmony. They remind me to breathe each time they snore. I breathe with them, and scrunch my shoulders up tight so that they can fall, fall, fall in waves of relaxation. To have a pug asleep on your feet as you type isn't such a bad thing either.
In the last couple of days I started yet another blog. As I wrote in my Twitter notes in the right-hand column, someone wrote to me today and said, "How do you keep doing all of this (the blogs, the website, etc...) in the middle of everything that's going on?" I understood what she meant, but the blogging and "dropping" entrecards on other entrecarder's blogs holds a kind of meditative grace that keeps me steady. It's as though if I stop I might fall off the edge of the earth. And so I started a blog just about the pugs, the funny-faced, adorable, snoring, kissable, little clowns who are keeping me sane. It was inspired by an entry I wrote here not long ago. The name of the new blog is The Puggery Snuggery.
I swear to you that these funny little dogs came to me as guardian angels, and so they have been for a year, and another will come next month. He was badly neglected and had a lot of health problems so he won't come home from the foster mother's until he's had surgery and more, but he will have a warm welcome and a loving home. It's no longer time for me to be mothered. It's time for me to mother, and my children are all grown and independent people, and while we all love each other and are here for each other always, I believe in cutting the apron strings and letting them have their lives, knowing that you are always there if they need you. It is just as Kahlil Gibran wrote so beautifully about children in The Prophet...
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let our bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.
When I reread Gibran's beautiful words it took my breath away, because it is not only true of our children, but of our parents. We come through them, not to them, and when it is their time to be the arrow that flies, it will be we who are stable. Or so I pray. I have had wickedly hard days the last couple of weeks, but every single day something lifts me up. I pray constantly, even unconsciously, as I breathe. I sing, softly, sacred songs while I sit with the animals as they go to sleep, I remember being pregnant with my three children and coming into the endzone with the pregnancies. Due dates are but feeble parameters, and death, like birth, comes in it's own time. We can only wait, and bear witness. The processes of both birth and death cannot be held back, rushed, or foretold. And so I wait. All that I can do is pray that when the time comes she may indeed go gently in to that great goodnight, and so now I look out of my windows and wonder when the door will close.
At least, in the meantime, there are pugs snoring to help me regulate my breath, and fibers to crochet, and dishes to wash, and when the dark of night falls the curtains close on the doors and windows, giving me another night's sleep, a warm soft fawn pug like a teddy bear curled into me as we sleep, and Big Moe guarding me, back to me facing outward, and I am taking one night, one day, one window, one door at a time.
I remember days with young children when it seemed there was always too much to do and too little time to do it. Now it seems like the days flow endlessly, one into the other, like looking out onto the sea, unable to see anything but water never ending on the horizon. It's easier to turn your back on an endless ocean that you cannot control, and write an entry in a blog, read a page in a book, wash the dishes or put off doing them entirely, watch mindless t.v., or any of the other myriad things that are mere minutiae in the scheme of things, and yet it is that minutiae that holds one together so that it's possible to pretend that the ocean never ends. But finally you bump up into the continent on the other side, a door opens, and you walk out into a whole new world. That day will come for me but not yet, not just yet.
I am going to take my pugboy and go to sleep, listen to him snuffle and go round and round in circles until he has found his perfect spot. He doesn't care about doors and windows, entrances or exits, he lives in the moment, as all of the animals do. I live in a house full of teachers.
And so I put down my pen, and pick up my little pug. Tomorrow is another day, and no one knows what it may bring...