Two years ago she left. Who she was, and why she came or went remain enigmas, unsolved and unsolvable puzzles that click and grind in my heart, and prick the backs of my eyes.
I still look for her on the mountain ridges when the clouds pull back from the peaks, even though she whispers to me not to. The black dolmans of the vultures overhead remind me. This is the way of the planet. Its calico of atoms and molecules and cells and organisms is in a perpetual flutter, existing and vanishing through time.
Some think animals don’t possess souls – as if anyone knew what a soul was. As if anyone knows what anything really is. A few decades ago we thought we knew a rock was solid. Then we learned about bosons and quarks, and were suddenly not quite so sure. Tomorrow we will think we know something different. Next year something else. So much opinion in a world of flapping uncertainty. Such desperation to be right, and to claim to have it sewn up.
Yet knowing is what we don’t. Why we live. Why we die. What the fundamental essence of our reality is, and whether it has a point. For all our hot air: We. Don’t. Know.
So she crossed from life to death, and whatever and whoever she was no longer inhabited that canine body, leaving it inert and cold, a heap of fur-covered matter. Other life reproduced within her corpse, moved in, took over. Bacteria, flies. But they weren’t her. They were something or someone else.
Two years on I’m still baffled. How is it that another species became my best friend and provoked such love and sorrow within me? How is it that I could emotionally connect with an animal at all? Whether you believe there really was a connection, or that I simply projected it, is almost irrelevant. Both my inner and outer realities were transformed more powerfully by an animal stimulus than by a human one. Yet instead of quickly inserting an ‘answer’, I’d rather sit with the question. Because questions are alive. And answers are dead. Nowadays I know the difference.
Today I find myself moving still, climbing into a new reality which in itself is alive and transforming. Roots and rocks and stalks and hands intertwine in a thick bed of mud. I’m simultaneously dying and being born. Each rock I shift evolves me. Each tree I plant is a new world within a world.
Nonetheless something still haunts me.
I often wonder, did my dog know about here? In some non-verbal animalistic way, was my life plan playing out within her, just as hers continues to do within me?
I haven’t mentioned it publicly until now, but by chance or design my land lies at the very place on the road where Rotty the dog first became sick. It is as unsettling as it is true. Back in 2017 we stopped here for three days to visit a vet, before setting off on the final journey to Santiago de Compostela. After she died, I never wanted to return to this place. So I didn’t, for a while. But the mysterious mind of life seemed to harbour another idea.
Thus last year I traveled the length of the Iberian peninsula searching for my new Eden. I could smell it was close. There were so many choices, yet nowhere was ever quite right. Then one day I took a deep breath and drove back to the very same town my dog first began to crumble into dust. Staring into an estate agent window, I saw a rugged plot with three cabanas...As we drove up the mountainside to view it, I think it was the stone walls that drew me, lining the road like a brigade of square-jawed gnomes. But it could equally have been the rippled mantle of the sierra existing and vanishing with the clouds.
On the 21st February 2018 – a year later to the day after my dog died – I put in my first offer for this land. It wasn’t accepted. But somewhere I knew it was still mine because a dog angel was beside me, whispering.
So here I am another year on, guardian of that same piece of land. And I'm remembering still. The humus of new memories heaps upon the old, and from there new shoots emerge. Yet the knots in my heart remain unsolved and unsolvable. I drive 1000 metres into the sky, to the same peaks I visited with my fur companion two years ago, ever hungry for answers. It’s another planet up here, one where certainty never existed, and mystery is all anyone knows. If souls exist anywhere at all, they are here.
As I stare across the skyborne lake and into the whipped white peaks, reality squeaks on its hinges. The silence is so piercing, it shatters every thought. The cellophane of human consciousness is stretched as thin as the air, existing, and vanishing simultaneously. Is it physical matter that arises before me? Or is it my imagination? And where exactly is the frontier that separates the two?
Yet it is in this snow-capped place of unknowing, that I stumble again into what I’m always searching for. The magic. The wonder. The tenuous vitality of it all. Who cares about our clever theories, our beliefs or our hypotheses? The smartest answer in the world will never satisfy our souls. Life is everywhere. And no one understands it. Why or how we all exist. Who we really are. We. Don’t. Know.
Perhaps this is why I love wild nature so much. When I look into her eyes and breathe her spirit, the question and the answer finally merge. And when they do what I’m left holding is not the closed box of a solution, but an unsolvable, inexplicable creation.
If you find meaning or inspiration in this blog, please consider becoming contributing a little on Patreon to help support it. For just $2 a month you have access to my private news feed where I post updates and thoughts I don't wish to share with the world at large, plus a monthly video from my land. I don't like social media, and view my Patreon feed as my way of connecting more personally with like minds.
Many thanks to the gang of Mud Sustainers already funding this website and allowing it to continue.
26/2/2019 06:25:51 pm
27/2/2019 10:12:25 pm
Hugs to you Daniela
26/2/2019 07:04:19 pm
Hi Atulya. I feel for you. The amount of heartache is directly proportional to the love shared....alas. I have lost several beloved members of my family, including two incredible cats in the past 4 years alone.....some days I don't know if I can handle it, but building the MudHut and now my land in Portugal has helped.
27/2/2019 01:05:29 pm
Thank you dear Cath. Yes I find creating the most fruitful way to channel those emotions. I'm not anything like as grief stricken as I was two years ago, but every now and again, an unresolved piece of it appears.
27/2/2019 04:06:43 am
Atulya, I know whereof you speak. About a month ago we lost our girl kitty, and her brother is going downhill fast. Our fur friends go right into our hearts, and losing them is like losing a piece of ourselves.
27/2/2019 01:07:04 pm
Thank you dear Patti! And love to your and your animal companions too.
27/2/2019 08:01:19 pm
The connection I have with my little daisy goes deep into my heart and soul. There seems to be a way that they communicate and offer comfort without needing words. One of my closet friends passed away unexpectedly this morning and I wish I had daisy in my arms right now. Unfortunately I am in hospital on suicide watch as my depression has got so bad over the last few weeks. I am sending you a big hug and I'm sure daisy would give you lots of licks! Xx
27/2/2019 10:10:35 pm
So sorry to hear this Joanne, and even more sorry you can't have your Daisy with you. I wish you a speedy recovery.
28/2/2019 09:45:33 pm
What a wonderful read this has been Atulya!
28/2/2019 09:53:20 pm
Ah thank you dear Noel! Always so good to hear from you. I value your comments.
22/4/2019 10:18:02 am
Hi Noel, I so agree with your feedback to Atulya. I too live in nature, drawing inspiration and comfort from it all the time, but Atulya has a beautiful way of expressing that subtle enigmatic and yet passionate relationship or interrelationship I should say. I too know what it is like to lose a beloved canine friend. Thank you for showing up here. I will write a comment directly to A as well.
28/2/2019 11:00:43 pm
Oh dear sweet beautiful being, I love your soul and all of its expression so so very much !! I resonate so deeply with your reflections and admire the grace of your innate wisdom. Am truly grateful to have you strolling through my living days with your words. Much love to you xxxxxx
1/3/2019 11:29:19 pm
Oh thank you so much Kris. Beautiful words from you, and they're treasured.
1/3/2019 01:46:43 pm
I had to let my little dog, Lucky, go this week. After a massive seizure she didn't recover. She has been my companion for nearly 15years. Seen me through difficult times and good times.
1/3/2019 11:31:11 pm
Dear Ann I'm so so sorry. I wish you strength and spirit. Fifteen years is a long long time.
Veronica Balfour Paul
1/3/2019 07:38:00 pm
Wow! You really are getting good at this writing lark. I love your words and their sentiments.
1/3/2019 11:31:58 pm
Thank you Veronica!
2/3/2019 11:50:02 am
Mourning. Just let it rock you gently; you are not in control of its process. When it is done cleansing you, you will feel its catharsis. Patience sister. Roll with it. It is necessary, to be whole again.
7/3/2019 02:29:45 pm
Thank you Andrew
4/3/2019 05:54:53 pm
7/3/2019 02:31:07 pm
I will look for those books, thank you for the recommendation Christo.
7/3/2019 05:19:01 pm
Bookbub. Goodreads. Amazon, maybe around US10 -15.
12/3/2019 09:20:55 pm
Yes I've read all those guys:) But it's not a problem that needs solving Christo, rather it's a creative reality that invites experiencing. It's all in the concluding line of the post:) This is the feminine way of being, not the masculine 'something must be done'. For me there is nothing that should or must be done other than live, feel, and remain open to the mystery. This blog isn't about finding answers or solutions. It's about expressing creative existence.
14/3/2019 04:24:17 am
Rotty has such kind and gentle eyes, I understand why you loved her so. FB reminded me that I have had my dog Gizmo for two years today - in that length of time he has made my heart just swell with love and I can't imagine him not being at my side. I'm sorry she had to go, but I think she led you to your space.
14/3/2019 11:32:34 pm
It's incredible how they invite so much love. They really are our healers and teachers.
I too live in nature, drawing inspiration and comfort from it all the time, but Atulya, you have a beautiful way of expressing that subtle enigmatic and yet passionate relationship or interrelationship I should say. I too know what it is like to lose a beloved canine friend. Thank you for expressing your vulnerability & strength so evocatively. You are a brilliant advocate and example to others of the kind of resilience we need to live through the next decades. I only wish your voice could reach the millions of people who have dangerously lost their connection with nature and natural simple living, without which we have little chance of planetary survival.
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Atulya K Bingham
Author, Lone Off-Gridder, and Natural Builder.
"Reality meets fantasy, myth, dirt and poetry. I'm hooked!" Jodie Harburt, Multitude of Ones.