Saturday marked the kickoff for our summer travels - a list made long ago in the deep depths of winter. Each day-trip will take us to visit another local food provider we have come to know, love, or rely on. This Saturday was a visit to our beekeeper and honey provider.
I've thought about keeping bees for quite a while now – though various excuses and limitations have prohibited any further pursuit it still remains on my shortened bucket list. Interestingly, when the beekeeper strolled our way he refrained from a greeting and simply looked at me and said, "When are you going to start keeping bees so I can retire?". That was it. I witnessed him greeting at least 6 other people, never asking any of them to keep bees. When I paid for our 4 refilled jars of honey (16 pounds!) he slipped a copy of a beekeeping magazine into my box from 1997, saying, "Nothing much has changed. Learn the basics and use the internet, but this should get you started."
Wildflower, Clover and Cranberry Honey
From there we wandered on, allowing the tiniest of handmade signs along the road to lead the way. We stopped at a farm stand we'll return to later for strawberry picking, meandered through a tiny town populated by a post office and an art gallery, perused a garage sale, then tucked into a pottery studio nestled behind a house.
Sleeping toddlers make for foreshortened visits but I could have stayed and chatted the day away with the owners of the studio/gallery, David and Carol. Warm, engaging, full of knowledge, willingness to share, and absolutely oozing kindness they were completely enchanting. In a matter of minutes we covered every topic from wood fired pizza ovens to home brews, Buddhism to photography. David, at one point, popped over to the car where my patient husband was waiting, and handed him a home brew saying "It sounds like we have a lot in common." Topping off an already fabulous day with a completely connected conversation left my heart full to nearly bursting. We were spent but alive with the joy of it all.
Sunday we rode our bikes to the hardware store to get the final pieces for our rain barrels, ate a picnic in the park and reveled in a beautiful day. I could tell my husband had finally started to truly relax. Then our plans were canceled, difficult discussions were had, and time was spent saying goodbye.
That evening we said goodbye to one of the most graceful dogs I have ever met. Cancer, ever persistent and cruel, had the final say and we could not bear to torture her with any further surgeries or treatments. She simply wasn't that kind of dog. She was regal, often sitting like a sphinx, stoic even, bearing the brunt of what we can only imagine was an unsavory life before we adopted her and her sister.
Sasha always allowed her sister to eat first, never begged for attention and was patient beyond measure. She was loyal to her human sister, motherly and understanding. No poke in the eye, tail tug, or other childlike learning could phase her. In the winter they often would lay together, toddler and best friend dog, talking.
In January we found a large lump and soon had it removed, but it came back, much sooner than we could have ever expected. Sasha simply began to fade away. She lost weight, function, and then the light in her eyes began to fade. I laid with her on Sunday and her eyes glazed over with distance or engaged with pleading. It was time. As selfishly as I wanted to keep her here through whatever pain just to have her a little longer it wasn't the compassionate choice...and if Sasha taught us anything it was selfless compassion.
We have always been adamant about two things since adopting Wendy and Sasha: first, they would never be in a shelter environment again and second, that if we had a choice they would depart this world at home. The were already senior dogs when we got them, paired and inseparable. Our no-kill shelter went to rescue a Basset who didn't make it but recognized the urgency in the situation for Wendy and Sasha and brought them back instead. They lived at the shelter for a considerable period of time when we adopted them, knowing that we might not have them very long, and that there may be obstacles.
We brought them home to find them unable to negotiate stairs and difficult to bring inside. They had been outdoor dogs but were housebroken. Sasha remained aloof for a good period of time but slowly began to trust us, to wag her tail, and to even act, annoyingly, assuredly dog-like in her desire for affections.
Their life here was (and is) good. After an entire day of barely moving or hiding Sasha took one final walk, with more fervor and joy than you could have ever expected. She came home, ate her first treat in a week, and laid down in the yard with us. She was sedated slowly, in our arms, then passed on, her sister by her side, lifting her paw, begging her to stay. It was as peaceful as anything I have ever experienced.
In the afternoon, as I tried to wrap my mind around her sweet presence not being beside me any more, I walked by our wedding vows (they are done in the style of a Quaker wedding certificate), and a single word caught my eye. I read the passage:
When it comes time to part, to reflect on their time together with joy that they met, and thankfulness for the ways in which they have grown and shared what they have; pledging to cultivate gratitude for the boundless gifts they have received;
And that is how I said goodbye to our Sasha, with a heart full of gratitude; gratitude for her kindness, for her mothering to my daughter, for our ability to take care of her, for the option to be compassionate and peaceful when the time came, gratitude for the people who rescued her, and unending gratitude for her love - it was hard earned but strongly felt.
It was a weekend to feel and appreciate being alive. I am ever grateful for these memories, for this life, for those who share my world in big ways or small. It is a beautiful place.
A note: If you have a pet please do consider at-home euthanasia and do some research for mobile vets in your area. It is truly an option you will not regret when or if it becomes time to say farewell. If you need help with this research or reference and I can help please feel free to contact me.