Following Atticus by Tom Ryan.
I just finished this book. If you love dogs, the mountains, or love stories, you must read. The book tells the story of Tom's personal journey ... His relationship with his dad, his brothers, his townie friends, his refound love of the White Mountains of New Hampshire (something we share), but most importantly his relationship with two special dogs: Maxwell Garrison Gillis and Atticus M Finch. Atticus is the source, I think, of a sort of rebirth for Tom as they share adventures and heartbreaking moments on and off mountain.
I read it in a weekend -- a luxury of Vermont holidays. I cried and it made me happy and inspired. The same pull that Tom feels towards the mountains and the "soul work" that Atticus accomplishes at each summit are emotions I completely understand. I might not have a year and a half ago --Before Kitty -- but now I completely get it. (More on my conversion to crazy cat lady in a later post.)
For now, I hope you read the book or their blog at http://tomandatticus.blogspot.com/ and I hope to see them on the trail some day.
March 12th marked one year since Russell died. Russell is ... was ... my boyfriend Peter's older brother. He was 58 -- diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in October, dead in March. Peter cried a lot, slept a lot, drank a lot for the first several months. I was there for him -- the shoulder to cry on -- for about the first 8-10 weeks after Russell passed and then I just pretended to be.
So many sentences began with "I miss my big brother," I began to roll my eyes. I was raised to suck it up, deal with it, move on, and for God's sake don't talk about it! I wanted our life back -- to feel happy without feeling bad about it. I just wanted to move on. Peter would say "I'm not smart enough to explain it," and I didn't understand that either. What's to explain? You are sad, but you can't be sad forever.
My big brother died when he was just 35. I don't know exactly how. See, we really don't talk about these things in my family. He was an alcoholic and was killed in a single car accident. Suicide? Was he drunk at the time? Did he die instantly or at the hospital? I never asked and the information was not volunteered. This is strange to most people, but I think it is just how my family dealt with so many troubling things ... pack them away and keep going.
I wanted to better understand what Peter was feeling, but I couldn't. He says he feels "rudderless." He didn't talk to his brother every day and probably only saw him a few times a year in person, but Russell was a guidepost for Peter. Like the cairns that comfort us when we hike a new trail or visibility is poor, we don't always need guideposts, but we need to know they are there.
I just finished Joan Didion's lovely memoir: "The Year of Magical Thinking". I think Ms. Didion has helped me to understand what Peter didn't feel smart enough to explain. How a person can be so integral to you, that to lose them is to lose a part of yourself, and become closer to your own mortality. "We are imperfect mortal beings, aware of that mortality even as we push it away, failed by our very complication, so wired that when we mourn our losses, we also mourn, for better or for worse, ourselfs. As we wre. As we are no longer. As we will one day not be at all."
Like a strong earthquake can change our planet's orbit, grief knocks you off your axis completely, but you keep going.