It’s been a week since Toto died and I still open the front door expecting to find her curled up with my slippers, waiting for me to return. During her last year when she could no longer jump up on the couch to sleep while I was gone, she would find the slippers I usually wear around the apartment and make a bed out of them. I think she was craving my smell since she was almost totally deaf and could hardly see through her cataracts. Now I find my slippers where I’ve left them.
Expectations and memories are traces of Toto that I carry in my head and heart. She’s left a few physical traces. One I only noticed recently. For years she would rub herself along the base of the couch to scratch her itches. Now I see a dark streak all along the front of the couch where she did that. I haven’t cleaned it off yet, and probably won’t until it’s time to move, which now looks to be in July. A few years ago I wrote a blog post about the traces that my late mother, sister, and wife have left all around me. Traces are on my mind since I’m reading a book recommended by Laura’s friend Kathleen Wright. Vanishing into Things by Barry Allen. He took the title for his book from Brook Ziporyn’s study of the neo-Daoist Guo Xiang, whose insight Allen summarizes:
Every ‘object’ is a phase in a network that has already transformed by the time we react to its traces. It is these that language names. Cognition is recognizing what names name. But those names are artifacts of perspective, conveying an empty image of what has come and gone.
When her husband died suddenly, Joan Didion spent a Year of Magical Thinking waiting for him to walk back in the door. I had my own bit of Buddhist magical thinking that meditating into present moment awareness could take me outside time to comfort at the moment of death. I realized after a while that I was just playing Orpheus traveling into the underworld. Generally I’m skeptical about the notion of rebirth, but this past week I’ve been wishing that Toto would come back as a bodhisattva. That’s who she was for me.