“There is nothing permanent, except change.” Heraclitus
Intuitively I know this. In my mind, however; this magical place in Maine, which I have had the privilege of experiencing for the last 27 years, has for the most part hung suspended in a land of make believe. Unchanged. Driving down the hill, right before I catch a glimpse of the lake, my heart always flutters happily, energetically lifting the corners of my mouth into a smile.
How many thousands of times have I come down this hill?
Last night when I arrived, I was feeling a bit selfish. I think both Andrew and I secretly like to have the cabin just to ourselves every now and then. I was looking forward to being here for 24 hours, just me and my Chloe. As I pulled into the driveway I suddenly realized how alone I really was. The change of it all came rushing at me. I looked to the three cottages in front of me, all in a state of “unkeptness”. Cottage front and center belonged to Andrew’s Grandmother, Eula, whose presence is knit into the very fabric of the lake. She passed away almost three years ago and would never have tolerated her lawn to be almost a foot high. Charlie, the owner of the cottage to the right, died just a few months ago. His essence lives on in his poems about the lake and many other topics, like stealing my lilacs. He was not as meticulous as Eula was about her yard, but there was always a sense of order, and his yard looked to have disobeyed this order. Like Charlie left in a rush. Which he did. To the left of Eula’s sits Bud and Clair’s cottage looking ignored for too long. They were hardly here at all last year and recently put their cottage on the market. They are both approaching their ninth century and it just got to be too much. The entire yard was covered in fresh hay, leading me to believe there was some septic work done there since my last visit.
I never realized the subliminal comfort I was awarded when I caught site of Eula’s Subaru Forester in her open garage or Clair’s back light as it flickered on, or when Charlie’s car pulled loudly up the hill. I never noticed part of my joy in coming here was the comfort I felt when confirming it was all exactly how I expected it to be. My mother-in-law would say, “Aren’t you afraid, going up there all by yourself?” To which I would reply, “I’m fine staying there alone. I love it.” Anyways, I was not alone at all. My quiet neighbors were there and I had my guard dog, Chloe. She is always with me, especially since I stopped working – she is practically an extension of me. My shadow.
Change as a verb – to make or become different – this requires action
Change as a noun – the act of becoming different – this requires awareness, observation
The astounding thing as I sit here and ponder the idea of change, is that the landscape, the lake, the nature has changed very little over the last 27 years. Of course trees have come down to make room for the few cabins that have been built (ours included) but new trees sprout and grow again. Nature spins. It is the people and all that goes with being human that has and continues to change significantly. I’m talking here about change as a noun. Humans have become different, not of their own effort, just by nature. Well, perhaps a hint of change as a verb, as there have been times when the humans most certainly initiated the change. But for the most part nature drove the change of the humans of the lake becoming different. I know I need to explain this better.
So I wrote the words above on Thursday night. It is now Monday morning.
The next day Andrew arrived, pulling the boat. He had Eula’s lawn mowed before even bringing in his travel bag. He too must have felt Eula’s presence and outrage that her lawn was so tall! Brad and friends arrived a few hours later – all eager to help transition the cabin from winter to summer. Finally, late in the night, Kyle and his friends arrived. They all have “real jobs” this summer delaying any possible early departure. Andrew’s enthusiasm for the summer is soooooo contagious. Especially to the boys. I certainly enjoy summer at the lake but I look forward to the quiet times that are squeezed in between the happy bedlam. I jumped quickly into the role of hostess getting dinner prepared and making sure the beds were made for all who would be joining us this weekend. (A fact I rarely know in advance…) As I was going through the motions I was thinking about this post and making mental notes of how things have changed, yet stayed the same.
Mental Note 1.
When we built this cabin 11 years ago, Kyle and Brad with friends fit nicely in their “bunk room”. The room seemed spacious. As I pulled Eula’s old cot out and plugged in the blow up bed to squeeze four adult males into the “bunk room” I thought same room… not so spacious.
Mental Note 2.
Dinner used to be at the table that we had handmade for the space on the porch. The boy’s knees used to fit under with no problem. Now we eat scattered about the kitchen and porch. Table in same place. Humans grow. (Dining space is my biggest pet peeve – if I were to do this over I would have the most massive dining room table in lieu of a porch or even a living room! I desperately want to sit all together while enjoying each others company and sharing a good meal.)
Mental Note 3.
Suddenly overwhelmed by the grace of God. I have been able to watch my sons grow into the most beautiful young men. Kind. Sensitive. Fun loving. I have shared their joy here on this lake every summer of their lives. Now, they each arrive here under their own steam– driving a car full of their friends they wish to share this special place. Oh yes, I stress until I see them with my very eyes. I worry about traffic and the crazy people on the road. I worry. I worry. As they exit their vehicles though, I am rewarded with that same smile the lake brings to my own face. I have shared every single summer here with my family. I am so grateful.
Mental Note 4
Andrew and I have had the consistency of this lake for 27 years. Over this space of time we have lived in 2 different states, 5 different homes, been single, engaged, married, married with no children, married with a dog, married with babies and a dog, married with children and no dog, married with young adults and a dog. We have experienced life’s tribulations such as cancer and job loss and death. But we have always had this place. Standing still in time. Landscape unchanged.
In the morning (now Saturday) it was humid. Memorial Day weekend used to be a weekend where wetsuits were used (sissys!). Not this year. Water temperature 73 degrees. Air temp predicted to reach the 90s. Nature drives weather to change (verb) instantly. (Oh no, nothing to do with global warming at all…) Cool night last night in the 60s, today 90s. Chloe was not loving the transition and was so agitated all morning. She just could not relax. Unlike yesterday, where it was cool with a light breeze and she sat watching me plant my herb garden. Her only stress was deciding wheather to lay under the lilac bushes or the Rose of Sharon to keep her eye on me while I worked. Today she was desperately searching for some place cool. She found it, lying under a truck. In the me lei of launching the boat and the jet skis the truck needed to be moved. The truck was higher than a normal truck and instead of laying behind a vehicle to get shade she must have been laying under it. You could not have seen her under there and really you would never have even thought to look. She was likely in doggie REM and by the time she realized the truck was moving, it was too late. Since she never laid under a vehicle (but did have the bad habit of laying behind them) she was also probably disoriented in her move as she heard it start. I was weeding the river bed and heard a yelp. I turned to see Chloe run off as the truck was pulling away. I ran down to see if she was ok. I knew she was not. Although she was walking she had a look of terror in her eyes and she was drooling. I screamed for Andrew. As I tried to console her, she moved skittishly away. When Andrew joined me, Chloe had made it to the waters edge and swam away, staying close to shore. We could see her get out of the water a few houses down. Both of us following on foot. I recruited Kyle and his friends to help us. We found her in the woods hidden by a canoe in a neighbors yard. No prodding would make her come to me. My baby. My shadow. I ran to get the car and her hammock so Andrew and the boys could transfer her to my car. I knew there was something terribly wrong and we needed to get her to the vet. On the way there we found the local clinic closed and we needed to go to Portland. It took us one hour. As we drove she got up to reposition herself several times – I thought it was because she was uncomfortable but I realize now she wanted to be close to Andrew and then close to me. Her breathing was not right. We kept talking to her. When we called to announce we were on our way, the vet said her breathing was probably due to shock and to keep the AC on, they would be ready for her.
We arrived. Andrew ran in and I sat with her head in my hands, whispering to her. They came out with the stretcher and we got her transferred and she was wheeled away. I was covered in leaves and dirt and lake water. We entered the Animal Emergency Clinic and of course I looked for the bathroom. I came out, sat down, and began to fill out paper work. A few minutes went by and the doctor came out and informed us, “She is not breathing on her own. Do you want us to perform CPR?” Andrew and I gasped “Yes” in unison. As he left we looked at each other bewildered. We did not expect this.
Twenty minutes later they fetched us to come into the operating room. They had intubated Chlo and we could see the blood in the tube. Her eyes wild, distant. This wasn’t our Chloe. “We believe the internal damage is significant. Would you like us to continue?” We had to let her go. It is important to note here that the people who work at the Animal Emergency Clinic in Portland were amazing from every single point of this situation. You can just tell they are living their purpose. I know they made Chloe feel as loved as we love her as they worked diligently and methodically during that last hour of her life. And when it was time to let her go I just knew it pulled at them as much as it pulled at us. They were all so kind.
On our ride home we cried, and cried some more. At one point, I’m not even sure which one of us raised the issue, we realized Chloe held on for us. She was trying to get away from us at the lake, to find a peaceful place to leave us. But we refused to let her go. So she made the ride with us, held on, got physically close to each of us as we raced to Portland. And then the moment she was out of our sight, she let go. She did that for us, so that we did not have her beautiful body, lifeless at the lake. She did this to ensure this significant change (noun) was not part of the landscape moving forward.
“The first step toward change is awareness. The second step is acceptance.” Nathaniel Branden.
To those who knew Chloe I trust you felt her utter and complete joy as she greeted you with more enthusiasm than you will ever be greeted by any human or animal. I trust in this way when you visit us you will be aware of the change. Everywhere my eyes rest, I am aware of the change. Her collar hanging on the chair. Her food dish with the three pieces she was saving for later. Her hair, everywhere.
We are making small steps towards acceptance. We understand she had the most amazing life. We understand accidents happen, they are beyond our control. There is a greater power at work. The world continues to spin leaving our lives tattooed forever by the absolute happiness Chloe brought to us.
Out at the fire pit on Saturday night Kyle saw a shooting star. “There goes Chlo.”, he said. “Hell ya, Chloe is flying that thing…. With a steak in her mouth.”, replied Brad.
Mental Note 5.
We have shared this lake with two beautiful dogs who loved this place as much as we do. In fact, their happiness began as soon as we turned right at the big red barn. They could smell the place from a mile away and their excitement also lifted the corners of their mouth into smiles (ok, this could have also been caused by the wind hitting their jowls from the open window, but I swear they both smiled as they realized we were almost at the lake). Bailey… meet Chloe. Your soul sista.
One final note in this stream of consciousness, cathartic post. We all realize the only way to fill this hole in our hearts is to get a new bernese mountain puppy. So I took the first step (change, as a verb) and sent two emails this morning.
“If you don’t like something change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” Maya Angelou
Rest in peace my sassy Chloe. Rest in peace.