at God, Gals, Guns, Grub. A university Educator and firearms instructor of many years who now owns a school and protection consulting business in Ohio with his talented wife, Dann and his family have been friends of mine for years and their dog Ruger was a pal of Barkley.
It is with sadness that I have to share that Ruger lost his fight of a long time with some serious health issues. He will be missed and I know how much his family is hurting. For them, I share my thoughts and a few words. - Brigid
In rough wool socks, in a cooling room, I read from the
books of the Old Testament, dipping my finger in a glass of whiskey, salvaging
all I can from myth and truth, as reality comes through the window like a
Outside there was nothing, the world outside the window,
only a long, steady dusting of snow, the dark and constant presence of winter’s
scorn. Somewhere in the distance, a snowplow scrapes the day’s history from the
streets as I pull a sweater around me, small comfort in this empty house.
We find comfort in various ways. For some, it's food, human
warmth and need or the acquisition of possessions. For some, it's drugs or alcohol, a balm to
the self we deceive ourselves into believing as being measurably containable. We're not though; days come in which we're
like a glass too full, barely preventing ourselves from spilling over through
Our comforts can be our healing, but if left unchecked, they
can be our curse, carried in an empty bag, a broken bottle, harsh words that
scatter like empty containers, the hiss of a snake as we toss it away. They can also be our savior, keeping us from
that isolating inward spiral, the soul’s needle that rips free the bindings, thus
letting our wounds heal.
For me, my comfort this night is the written Word of God, of
man, or a mere mortal woman, the thoughts in a journal that spring from my own
day. Those words laid out unfolded, are
my way of savoring what it means to be alive; and the most striking measure of
life is the literal odds against it. For
every way that there is of being here, humanity and nature have derived an
infinite number of ways of not being here. Calamities of man and nature can
wipe out entire civilizations even as the smallest of things can render us
completely and totally undone, a meteorite and a microbe carrying the same
weight. Statistics belittles our very existence; thermodynamics prohibits us,
and gravity usually wins. That's if we're not taken out first by
hurricane, flood, donkey accident, tainted food, terrorists or that offer of a
ride home by that nice guy at the bar with an eye patch and a hook for a hand.
I spent much of my early adulthood as a jet pilot, learning
very quickly that, not only can't you always save the world, sometimes you
cannot even save yourself. But the
effort is often worth it. If you're lucky, your brushes with life will only
leave a few small physical scars. If I raise up my bangs, right at the
hairline, there’s a tiny, faint scar from a tumble off my bike down a hill as a
kid. There's a small ding in my forehead where the bungee cord of the J60-P-3
turbojet engine cover whacked me on the ramp at warp speed when I lost the
wrestling contest with it. But for most
people, like me, the bigger scars are internal, and you only touch them softly,
with trepidation, not remorse, in the late night hours of "what if’s."
Pilots get that.
Adventurers get that. So,
usually, does anyone who has challenged their fears. There are times when it
seems as if the world is going to pieces around you, a sense of this enormous
elemental power beyond your reason or control.
You think "what am I doing; this is nuts!" As you squeak past the reaper one more time,
you say “well, that wasn’t as bad as I
thought” already planning on when you will chase the experience again. For you are called to the altar of the
infinite, the bread of life on the tongue, tasting faintly of salt, the
sweetness, just underneath. It's
reaching your hand out to receive glory even as your world cranks up to red
line with the knowledge that if mistakes are made, there will be no saving
grace; you may be lost. But if are not,
then the world will, for that instant, have one moment of equilibrium, of
order, of peace.
Those moments, perfect moments of transcendence, almost
worthy of the reckoning.
It's moments like this, like these here now, that are our
way of saying that, in the face of the impossible, life is worth savoring. It's acknowledging that when life lobs
something our way like a grenade, shards of pain exploding across our world,
that life still can be a gift, still a story to be told.
It is a story, not one of science, one that may not be
remembered past this one lifetime. It is the story of someone that did not know
his destiny, but followed it with unfaltering step, bound to me, not by vows or
paper, but in the name of the trust that was the best part of his nature. It is
a story of the one that taught me to love even as he occasionally barfed on my
carpet. It is simply the tale of a black
Labrador retriever named Barkley.
It was the beginning I never anticipated--belief that there
were no limits that made tragedy inevitable, a gentle nuzzle that made the
walls fall away, and the pull of the leash into the day’s infinitude.
It was an ending I did not expect; a leash laid across the
chair, an empty bed, a glass tipped over, spilling the blood of wine. The noise that empty rooms make is as clear
In between, there are the stories of friends, of joy and dog
hair, of a small pink ball with feet known as Mr. Squeaky, which became my
mortal enemy at dawn, as I tried to sleep. There are tales of the great
"bacon incident" and how I know more about how to clean carpet than
should be allowed by law. There are words that twist and turn in the shade of
an ancient tree, a sonnet to an old dog, who lies between the bones of poets,
to be unearthed as he releases me to remember.
A couch sits across from me, absent of a form that claimed
it for ten years. Under the table, are a few favorite toys, sticks and stones
that now break my bones, even as I cannot bear to part with them. I sit, the solitary dreamer, pulled to the
perimeters of memory that can’t yet be mapped.
I sit, a cowboy without his sidekick, my defense laid down on the bar,
nursing the hurt with one part tears and two parts single malt. Barkley's things
are stacked by the door, as ordered as rifle cartridges, a dog's length from
the barrel of the bottle. That bottle is
a place I do not want to lose myself, I think as small sounds come from my
chest, as the rumble of thunder infinitely remote, the vibration of grief down
deep inside, tremulous and impartial and waiting.
But grieving with memories is better than nothing without
them and the only thing worse than not being alive, is not having anything to
So for tonight, I will simply pour a finger of warmth and
put the bottle aside to sit, to wait for something I cannot name, but of which
I can still remember. I will remember the
alone as a white shirt on the line, fluttering in the hot wind. I'll remember
the together as the sound of a puppy's whimper.
I will remember it all as an open field under cloudless skies, as we
learned to walk together, of fresh grass and soft ice cream, wood smoke and
black powder, of black fur and white knights and love unexpected. I'll remember it and write of it, as a
renouncement of pain, as a leap into unknown air, a dog, a moment, so worthy of
Our wounds we wear like temporary garments until they are
forgotten, but our stories, we don them as forever.