Autumn is in full swing in the Green Mountains of Vermont. Just two hours north of Erving, MA, the trees have erupted into a picture-perfect display of earthy golds and reds.
My heart has been heavy on this trip as I mourn the recent passing of my beloved cat, Puffer, but at the same time I am deeply moved by the breath-taking beauty of these gentle mountains. Everywhere I look it seems as though they are sprawled across the horizon, draped in a plush blanket of warm autumn foliage. I feel embraced by this undulating landscape, comforted by the knowledge that it is teeming with life. I imagine a family of moose somewhere out there, chewing noisily on a mouthful of grass and leaves.
I have also observed signs of death and decay, and have surprisingly found solace in that, too. As the cooler weather sets in, herbaceous plants are beginning to wither and die, leaving a legacy of dried stalks and seeds behind. Some of these seeds will fall to the ground, and in the spring they will germinate, beginning the cycle anew. The dead stalks and leaves will break down and return to the earth, providing nutrients for the fresh, young growth.
I have been somewhat haunted by the image of Puffer dying – looking into his eyes and watching him slip away, and then laying his lifeless body to rest in the earth. Abstractly, I have always accepted that death is a part of life, but in practice, it is hard to handle. I am profoundly sad as I desperately miss my devoted friend.
Just now as I write this, a dog is swimming in a mountain lake, the sun glistening on her blond fur. I can hear her puffs of breath as she fetches a stick that her owner has tossed into the water. Yes, the bond we have with our pets is remarkable. It’s no wonder why it’s so hard to say goodbye.
I find myself reminded of just how poignant fall is. Just as the trees must let go of their leaves, we must let go too, leaving the exuberance of summer behind as we prepare for the hushed days of winter ahead.
Now, the leaves begin to fall, landing softly on the fresh grave of my beloved friend. Before long, it will be covered in a blanket of snow, and then just as I begin to feel that I can’t take another minute of the cold, dreary winter, life will begin to spring forth again.
May you rest in peace, my dear friend.