When a Himalayan poppy blooms, you know summer has come.
When families saunter by with dogs in tow and kids on whatever set of wheels they ride; when open windows barely cool you off and tending the yard works up a sweat; when the pollinators swarm and the rhubarb erupts.
Yes, this summer has arrived with the reminder that companionship exists all around us, even if we forget, even when we’re curled up with our own sadness or toil or rapture. We will always lose what we love, and always love what we must someday lose.
The earth’s capacity to nourish life is truly remarkable, and so is our capacity for love.
In the dark month of February, I lost my brown-eyed, course-haired hound Loki, who came to me as a pup many years ago. I miss his curly hair against my cheek and his horse-like galloping down the office hall. He had a lot to say and it usually had to do with him needing attention. Even in his last days of life, he welcomed belly scratches and words imbued with affection from all his human friends.
Loki was such a happy and outgoing dog, and easy even as a puppy. He never chewed anything too meaningful—or maybe it’s just that his adorable brown eyes behind all that hair convinced me that his need to chew meant more than the loss of whatever he chewed up.
I miss the feeling of love I had from him and for him. I miss how he would talk at me and be sassy. I miss his rolling around and growling every afternoon that always made me laugh.
Grief and loneliness filled the space he had left. A dormancy of heart set in.
I know that grief persists as the necessary companion to love and the connective tissue that holds our hearts and memories together. Still, it really hurt losing Loki so soon, so quickly.
It will take time for the sting of grief to ebb, just as it takes time for the gray, snow-laden trees and plants to bloom again. Arctic poppies have been prolific in my yard year after year, but last summer I found a Himalayan poppy at the botanical gardens plant sale. It didn’t bloom, but it didn’t die either.
This spring, 3-foot stalks shot up with plump pods full of promise. I like to think they were telling me to remember beauty and love.
After losing Loki so suddenly, I fell into a funk for many months, and the growth of those poppy pods coincided with my readiness for sharing life with a dog again.
That’s how I met Jasper (the pup formerly known as Jolt and Mustard).
Early this month I went to the Alaskans Animal Rescue Friends adoption clinic. I checked out the chaos of the puppy pen, a whirl of wagging tales and yips and then the adult dog area with its share of chaos. Soon enough, a dog walker showed up with a yellow pup who came over to see me and then settled in to watch the action.
That got my attention. Over the next few days I found out more about him.
The folks who had fostered Jasper described him as a friendly dog who likes to cuddle and play with other dogs, who quiets down and can be mellow, and who doesn’t seem to need to get up super early. Well, that sure fits!
It felt like fate the way Jasper and that blue poppy reminded me to pay attention to beauty, love and the companionship of living things.
Jasper has already met the neighbors’ dogs and visited the office. He’s taking up bed space, growing into his own demands, and I suppose training me how to meet them. Loki would have liked him, I think.
PS. Thanks to supporters like you, we can continue fighting to protect Alaska’s land, water, air, wildlife and people!