Yesterday, we thought we might be godparents to a skein of goslings — tiny yellow-grey fluffballs hatching from the goose we hoped was nesting, not resting, in our front yard. (Note: Canadian geese — at least in our neighbourhood — give new meaning to the term ‘silly goose’ when it comes to nesting in front yards,)
Instead, the wild honking my husband heard late yesterday afternoon was not a celebration of eggs but the last dirge of a dying bird. Perhaps a car hit her — he saw two young men turn around in their car to drive back by her as she flopped into the hollow of the yard. Perhaps, like a sparrow that fell from the sky onto my windshield one cold day, she simply died. But today, he wrapped the limp body, wet from last night’s rain, in a garbage bag and set it on the curb for dead animal pick-up. There will be no goslings.
Today a dear friend called to tell me he is moving out from his 15-year relationship, into an apartment of his own. The couple I thought would be together until death do us part — even w/out benefit of clergy — has cracked into brittle halves, jagged shards of pain all around them.
And tomorrow, we will drive 90 miles to discuss the sale of my father-in-law’s dreams: the farm he bought piece by piece with the thin savings from two jobs. The house he designed the plans for, and contracted himself. Dad is gone, Mom is a drowsy shadow of her former vibrance, and the farm is no longer anyone’s dream.
Life is full of hairpin turns, a road that may end up anywhere. Love melts like sugar candy in the rain, and even wings can be stilled. Dreams fade like brittle photographs. There is nothing that is permanent.
This is what the Buddha tells us. Dukkha. Suffering is how we translate dukkha. But it isn’t that simple. The pain the goose felt as she died? The pain my friend feels at the slipping away of his relationship? The loss of a large part of my husband’s childhood? These are all dukkha. Physical pain, impermanence, dependence. Each one part of a word that doesn’t really fit into English. But that moves like a scarlet fissure through our lives…
Tonight, I breathe for a dead goose, feathers soft & beaded with raindrops. I breathe for my friend, and his partner. And I breathe for my husband, his childhood, the parents I love perhaps as much as he does… And I bow my head to dukkha…