My dog and I took an afternoon road trip Tuesday to retrieve a package. Our travels took us to Poolesville, Maryland, a place we used to frequent when my sister lived there. It's a small town about an hour north of us, rather rural. Since my destination was right across the street from the Stupa Park, I wanted to take Cosine with me. A little circumambulation is good for the heart, body, mind and spirit. Or so I'm told. Who am I to argue?
Significant doggie subterfuge was required to get Cosine out of the house and into the car without Dudley objecting to not being invited along. Wendy's suggestion of sneaking the leash into the car while they were distracted in the back yard worked wonders.
I just could not take both of them. They move at such radically different paces these days. Dudley dances and races exuberantly hither and yon. Cosine is slower. Much slower. She steps carefully, cautiously feeling her way along. She teeters and weaves. She pauses and stares off into the distance, needing a touch on the shoulder to get her going again. Taking Cosine for a walk involves a lot of attentive waiting these days. It's somewhat like walking with a toddler.
This particular place in Maryland will always hold bittersweet memories for me. It's where I lost my sister and then found her again, a tale unto itself. Bringing my aged dog here felt like the right thing to do. I carried Cosine up the rough wooden stairs leading to the park entrance.
There was not another soul around. We inched along at a snail's pace, which was fine as we were in no hurry. I chattered mindlessly to her. "Watch your step, Cosi-Co. This way, sweetie. Stay on the path. Isn't it a nice day?" I must enjoy hearing myself speak because I know she can't hear much anymore.
The warmth of the sunshine offered a promise of spring, just a hint of chill in the air. It really was a fine, fine day. A turtleneck and sweater with no jacket day. Bright rows of Buddhist prayer flags waved in the light breeze, sending forth their prayers. I knew the path to take and eventually we arrived where we were going. Cosine rested in the sun near the Migyur Dorje stupa while I wandered a bit, taking out memories and trying them on to see if they still fit the same.
My sister created much of the decorative sculpture on this stupa. Her sculpting ability fascinates me. It is seemingly effortless for her to create accurate dimensions and scale from a lump of clay, transforming it to the desired image. A pinch here, a rub there, a push, a smear, some delicate shaving until it is just so. Then the pieces are cast. In my mind I compare the casting process to a contractor building what an architect has designed. In Sherab's case, she is the contractor and the architect.
Two snow lions grace each side of the stupa. Each one is about as tall as I am. The Boy and I had the good fortune to help my sister with the final part of their installation. The day we worked with her had been a glorious day much like the one Cosine and I were currently enjoying. She loaned me a pair of her burgundy overalls and handed me a caulking gun. We all climbed up to perch on the edge of the structure, chatting and working. We spent a few hours up there caulking the edges of the snow lions. At some point, someone must have come along and snapped a picture of the three of us up there because I have it in a photo album. We all look so very young.
It took a bit longer to walk out of the woods than it did to walk in. Cosine needed to stop and rest every so often; her attention wandered more frequently. Back in the car, she had a drink of water and settled in for a nap. I hoped she wouldn't have an accident in the car. Nothing can be taken for granted with her these days.
I drove home with the windows down, the radio up loud and my hand resting on Cosine's back.
Times before would have found Cosine and Detail napping happily in the back of the little Toyota station wagon I drove back then. Sherab would have waved goodbye as we left Poolesville. I can see her standing in the driveway of the farmhouse she shared with several other nuns, her dog Corgi at her side.
Do I resent her having moved across the country? No, not really. No more than I resent Detail dying last year and Cosine growing frail. No more than I resent The Boy having grown up and left for college. No more than I resent having to learn how to cope with change, something I wish I had perfected long ago.
Above the snow lions on the stupa is a plaque with Tibetian characters that translate to "Liberation Upon Seeing." While I hardly see things clearly, that walk Cosine and I took was liberating. Almost as liberating as accepting the inevitability of change.