The sun casts long shadows across the brilliant green grass. The branches of the junipers, pine, aspen, and hawthorn rustle in the cool afternoon breeze. The mountains stand proudly in shadow, shielding the sun as it prepares to disrobe for the night.
There used to be four dogs who tumbled across this lawn, barking and jumping. Two of them were lean and fast as foxes. One was a little slower, a little heavier, but her bulk never stopped her from taking flying leaps over the creek. And the youngest simply happily yipped and sprinted, just trying to keep up with everyone.
Amongst these furry creatures once ran three little boys who found pleasure sitting on the swings or play-acting swordfights with long sticks.
Everyone was so young and life felt like it was just beginning.
But on this afternoon when the wind is stirring our hair, when the birds are calling, and the sun is brilliantly orange, there is but one dog on the lawn. The three boys are older now, and have two little sisters in their circle. Despite the growing number of children, it has never felt so sad, so quiet, so empty here.
Two seemingly happy parents have been whittled down to one. A brother is missing. The three beloved dogs. There is no laughter. No more chaotic tumbling of 12 furry paws. No more choruses of barking.
The ghosts that are here now are deafening this afternoon. So loud in their silence. Even the baby owls have disappeared.
What remains in the empty space? Is there anything there, at all? Is it just memory, the bite we take that fails to fill our stomach, but tempts us to keep eating? Are there ghosts there waiting to comfort us? Or is it just the empty space that takes nothing, but has nothing?
Past the lawn, just down the hill, lies a pile of bones that once belonged to a young, vibrant buck. And beyond that, I have seen another buck, his antlers velvety, eating in the field. The animal who left the bones spoke to me once, a long time ago, about loss, about the seeming randomness of death. Then one day, this new buck, this living creature, appeared, and suddenly, the bones are not so loud anymore.
I hold on to the hope that one day another pack of dogs will sprint out across the lawn in a raucous tumble, knocking over several children in their path. They will appear just like the buck appeared. Without a lot of fanfare. Someday, they will just be there.
And the bones, the ghosts, will be there, too. They are always there, just in the foreground, or sometimes, a little to the left. We never forget our ghosts.
(This post is dedicated to Belladonna.)