Three years since Gilgamesh’s last breath hit the palm of my left hand, and I caught it there, held it.
It’s part of me now, that breath of his I took into me and died with, as surely as he did.
Since he died, I have left not only New England, but the country, in largest part to escape the buffeting memory of The Us, the pack of two, the outside-of-human-love tracks everywhere I went: just recently, I’ve returned to the States, and am back in his home ground, our home ground.
I wonder if some of you who loved him virtually, but never knew him, still get email notifications from this mostly-quiet blog where for so long he brought strangers all over the world joy.
The Inugami Mochi was published in February of this year by Saddle Road Press. While it’s shelved as fiction, it is in fact an intentional amalgam of fiction, creative nonfiction, and magic realism of a vaguely animist sort, in which the character of Dog is the dog-god, the character of Cecily is the human claimed by him (and is no longer exactly of her own species as a result), and the ancient honor paid to this kind of archetypal relationship is brought back to the front.
In a few places, though, it’s just simply and entirely Gilgamesh, and all he gave: he is the truest thing I have known.
He and his life, our life together, doesn’t need a lot of dressing to summon something far larger and wilder than the domesticated nonsense where most people stop.
Right now, I’m working on a second that is also about the rare but once-familiar archetype of the familiar spirit and the consequences of its loss, called Gilgamesh/Wilderness. This will also come out from Saddle Road Press (next year).
If you miss him, you can read these. You will find him there, and hopefully something much larger than him, or me, or The Us we were: something that is about you. If you loved him because you recognized something of your own extra-human experience with a familiar—not a pet, an inugami who is your soul’s beloved more fully and well than any human could ever be—I hope this work feeds you.
I needed to read these books when he was so suddenly gone, but couldn’t find them.
So I wrote them.
After two years in Canada, where grief could happen without interference, without all the places he was so present creating a constant tearing at the wound of his absence, and where my deadened spirit and being came to new life, I find that on my return, these New England places we loved are now places of peace. I feel close to him, to who we were, and also in another life now, an entirely different skin than the one I occupied when he and I were The Us. This skin remembers the wholeness we had, from the vantage point of having shrunk back down to the singular. This skin remembers being riven. This skin remembers joy.
Today I went to Wendell State Forest for the first time since he died, and hiked our favorite six mile loop. Slowly, breathing it in and remembering the hundreds of times both of us were gently bounced by this springing ground amongst the mountain laurels, the bear who came out onto the Lookout and what Gilgamesh did, the cannonballs into Ruggles Pond, the discovery of otter scat composed entirely of fish scales (and the obtaining of permission – the rolling in it with passionate glee – the coming up covered in glitter, and laughing).
The miles and miles.
One being in two bodies: autonomous, but one.
Today, I found him a deer foreleg, marrow-sucked by coyotes. I found him a tree bole that looked exactly like a knee joint. I stopped and scented the air for him, accosted suddenly by some flowering thing at distance, the exact scent of happiness. I wondered, for a moment, if I smell like that, now, from taking in his last breath: that faint gardenia scent he had, under whatever he’d rolled in, the essential him underneath taken into my own skin, my own blood and bone. Here, the cool copper scent of water. Here, intoxicating loam. Here, the brave scent of a stone.
He wasn’t there, of course. He did not find things for me. Or maybe he was, and did. Both things can be a little bit true: he is of me now.
Lookout Trail, then a hook along Jerusalem Road and a drop down into Hidden Valley. Connecting with the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail and taking a winding route back toward the beginning.
Drought, so the water was lower than I’ve ever seen it: the convergence of the waterfalls and the torrential brook a tepid pool, barely moving. Still, the forest was cooler than the rest of the world, and noisy with life but none of it human. It fed me. Lifted my spirit to where it belongs more wholly than anywhere else—and in a way (though not a platitudinous way, not a way without loss of the entire world and having to make a new one), with him.
Even so resurrected to some new skin, or series of them, even in the quiet joy in the places where he had joy, the slow pulse of memory beats the anniversary drum.
Two days ago, I watched a video of one of our deepwades at a writer’s colony where we lived for six intensely beautiful months in New Hampshire. It’s a peaceful video, navigating the relentless dumps of a series of storms, helping each other break trail in January depths.
So much peace, so much love that winter.
Still, when I fell asleep that night, I dreamt that Gilly and I were out in the forest, in deep cold and incoming Nor’easter, and night was falling: we dug a snow cave, to shelter from the storm, and crawled into it together. I made us the best igloo I could, but he froze, in my arms: I felt it happening, and I could not stop it, I could only whisper love to him while he shivered in my arms. When he stopped shivering, his body gone soft, then stiff, I said, my own face, throat, arms cracking like ice with the movement of my lips and falling in shards around us: you’re safe now, love. Nothing bad can ever happen to you now.
And woke in the abyss of his absence.
This is the way of loss.
When it is deep, when the love was total, it never ends.
The image of a meteor strike always resonates as true for me, about real grief. The crater never goes away. It fills with water, stuff grows there, the sharp edges erode and soften, it may even become a cauldron of new life, generating like mad and full of joy—but the landscape has been altered, and shall ever remain so.
This is as it should be.
* * *
God/Dog, you know, for all that this familiar stuff, this inugami stuff, this one being in two bodies stuff, The Us, is profound and serious and very, very real – the thing is: we spent most of our time, when we weren’t saving each other, or exploring, or worldbuilding, telling each other goofy jokes until we collapsed into giggles.
So much laughter.
So much love.
* * *
Some of his joy:
Hitting it off with a pretty girl—
Vermonting in storm and ice, laughing to keep warm—
And ocean. Oh, ocean.