waking up unanimously at six am to a room without a dog was an alien feeling. we automatically grabbed our mugs and went on the royal blue early morning ritual walk, sans dog today, lifting the back gate for her anyways, just in case. it was a slow walk, and yes we looked back to see if she was trailing us, just in case. when old farmer leonard waved from his window, we knew he knew. upon our return home, james made the ritual meal, the smell of cooked turkey signaling the cats to hover round the kitchen door waiting for their chance at leftovers. sans champ, the cats were confused, no leftovers today. james transmitted the meal via blazing woodstove to the sky, hoping somewhere up there she would know by the smell of the smoke, feeling full of the love and dedication it took to make those hand-hewn meals, twice a day, every day. he hung the dish on the wall ceremoniously, and chachie licked the corners still searching for a crumb. afterward, full of emptiness, we both knew we needed to get out of the house as soon as possible. we loaded the van and drove away.
first we filled our bellies with the finest breakfast around. we then drove the sky high bridge over the gurgling waters of deception pass, around the bend to cornet bay. there, we fished for smelt, on the edge of a dock reaching its arm out in the most beautiful ash green ocean waters ever. we delighted in the dance of our poles against the weighted jigs, the screeching honks of geese like car alarms. we watched our neighbors catch one or two, but once our fingers got numb it was decided that our two cats would have to divide the single six inch catch of the day. we ventured to oak harbor, and accidentally found every thrift store that clusterfuck of a military town had to offer. we bought a few things: ten cent toys for the toy chest, some old books with good pictures, pillowcases from the 80's with geometric patterns, a paper lantern for the van... the eye candy culture shock was enough of a distraction to keep us in good spirits. watching through the windshield as b-52's circle, streaming black smoke tails...at least we don't live here. we drove the back roads home, venturing up the winding steep roads to the top of a massive boulder called mount erie, just to catch some sun on our face and glimpse a panoramic view of the great archipelago. reminding ourselves: no hurry to get back, no dog walk tonight. upon our return, we lit the fires once again, ate a hasty meal of tofu plus fridge remnants. after eating, snuggling on that orange velour couch full of dog and cat hair blankets, we were sucked into the vortex of deep sleep like a black hole. we slept an urgent sleep, of grief and exhaustion and love and release. today was our first day without champ. she was a fixture in our landscape, a ritual, a member of our family, an obsession, a love, a companion. starting now, we learn what it's like to live without her. one day at a time.