I have been disappointed not to have any sign from Sherlock, to hear his Mawr or glimpse him walking in his businesslike way toward the spot in the living room where we did his performance art (and he reliably got four Dentabites). I know people who have had signs after a death. To us, the appearance of this unusual bird seemed like Nature enfolding us.
I wanted to write today about Indra's net. This is an ancient image that every being is like a pearl at the interstices of a net. The pearl reflects all the other pearls, and is held in relationship to them. I always thought it was about human beings, but so clearly Sherlock's death created a rupture in our net, a huge empty space. And it makes you think of chaos theory, the understanding that the flapping of a butterfly's wings in Peru helps cause a tornado in Indiana.
We had two natural instincts after he died. One was food. We had forgotten to eat that day, I guess, and we went to a homelike place we especially like, Pizza House, and ate vigorously, jalapeno poppers, antipasto, a meatball sub. The next day Tom felt compelled to do a grocery shopping, and fill the house with food.
The other instinct was to connect with other people. For me it was talking on the phone with people who understood so well that they called me, friends who love their animals too. And there were posts from other friends, and from internet friends I have never met, who are so real to me I would hug them if I met them. These conversations were authentic and felt so true and connected. We were talking about life and death, the Great Matter Zen calls it. We were talking about our own sense of loss, how we grieve. Our ordinary ego trips had fallen away. So bit by bit, I felt held in relationship in Indra's net, in the sympathy and compassion of others whose experience was so similar to mine. Love and loss, that is the story.
Here is the Zen poem I referred to earlier. It is called "The Evening Message," and is sometimes intoned from outside the zendo on retreat, after the evening's last meditation. Then we go silently into the night. It's a little heavy for this sunny May noon, but there you are, life and death at the same time.
I beg to urge you everyone:[translation used by Diamond Sangha. The photograph of an indigo bunting is by Mike McDowell.]
life and death is a grave matter;
all things pass quickly away.
Each of you must be completely alert;
never neglectful, never indulgent.