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A love letter
This is a beautiful letter from Fiona Apple explaining to her fans why she must postpone a concert date. I am impressed at the way she was instantly able to make the decision to choose love over her career. Indeed, the world needs more of this. Enjoy the story...
It's 6pm on Friday, and I'm writing to a few thousand friends I have not met yet. I'm writing to ask them to change our plans and meet a little while later.
Here's the thing.
I have a dog, Janet, and she's been ill for about 2 years now, as a tumor has been idling in her chest, growing ever so slowly. She's almost 14 years old now. I got her when she was 4 months old. I was 21 then — an adult, officially — and she was my kid.
She is a pitbull, and was found in Echo Park, with a rope around her neck, and bites all over her ears and face. She was the one the dogfighters use to puff up the confidence of the contenders.
She's almost 14 and I've never seen her start a fight, or bite, or even growl, so I can understand why they chose her for that awful role. She's a pacifist.
Janet has been the most consistent relationship of my adult life, and that is just a fact. We've lived in numerous houses, and joined a few makeshift families, but it's always really been just the two of us.
She slept in bed with me, her head on the pillow, and she accepted my hysterical, tearful face into her chest, with her paws around me, every time I was heartbroken, or spirit-broken, or just lost, and as years went by, she let me take the role of her child, as I fell asleep, with her chin resting above my head.
She was under the piano when I wrote songs, barked any time I tried to record anything, and she was in the studio with me, all the time we recorded the last album. The last time I came back from tour, she was spry as ever, and she's used to me being gone for a few weeks, every 6 or 7 years.
She has Addison's Disease, which makes it more dangerous for her to travel, since she needs regular injections of Cortisol, because she reacts to stress and excitement without the physiological tools which keep most of us from literally panicking to death.
Despite all this, she's effortlessly joyful & playful, and only stopped acting like a puppy about 3 years ago. She is my best friend, and my mother, and my daughter, my benefactor, and she's the one who taught me what love is.
I can't come to South America. Not now. When I got back from the last leg of the US tour, there was a big, big difference.
She doesn't even want to go for walks anymore.
I know that she's not sad about aging or dying. Animals have a survival instinct, but a sense of mortality and vanity, they do not. That's why they are so much more present than people.
But I know she is coming close to the time where she will stop being a dog, and start instead to be part of everything. She'll be in the wind, and in the soil, and the snow, and in me, wherever I go.
I just can't leave her now, please understand. If I go away again, I'm afraid she'll die and I won't have the honor of singing her to sleep, of escorting her out.
Sometimes it takes me 20 minutes just to decide what socks to wear to bed. But this decision is instant.
These are the choices we make, which define us. I will not be the woman who puts her career ahead of love & friendship. I am the woman who stays home, baking Tilapia for my dearest, oldest friend. And helps her be comfortable & comforted & safe & important.
Many of us these days, we dread the death of a loved one. It is the ugly truth of Life that keeps us feeling terrified & alone. I wish we could also appreciate the time that lies right beside the end of time. I know that I will feel the most overwhelming knowledge of her, and of her life and of my love for her, in the last moments.
I need to do my damnedest, to be there for that. Because it will be the most beautiful, the most intense, the most enriching experience of life I've ever known. When she dies.
So I am staying home, and I am listening to her snore and wheeze, and I am revelling in the swampiest, most awful breath that ever emanated from an angel. And I'm asking for your blessing.
I'll be seeing you.
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When I built my first garden and it began to grow, I did not recognize some plants that emerged. So, I enlisted the help of an experienced friend and we would play “friend or foe.” I had double dug the land: six feet down and planted bulbs and shrubs and rooted plants in the hopes that my perennial garden
would be perennial: “lasting or existing for a long or apparently infinite time; enduring or continually recurring.” (New Oxford English Dictionary)
But live things live. And every living thing dies.
I learned that in the first year many perennial plantings sleep. I learned that in the second year many perennial plantings creep. I learned that in the third year many perennial plantings leap! In my experiences, dogs are like that too. In the first year, they grow tall. In the second year, they mass and in their third year we equate their development with that of a 21 year old human. And then, no matter
how much we try, they never live long enough.
While my learnings in the garden were predictable, I also learned that Mother Nature is much more creative than I am and the harder I tried, the less I was able to control.
To win the game “friend or foe” was to identify the growing plant as a “friend” which we deemed those carefully selected, worked into a design, bought and paid for, cultivated worthy plants. “Foes” were those we identified as weeds: interlopers! Scourge! Interrupters which we could then yank out and so
eradicate. I never won that game.
I designed and created an environment where I orchestrated birth, growth, death and more murder which I am loath to admit. I selected favorites from my mothers garden north and east from where I was planting in distance and climate. I ordered plants from catalogues grown west and south. I pulled them from pots where they’d been fed and grown, scored and pulled apart their roots and placed them in my garden. Some thrived. Some died. And I learned my weeds. I loved my garden and I fed my roses shit. Their blooms were judged and won prizes. I picked them and put them in vases and watched them die. Long lived in my garden, my roses fed the pollinators who fertilized them so they
produced fruits, seeds, and young plants. I fed my weeds too but without intention. My weeds produced more weeds.
Spring is coming on fast here in my garden. My old camellias are blooming as beautifully as ever and my Lenten Roses give me pause to look and wonder how lucky I am to be here with them. But really! How is that I can still think they are mine? Especially after these bizarre days and times and what I had always never thought might happen. Audacious. Audacious times.
We need to move beyond the idea of ‘environment’
The difference between environment and community is control. I’m learning that we are all a part of everything. I’m learning that if there is any control it is mechanical and of our own creation. Control is not in our Mother’s nature.
How I love my garden and it has taught me that love is not to be controlled. There (and in my experiences) neither is grief to be controlled. Though not the same, love and grief they are our nature: light and dark: positive and negative. Yin and yang, clearly opposite or contrary forces may be complementary, interconnected, and interdependent in the natural world, and how they give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another. Wow that’s audacious.
Still as we practice our love openly, we hide our grief. We celebrate our love. We fight our grief. We’re proud of our love. We are shamed by our grief. Could it be that just as the roots of our “foes”- our weeds- grow entwined with our “friends” in a perennial flower bed…isn’t that community?
I’ve learned that I too am community and that weeds- especially those that volunteer in the most unlikely of places- are the font of my hope blooming and faith’s sweet scent.
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The final holiday of 2021 is here.