She showed up today. After eleven years, she came back.One of the GREAT teachers of my life, Marley cracked me open to hear the voices of the Animal People. An amazing soul and guide, she tried so many times to get me to understand, patiently reaching out to me over and over again for many months, all of which I did not understand until That Day.It was 4 am during a new moon, and black as could be outside. Marley and I set out from the house to walk the trail in the woods that led to the treehouse — a small, rustic building designed and built by a dear friend, with an elevated outdoor sleeping platform, outdoor hot water shower, and a huge deck built for me by my father, so I had a place to just BE in the woods. Hidden in the depths of my beloved Forest cathedral, magic happened there every time I showed up, a disciple of the voices of Nature, eagerly waiting to listen and learn.Flashlight in hand, I started down the mountain, Marley close behind. Anticipating the beautiful, reverent space that waited (and the stolen minutes from my very busy child-filled days) I always looked forward to those precious quiet moments with my soul. Halfway down the mountain, I heard four Barred Owls begin to hoot to each other, their incredibly loud calls startling me. Marley immediately took off and started to run into the blackness of the night.She would often do this, and it frustrated me. I thought she was a very naughty dog and would get irritated when she ran away, calling her insistently to return. Being alone at night in the woods, I selfishly relied on her company to ease my own discomfort and awkwardness. I was still a newbie to venturing forth alone like that into the depths of the charcoal shadows, and Marley or not, I was determined to show up regularly, because the soul-calls were loud and the teachings profound. It had become my spiritual practice.Having no idea where she went, and now hearing only the shrieks of the Owls growing closer as I approached the treehouse trail, I pleaded with Marley, demanding that she return. I stopped and listened. Nothing. No sign nor sound of her foot-fall in the leaves anywhere.I’d never heard that many Owls together before. During my daylight hikes to the Sacred Circle in another part of the Forest, they would appear singly — teachers marking my path. Barred Owls can be very loud, but on this particular night, they were utterly cacophonous. Chills ran up my spine as I stood there waiting for Marley, and I knew if I didn’t get to the treehouse quickly, I’d turn right back around and go home, shaking in my boots. Thinking about Marley in expletives, I returned to my pilgrimage walk, Owls on either side of the trail like a gauntlet of laughing witches. They were trying to tell me something, but I was not aware enough to get it.Finally, the familiar solar lights sparkled in the distance and I knew I was just about there. A sigh of relief emptied my nervousness as I walked up the mossy stairs onto the deck, fumbling for the door key in my pocket. Just as I reached the old wooden portal, Marley appeared out of nowhere and smiled up at me, wagging her tail enthusiastically. “Phhhmf,” I said crossly, and let myself into the darkened room of reverence, groping for candle and matches.Marley was not one to stay in any house, and even though I tried to bring her in to ease my jittered bones, she would have none of that. I closed the door and grumpily let her stay outdoors, where she curled up next to the door and fell asleep. Three hours later as the Autumn sun started streaming through the sleepy forest, I emerged in a bubble of bliss, and found Marley still asleep at the foot of the door.Slowly walking back on the path toward home, I realized that Marley was staying right at my heels, and I remembered my prior surliness with her. Reaching the top of the driveway, I stopped to pet her and apologize for my irritable energy that morning.She looked right into my eyes, holding my gaze for the longest time. That was The Moment when she finally got through to me. I clearly heard her speak to me in words I understood as my language. She said to me,
Woman, you simply misunderstand. When we walked down the trail headed for the treehouse, and I left you alone, it was because I heard things in the forest that your ears are not attuned to hear. My job in this life as this soul and this breed of dog I took birth into, is to shepherd and watch over those I protect…my flock. YOU are my flock, woman.When I ran into the woods, I was running all around you, far enough away that you could not hear or see me, but close enough that I knew exactly where you were, and that you were okay. I was doing a perimeter check to make sure you would stay safe. Once I knew all was well, I came back and joined you, waiting for when we would make the walk home.
And then she fell silent, her stunning orange eyes continuing to stare right into the very depths of my soul. I stood there dumbfounded, not knowing what to say, and then it hit me hard…what she had said, and how I had misjudged her actions all this time. Oh. My. God. I got it. I got it. Ohhhhh, Marley.Marley taught me so much with her gentle, intuitive communications. After I’d been able to understand, I heard her many times, teaching me about unconditional love, friendship, being a guide, and the Forest dwellers. Marley loved being in the Forest, and she loved to serve others. Before her, I had always chosen my pets, but Marley chose me. She became “my” dog in our family and we had a very special relationship. She knew she was my dog, and I knew I was her people. She guarded my family and made it her life’s purpose to watch over us every minute of every day.We had a fantastic time together the day before she went Out. I spent much of that last day loving her up…it always made her so happy. Wandering through the Forest, she played hard with her best friend Wallace, smiling like only she could smile as she ran around. She absolutely reveled in the fact that she could totally outrun Wallace. This is how I will remember her.Marley left her body eleven years ago, and I’ve felt her check in on me from time to time, but today, she reached out and surfaced, surprising me. A baby Cedar Tree I’d been caring for in a pot had been asking for a week if I could please transplant it into my front yard. She said if I did not at this point, she would not make it through the winter. Today, she pressed harder. Do it now.Out I went into a torrential rainstorm to take care of Baby Cedar’s needs. It was about her survival at this point…I could no longer delay. Grabbing the shovel out of the garage, I was stunned to hear Marley out of the blue. She was insistent. She said,
Me too. Today is the day. LET ME GO.
I’d kept Marley’s ashes all these years, unable to place them anywhere because I’d wanted to leave them in a homeplace — somewhere I would be living out the end of my days. Life hasn’t worked out for me (or Marley) to find that forever home yet. Today, Marley let me know that this was the place for her, and it was time for me to release her body.So, out we went – me, the shovel, Baby Cedar, and Marley’s box of ashes, filled with an eleven year old photo of her, her collar, some fur pickings, a small Cedar bough, a sprig of rosemary, a card from her vet with dried flowers in it, a heart rock with the words, “Kisses” inscribed on it, and the small ceremonial booklet that my youngest daughter and I had made for Marley’s Rainbow Bridge Ceremony. I kept the booklet and photo, but the rest went with Marley and Baby Cedar.Marley now rests in the sprinkled shadows under the Baby Cedar, who has been renamed, Marley Cedar Tree. The shadows of Marley that exist, light up my heart to this day and will for the rest of this life. Her teachings left an incredible impact on my soul that is indescribable. She was and always will be one of my Great Teachers through time. I am forever changed from knowing her, and will never forget her or the Gifts she gave. Thank you, Marley. I love you. #KingdomAnimalia #decemberreflections