Friday, August 24, 2012

The Day My Heart Broke Wide Open


Well, the two little raccoons didn't make it. About a week ago, a storm blew in that included hail and a torrential downpour. The next day, it was looking like Mama had not returned. By the second morning, one was very near death - I found him on the path to the garden - the other was still hanging in there. I thought about just letting them go, let nature take its course, and then I realized I simply could not let them die without intervening on their behalf, without doing all I could for them. For someone who has said she's absolutely not afraid of dying, a small raccoon's death was suddenly unacceptable.

The local vet gave me the number of a wildlife rehab center only one hour from home. With instructions I'd already received from the internet, along with their information which reiterated it, I packed them up and brought them there. A white, fuzzy sweater I'd donated to Buddy when he first came home with me went into the box with them, along with straw and a water bottle filled with warm water. I tucked the sweater over the one that was almost gone and his sibling got the other end, who then immediately began making sucking sounds, believing Mama had returned after all. I don't mind being involved in that kind of subterfuge. Hope occasionally requires it.

But, it didn't end well. These things rarely do. And I was unexpectedly and inexplicably heartbroken. Heart broken. I could not stop sobbing. I like to believe my place is a sanctuary for wildlife, a place of refuge for all the little wild things, and this did not go according to plan. Sometimes, nature sucks. A lot.


However, I was not left alone in my grief. A friend and fellow blogger unknowingly, well, from a human perspective, offered a much-needed message through a poem he posted when I was in the depths of despair. I know, it sounds disproportionate when phrased that way towards two little raccoons. But, that's what it was.  The depths of despair. You see, it was the day my heart broke wide open to the world.

Here's the poem he posted:

"Lead"

Here is a story to break your heart.
Are you willing?
This winter the loons came to our harbor and died,
one by one, of nothing we could see.
A friend told me of one on the shore
that lifted its head and opened
the elegant beak and cried out
in the long, sweet savoring of its life
which, if you have heard it,
you know is a sacred thing,
and for which, if you have not heard it,
you had better hurry to where they still sing.
And, believe me, tell no one just where that is.
The next morning, this loon, speckled
and iridescent and with a plan
to fly home to some hidden lake,
was dead on the shore.
I tell you this to break your heart,
by which I mean only
that it break open and never close again
to the rest of the world.

~ Mary Oliver



Isn't that beautiful?  And isn't it a wonderful universe?



Here is where I found the poem that day:coyoteprime-runningcauseicantfly.blogspot.com 



The loon is Minnesota's state bird.

34 comments:

  1. Yes Teresa the universe is wonderful and we are so fortunate to have our experiences; the glad and the sad ones. I cry each time I see a small dead animal on the highways, their existence cut short. Do you have coyotes in your area? I know Nature has its laws yet I wish it didn't have to be so.

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    1. Yes, we do, and there are several that make the rounds somewhat regularly. I respect nature, but I don't always like it.

      I really appreciate what you've said here, Sissy: "...we are so fortunate to have our experiences, the glad and the sad ones..."

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  2. A few years ago I watched an eagle cam in British Columbia. I fell madly in love with the sweet eaglet and watched with trepidation as he got ready to fledge. But then, with no warning, he contracted pneumonia and died. I was devastated and cried for days. I couldn't handle his death, and I've never watched another web cam since. It was so hard to let him go, so I grieve also for your beautiful little raccoons who never had a chance... That Mary Oliver poem speaks volumes to me. Thank you.

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    1. It's so nice to hear from people who understand. It was such unexpected grief. And, yet, I am so grateful for it.

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  3. How lucky you are to be able to participate in the lives around you, rather than being closed to them. It's a gift, I think.

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    1. The very best part of living in the country is being among the wildlife. It's taught me so much.

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  4. I would feel much the same way for those little 'coons! I get a lot of insight into what takes place in the natural world, yet still find some of it difficult to accept.

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    1. It's hard sometimes, isn't it? Life in the balance.

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  5. It is never silly to grieve over the loss of any living thing, for none are insignificant. To love so much and to have the ability to care so deeply for the animals that share this space with us is a blessing. But it is also very hard sometimes. This I know for certain. Thank you for sharing this story, sad but genuine.

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    1. Their sweet little faces will remain with me always.

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  6. Such a sad thing to experience, especially for someone so in touch with nature.

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    1. Thank you, John. I appreciate this kindness.

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  7. It seems we are hard-wired to nurture the young no matter what the circumstances or species. I love that about us!

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    1. It's so true, isn't it, Janice? And what a good thing that is, for all of us.

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  8. This is the breaking-open that terrifies me. That I could never close up again.

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    1. It makes one feel very vulnerable, but I also feel blessed by it. I thought my heart was open, until this happened, and then I found out what it's like to Really have your heart opened. It's been quite the experience.

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  9. It is sad... All life is precious! Some times, people are almost callous to these losses. Be glad, that you feel. It's a gift... Sorry you hurt. :(
    xoxox

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    1. I cannot imagine being callous towards these little beings, or any living thing, and isn't it all living?

      Thank you, Lynn.

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  10. Oh, that we would all have that open heart for all living things. What a better place this world would be. Leave it to Mary Oliver to bring it all home - and you, Teresa, for sharing this.

    Earlier this summer, about 5 weeks ago, Tom found a dead fawn in our yard. I was out and about, He called and asked me to come home. It was so lovely. Not a thing wrong with it. No injuries. It must have been ill for its mother to leave it. We like to think she left it where she did for us to find it. We buried it in a safe spot, said a prayer as we are wont to do, had a cry. I know how you feel, dear Teresa, and it is so honorable that your " place is a sanctuary for wildlife, a place of refuge for all the little wild things . . " for it is.

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    1. Dear Penny, Thank you for telling me about the fawn. I"m so glad you were chosen to honor its passing. Not surprising. Your experience has brought me to tears again. Grief tends to pull in other times of grief and so I'm just rolling with the flow... :)

      Thank you so much.

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  11. There's no solace for such a thing, but you tried, you provided comfort, and your home will continue to be a sanctuary for teh wild things. And Mary Oliver is my favorite poet, capturing so exquisitely the big & the small...

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    1. Mary Oliver offers us so much through her view of the world.

      Thank you.

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  12. tough to see this happen, I have seen it many times.I had a neighbor rescue a few squierrels and she kept us all in laughter at her love for these tiny creatures.

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  13. I'm sorry to hear of your loss, your heart break. While it may not ease the pain, know that at least you did your best.

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    1. When I talked with the people at the rehab center, through my tears, they reassured me I did all I could, but somehow, I had a hard time convincing myself of that. It's been a good lesson in letting go... Thank you, t.

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  14. Wow! We want to take these creatures into our care and it's not always possible... or it's not enough... and it "breaks your heart wide open". My goats are gone and I understand that there was nothing I could do but... my heart still hurts.. still hurts.

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    1. Connie, You've been through some heartbreak with your goats. You took such loving care of them, and yet life continues to happen, which, unfortunately, seems to include death. I can only imagine how I would have felt had I nurtured these little beings for a length of time, as you had your beloved goats. I hope your hurt lessens with each day.

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  15. Dear Teresa, your experience and the baby raccoons deaths and Mary Oliver's poem all remind me of the death of the cats with whom I've lived: Bartleby, Dulcy, Laz, Jeremiah, Noah, Elisa Doolittle, and Raissa. Each time my heart also was broken into bits. I'd like to think that it opened wider to the world, but I'm not sure of that. I know only that my heart sobbed for days and days afterward and that it continues to feel a sense of loss. But to give love to an animal is to know that we are going to suffer loss. I say that to myself, but even now as I live with three felines--Maggie, Ellie, and Matthew--who range from 3 1/2 years of age to six, I find myself resisting the days when they will leave me. Peace.

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    1. You would think that with death seeming to be such an integral part of all our lives that we would come to accept it completely, but for all of my talk of doing so, I was completely blind-sided by this grief. I had to ask myself, what else am I grieving? What else am I drawing into this circle of grief? I continue to ask these questions.

      Thank you for your thoughtful response, Dee. I certainly can understand your ongoing sense of loss over your beloved companions.

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  16. I've had this post open for a few days now, because the idea of the heart breaking open is wonderful. I watched the same eagle cam DJan did, and I was the one who told her the eaglet had died. I continued to watch that and other cameras, but now a little part of me always knows that something awful can happen...and of course if all goes well, the creature will grow up and leave. Sigh.

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    1. I walk by that spot where they were every time I go to the garden and I still miss them. I'm grateful, though, that I no longer have to worry, either. They're gone and aren't suffering. It's odd, how wild creatures can have such a strong impact on our lives. If I had chosen to raise them (very difficult and laden with potential problems), they would one day have been returned to the wild and they might still have been lost to predators or vehicles and such. It's tough to fall in love with Mother Nature. :)

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  17. Oh, Teresa, I am so sorry. I know, I know. None of the grand words we have in any language stops the grief until grief diminishes. --Jack Matthews

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    1. I still feel a sense of loss ... it's so good to see your name among my comments again... what a treat this is today ...

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