A Sparkle on Snow, One with All Life

Lessons from my Dogs,

One with all, a sparkle on snow

Nothing I ever saw washed off the sins of the world so well as the first droppings of snow.

—Nancy Willard

        One afternoon in mid-January just after a beautiful snow storm, I asked Sparkle if she wanted to walk. I gave treats to Sasha and Isabelle, who'd opted to stay safe and cozy inside, their old bones not cold, and took Sparkle out into this hushed, new world that whispered of sacred things. I put her in a coat in Luis Vuitton colors that I had bought for Lauren one rainy day in Paris. And as she skipped out wearing Lauren's coat from so many years ago, I thought about the great continuity of all things through love.

Sparkle in the snow in Lauren’s old coat.

        The snow was more than six inches deep with an icy glaze coating. Little Sparkle was not quite light enough to walk atop and every other step, she broke through, sinking down. I didn't see cuts but I'm sure the crusty edges sliced at her legs each time she sunk. Even though cold, after a few minutes Sparkle began panting from the effort. It was hard going for both of us walking over the drifts, yet pure and still the way the world gets when blanketed with snow—that deep and quilted silence.

        Sparkle was off leash and I watched her hunt—a Sparkle on the snow. She did her best to run through the woods on scents, me following along, up hills and down, around trees and shrubs, marveling at the many tracks left by animals—possums, coons, rabbits, squirrels, coyotes, turkeys and deer—some we rarely saw by day. But there, living side by side with us, just the same.

        Finally, we turned around to go down hill, and that's when Sparkle wised up. I turned to look for her and who should be following behind, walking in my footsteps? No more falling through scraping herself. No more effort; this was easy stuff. I walked on smiling and adjusted my stride to better suit her small steps, the two of us separate beings, but symbiotic and merging to one.

        But it felt strange. I walked on without seeing her run before me like usual, without the set of dog tracks beside my own. And it was then that I turned around and stood in the snow-soft stillness, and beheld only one long line of tracks. I felt something in my heart the way one does in moments beyond words. I stood with a vast whiteness all around and felt the future pain, yet also awe, of that single set of tracks.

        It was at that moment that I had a strange flash to future where there would not walk beside me a little pair of dog tracks. And yet she was there within me, literally within my human prints. I felt her a part of me then, more than ever. I glanced down and there she stood by my shins looking up, asking why we'd stopped hunting.

Sparkle wises up and walks in my tracks.

Sparkle’s tracks within my own.

        I think the future that flashed before me was only trying to tell me that she, like all of them past, present and future, will always be within me—as I them—as we with all life, there beside one another.

        “Okay, let's go,” I said to her. The sun peeked out from behind clouds, creating sparkles on the snow. And together we walked in this fashion, with her stepping easily into my prints and home to a warm house and joyful greeting from Isabelle and Sasha.

Home to a joyful greeting.

Isabelle and Sasha by the woodstove.

        That night as I tucked all three into their spots in bed and thought of Olive and the others, now gone, I heard the following words: When you think of them in your heart and feel them there, they will be there; they always are.