Only Connect

John with Finn in January

Today is the first day of the year of the Wood Horse.  A marked difference from last year: The Snake.

Last year I felt much more snakelike—hidden, slithery, undercover, shedding. The Horse is about power, decisions, movement, action. The Snake… well, not so much. I want to be more like the horse.

When I created a theme for life and business in 2014 I picked these words: Dare, Connect, Magic.

So far, there has been a lot of all three.

On New Years Eve, my beautiful old dog Finn collapsed. A mass in her spleen had burst and the vet told us she might last a few hours or a few days.

We took her her home.

Almost 11 years ago, she jumped into my arms at a shelter and she saved my life a thousand times since. Finn was one of those once-in-a-lifetime dogs…. at my side for breakups, our wedding, hiking, kayaking, step-parenting, every single errand I made, miles and miles of skiing.  Being abandoned once meant she stayed close to me all the time.

Elegant and attentive, Finn resembled a dog that might sit next to an Egyptian queen. But she had a way of shapeshifting. One day years ago, someone asked me if she was a Chihuahua and the very next day another person wondered if she was a Great Dane.

Despite the fact that she could not control herself around gas station attendants, highway workers or certain other female dogs—God, she could bring me to my knees with her alpha moments—I adored her.

John and I took turns sitting with her for five days. We cried into her fur and thanked her for doing such a good job caring for us and teaching the new puppy all she knew. We told her all the stories of things she’d done, great moments she’d had, the wonderful day I met her.

As she sleeplessly watched with her giant brown eyes, I felt like she was taking in her humans to remember forever. Or that she was teaching us to be ready for her to go. She grew more and more ethereal.

Magic moments started to happen. One afternoon, a crazy bird noise broke out. I went outside and dozens of crows were circling our house. I’d never seen one crow in these woods before… and for about 15 minutes tons of them flew round and round, perching in trees and cawing, and then circling more.

Finn couldn’t move but her ears flickered wildly as she listened from her spot near the couch. I swear the crows were calling her.

On her last night I carried her outside and waited with her, but she didn’t pee. She just stood, wobbly, with her head pointed up. It was a starry night and the coyotes were loud. I felt like I was watching a very intimate moment as she stared at the stars, all the howls echoing around her.

Sunday morning her eyes focused more in the distance than on us and her breath grew raspy. She hadn’t eaten in almost a week and her muscled body was all ribs and knobby spine. John dug a grave out under a fir tree.

When my vet friend Kath arrived Finn wagged her tail and tried to get up. We laid her on her favorite blanket and Kath found a vein. She said she had never seen an animal die so calmly.

We buried beautiful Finn with a note from each of us and her favorite bone.

The next morning at 4 a.m.I left for Mexico. A couple weeks earlier, my old friend Joanne had asked me to join her and her daughter for 9 days there. There was no possible way I could afford the trip or the time away.  So of course I booked a flight.
I went for Chinese food that night and got this fortune: Take a trip with a friend.

Joanne was diagnosed with cancer 7 years ago—and has survived longer than her doctors thought she would. Breast. Bones. Liver. Stage 4 now. A few months ago she felt a little better than she had in years. Enough to decide to take Manami, home from college, on an adventure.

Each morning I went out when the sky was still dove gray to get a coffee from Armando.

“How is the Mama?” he’d ask.

He fixed green juice and ginger tea for me to bring her.

Our last day there, he kissed Joanne’s hand and said, “The only thing that matters is here,” holding one palm to his big barrel chest and putting the other on hers.

One night at dinner I told Manami stories about Joanne zooming around Boston on her 10-speed, in a dress with her blonde hair flying.  Skinny dipping in Vermont waterfalls and dancing at blues clubs without spilling her Rolling Rock. Learning to drive a stick in my VW Rabbit, smoking a Camel.

Tears rolled down Manami’s face and I asked her if she wanted me to stop. She said, “No, I just wish I knew her when she was like that. Keep telling the stories.”

Joanne hobbled out to the balcony to watch as Manami and I body surfed. I looked up to see her little hunched-over form, waving her cane at us. I asked her about it later—if it was hard. She really loved swimming in the ocean. She was always, always, always in motion.

She said she actually feels glad now to see others being happy and doing things. That it was a little hard to describe, but she was not full of yearning or self-pity or envy as she watched us or heard the stories of people’s lives—she just felt happiness.

Joanne, Manami, me with jugo verde.

Like I did with Finn, I felt I was watching someone become a master.

It is only 30 days into this new year.

Death. Life. Sun. Stars. Ocean. Release.

Dare. Connect. Magic.

E.M. Forster wrote, “Only connect.”

Only only only connect.

Joanne’s back in San Francisco.
Manami is at college. John strung lights
in a tree at Finn’s grave and they twinkle in the rain tonight.

The first few weeks of this year have given me an urgency to connect. And a rekindled belief in the magic of our stories.

Like a horse who can’t bear not to run, now is the time and we must get going.

It’s not too late to say what is most true for you and your work. Because your story means something. Your story means everything.

And your story’s not too tangled or too long, nor has the time passed for you to tell it.

Only connect.

I would love to talk with you about your story and your message—and how we can work together to share it in a way that’s all yours. Because now is the time.

Just hit reply if you’d like to schedule a complimentary clarity session.

Happy new year.