Tree Swallows and Good-byes.

May 02, 2011


Hello! Well, yes it has been a while since that last post declaring Tiny Aviary was on maternity leave. The months since then have been the fullest I have ever known, and I mean that in the best possible sense. Becoming a mother has been one the most wonderful and challenging experiences of my life thus far. Yeah, yeah, I know. That's what everybody says, but truly, it has been a welcome change. In the spirit of the content of this blog, I so look forward to sharing with my daughter the wonders of the natural world. So far, she is not sure what to make of her mama whistling Black-capped Chickadee songs to her, or blathering on about the migratory warblers and sparrows visiting the native plantings in our back yard. She often gamely replies "gurp", and thankfully isn't old enough to roll her eyes.

So yes, I have been busy adjusting to becoming a parent, as well as getting back to work. I have been able to take on various illustration jobs, as well as a healthy amount of painting commissions. Last week for the first time in over a year, I was able to clock in a few hours volunteering at the Field Museum. It was great to see everyone in the zoology prep lab again, and nice to be immersed in that environment. I won't be able to go in as often as I had been before, but do plan on getting in there on a semi-regular basis to keep my feet wet.

That brings me back to Tiny Aviary here. It's time to get it rolling again, but before I do so, I have to post about something that I had intended to write about months and months ago. So bear with me as I say good-bye to my dog. Yes, my dog. It's with a little sheepish hesitation with which I proceed, because believe me I know, with all of the horribleness in the world, waxing on about the significance of the relationship between human and canine can come off as a bit indulgent and trite.

Seth (my greyhound) was a huge part of my life. Jay and I considered him family, and when we had to say good-bye to him last November, the sadness was as much from the void left in our home, as it was from the knowledge that our daughter would not get to meet this extraordinary, gentle, and joyful creature that had been part of our lives for almost 9 years.

When we adopted Seth, it was around the same time I began to embark on bird watching hikes. On a weekly basis I would explore various nature preserves in northern Illinois, and Seth became an ever present fixture at my side during these excursions. Often we would go to Glacial Park, near Ringwood, IL and hike the giant kame (glacial deposit). We would descend the other side in to a valley that had a cluster of cottonwoods, and a recently 'restored' Nippersink creek. The cottonwoods would be full of tree swallows in spring and summer. I would watch the swallows while Seth would take a dip in the creek to cool off. He opened me up in so many ways, some of which, I am sure, lead directly to my decision to become a mother. I enjoyed trying to see the world through his eyes. Dogs live in the present moment, as do babies. We forget how to do this as adults, I think, and need to be reminded from time to time.

One of the last walks I took with Seth, was through a tiny forest preserve not far from where I live. The preserve is about the size of a city block, and currently is full of blooming trillium, and the sounds of warblers and woodpeckers. On this particular walk, Seth stopped on the path and pricked his ears up. I looked ahead about 25 feet, and there on the path stood a fox. It quietly observed us, and then after several minutes the fox approached even closer, stopping within 15 ft. All creatures, human and canine, regarded one another silently without fear or agression. Then, the fox turned and slipped in to the dense forest undergrowth. We stood for a moment soaking in this little fox benediction, and then continued on our way. Little did I know then that there was a terrible mass festering in Seth's heart, and that as a result of that mass, this would be one of my last walks with him. When I think of Seth now, I often think of that walk and the fox. I am not religious, nor do I have any firm belief in an afterlife. That said, I do like to think that if there is an afterlife, that there was a friendly fox waiting for my dog to gently guide him over that bridge. I miss you, buddy.

13 comments:

  1. Dear Diana, it's so wonderful to have you back in the Tiny Aviary and to hear you and your beautiful family are well :)
    I am so sorry about your loss. Seth must have been a wonderful companion. Dogs are so special, I couldn't imagine my life without my Turbo.
    Sending you a great big hug from sunny Mexico.

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  2. Oh, thanks Genine! It's so nice to be back, and thanks for the sentiments and checking in. : )

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  3. Diana, I'll echo what Geninne said. It's wonderful to see you post again. It's great you're enjoying being a mom so much. Here's the best part - you've got many more years of this beautiful extraordinary gift ahead of you! My Diana turns 14 tomorrow and it's impossible to describe how full my heart is because of her.

    So sorry to hear about you losing Seth. Sharing your love of Seth and the grief you feel at his loss is not indulgent (and screw those who think it is!). Our weim is such an integral part of our family, I treasure every moment with her.

    I'll be in Chicago end of this month and will get in touch to ask you about restaurants and museums :)

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  4. Oh great! I'll be very happy to make recommendations, and also be happy to give you a tour of the Field Museum bird division if you have time.

    Thanks for the kind words about Seth. I know that anybody that has or has had a dog understands. And yes, my heart seems a little more full every day with Isabel. I am looking forward to the years ahead! I *love* that your daughter's name is Diana. Not just because we share it, but it's just not that common anymore.

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  5. Glad that you are back! Congrats on the baby girl!! Thats great! Girlies are just the bestest. I'm hoping for news soon that I will be a mama as well. Freaks me out, but I'm excited and ready for it. :-)

    Sorry about your pup. Doggies have a natural way of ending up being as close as any family member, heck I still weep over my budgie that passed two years ago! But for a bird, he was a special one. At least we have our memories. :-)

    Take care!

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  6. Oh thanks so much!

    I too was a bit freaked out about becoming a parent, but you end up finding out you're much more capable than you ever thought you could be, and that there is a lot of room in your heart. It's a very positive life change, I assure you. Good luck!

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  7. Welcome back and congratulations on your new bundle of joy.

    I'm sorry to hear about Seth's passing. There's no better friend than a fur friend and he sounds like he was a wonderful guy.

    This was a truly beautiful post and I love your work.

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  8. What a beautiful, perfect way for you to return to this blog. Thanks for opening us all up the way Seth opened you, and the way Isabel has picked up where Seth left off.

    Can't wait to hear of her first fox sighting someday.

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  9. I also lost my beloved dog once which was the only companion I had in a certain stage of my life. So I feel a lot of the "hallowness" while reading your entry. that's a nice story about the fox. Foxes in the Japanese folklore are seen as spiritual entities. Your dog is in a good place.

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  10. Thanks all. It was important for me to honor my memories of him here. And Emilie, your comment about how foxes figure in Japanese folklore got me thinking about Neko Case's album (and song) "Fox Confessor Brings the Flood". It's a favorite.

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  11. Here's to Seth and the precious new life that is a big part of your life now. It's so good to see you back! Welcome *home*!

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  12. Hello Diana. I just discovered your wonderful blog. I love your illustration work. Congratulations on the birth of Isabel. She will definitely liven up life. Bird whistling is just the right approach to communication with her! I find your memorial post for Seth just right. And by the way the illustration is fabulous and evocative. I still feel that big void after a couple of years without my dog friend. I look forward to following you and your adventures.

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  13. Oh thank you! Isabel is livening up our lives a little more every day. I feel lucky when thoughtful people like you stumble upon Tiny Aviary. Welcome!

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