Loss and a Little Dog

liloo1My father is fond of telling the tale of how Liloo once caused a stampede. It was about 15 years ago when Liloo was still a pup. I can’t remember why, but at the time we were running two bulls with the herd. Liloo happened upon the bulls in a field next to the red barn and began circling them and barking loudly. At first the bulls just stared blankly at her. Gradually they became agitated and charged her, trying their best to stomp her under hoof. There was little I could do other than yell at Liloo as I watched events unfold. She paid me no mind as she weaved figure eights in and around the bulls, all the while barking. Eventually the bulls became spooked by her tenacity and began to run. They ran about a hundred yards down to the creek and then up a steep embankment on the other side. Liloo was snapping at their heels the whole way. They rejoined the herd on the far side of the creek and it was at this point that the stampede began. If I recall correctly, it was only about 15 to 20 head of cattle, but that is more than enough for a potentially dangerous situation. I continued to yell in vain as Liloo chased the herd into the hills beyond. She was little more than a small black dot when she disappeared over the event horizon. I stood there waiting for a good 5 minutes before that Continue reading

The gutting board

I was amazed at how much the old cane pole could bend. It must weigh a ton! That pole’s gonna break for sure. When he pulled the fish out of the water and plopped it on the shore I was disappointed. I had expected something much more gargantuan. A shark perhaps. Still dangling from the line, the old man brought the fish to his backyard work area. I learned a lot from the old man next door. I grew up in a house on a lake. Much of my childhood revolved around that lake and the house next door. The old man and his wife had no children of their own. Looking back, I realize that I served as something of a surrogate child for them. I was eager to do so. The old man’s wife would occasionally cook dinner for me. She and I took a keen interest in the muscovy and mallard ducks that called the lake their home. The old man was always kind and gentle toward me. I liked him, not because he was wise, but because he had a calm manner about him. I had never known either of my grandfathers so I suppose he was my surrogate as well. I eventually came to understand that his stoic and detached nature was symptomatic of unhappiness in his own life. Still, the old man showed me many things growing up. He taught me how to fish. And he was the first to show me the face of immeasurable suffering. Continue reading

Suicide and the promise of a soft landing

There is a ledge in my life. A high ledge. Most days I walk by this ledge and think nothing of it. The other day, however, something curious happened. The ledge spoke to me in a clear and cold voice. Why don’t you jump Brett? It won’t hurt a bit. I promise. Come here. Give it a try. It stopped me dead in my tracks. My mind reeled as I stood at the precipice. What the fuck did you just say to me? How dare you?!? What makes you think you can talk to me that way? I’ve healed. My life is good now. Leave me alone! 

This is a rumination on suicide—not a contemplation of suicide. This is not a cry for help. It is a consideration of something that, for me, is very difficult to talk about. I can count on one hand the number of insightful conversations I have had about suicide. It’s partly my own fault. I don’t like discussing it. I also find that it is a subject a good many people are uncomfortable with. Some people find it too morose to talk about. Others find it alarming. There’s no politic approach to the subject. Nevertheless, I want to talk about suicide in a subjective manner without being either morose or alarming. I want to acknowledge it without feeling shame or fear. Continue reading