Three weeks ago, we had no inkling that in another two days—Christmas day—Zoe would leave us physically through her unexpected death. Bitter for the excruciating pain of grief, exquisitely sweet for the many treasured years with her. Only Chris and I are left to inhabit our spacious home. Life is like that, moving in sudden, minor and life-altering fits, starts, endings, and beginnings. You never know. This is the only available moment to enjoy and spread joy!
In some ways, it is unbelievable to me even now that it was not very many days ago we had the privilege to do our middle-of-the-night walks out to the stove room to check on Zoe. Our nights of sleep are now uninterrupted by Zoe’s periodic arrival at the entrance of the bedroom, howling to awaken one of us for some company or to give her another dollop of canned food. Bitter for her absence, sweet for sound sleep. Right now the passage of time is totally strange; like trudging, yet we have already arrived at mid January! Bitter that each day is further from Zoe’s angelic curling beside me in bed, sweet that time heals the heart. We can be lazy bones and rise out of bed whenever we choose, as there’s no rush to get Zoe’s breakfast or warm her with the fire. Bitter to start the day minus her appreciative bumps and rubs, sweet to have broader options.
On and off for days, rain has been the weather menu. The Sun is up there, ceaselessly shining, but we haven’t seen His beaming face. Bitter for the lack of a solar-pick-me-up, sweet for the much-needed rain, which nourishes local life. For ancient peoples keenly attuned to the shifting cycles of light and dark, summer’s growth and winter’s decay, expansion and contraction, activity and rest, the Sun was the singular symbol of the outer life that it feeds and sustains the world. They also saw the Sun behind the Sun—the spiritual emanation behind and within, which is considered to be the true Essence of Life. This is the “unknown quality” or inexplicable ingredient that the rationally oriented or scientific mind can never account for to its satisfaction. It is the spark of life, and when it departs life departs. In the Sun’s extreme ability to scorch, ravage, and incinerate, it leaves the bitter fruit of death, whereas His sweetness comes in His more moderate rays of warmth, vitality, strength, the generation of health, hope, and optimism.
Life is composed of incessant trade-offs of the bitter in one hand and the sweet in the other. Life, however, presents us with a multitude of self-determining choices, and we get to choose. There is no choice but to choose and deferring choice becomes a choice—always a new choice. In the Grecian Mystery School established by Pythagoras, considered the world’s most famous philosopher, one of his central teachings embodied the power of choice. The symbol of the zodiac sign of Aries closely resembles the famous Pythagorean dictum of the “Forking of the Ways.”1
From the central, undivided stem arises a fork with a path to the left and one to the right. All of us at some point in time reach this moment where the Path of Life divides, and from our own depths and conscience we must choose. Over the course of a life, there are generally a few major confrontations with the Fork, encounters that significantly shift our life one way or the other, forcing us to choose what one Path offers, thereby foreclosing the options of the fork not taken. And then there are the many, many times when a lesser Fork is reached and the consequences are also less noticeable in their long-term effect.
The left-hand road signifies Earthly Wisdom and following the dictates of the lower egoic nature of folly, indulgence, dissipation, and eventual self-undoing, with bitter results. This left-hand road is the world of “phenomenal reality.” In sweet contrast, the right-hand road was called Divine Wisdom, and if followed with steadfastness, dedication, focus, concentration, and integrity, it leads to illumination or cosmic consciousness.
From the earliest peaks of civilization, the connotation of right and left has accrued great symbolical power and is to be found meaningfully scattered amidst all the philosophies and scriptural texts throughout the world. The right orientation is linked to such things as the direction east, the masculine polarity of assertion, the diurnal half of the day, the right side of the body, the “conscious” mind, and further suggests qualities considered to be active, direct, strong, open, beneficial, familiar, righteous, and fixed on the externally driven, outer “self.”2
Conversely, the left orientation is symbolically associated with the direction west, the feminine polarity of receptivity, the nocturnal half of the day, the left side of the body, the “subconscious” mind, and to sharing our energies to create committed partnerships and unions. Moreover, the qualities associated with the left are said to diminish or weaken a strong sense of self through a desire to blend and compromise. The energies of the left are believed to indicate those that are so-called “passive,” emotional, intuitional, unfamiliar, obscure, indirect, harmful, and even sinister. When the right and left are taken together and harmoniously balanced, they signify a unified whole—the wholeness each of us will eventually attain.
Perhaps for me at the moment, though gradually to a lesser degree, the physical absence of Zoe is more closely akin to the left bitter fork wherein I am experiencing too much of my little, outer self-orientation and not enough trust or Selfless expansiveness of the sweet right fork. On this right fork, my unclouded experience would be of Zoe’s eternal essence of being and I’d feel not the slightest tinge of sadness or separation.
As we honored our Zoe in her life and now in memory and acceptance of heart, we travel the right fork. At the end, her wish was to be kept comfortable but without any heroic measures or needless, expensive or agonizing medical procedures that would have prolonged her life in the short term. She died peacefully in deep sleep. Sweet!
She was ready to go on ahead of us. She clearly let us know she was ready and said goodbye to each of us in her own way: with me on the night of December 23rd when she got up on our bed and laid stretched out asleep on my tummy, something she hadn’t done in quite awhile due to discomfort. When I awoke, I had no idea she was even there sound asleep. And she said her goodbye to Chris by curling up with him, even though she couldn’t get comfortable, on the night of the 24th
Zoe consciously chose to stay until she knew we were strong enough to carry on without her so she could move onto her next stage of evolution, having fulfilled her life here. Sweet! It was her time, and, with a total lack of resistance, she was in accord that her physical life was over. Sweet! Zoe does not in any way feel separated from or miss us now, because for her the levels of life are more seamless and not to be dreaded or avoided. Besides, rather than daytime being our shared bliss, we are reunited every single night now during our hours of sleep. Sweet!
Zoe has her own life to live and special work to do with Bodhi for the larger animal community. All the love and time and attention and presence we gave Zoe she has taken with her to share with the other animals of the inner world. Sweet! Because it wasn’t meant to be, we start a new decade and a new year with a new checkbook register that is minus the sad reminders of checks written for Zoe’s medical and other needs. Sweet!
Zoe and all of our animal kids helped Chris and me to become softer, more kindhearted versions of ourselves, helping us to open our hearts to the fullness of love in all its bittersweet versions. Love is the foundation of life and all life revolves around the center of Love. Animals have an innate ability to bring our “best self” to the surface, and thus to be better human beings more capable of relating to one another, to the animals, and to our beautiful Planet Earth. They teach us that we are in all ways LOVE. Sweet!
Zoe and Bodhi—the ultimate love mates!
Text and Photos © by Zane Maser, 2010. All rights reserved worldwide.
My editorial guru and technological wizard is Chris Maser, my delightful husband.
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