Romantic notions about life and death would be, I thought, the first things to fall under siege with this beekeeping thing. I was not conceding the outcome of this hard-edged enlightenment, but admitting the obvious: I live in the city. I live in a world where most of the creatures are either imperilled wild things or treasured pets. Being a beekeeper is like playing god, not like playing parent to a pet. I have to choose who dies sometimes. I hate this. I do it. It's not routine, and I don't feel good about it. But it's not keeping me up at night, and I feel like there is a lesson in it. The upshot is not about being hard-hearted, it's about the unconceivably numerous ocean of life, the sheer numbers of living things coursing around us, and how impossible it is for any one living thing to see the whole and understand what it happening to it. In one case, an early death, in another, an extended life. No reason given.
Tonight my husband and I will have trouble sleeping. We chose death for Rocky today, and it needs to be said in that bald-faced way because he died when we said he should, via euthanasia. One could say we killed him, though that does not fit right, either. We cut the death that was coming off at the pass, at an hour short of sunset.
What keeps a girl awake here are memories of all the times we were not good parents, where we lost our patience or jerked the leash or dealt out discipline that now makes me cringe. Rocky was a thieving, lusty, greedy, smart, passionate, loving, and sometimes violent dog. His aging looks like, with great pain right now, a process of his losing one great love and then another. First, no longer able to jump on the bed and jockey for position, later not able to climb upstairs to the bedroom, followed by an inability to compete effectively for table scraps, and finally stuck at home when the park (and his adoring fan base) was just too far away. At the end, barely able to creep out to the backyard, swaying on failing legs.
We told our friends this tonight: as we prepared to leave for the veterinarian's office this afternoon, he slept in my arms a while. As he slept, he dreamt of running, clearly at full tilt. I could not remember the last time he ran: the vet later told me his arthritis was diagnosed in 2001.
I don't believe that when I crush a bee, or blow out the candle of Rocky's life, that those sparks of vitality are automatically lit again in some other place. I have been thinking more about the way light shimmers on a lake at sunset, one glint shining and blinking out, replaced by another. Some people talk about a sea of life of which we are a part, and to which we are returned. I still hope, whatever follows this, that there is some way I will feel that Rocky spirit again. Is there a way to be in *that* light again?