Saturday D. and I launched my cat Patrick's spirit boat into the retreating tide of the Pacific Ocean, on its final journey. It was a large origami boat we made, 33" long and 12" wide, containing his ashes as well as the following items:
- 13 origami cranes; origami duck; origami raven
- goddess pictures, including Bast (Egyptian cat goddess)
- pictures of Patrick:
"Sailing Strange Seas;" "Cosmic Cousins;" "Cosmic Colorblock;" "Flying, On Roses, With Misshapen Wings"
- silhouette cut-out of my hand
- small stones from Death Valley
- Mallow flower essence
- dried maidenhair fern fronds
- Mutts cartoon
- various poems, pictures and images representing the spirit of our relationship
- hawk, owl, parrot and pheasant feathers
- some of Patrick's fur and a few of his whiskers
It was foggy, windy and cold at the coast. We chose a spot at the boundary of the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve for the spirit boat to set sail. On the trail through the cypress forest at the edge of the Reserve, we passed a small wedding party on their way in the other direction to hold their ceremony on a high bluff. A happy day for them.
We made our way gingerly down the steep path to the water. As soon as D. took the coverings off the spirit boat, the wind began to pick up loose rose petals and blow them down the beach. A few harbor seals bobbed offshore, watching us.
I waded into the surf and set the boat down on a retreating wave. In spite of the ebbing tide, the little boat didn't want to go out; with each wave it kept getting washed back toward the sand, so I kept on trying to push it out farther. Eventually it floated out a bit but then turned broadside to the waves and capsized only a few yards offshore. The sea churned with rapidly proliferating rose petals, origami cranes in rainbow hues, Patrick pics and other pieces of paper full of poems, imagery and other pictures. His ashes spilled out into the cold water and sank to the bottom.
The boat floated just offshore for a long time, upside-down and slowly disintegrating into a shapeless gray blob. It looked like mere flotsam, abandoned junk. It looked like discarded trash adrift on the ocean. It broke my heart. I cried for a long time, while D. held me in his arms.
After a while D. and I decided to go just down the road to have a hot apple cider at the Moss Beach Distillery, which is reputedly haunted. While having our beverage I saw a faux-Tiffany lampshade over the bar suddenly move all by itself. No one was sitting anywhere near it, and the bartender was way down at the other end of the bar. D. turned around just in time to see the lamp still swinging slightly. We speculated on whether the "Blue Lady" that haunts the place was responsible. D. suggested maybe she could play with Patrick.
[Long after we got home and I began researching this "ghost" more, I found this, referencing swinging lamp shades, which I had honestly not known about beforehand.]
Then we went back to the Reserve to go out on the tidepools during a super-low tide. We saw a lot of stuff:
- several kinds of anemones
- black and brown turban snails (including a nursery of tiny little baby snails covering a small rock in one of the pools)
- lots and lots of hermit crabs, and a porcelain crab
- barnacles and mussels
- sea stars (bat stars and Pacific sea stars), including 2 pink ones, one eating a mussel and one being eaten by a seagull
- lots of purple sea urchins
- a couple of opalescent nudibranchs
- tubeworms and flatworms
- coralline algae
- surf grass
- iridescent seaweed, black pine seaweed, sea lettuce, rockweed
- harbor seals, hauled out on exposed reef ledges
- 2 species of sculpin fish
But it was cold out there, so after a while even hermit crabs, pink sea stars and opalescent nudibranchs began to pall. On our way back down the beach at the lowest ebb of the tide, with the water hundreds of yards offshore and the rocky ledges exposed to the air and sky, we kept on seeing rose petals skimming across the sand, and a few little origami cranes washed up on the beach, garish orange, turquoise and lime green against the dull wet sand. One of the poems had also floated ashore:
Those Winter Sundays
by Robert Hayden
Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.
I'd wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he'd call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,
speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love's austere and lonely offices?
It broke my heart all over again.