Rowan’s registered name was My Mountain Ash, and last fall after we lost him I ordered a mountain ash tree, also called a rowan tree, to plant in his memory. I had given Rowan his name both because his coloring was red like the berries of the mountain ash and because in Celtic legend the rowan tree is supposed to ward off evil spirits and protect the home. I expected that Rowan would be somewhat protective, being an Australian Shepherd. As it turned out, my social, friendly dog who loved pretty much everyone did, on a couple of occasions, warn people away from me, and I always trusted his judgment about people.
What I hadn’t expected was the way Rowan was so tuned in to me that he helped me recognize and face the inner demons that threatened me in more ways than anyone else could have. As is so often the case, I was blind to many of the obstacles that bound my soul and hindered my way forward in life. In various ways, Rowan helped me see where I was hurt and didn’t know it. And since my hurt so obviously stressed my sweet dog, I was all the more motivated to work through that which was difficult to face. And then he was always there with me, lovingly walking with me, snuffling me gently with his whiskers, bouncing with joy when he saw me, all the way through the darkness.
I’ve been missing Rowan so, so much, and a big part of the grief for me has been the horrible emptiness that I’ve felt whenever I think of his name, that name that for over thirteen years signified so much presence and strength for me but that since he left has reminded me more of absence and emptiness. I was hoping that planting this tree in Rowan’s memory would help bring me some degree of closure and comfort, and it seems to have. My sadness is of course still with me and I’m sure will remain for a long time, but now when I think of his name, I also think of his tree, a living, growing tree that bears his name.
Yesterday I finally was able to complete a portrait of Rowan that I started months ago but wasn’t able to keep working on. In the end I found it soothing to work on, almost as if I were spending time with Rowan, though when I painted the eyes I burst into tears, because it felt like he was looking at me again.
Here’s my first sketch of Rowan’s tree; I’m sure I’ll be sketching it many more times.