Beyond the ears / A symphony


I’ve been feeling pretty run down, first from working 24/7 on getting our Miss Kira to trust us and truly feel like she’s found her furever home (and disregarding the shocking amount of people telling us to give up and get rid of her),* and now from working 24/7 to get her over this kennel cough without losing all the progress we had finally started to make in the previous week. After calling in for a much-needed sick day and taking a steam with Kira to help her breathe a bit easier, I took my coffee and book upstairs to the bedroom, as I had otherwise only had the chance to read while taking the train the handful of times I went into work during the last month. The book: Ocean Vuong’s heart-wrenching On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous,** a novel in the form of a letter from a son to his mother about life, death, beauty, love, language, and how those are all the same thing. At least that’s my interpretation of it.

There are so many quotable phrases and sentences in this book, though I feel like pulling out just a few words at a time would reduce the mastery and cohesiveness of this piece that often reads like poetry, often like a direct punch to the gut. One thing that sticks with me though is Ocean’s repeated theme of lives as punctuation, punctuation as lives. As a copyeditor, punctuation is something I always pay attention to in writing, but outside of writing not so much.

I finished the book while laying in bed, our sick doggo laying in hers down the stairs, and had a pretty lovely transition to the nap I had been hoping for all week. About an hour later when I woke up, the first thing I saw was my I ❤ NY mug, purchased on my first trip there and somehow magically still unscathed over 9 years later even though it’s the only mug I’ve made my coffee in since. What struck me though was the placement of the ® symbol. In normal text, it appears not as normal punctuation, but either as a regular-sized or a superscripted character, almost like an asterisk or footnote number, denoting that there is some further explanation available. On my I ❤ NY mug though (and, I believe, any authorized I ❤ NY merch), it appears in the same place and size as a period, that form of punctuation that symbolizes an end, or at least a deep pause. Not a notation asking you to look up what it means, or even to simply question what it means before deciding you don’t care enough to look it up, but just I ❤ NY, period.

Was this typographic decision intentional when the logo was registered over 40 years ago? I don’t know. But in my sleepy state – still exhausted yet somewhat rested, my mind echoing with Ocean’s gorgeous use of language (some of which is set in NY itself), before all my thoughts turned again to that beautiful animal down the stairs who has become my world – the placement of a symbol as final, unquestioning and unquestionable punctuation seemed to make complete, comforting sense.

In a way, my relationship with New York was a prelude to my relationship with Kira. It made no financial or logical sense to go first as an unexperienced traveller and then continuously as if addicted, to a huge city that could’ve held countless and needless dangers. And yet I craved going there on my own, getting lost in it, and feeling ridiculously proud when I made it though these obstacles only I had set for myself, showing little to no fear, and feeling like I could take on anything when I returned home. In a way, NY became a way to both define myself and remain myself, as I used my trips there to deal with current/fresh trauma. I truly did ❤ NY, period.

In retrospect (6 weeks since meeting Kira), it made no financial or logical sense for us as unexperienced doggo guardians to take on the galaxy that is Kira, not knowing her past, her genetics, her future. We never expected the bites, bruises, high energy, and sometimes scary behaviour that has cost us many hours of sleep and more dollars than we expected. And yet I’ve gotten completely lost in the life of this gorgeous being, I feel ridiculously proud with each little indication of progress we make, and, though I’ve had a few brief moments of legit fear of a being who so far does not know better than to lash out when she feels fear, pain, or frustration, I feel like, if we can get through this, we can take on anything. Kira has become a way to both define myself and remain myself, as I no longer have time to get dragged down by what had been needlessly plaguing me during the year before we met her.

I ❤ Kira, period. No additional information needed.

Title quote: “Before We Dreamed of Two”, from Atma

* Our journey with Kira is documented on IG, @shakira_the_rescue_pup, if you’re interested.

** If you’re in Edmonton, Alberta, pick up a copy of this book at the newest and most important bookshop to grace our city, Glass Bookshop (thanks to co-owner Matthew Stepanic for recommending this book to me!).