Normally, I take a certain primal pride in such things as digging a hole. If not pride, satisfaction.
Not this time.
This time, digging the hole felt like burrowing into my own heart. I had to stop on several occasions to clear tears from my eyes. As I dug into the earth I encountered some rocks bigger than my fist. Those, I rolled down into the pine-smelling expanse of the hillside below me. I also encountered two opaque quartz stones. Those, I stacked atop the towel beside me.
About two feet into the ground I encountered river washed sand and gravel. The immediate country surrounding is famous for this particular type of wash. This alluvium is often rich with sapphires. I actually, found several sapphires in a pile of the alluvium we excavated for my nearby home. Sapphires—formed by a mix of volcanic and metamorphic events deep in the earth—are both rare and precious.
But the towel beside me was the thing. Wrapped in the towel was Carmel, my cat. An unopened can of cat food, some catnip, and the two opaque stones I unearthed rested on the towel.
That girl walked down the hill to join me as I scooped the layer of river wash from the hole. Soon after that, I stopped digging. Before I could unwrap Carmel from the towel and place him at the bottom of the hole, I broke down entirely. Crumpled at the edge of the hole, I convulsed in messy, sobbing grief.
I didn’t want to put Carmel in the ground.
That, the final gesture.
After a while, I gingerly nestled Carmel at the bottom of the hole in the earth. I placed the can of cat food next to one of his paws. I placed the opaque stones near his head and then sprinkled catnip all around. That girl had brought with her some yellow rose blossoms she’d snipped from a planter on the back deck of our house. We each dropped a couple of those in the opened ground. All these things, rare and precious.
I slowly, deliberately pushed the sapphire wash and good dirt back into the hole from which it came.