Three Years

For 18 months after Charlie’s death, my only desire was to grieve. I celebrate how deeply I let myself experience my grief and how completely I prioritized myself during this time. I took a sabbatical, and only did what I felt like doing. At first it was mostly crying in bed.

After a couple of weeks of self-medicating with every substance I could get my hands on, I desperately wanted to feel close to Charlie again, physically close to him.

So, I dusted off my grandmother’s spinning wheel, had new bobbins 3D printed to fit the vintage wheel, and taught myself to spin. My goal was to eventually spin the bags of Charlie’s wool I’d saved every year when he shed his winter underfur.

I practiced with sheep’s wool. I spun for five or six hours a day, listening to the same three songs on repeat the entire time. In my remaining waking hours, I devoured spinning videos on youtube and read spinning forums. I still haven’t spun Charlie’s wool…. but now I know I can. And I have so much yarn!

At some point, I started hiking daily with the dogs, often to the bottom of a secluded canyon where I’d spin on a spindle while sunbathing all day long.

I created such a luxurious cocoon to be so sad within. So much good food that I made from scratch from the finest ingredients. So many baths. So many books. So much time spent outside in the wilderness.

And then after 18 months, I realized I no longer desired my grief to be my priority or the defining feature of my life, and I didn’t want it to become a crutch.

That’s when I shared my birthday self portrait on instagram. I wasn’t ready to write anything, but I knew that picture was worth a thousand words, that it would show that I was ok, that I was coming back into life again.

birthday blizzards call for brrrrthday suits

When I took that photo, I still didn’t know who I was without Charlie. I didn’t know what I wanted for my next season of life, and I didn’t fully want to know—thinking about it felt like the last big goodbye. Taking this picture felt like my first step into that abyss, the abyss of Next. And I do love a good abyss.

It’s been 18 months since that first step, and what an abyss it has been. Love, magic, adventure. Returning to parts of myself placed on pause for Charlie, discovering parts of myself I hadn’t yet met. Stories for other days.

In the meantime, I have Charlie’s 2024 calendar for you. He’s with me every day. CLICK HERE if you’d like to spend another year with him, too.

And tell me a little about your last three years in the comments, if you please….

three years ago: Light Of My Life
four years ago: Waving Tails
five years ago: If Eyes Could Say What
six years ago: Wakin’ Up Is Hard To Do
seven years ago: See Creature
eight years ago: Solid Gold
nine years ago: Mesmereyes
ten years ago: Autumn Bouquet
eleven years ago: Into The Sun
twelve years ago: Hide And Seek Sagebrush

17 Responses to “Three Years”

  1. Karyn Says:

    Three years ago I was living in San Diego, finally finding my feet, and learning to live without the connection to real people as Covid raged and claimed the lives of family and friends.

    Today I live Utah, a move precipitated by employment change, and loving the wide open spaces so close (I look at Mt Ogden out my office window), learning to live in cold and snow (it’s certainly not San Diego weather!) and to embrace this autumn season of life.

    It makes my heart happy to hear you are moving through your grief and looking for your next season and purpose.

  2. Judith Says:

    I was looking at my old Charlie calendar just yesterday, enjoying it all once again. I wondered how you were doing as I missed your posts. Then this morning BOOM! There you were. My heart aches for your loss. How wonderful you have all those photo memories. Blessings on you for sharing all your love and experiences (to say nothing of your TALENT!) all these years. Best.

  3. Marg Says:

    OMG it is amazing how many of us were thinking about you yesterday while you were composing this !! We are all connected because of you.

  4. Karen Says:

    I was looking at my Charlie calendar yesterday, as well. It’s on my kitchen wall so I have gotten to used to it but was really looking at his picture yesterday.
    I’ve had my time of grief this year. I probably would benefit from more time leaning into my grief but The Grind continues in SF. What comes to mind, when I seem lost, is that Nature heals… she does. Perhaps I need a large dose of Nature, with her healing arms around me.

  5. Christina Price Says:

    The last three years as a healthcare worker in rural Alaska coming out of a Pandemic saw me recovering from PTSD.
    Then an opportunity arose to move back to my hometown into my childhood home.
    The home that was built in 1967 and desperately needed repairs.
    So when I’m not working in Alaska, I’m working on the house and it’s been the very best therapy.
    It’s so good to see you back and to hear how you embraced your grief and walked through it by creating something wonderful and learning a new skill.
    Thank you for making Charlie immortal so many years ago.
    You’re such an inspiration!

  6. Diana Says:

    Welcome back! How I’ve missed you!

    I have a painful loss that I continue to grieve over, but I know it’s possible to create new happiness. Your return is like the return of Spring, a sign of hope for the future, a reminder of the special parts of the past that we can still treasure, and of new love to find and share. Grief may never entirely leave us, but it cannot rule us forever.

  7. Cristy Says:

    Three years ago we were in the thick of COVID and I was trying to lead a new way to train people globally through video conferencing. It was working, but so many kept telling me “when this is over, we’ll go back to the old way…” Needless to say, it was also the beginning of the end and the end of the beginning.

    Today, I find myself preparing for a new position, applying all I learned, including the compassion and empathy for those deep in grief (even if I don’t fully understand their path). We’re preparing to move too, leaving behind this chapter of transition. It’s bittersweet as I lost my 2 beloved cats who saw me through infertility and losing my family, but I also feel them with me as we prepare to the journey ahead.

    Thinking of you as you navigate your grief. It’s not a linear process, and that’s okay because it’s your own. Looking forward too to seeing what becomes of Charlie’s wool.

  8. janaki Says:

    i have been living with charlie from the beginning and even read daily coyote before it was published because i worked for a movie studio and recommended they make it into a movie. when i turn on my computer in the morning, after reading the paper the first thing i do to this day is visit you and charlie.

    the place you have carved out in my consciousness is indelible. i can’t explain why that happen, just that it did. and while charlie is primary, i have embraced the entire farmily, especially eli who i also miss to this day and am thrilled everytime you post a picture that includes him.

    thank you for sharing your heart and soul with us; you have carved out a permanent place in my heart.

  9. pam Says:

    3 years of surgeries and financial ruin. I’ve written it more explicitly in emails to you.
    But I’m still breathing and moving through my days. Not very happily but I hold out hope.
    ** YOU have always been an inspiration to me and I will reread what you wrote and maybe it can help me out of my doldrums.
    Sorry to depress but you asked. But I am soooooo looking forward to my calendar and even got one for a family member.

  10. Deanna Says:

    I was wondering how you were doing, especially as I looked fondly at pictures of Charlie that I saved over the years and in your book of his 10 years. I’m thinking of doing a pastel of him in my art class. I’m glad to hear from you after all this time, and that you are doing OK. Good news!
    Remember, we grieve because we love; indeed, grief is the price of love. The enduring bonds with Charlie will be with you always.
    “Unable are the loved to die, for love is immortality.” ~Emily Dickenson
    Take care, and I look forward to more postings soon!

  11. Nancy Says:

    I feel your loss and grief, I too had a loss one year ago. My dog who was 16 (although they do not resemble each other I often related to Charlie because he and my Snowball, a Bichon, came into our lives about the same time and were the same age). I am still grieving my dog but it is getting a little easier. Shortly after he left me, I was staring out the window of the car I was in, not even thinking of him, and I suddenly got a flash of Snowball running across a green field. I know it was him telling me he was ok! When he passed, I was in the middle of reading Meditations with Cows, which I had to put aside during my grief, but I am excited to get back to it now. You are a wonderful writer. I enjoy reading everything you write because you have a way of pulling your readers into your story, like we are right there living it. Always enjoy your pictures of Charlie!

  12. Andy Says:

    Hi Shreve; it’s so great to hear from you and I’m glad you’re doing okay!

    Three years ago I was wondering when Working From Home would end, when the pandemic would end, and when things would “get back to normal” essentially.

    I’ve given up on things “getting back to normal”, for perhaps both better and worse.

    I still WFH, though my company was acquired by another (this actually worked out well for me) and while I now need to spend some time in the office each week my manager lives in Florida and the rest of my team lives in Delaware, so going into the office feels particularly pointless, though I get to see members of my former department there (the ones who haven’t moved on). I’m the last person remaining of my former team, much as I was once the only member of my team (long story).

    I’ve lost a number of friends (more due to disagreement than death, at least), and made a number of new ones. I’ve tried to hike when weather permitted, which hasn’t been as often as I’d like. I’ve learned new things about who I am and who I want to be, which makes me feel a bit as though I’m ‘coming out’ all over again, but I have no regrets.

    I still check this site every weekday morning as a pick-me-up, and I still treasure the small bit of Charlie’s fur that you sent me. <3

    Thanks so much for the update, and for letting us know you're hanging in there!

  13. Ann Says:

    3 years is a lifetime ago for me. I had a beautiful rescue that I saved from the Los Angeles pound shortly after you saved Charlie. I don’t remember how I found your blog but I shared it with friends and Conner (an irish setter mix) and Charlie “grew up together.”
    Unfortunately, Conner lost a long battle shortly before you lost Charlie. I couldn’t bring myself to check on you both until after your loss. We have since regrouped and grown our fur crew a little; and last year moved the whole crew to Colorado Springs.
    My newest rescue, Duncan (both boys named after the Highlander series; though Duncan is a lab/shepard/husky mix) LOVES the snow here; although the 2 cats, my little “benji” dog Teddy, and my aunt all disagree with him.
    I’m so happy to know that you are doing OK. It was a difficult time for my own loss because I truly believe that Conner was my “soul dog;” and it would be difficult to save another. But I have, and will continue to as long as I can give them all love and care.
    I look forward to another year to celebrate Charlie; and look forward to hearing more from you and your crew.

  14. Julia Says:

    Have you/would you ever consider adopting a captive-born fox or two?

  15. Mary Says:

    I was gifted your book The Daily Coyote last night and read it cover to cover before going to bed. An incredible tale, so lucky you are to have had Charlie in your life. I had to go online today to check out your website and read the updates, enjoy the beautiful photos. I wish you all the best for 2024, and your memories of Charlie will live on in all our memories who have read your book and/or blog!

  16. Jill Trudeau Says:

    Hi Shreve-wonderful to hear from you!!!!! Happy New Year to you, Mike and all the farmily!!!!! I LOVE my 2024 Charlie calendar-thank you for continuing this tradition. I also visit the Daily Coyote site each day to look at all the amazing pictures you took of Charlie.

    Life is good here-I have my three rescue dogs, Pepper, 15, Bobbie, 14, and Tessie 14. They are healthy, happy and keep me on my toes everyday! I cherish every moment I have with them. Additionally I have numerous rescue cats, who allow me live with them!!!!

    Loved your long post-hearing about your spinning wool and plans for the future is just great!!!!! Can’t wait to see what you make with all the yarn!!!! Let us know when you spin Charlie’s fur. All of us that have followed you and Charlie from the beginning will ever forget him or the wonderous adventures you and he had and that you shared with us!!!!! He will always be in your heart. Please take care and write more soon.

  17. Fang Says:

    I read your book in Chinese many years ago when I was in junior high or high school and then found this website. It’s surprising to find this website still operating. Charlie must be happy to be always with you until the last minutes of his life. I adopted a cat in 2018 and I cannot imagine how sad I will be when he leaves me in the future. But I believe the lovely furry ones would like to see us live a happy life even without them.

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