Birthdays have never really been a source of pleasure in my life. In the coming days, I build up a small hope, a sense of expectation that maybe, this year, things will be different. Maybe this year things won’t all go to hell in a hand basket on May 22.
When I awoke last Thursday, the plan was this: have a long, leisurely breakfast while reading; go to work an hour early; get out around 4PM; run a couple of quick errands; come home and relax until Alec came home and we got started on making dinner. But when I got up that day, early as I have been doing, I threw in a load of laundry and waited for it to dry before going to shower. Yet when I turned on the hot water…nothing came out. Try all the taps. Nothing is coming out. Call our front office and discover that they are replacing the water boilers today and didn’t you know? No, of course I didn’t. We only just moved in a week ago.
Thursday was not off to a great start. I lamented my day, had to contact work and explain the situation to them and cancel my day there. I waited and waited for the water to come back on and when it finally did, I had a realization: without work, even though the morning had been awful, the afternoon could be anything I wanted.
And I did do what I wanted. I went to the Indian place next door and ate the long, leisurely meal I had promised myself. I ran the few errands I needed to get done, namely grabbing charcoal and the steaks for the grill as Alec had promised me steak for my birthday. And then, food put away, I walked to the library across the street and began pulling out books on the various cultures that I have been interested in and their religions and cultures.
While wandering through the stacks, a book caught my eye. I stopped and set down the few books I had been carrying and pulled it off the shelf. There’s no way, I thought to myself as a memory clawed its way to the surface. But it was.
If you’ve known me for a while, you might remember the story of how Anubis came into my life. I was young, about ten years old, and had had a rough time that sixth grade year. But at my second school of three that year, I came across the Lord of Jackals. Or, rather, he came to me. Patron of orphans and lost souls, guide to travelers, and guardian he is. He came to me out of a textbook, a book we had had to read for class at that second school. Social studies, starting Ancient Egypt just after Ancient Greece, the unit they had wrapped up my first day there. I remember thumbing through that book and reading about the mummies and magic of the ancient world, my mind sparking with interest and intrigue. And then, a large jackal-headed man came to my attention as I was reading through this book.
Over the years, I have remembered the basic things about the book but never a name. Yet, as I pulled the book off the library shelf, I knew: it was that book. The one that had led me to Anubis and finally started me down this twisted, crooked path over the last fifteen years. As I flipped through its pages, I shook my head as memories came flooding back. Anubis was back, I realized. Months of quiet, as he is wont to do, but this book was a gift. A reminder of our relationship and that he is never truly gone from me.
Once finished with it, I set it aside fondly and skimmed through the other books that I had picked up, taking several notes and writing up the information on each. I pulled out the Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits, a book that I have read many times, but as I read through the section on Black Dogs yet again, something caught my attention. It directed me to another entry, not just the Black Shuck of Britain. Curious, I headed into S and looked until I found it: the Snarly Yow. Oh yes, that’s what it’s called.
I had never heard of this tale before and my excitement grew when I read where it was rumored to have been seen: southern Maryland.
What a coincidence. I live in northern Virginia now.
Black Dogs, for those who don’t know, have been a research topic and interest of mine for several years. In college, I actually wrote a thesis on them for my folklore class. (It was more or less an excuse to read and relish the various mythologies and tales on the entity and get class credit, too.) When I was in my final year of college, I had hoped to apply to the Fulbright Scholarship to study the tales in England, but things never quite panned out. “One day,” I promised myself. “I will go to England to do primary research on Black Dogs.”
Reading that section was the greatest gift I could have received on my birthday. It’s been a week and yet all I can think about is the fact that I am so close to a site where this entity is said to roam. There are many legends of Black Dogs and they vary, but the creature itself is something that fascinates me. I can’t wait to go and attempt to track down the history and the legends of the spirit from that area.
My time at the library eventually ended and I headed home. Dinner was a bit of madness as since we were still in the process of moving, not everything was at the new apartment just yet. Still, it was a delicious meal and I set aside a plate for Anubis as a thank you for his gift that day, cutting the tenderloin from my t-bone and setting it on the plate for him. It is always my favorite part, and the primary reason why I love that cut, so its offering was important to me.Twenty-five years is a long time. A quarter of a century, as my mother keeps reminding me. Looking over my life, I have done much and it appears that I have a long way to go. This year, I have been given direction, if I choose to read my experiences that day as such. (And I do.) I have much to learn and much to experience in the coming months, and these next few weeks will be an opportunity as Alec will be out of town and not back until his birthday. I’ll have free reign, both of our apartment and of my time without someone else to come home to each night. And though I will miss him, this time away will do us both good.