It was just a couple of weeks ago that I buried the tampon, which I kept wrapped in a piece of old quilt on my altar, at the roots of the Mother Tree.
At fifty-six I have finally stopped menstruating.
Although it wasn’t literally my last tampon, it was a symbol of it. Carrying it into the woods with the intention of burying it by the tree with the broad bottom, many breasts, and gaping yoni, was a ritual that drew an invisible but well-defined line between my life before and now.
It’s not as if it made me feel instantly wiser or older, but I do feel a deeper sense of self. An assuredness of who I am and what’s important to me. A confidence that lives in the place where my blood used to flow from.
When Zinnia started to bleed from being in heat for the first time, I felt a connection to her that surprised me.
I’ve never lived with a dog in heat. And although I know she has no idea what I’m saying and it effects her completely differently than it does a human, I still had the urge to try and communicate with her about it.
When I first saw the blood on the quilt on our bed I couldn’t help smiling. I hugged Zinnia and whispered in her ear as if she had accomplished something wonderful.
It was the exact opposite of how I felt when I first got my period.
I was thirteen and when I saw the blood on my underpants I said out loud “Fuck, now I won’t be able to go swimming“. (I didn’t know about tampons then) I didn’t tell anyone about it and after one embarrassing trip to the grocery store for pads, I often resorted to using rolled up toilet paper instead.
When my mother finally found out, she hugged me and asked why I didn’t tell her. But I was too disgruntled and embarrassed to respond.
So when I sat on the steps of the back porch and I told Zinnia of my experiences with 43 years of monthly bleeding I was talking to myself as much as I was to her.
I told her that she’d only have to go through this once and then she’d be spayed. I told her about cramps and PMS and how lucky she was that she’d never have to worry about getting pregnant and having puppies hanging off her teats.
(This made me think of the women I’ve known who let their cats and dogs have one litter before spaying them so they could have the experience of giving birth and being a mother.)
Of course, Jon immediately got online and bought two different kinds of doggie diapers made for menstruating dogs.
Diapers, I thought, how humiliating, as I pulled Zinnia’s tail through the hole made for it and adhered the sticky tabs onto the papery cloth on either side of her hindquarters.
Of course, I did it wrong. I’ve never even diapered a baby. But even when I finally figured it out, Zinnia took the diaper off in minutes.
I smiled again.
“Good for you”, I said to Zinnia as I wiped her dried blood off the kitchen floor. I don’t blame you for not wearing that thing. It would be the last one I put on her.
The though of Zinnia walking around bleeding freely touched something deeply subversive inside of me. I could feel the sparkle in my eyes and the deviously joyful grin on my face.
There are no walks in the woods for Zinnia while she’s bleeding. She might attract a coyote or stray dog. (Even though he’s neutered, Bud won’t leave her alone) Or she could run off, trying to fulfill her primal urges. Now she’s confined to her crate at night. And in Jon’s office or in the dog run, where I can see her out my studio window, during the day.
Many cultures confined women to caves or huts while menstruating. They were called unclean. I’ve often wondered if it was a humiliation or much-needed rest or both.
As much as Zinnia’s being in heat has brought up these memories and emotions in me, she seems mostly unaffected by it all.
Even during our “talk”, she was distracted, wandering away to see if there was any food left in the cat dishes on the porch or getting ready to chase the chickens before I called her back.
Dogs bleed for a long time, between two to four weeks. Jon already made her appointment with the Vet to be spayed.
Zinnia lives with all of us, but as Fate is my dog, Zinnia is Jon’s dog.
But since she went into heat, I do feel a special connection to her that I didn’t feel before. I suppose it’s having shared this uniquely female bodily experience.
And like a parent who wants to give their child everything they didn’t have, I got to live through my first period again and give to Zinnia what I would have wanted for myself.