I’m reading Philip Pullman’s latest novel, The Secret Commonwealth, the fifth book in his fantasy series that started with the trilogy, His Dark Materials. I love these books. One of the things I love most about them is that every human in their world has a daemon, an animal that is essentially a part of but at the same time apart from the human. Though they look and move about like animals, they speak, feel and think like humans. The pair are two sides of a coin. They are oneâ€“but two.
IÂ loveÂ this idea. Imagine! What might it be like to have a part of yourself as a physical being that you can hold, curl up with, talk and plan and mull things over with, share your deepest fears and feelings withâ€“the closest companionship ever? In this volume, someone mentions with horror that in other worlds (ours), people go through their whole livesÂ alone. That sentence gave me a jolt. Yes. We are essentially alone.
But then I do have my dogs.
There’s that joke about a person noticing their neighbor talking to a cat. And then it goes, “I went home and told my dog, and we had a good laugh about it.” I do discuss many things with my dogs, my heart’s companions. They are so tuned in to humans, and they have been for centuries.
Whenever I go out of town, I’m told, Miles gets a stomach ache; and I look for signs of him in the dogs I meet when I travel. I love Rufus very much, but Miles feels more like he could be my other half; and he pays very close attention to everything I say. The cynic might say he’s waiting to hear the word “treat,” but I like to think it’s more than that. We do love many of the same thingsâ€“playing in the woods, messing about in water, lazing around on the couch, meeting new people and their daemons, taking fast walks around the neighborhood, even tearing paper! And eating. We both love to eat and we love treats!
Sadly, these sorts of daemons are only with us for a few short years. And that’s the difference and the heartbreak. Philip Pullman’s daemons are with their people for life.
â€œWhen we cannot bear to be alone, it means we do not properly value the only companion we will have from birth to death – ourselves.â€ – Eda LeShan
It’s nice for me to think of you out there, reading this. I hope you, too, have a sort of daemon, imaginary or real, to accompany you through your daily life. And if you don’t, I hope you can come up with one. Imaginary or real.
If you’re looking for my cards or art, you’ll find all of that on myÂ website. And if you like this letter, you’ll find past letters and poems here.
Thanks for listening,
P.S. MerryThoughts is the name of my first book, out of print at the moment. The word is a British one, referring both to a wishbone and to the ritual of breaking the wishbone with the intention of either having a wish granted or being the one who marries first, thus the “merry thoughts.”