Three Years

☆ October 24, 2023

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….


37 Responses to “Three Years”

  1. Elaine Checkley
    October 24th, 2023 @ 8:33 am

    What a wonderful surprise!! You and Charlie went tripping thru my mind yesterday and look what shows up today. I look at Charlie’s calendar every day.

    Me, making the most I can out of my free time, sewing LOTS and LOTS of quilt tops and then getting them quilted. Went to Bon Jovi earlier this year – two weeks going to see Queen + Adam Lambert and Tina: Tina Turner the musical in February. A fun weekend all day craft show coming up. Making a few new friends, doing LOTS of healing work with a wonderful gal in CA that has opened new doors and understanding in my life. Elza has also worked on one of my dogs and helped her also. Following a wonderful duo on IG – a Sergeant and his K9 who are bringing light and laughter to the world. And just doing my best to continue to shine love and light into this world of ours for all. Lots of love to you and the farmily.

  2. Leanne
    October 24th, 2023 @ 8:37 am

    Three years. A lifetime. Cancer. Mother deceased. Five more family members passed in the next six months. Relationship and home lost. No time for grief. Just keep moving.

  3. Marg
    October 24th, 2023 @ 8:44 am

    How interesting, like Elaine I had thoughts of you yesterday as well. Wondered how you were and what you were doing now, can’t believe it is 3 years ! Not much happening here, my husband and I have settled into our last years and then our daughter came home to live. So much for a peaceful ending. I have missed your posts so do hope you will share more bits of your future. Good to hear from you Shreve, Hugs

  4. Sheila
    October 24th, 2023 @ 8:45 am

    Well … spooky? A coincidence? Just yesterday I was thinking of you and another person I follow and that neither of you had posted anything in a long while. (Not sure I realized it had been three years.) And … recently … I made the decision to take control of my own time … learning to say ‘no’ when that’s necessary for my mental health. It’s hard, but rewarding. Lost a beloved dog, and am enjoying the new trouble maker who is making the remaining dogs think about leaving home! Welcome back.

  5. Penny in Colorado
    October 24th, 2023 @ 8:52 am

    Hey Shreve!! Was just thinking of you the other day, and wondering if you were done with your public projects with Charlie gone. So happy to hear from you today! What a treat!❤️Wow 3 years. Been living life, living in nature and exploring new things. Been alcohol free for almost 9 mos and enjoying sobriety!

  6. Chris Waiton
    October 24th, 2023 @ 8:57 am

    So good to see you back, missed you. Last 3 yrs have been a bit hard, still working on it.

  7. Siobhan McCormick
    October 24th, 2023 @ 9:10 am

    I have spent the last 10 months in a place of unbearable tension and mourning. My girl Reece, a boxer that I adopted from a rescue in 2016 at the age of 4, was diagnosed with large B-cell lymphoma in Dec of 2022. I mention the type of lymphoma because it is very aggressive but highly treatable with chemo in dogs. Reece went into remission after 4 weeks and came right back out after 6. I tried everything with the guidance of some wonderful vets here in Vancouver BC. Reece passed on June 6, 2023 – living long enough to celebrate her ‘11th birthday’ in May and 7th Gotcha Day on June 2, 2023. She passed peacefully at home with the help of a remarkable vet. As I’m committed to rescue, I’m now sitting on a dog bed in my living room beside a very shy, timid bulldog/staffie cross who had travelled all the was from Texas to this her forever home. I can feel my heart cracking open and growing with love as this sweet girl Bella decompresses beside me even while I weep floods of tears for my love Reece.
    I’m so glad to hear of your journey, Shreve; I have thought of you many times over these past 3 years.

  8. Stevie
    October 24th, 2023 @ 9:21 am

    Like others, I am so pleased to see you back, Shreve. The grieving process is different for everyone, and how you went through it, is what you needed to do in order to heal yourself. Still, 10 years later, I tear up thinking of my big, goofy Yeti dog. The sting of loss never truly goes away, but that is because of the deep love we felt (and still feel) for such an extraordinary gift gracing our lives.

    As for the past three years. Well, let’s see: we were upended from the old farmhouse we called home for 12 years due to the owners giving it to the new farm manager; we moved back to our hometown where I bought us a small house; we sadly lost three of our furry companions; gained a new furry companion; lost my wonderful step-father to cancer; we both turned 50; went through a very painful instance of infidelity, but after some intense therapy and grieving, I forgave him for his indiscretion; and finally, after 20 years together, we married in October 2022. It’s been quite a roller coaster ride, and many lessons were learned. I am not the same person as I was, but I am getting used to her (sorry for the long comment and major oversharing).

  9. david
    October 24th, 2023 @ 9:23 am

    Sounds like it been a rough ride! I too have had a bit of a bump in life. First tinnitus then double vision for about 2 months. But that does not compare with the loss of one you love. Hope all is well with you now. The weaving sounds like an excellent idea and therapy. I never saw the birthday photo.

  10. Brandie
    October 24th, 2023 @ 9:29 am

    It is good to see you emerge and with it, the lovely reminder that grief is personal…and it’s a process.

    I lost my beloved Mindy suddenly in May. I’ve been an avid spinner/knitter/weaver for years and I’m so glad that I kept the combings of her fur when she would shed. I haven’t tackled trying to spin any of it yet, but I will. I’m also a shepherd, so I have a fleece earmarked for blending with her fur just to make it a bit more durable…because I want what’s left to be a forever keepsake.

    I treasure your writing and your photography. I am glad you are well and I think of Charlie often.

  11. Liane B
    October 24th, 2023 @ 9:32 am

    Welcome back. I’ve missed you and I too thought of you yesterday and checked daily coyote to see if I had missed anything. Your words are still so beautiful.
    I retired 3 years ago (best thing ever), lost my last beloved doggie and now foster for a local animal rescue. Money is tight, but life is good.
    Take care, Shreve…big hugs from here to you and the farmily.

  12. Leslie
    October 24th, 2023 @ 9:44 am

    Oh, thank goodness, Shreve, I’m so relieved to hear from you! Aside from missing your words and photography, your role in my life has given me so much to consider about publicity, privacy, giving, receiving and choosing to go silent. I know you didn’t “owe” us an update, but I was sending hope into the universe that you and the farmily were well. Yea that you are! And thank you for the new calendar. Like others, we have suffered losses, but we are also creating a new home and I am glad there will be more Charlie in it. Much affection to you from all of us here in coastal NH.

  13. Janice in GA
    October 24th, 2023 @ 9:50 am

    I posted on Mastodon yesterday about bloggers I used to read that have not posted in a while, and how I miss them, and now here you are! What lovely serendipity!

    I understand a little about grief, and moving. My much-loved little sister (she was 57, but still my little sis) passed after a 4 year struggle with cancer in 2020. 3 years later, I still miss her, but like you, I’m starting to see a way to move on a little.

    Except then there are days like today, where I’d give just about anything to be able to call her up or text her about some inconsequential nothing, just because I want to talk with her again. Grief: it ebbs and flows.

    And also,as a fellow handspinner, I’m cheering you on in that endeavor too! I’ve spun dog fur. Charlie probably had a lot of guard hairs in the fur you have. If you can de-hair it a bit, it would probably make a softer yarn. Or blend in a little wool, if you have it.

    Anyway, good to see you again (virtually), and hope life continues to look up a bit more.

  14. denisemichelle
    October 24th, 2023 @ 9:52 am

    I needed to see this today. I fell into fostering orphaned squirrels these past 3 years. They always get released elsewhere, but for one group released in our yard. One squirrel from that group continued to interact with us everyday. Jumping on our shoulders, loving attention. She raised three babies successfully this summer. And now suddenly she is absent. My heart hurts. I miss her so much and wish I could have protected her more. Torn between deluding myself with wishful thinking that she moved to another yard versus guilty for grieving and not holding enough hope for her. I love her and I miss her. So thank you for sharing your grief and your journey.

  15. Pam Wesolowski
    October 24th, 2023 @ 10:15 am

    My last 3 years have been challenging overall. But the animal friends I’ve mourned are not quite like your lifetime with Charlie. Bug, I had for a little under 3 years, Viejo I had for 6 years (adopted my boy as a senior pup), and Henry I lost at 15 1/2 after raising him from a bottle-fed kit. I miss his presence the most, although all were cherished.
    A highlight for me was when my friend Kristen ordered a signed copy of Mediations With Cows at one of my low points this year. When I opened it and saw your signature with the inscription “With love from Wyoming” I lost it- for once they were tears of joy. I love Wyoming and the beauty of the wilderness, and love the gifts you share with us all. Charlie will be in my heart always. But you are in there too. Thank you for sharing your heart through your craft.

  16. Pat Bull
    October 24th, 2023 @ 11:37 am

    Dear Shreve,

    I was so excited to see you updating on how you are doing. It’s been a long time. I miss the Daily Coyote updates. What a wonderful idea spinning Charlie’s wool! At some point I would like to purchase a very small piece to put in my book, which I enjoy tremendously.
    I hope the rest of the farmily are doing well and Mike.
    Take care and keep moving forward. God Bless You.
    My best to you,
    Pat Bull

  17. Chuck Torbyn
    October 24th, 2023 @ 12:14 pm

    I tell everyone about you and your bold embrace of life. Being free to be yourself is what everyone should be able to do. Isn’t that really what life is supposed to be about? Maybe in some future life I’ll have such an opportunity, wasn’t in this one! Hopefully you’ve inspired others to plan that for some time in their future as well, perhaps even sooner! Just wanted you to know how right I think you’ve managed to get it. Don’t ever stop.

  18. Moni
    October 24th, 2023 @ 1:14 pm

    So happy to see you back! Charlie’s calendar is above my workdesk, he is an everyday presence.

    Past 3 years? A new citizenship, finally, and middle age slowly creeping on us with all the sad facts, like losing elderly relatives, sickness, body is getting slower, heavier… but we are here, quite content, working away, trying not to worry about the future, because of all these bleeding wars.

  19. Rue
    October 24th, 2023 @ 3:00 pm

    So glad to hear from you again. I hope you keep sharing…

  20. Caitlin
    October 24th, 2023 @ 4:47 pm

    So obviously your telepathy powers are intact because I, too, felt you percolating yesterday.
    The fact that you just feckin decide to pick up spinning and do it right underscores that the draw is to you, and whatever it is you’re up to. Be it your pack, your photos, your projects.
    I cannot believe the depth and breadth and psychedelia of grieving so am very glad you have taken your time. Being in touch with us again may cause it to smart fiercely again but you know you have your tribe with you.
    Thank you so much for waving to us

  21. Victoria Zimmerman
    October 24th, 2023 @ 9:40 pm

    Soooo good to hear from you! You look good!! I have thought about you recently and I wondered how you are doing. I wore my pink turquoise necklace from your store and felt like you and Charlie were with me! I would love a little yarn from Charlie!! I knit!! Thank you for the update!!

  22. Julie Michaud
    October 24th, 2023 @ 10:22 pm

    I was so happy to hear from you … Charlie’s passing affected me a lot, and now I can see the huge impact he had on your life and how it has been a real challenge for you to learn your life anew without him. Sending much love Shreve.

    My life has been going through huge changes, especially in the past year, moving to a new community, going off a long-term medication has meant relearning myself as well, and my son’s terminal illness is impacting us all in deep ways. And life rebounds anew each day, doesn’t it?

    So glad to hear from you! :)

  23. Carolyne
    October 25th, 2023 @ 1:58 am

    I’ve missed him & you …… As long as you produce them I’m always in! Sending love from VA Beach

  24. Erin
    October 25th, 2023 @ 9:45 am

    So very glad to see you here, Shreve! Your grieving process sounds incredibly meditative and restoratative. I hope I’m reading that right. In the last three years, I’ve made a long-desired move, lost loved ones to anger as well as death, am slowly inching towards a life where I can center myself. Big hugs to you, and so happy to read your post.

  25. mlaiuppa
    October 25th, 2023 @ 12:18 pm

    I’m so glad you took the time to grieve. Also that you chose to use spinning as your focus. When Caesar died I built a garden in his favorite spot under the dining room window. He used to love to lay under it and that as the place he would have chosen to die had I not coaxed him into the house and then taken him to the emergency animal hospital. That was a huge mistake and I have learned from it. Ramses died at home next to me.

    When you do choose to spin Charlie’s wool (and how wise of you to save it every year) there are books on knitting with dog wool. Out of print but I have one. It is different than wool in that wool has a give to it and canine fur does not. But processed correctly it will not smell and can be very soft. (For those that don’t spin there are people you can send it to and they will spin it for you.)

    The last three years I have been taking care of my parents, off and on. They just turned 94 and their dementia is getting worse. But my sister and her spawn had me ordered out of the house and forbidden to return (that is a whole other story) so I have been reclaiming my house and yard from three years of neglect and taking care of my health. I got to the YMCA pool twice a week to exercise for my back and today I am heading out to watercolor class.

    I am thrilled you are feeling better and hope to hear from you a bit more often.

    Not to change the subject, but how is our Queen Daisy doing?

  26. Carolyn
    October 25th, 2023 @ 1:02 pm

    3 years! I moved to my current place late in 2018 with a bunch of cats. Some mine, some a friend’s (he came too) and the rest were leftover from my cat fostering days.
    Charlie was getting old then and I knew his time must be coming, knew too how hard it would be for you because I could tell from your writing that you felt for animals as I do.
    When my little black cat Panther died, I fell apart and it took me 18 months to recover.
    I was gazing at the hill behind my house one day and saw a small gray cat in the ivy. She looked up and our eyes met. Stray cats weren’t safe there so my friend trapped her the very next day. We brought her in expecting hissing and spitting but she crawled into my lap purring and looked up at me. “Panther sent you, didn’t he?” I said. That winter I was befriended by another stray that came to me in the garden. The last thing I needed was another cat but Blackie attached herself to me and that was that. When she runs around, I often see Panther in the way she moves. I laugh and say to Panther “You had to send two to replace you.”
    These things take however long they do and I have no patience with people who think because it’s an animal it is less painful.
    I have thought often of you since Charlie died and was always so glad to get his calendar. I was wondering how I would manage next year without, so I was delighted to get your email.
    Best wishes, always, Shreve. Carolyn

  27. Nova L.
    October 26th, 2023 @ 5:00 pm

    Dear Shreve, it has taken me some time to decide what I want to say in my comments. First and foremost I want you to know that you have been on my mind during these past three years wondering how you were dealing with a life without Charlie. Losing a beloved member of one’s family, four footed members included, is, for most people, heartbreaking and hard to accept. It makes me happy to hear that you have found yourself again. Sounds like you made good choices while dealing with your grief. It’s wonderful that you still have Charlie’s fur!! Personally, I feel that you should make something for yourself from it. That way, he would be hugging you while you’re wearing it. Sending you positive energy and big hugs

  28. Julia
    October 27th, 2023 @ 3:02 pm

    I could type a laundry list of all the awful bad stuff that has happened to me in the past 4 years, but the bottom line is I am still broken. Were I as young as you, I might have hope of a brighter future, but I feel my time has already been spent and now all I am trying to do is survive what time I have left. Having said which, I am delighted to see you back and doing well. Your photo is stunning, thank you for sharing and for coming back to us.

  29. Alyxx
    October 30th, 2023 @ 11:05 am

    I had “lost” this email account. I was thinking about Charlie just yesterday – then this popped up when looking for something else. Has it been 3 years? wow…..Shreve, you are wonderful and I thank you for EVERY gift!!!!

  30. LJ
    November 17th, 2023 @ 6:17 pm

    3 years, to see your world in a grain of sand…

    I had 4 dogs, now I’m at 7. Not sure how that happened, never planned it would, but sure glad it did.

    Welcome back, you’ve been missed!

  31. Cat
    November 22nd, 2023 @ 5:58 pm

    What a gift to be able to give yourself time to grieve so deeply! I often find that when grieving a loss of a loved one I tend to create a project around them. It helps me process. The last three years…wow…car wreck, recovering during a pandemic, quit a soul-crushing job to pursue my jewelry business, building a creative community, selling our home, losing loved ones, moving back to the columbia river gorge, and now…a new life and new reality. More change than I could have predicted, that’s for sure!

  32. Rockrat
    December 4th, 2023 @ 8:11 pm

    Last 3 years: ended my university trained career, mom passed, and we used the money to build a beautiful successfully permitted/inspected rooming house for 6 live-in renters, transitioned to property management and handyman work. Making as much per hour as I was mid-career but it’s for myself on my own terms at my own hours.

    Our new house has good energy. We have a large hare (Babbit) living under our deck and he recognizes us and all our sounds. In spite of having a brain like an inflamed paranoia gland, he’ll sit still and watch while we go between the house and the garage. We have a skunk too (Skyler) but he knows us also and never sprays.

    Spent late August fixing our rental during a heat wave in California. Painting, carpentry, plumbing and electrical repairs. I actually found it very comfortable to work wearing very little. After going shopping in the heat, it felt terrific to throw everything off and get to work. I think my neighbor saw me setting stuff out back to dry because I offered to help her with handyman work and she laughed uproariously. Later on she admitted there was no way she could not leave her main floor curtains closed. Oh well, gone back home now. So nice to meet a similar soul.

  33. Kim Kastilahn
    December 7th, 2023 @ 12:45 pm

    My last three years have been filled with grief as well. It seems like the same grief that enveloped you as it does with me. Covid stole my “sister from another mister”, my BFF, my fRamily and I cannot seem to get over it.

    I’m so happy to hear that you are doing well again. I’m excited to know that I’m already receiving my Charlie calendar again for Christmas. Just like I have received it for the past Christmases for as long as I can remember.

  34. Alan S.
    December 8th, 2023 @ 10:49 am

    I’ve been a reader of your site for a long time, and felt a deep sadness at the passing of Charlie. Right up there with the loss of Chuck and Coco, and Dooce herself. The web allows us to develop all sorts of relationships, albeit mostly one-sided. Thanks for sharing with us and more importantly for coming back after such a long stretch. My wife passed away in July, and while we were fortunate enough to have had several years warning (terminal condition diagnosis in late 2020), the emptiness can loom large on some days. I hope you, like myself, are looking forward to saying goodbye to 2023, and moving forward with whatever comes next!

  35. Suzette Maneely
    January 2nd, 2024 @ 12:21 pm

    LOVE the birthday photo!
    So glad to hear you’re coming out of the grief stage. Charlie was such a big part of your life, family, work.

  36. Becky
    February 28th, 2024 @ 7:56 am

    Ive been a reader of your blog since you firsts turned around and came back to your “home” from the city. I’ve missed out on months here and there but always come back to hear about Charlie and your life. I admire your spirit and your dedication so much. Charlie was as special as you are and I totally get not knowing who you are without him. I’ve been thinking of you a lot these past 8 months too because I lost my sweet 8 year old pup named Bo to an autoimmune disease and have been heartbroken beyond measure. Thank you so much for sharing your journey and life with Charlie with us all. I wish you a renewed sense of peace and purpose in this season of your life.

  37. Joy
    March 21st, 2024 @ 10:59 am

    I have missed you, as have many others. I hope that there might be a time in the future where you are able to invite us back into your life. Until then, be well.

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