With what deep thirst we quicken our desires to that rank odor of a passing springtime!
Must you taste everything? Must you know everything? Must you have a part in everything? ~William Carlos Williams from “Smell”
I realize I am not so different than my dogs rolling happily in the stinkiest thing they can find – I want to taste and know and be part of everything whether it is good or not:
I tend to douse myself with whatever I wish to carry with me through the rest of my days, even if smelling like something just died repels others.
Maybe, like my dogs, it is to conceal who I really am.
Maybe, like my dogs, I would rather fit in with the barnyard than a palace.
Or maybe, just like my dogs, I simply like getting down and dirty and too proud of it.
Human nature being what it is — the desire to blend in with the world’s sordid and sin-ridden surroundings — this is why I, like my dogs, am in constant need of a good bathing.
It would be best to smell like that rank odor of too-swiftly passing springtimes – we all need a renewal and reminder of our rebirth rather than immersion in the stench of death.
May I, like my dogs,
recognize I must be cleansed –
again and again and again.
The duties and cares of the day crowd about us when we awake each day
– if they have not already dispelled our night’s rest.
How can everything be accommodated in one day? When will I do this, when that? How will it all be accomplished?
Thus agitated, we are tempted to run and rush.
And so we must take the reins in hand and remind ourselves,
“Let go of your plans. The first hour of your morning belongs to God.
Tackle the day’s work that he charges you with,
and he will give you the power to accomplish it.” ~Edith Stein from Essays on Woman
Rushing headlong pell-mell tumble-bumble into the day is a specialty of mine. Once I step out the door there isn’t a single moment of quiet breathing space until I step back in the door 12 hours later. I realize this is a daily choice I make to live this way: no one forces me to see just one more patient (or four) or complete each chart before I leave or make sure I have responded to a hundred messages.
I would not rest well until the work is finished.
Therefore my hour of quiet starts very early in the day, usually before the sun rises or the birds start to twitter, when there is no every-fifteen-minute appointment schedule and the phone remains silent.
However the rising morning does not belong to me: God knows what I’ll need to get through the day. He reminds me to breathe deeply, find time to smell the tulips, and take a walk with a buddy, always remembering I’m not alone.
A Burdock — clawed my Gown — Not Burdock’s — blame — But mine — Who went too near The Burdock’s Den — ~Emily Dickinson
One day in 1948, an amateur Swiss mountaineer and naturalist, George de Mestral, went on a nature walk with his dog through a field of hitchhiking bur plants. He and his dog returned home covered with burs. With an intense curiosity, Mestral went to his microscope and inspected one of the many burs stuck to his pants. He saw numerous small hooks that enabled the seed-bearing bur to cling so tenaciously to the tiny loops in the fabric of his pants. George de Mestral raised his head from the microscope and smiled thinking, “I will design a unique, two-sided fastener, one side with stiff hooks like the burs and the other side with soft loops like the fabric of my pants. I will call my invention Velcro® a combination of the words velour and crochet. It will rival the zipper in it’s ability to fasten.” From: The Mining Company (Feature 09/12/97)
One moment you were just fine running ahead to the barn as I walked leisurely down hill to my chores – then I find you panting and miserable, immobilized on the ground, unable to get up or walk.
What could have happened to you in only a few short minutes?
I bent down expecting to discover the worst: I check your back and neck, your joints, your head for injuries. Instead I discover one front and one back leg glued to your body bound as if tied fast — by dozens of sticky burdock. You had taken a short cut through the weeds and the hooky plants hitchhiked onto your long flowing hair. The more you moved the more bound up your fur became until you had painful prickle masses poking your armpit and groin.
You were only doing your farm dog duties and the burdock seeds were doing what they do: velcroing on to you to be carried to another place to germinate and make more prickles balls.
It took fifteen minutes of you lying upside down, with a barn cat warming herself on your chest to do scissor surgery to your fur to free you of the torture. No longer immobilized, you ran free with your favorite cat in hot pursuit, and I noticed you gave wide berth to the burdock patch in the weeds.
Perhaps we all might be so quickly freed from our prickly immobilizing burdens when we wander too far into the weeds of life.
If only a mere hair cut could trim away all the troubles with which we are afflicted.
I know, in fact, our Rescuer is near at hand and I’m suspect when He needs to, He wears muck boots.
She seems to hide all looks that have ever fallen into her, so that, like an audience, she can look them over, menacing and sullen, and curl to sleep with them. But all at once
as if awakened, she turns her face to yours; and with a shock, you see yourself, tiny, inside the golden amber of her eyeballs suspended, like a prehistoric fly. ~Rainer Maria Rilke from “Black Cat”
Bobbi arrived on the farm 14 years ago after living a life of luxury in town. She couldn’t accompany her owner to life in the big city so moved in complete with a van full of her own cat furniture, a personal chair, toys, and special cuisine. When she strode out of her cat carrier, took a look around and climbed into the nearest tree, she never looked back at the accoutrements of her former full time indoor life. She became queen of the farm, undisputed and regal, watching the goings-on from a carefully calculated and royal distance, never interacting with her subjects unless it was absolutely necessary.
She tolerated other cats, but barely. They scattered when she came in view. She thought dogs were a waste of fur covering empty skulls, but when they met her needs, like on a chilly night, she would happily bunk down with them. They were astonished but grateful for her royal blessing when she decided to sleep among them: a two-dog and one-cat night.
She chose only one person to be subject to: our daughter-in-law Tomomi. On Tomomi’s first visit from Japan, Bobbi approached her and decided then and there they were meant for each other. During Tomomi’s annual summer visits, Bobbi brought her mice on the welcome mat and followed her like a puppy, coming only when Tomomi called, and deigned to allow her to touch her calico coat.
Earlier this year, nearly 16 years old, Bobbi took over the front porch bench when our black cat Jose died. She liked to stay a bit closer to us, but seemed thinner and less disdainful. When two kittens arrived to live in the barn this summer and within a week formed a coup and took over the front porch, Bobbi retreated again to her other quarters on the farm. I worried a bit that she had given in too easily with no yowls or flying fur.
Yesterday morning she lay still on the grassy slope out front – she was never one to take her naps where her subjects could see her. I knew her long life was over.
Long live Queen Bobbi. May you forever reign in our hearts.
I believe the nicest and sweetest days
are not those on which anything very splendid
or wonderful or exciting happens
but just those that bring simple little pleasures,
following one another softly,
like pearls slipping off a string.
~L.M. Montgomery from Anne of Avonlea
Pearl by pearl, the simple pleasures slip away so softly in these precious few days of family fullness and warmth.
It is almost too much to bear knowing these pearls can never be strung together again in quite the same way, but I rush to gather them up together in the deep pocket of my memory for safe-keeping.
And then I remember they will always be there, ready to be touched and treasured when I need them, each one more splendid and wonderful and exciting than I would ever have imagined at the time.
…whenever you mark a horse, or a dog,
with a peculiarly mild, calm, deep-seated eye, be sure he is an Aristotle or a Kant,
tranquilly speculating upon the mysteries in man. No philosophers so thoroughly comprehend us as dogs and horses.
They see through us at a glance.
But there is a touch of divinity ….
and a special halo about a horse… ~Herman Melville from Redburn: His First Voyage
There are some animals (and people) who will not look you in the eye. It may be a reluctance to appear too bold, as direct eye contact can imply, or it may be a reluctance to expose too much of their own inner world and feelings.
Because eyes don’t lie.
But when you can empty yourself into another being’s eyes and feel both understanding and understood, that is a touch of divinity at work. The eye is a mirror, a gazing ball and a collecting pool, and we reveal, reflect and absorb when we really take the time and gather the courage to look deeply into one another.
except the roar of the wind across the tundra, the ancient
existential cry of wolves, pure, devastating, hungry.
Time for crunchies. Taking many detours, Dog
returns to the porch. Let master think what he
wants. Freedom comes at a price. ~Paul Piper “Dog and Snow”
Last week’s major snow and ice storm is nearly a memory. On the north side of our buildings there is still a slick skiff of white here and there, but it actually is feeling like spring could erupt any moment.
The corgis are brokenhearted though. They loved plunging through the snow, burying their faces deep, tussling each other to the ground in a continuing pro-corgi-wrestling tournament, hearing the call of the wild. They weren’t aware the coyotes were circling out in the field, hungry for a meal — even a meal of corgi meat if need be.
Now that we are back to the usual mud of winter, I’m actually feeling a little nostalgic for the wildness of the white storm and the wildness it brought out in our dogs. However, I don’t descend from wolves like the corgis.
I’m much more like sheep, seeking out the comfort of the flock when the chill gets to be too much.