Sunday, January 31, 2010

A Note to My Daughter

I have probably told you this story before, but I just wanted to remind you of it again as you turn 20 today. It is one of my most precious memories – although it only lasted a split second.

You were around three years old, maybe a little bit older. You had just taken your clothes off to get in the bath. I wasn’t in the bathroom to help you yet, so you came in the living room and just started running around, laughing and screaming at the top of your lungs.

In that moment I looked at you, I saw pure light. You didn’t have a care in the world and every part of your being was luminosity and joy. It was as if you left a ribbon of radiance behind you as you ran, like a comet or shooting star. It was so beautiful it made me cry.

I have been blessed with a few precious glimpses of that light over the years – and every time it takes my breath away. My wish for you on this special birthday is that you see it too.

That inner beauty and warmth is the essence of you. It’s a place you can always return to when you have forgotten who you are or why you are here. The business of life will try and make you forget it is there, but I am a witness to your ability to light yourself and shine out into the world.

So my beautiful girl - shine, shine, shine. The world is waiting for (and in need of) your light.

I love you.

Lucky In Love

So Lucky and I have been spending a lot of time lately talking about the stuff of life.

You see, my beautiful friend received a pretty grim diagnosis recently – bone cancer. Upon hearing the news, of course we went straight to the Internet for answers and hope only to learn this relentless disease attacks 65% of all Golden Retrievers, and that just happens to be Lucky’s demographic.

Of course Lucky took the news with his usual optimistic acceptance, comforting me with his kind glances and gentling sniffing at my tears. We munched on steak and chocolate chip cookies and marveled at how life brought us together.

Ten years ago, Lucky came to us as a very rambunctious one-year-old. Our family had just moved into an old farmhouse on five acres outside of the city, perfect for a growing four-legged boy. Lucky had one slightly disconcerting habit – instead of offering a friendly, tail-wagging hello appropriate for most social situations, he moved right in for what I like to call “the affection hump.” So much that we would steel ourselves when we walked through the front gate and warn visitors of the impending, uh, hug.

Fortunately, a few sessions with a militaristic obedience trainer (think Patton in cowboy boots and Carhartt) cleared the problem right up. After Lucky “greeted” all the other class participants, she quickly saw the failing was not with Lucky but me, the classic enabler. She showed me how to turn my knee into the oncoming embrace and then barked, “you are the dominate pack leader, not a playful litter mate.” Funny how this mantra has served me more in the human world than among my canine friends.

Our morning ritual of sitting on the front porch stairs, Lucky’s hindquarters on the first step, his front legs on the next one while leaning his body into mine, has taken a more philosophical tone as of late. We remember the things we love, like sitting on these steps on winter mornings and hearing geese in the distance sounding a fog horn to warn of the impending flyover. Then, there is that exact moment when they are so close overhead we can hear the sound of wings against the wind and almost feel their draft on our upturned smiling faces, happy to be invited to march in Nature’s cosmic parade. Or lying in the pasture, my head on Lucky’s belly, breathing in the sky, just a girl and her dog.

Of course we have had our disagreements over the years. Most of them involved rabbits and birds that didn’t survive the chase and were delivered to our front step like a damaged FedEX package we didn’t order. And there was Gus the Guinea who floundered ever so briefly on the ice. I rescued him from Lucky’s jaws, still alive but the poor old bird never recovered from the shock. Lucky and I agreed that sometimes our instincts get the best of all of us, but they don’t get to define us. That’s the promise of pure grace – we start every moment with a clean slate.

Lucky mastered one trick and that was shaking hands. We didn’t teach it to him and are not sure where he picked it up. Sometimes I think he adopted it because it just seemed like the right thing to do before you lay your head in someone’s lap.

But Lucky's greatest gift is that he loves the world as he finds it. Every body of water no matter the depth is celebrated, every person is worthy of a sniff and an all-over body wagging salute, every wretched foul–smelling thing found lying unidentifiable in the middle of the road deserves a roll, every stretch of warm sidewalk holds the promise of an afternoon nap and every hand that reaches out to him brings the possibility of love. There is no barrier to the world for Lucky – it is part of him, he softens to it, inhales it and pronounces it all good.

And I guess he loves us as he finds us too - sometimes impatient, cranky and flawed -his tender glance never wavers.

It’s often said that dogs are so happy because they live in the moment. I agree that’s true most of the time. But any dog owner will attest that theory flies out the window every time you open the fridge or car door or grab the leash, dogs are all about what’s happening next. Maybe the truth of the matter is animals bring us - their human students- into the moment, give us a little shake and remind us there is a life going on here, come in and play.

So my beautiful boy and gentle teacher, wherever your sweet spirit carries you next, I hope you hear me whispering in your ear, “I was the lucky one.”

(Dear reader - Lucky continued on his journey, leaving our world the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, 2009 - with his trademark grace and tenderness intact.)