Maybe the squirrel is not the problem

I started to write something along the lines of “Quit whining about everything that’s wrong with the world and set your mind free,” and I caught myself up short.

Who am I, after all, to tell other people how to live their lives? When I’m thinking straight, I refuse to “tell” other people how to live their lives, and I am no good example anyway.

All I can say — all I should say — is that when I turn away from dwelling on the stuff that alarms me and outrages me — and let’s be clear, there’s plenty of that to be found — and when I instead turn toward seeking the stuff that is good and honest and beautiful — I realize there’s a lot more of that to be found.

Who benefits from my alarm and outrage? Who benefits when I am alarmed and outraged and offended to the point of distraction? Why would someone want me distracted, as if I am a watchdog to be sidetracked chasing a squirrel?

Actually, a squirrel is not a very dangerous fellow, but apparently he is fun to chase.

What is a greater danger than the squirrel? Perhaps it is the person shouting “squirrel” and making sure I am alarmed and chasing around — you know, the person who keeps me on a leash …

This is a muddled message, I know. It’s about not listening to the people who want me alarmed and afraid and offended, and instead listening for the beauty in this life, but it’s also about watching out for the people who want me alarmed and afraid and offended, because they are the truly alarming ones.

So where I am going with this? I began by looking for a gentler way of saying “Quit whining and set your mind free,” because a free mind is in its purest state, released from anxiety and fear and anger and all that mess. Then I had to acknowledge that there are reasons to be anxious and afraid and angry, but among the biggest reasons are the manipulators who want to keep people in a state of anxiety and fear and anger.

I think the smartest dog is the one who looks back at the person who shouts “Squirrel!” to figure out what’s really going on. And then sits back down to enjoy the view.

This dog

I am a bit groggy this morning — this candle isn’t really designed to burn at both ends — and Willow seems groggy, too, a little more than a week shy of her 12th birthday, which will make her 84 in dog years if you cotton to that stuff.

She holds her head up, as best she can, as if to say, “If he can be up this early, I guess I can, too” — my canine companion, never very far away unless I’ve left her behind to bring bacon home.

Is she mine, or am I hers? Now there is a question.

We bring animals into our homes and call them our belongings, but could it be that we have simply agreed to belong to them? We caress and massage them, feed them, open doors for them, and protect them fiercely if necessary.

Some people ask for work in return — “OK, retriever, go retrieve the duck, that’s a good boy” — but most of us are just glad for the company, and the unconditional love. At least it feels like love and caring, and they’re better at it than we are.

This dog doesn’t have to lie at my feet — there are plenty of places to rest her head and sleep the rest of the night to dawn — but she holds her head up groggily and keeps me company, because that’s what she does.

I can’t help loving her for it.

I would rather

“I would rather …” was that an e.e. cummings poem? I remember the emotion of reading it for the first time — “I would rather … than teach a thousand stars how not to shine.” Was that it? It took my breath away.

I love when words do that — move in your heart and say a hopeful thought. Add to the beauty in the world. I love when words do that. I would rather be a single Elwood P. Dowd than a thousand nattering nabobs sneering into the dark.

I would, wouldn’t I? Then why am I drawn to be sour sometimes, and snarky and hopeless? Yes, I try to be encouraging with my words and phrases, but sometimes I am writing my way out of discouragement. I confess, the hopeful words can be as much for me as meant for you, dear reader.

Give me a bright sunrise full of hopes and dreams for a new day, or a rainbow sunset full of gratitude and satisfaction, than a sky full of clouds and regrets. I have felt both, and spirits lifting is a lot more fun, a lot more comforting, a lot deeper, a lot longer-lasting.

Give me hope. Give me peace. Give me this day our daily bread. Please.

P.S. I looked it up: “I’d rather learn from one bird how to sing than teach 10,000 stars how not to dance.” — from “you shall above all things be glad and young” — Oh my.

Turn the page

Yes, that’s right. Turn the page. You filled up the last page and life goes on, so turn the page and keep writing the journal of your life.

There is always another blank page waiting, but first you must turn to it. Oh, you can just sit there staring at the old page, the filled page, but you wrote it all in ink and it can’t be erased and you can’t change it, so: Best practices? Turn the page.

You need to keep going. Reading back over past regrets, OK, you can resolve to have learned something and do it differently next time.

But the sun set last night and a new day is here. Turn the page. Turn. The. Page.

After the lockdowns

Spare me the “one year later” stories. Just spare me.

It is always one or five or 10 or 20 years since something awful happened. Oh Lordy, wait until this coming Sept. 11. What dastardly plots could politicians hatch while the supposed watchdogs are busy collecting bad memories from 20 years ago?

I am much more interested in today, which I can directly affect, and tomorrow, which I can try to influence, than in reliving past disasters. Or, if we must talk about what happened a year ago, let’s talk about how to avoid disasters today and tomorrow, not rehash “woe was me” tales and revive the sadness and despair.

Tell me about next time — how next time will be different because I am/we are wiser for what happened.

The room

(Originally posted Sept. 7, 2017)

“Don’t think,” said the man with the white mane. “Just open the spigot and be surprised by what comes out.”

And then he walked away.

I wanted to cry out, “Don’t think? But I can’t stop thinking,” but I had no voice.

So I stopped thinking.

Suddenly a spot appeared on the wall, which grew and grew until there was a hole large enough to step through. I could see that the room beyond was not the same room I would have found had I cut through the wall, and so, curious, I stepped through the hole.

Continue reading “The room”