Another simple miracle

By Glenda | April 14, 2010

I did not plan for it to happen.  I hadn’t even thought about it, ever.  I was simply out for my morning prayer walk:  “Good morning, Father Sun, thank you for another day of life.  Good morning, Auntie Moon, thank you for another night of peace.  Good morning, Mother Earth, thank you for your beauty and abundance.  Good morning, All my Relations, thank you for your rich diversity.  May I live this day in harmony with all that is.”  My morning ritual.

And beauty and abundance there was to be had!  I was headed toward the Lodge, taking in as I went the sight and scent of the lovely pink azaleas by the door, now fully open and fragrant, as well as the new purple lily and the tall yellow iris, each standing, petals dew drenched, in the morning sunlight.  I wondered at the sprawling pink and red and yellow rose bushes, loaded down with color.  I noticed the first blush of Mama’s Louisiana irises, blooming late this year because of the recent unseasonably late cold weather and snow.   I lingered over the tiny peaches on the young peach tree that, a few years ago, had come from a short, pruned-off branch I had simply stood up in the earth, with cut end down, giving it a casual chance to grow some roots and live as a new tree, and it had.

I also stopped to pray by the old, old pecan tree, whose quick demise had been predicted some twenty-five years ago by the old gentleman who had sold us the land here at Earthsprings, the pecan tree that had, just yesterday, brought forth, yet again, new tender green leaves on every branch, despite the old tree’s many broken off places where dead wood has fallen away, despite the obvious fact that it is in its pecan-tree elderhood.   It moves me enormously to see it, yet alive, yet willing to carry on, to bear fruit, yet again.

Maybe it was there and then that it occurred to me.

Caio was with me, racing ahead, prancing back and forth, eager, watchful, young.

Caio.  Christina’s new dog, gotten through the vet from a woman who was moving and couldn’t take the dog with her.

I hadn’t wanted Caio.  Not here at Earthsprings, not even for Christina at her house. Truth be told, I hadn’t even liked Caio at first.  She was too eager.

I had, all too recently, just more or less gotten over our old dog OE’s death, and I had even come to welcome Happy, a rambunctious pup, only to have another random, red-headed, stray female dog come along and lure Happy to run away, neither Happy nor the red dog ever seen again, despite days and weeks of searching and inquiring.  Happy had just gotten old enough to behave well, and had come to be accepted, even by Tux, the tomcat, and Milly, the elusive little precious lady cat.  I was grieved all over again.

This new Caio is also a female, not red-headed, but, well…  Anyway, I wasn’t ready.  I am like an old lover, fiercely loyal to what was so wonderful before, lingering, treasuring that last bit of sunset’s glow before the coming of the next thing.

I wasn’t ready for a new love.  Caio, and even Christina, I felt, were too eager for me to accept something new.  The lines from some song keep coming to mind, “I don’t love easy…”  It’s not true, really, I do love easy, too easy sometimes.  But love lasts with me, and isn’t ever displaced.

So I had, oddly, discouraged Christina from bringing Caio to Earthsprings, partly, I admit, because of my own deep resistance to Caio, and, in fact, also partly because of Tux and Milly.

Milly is old, like the pecan tree is old.  She was here first, before OE, before Happy.  Milly had had to accept each of these intruders, each of these beings who wanted to chase her and with whom she had had eventually to share my attention and affection.

And then there’s the special case of Tux, that stray, starving kitten that had showed up out of the woods one day, deciding, apparently, magically, that OE would be his father-protector, and OE had reluctantly obliged.  Tux, the now fat and mighty tomcat, had so amazingly adored OE and then so visibly grieved after OE’s passing.  Tux had reluctantly come to accept Happy, some time after Happy arrived.  And then, of course, Happy had run off with that red-headed hussy dog.

So now, Tux has wanted no part of the new Caio dog.  Sort of like me.  Indeed, when Christina, undaunted by my resistance, does bring Caio over, Tux always attacks Caio at first glance, fiercely, repeatedly.  Tux stalks Caio.  Given the chance, Tux sinks his claws into Caio’s hide, until, by now, Caio keeps as great a distance as possible from Tux, actually whining in fear and dismay, leaping into the back of the old pickup truck to wait until Christina decides to go back home, where Caio is safe from Tux.

But Caio was here at Earthsprings this morning, left with me while Christina went off to work, to teach those lucky second and third grade children to love art and music.

Milly, of course, was nowhere to be seen with Caio around. Milly hides in the fenced garden area, not even letting Caio see her, if possible, and Milly knows how to be invisible when she wants to be.

So Caio went with me on my morning walk, dashing ahead of me and then glancing back to see if she had selected the right path or not, as I strolled along, and I was followed close behind or actually underfoot, belligerently, by Tux, who was ready to chase Caio at any moment’s notice.

I had to admit that Caio was winning me over, little by little.  She is smart, loving, attentive, maybe not as kind as OE was, maybe not as playful as Happy was, but eager to please.

So then it happened.  As I said, I hadn’t planned it, even thought about it.

But suddenly, it seemed right to take Caio over to where OE is buried.  The intention just came, full blown, so that I had no time to resist.

Head down, watching my feet as I walked, deep in feeling, I neared the pile of branches, the place with the cedar marker I had made with OE’s name on it, with the colored string Margaret had looped around and over the dead branches still there, under a nearby red bud tree, by the old home place of one hundred years ago.

As always, Tux advanced, pacing unnervingly around the place, carefully, seemingly knowingly, saying silently whatever it was he always had said to OE.  I stood respectfully, watching Tux.

Caio kept dashing off, but soon I called her back to sit near me, while I, continually, with my foot, forced Tux to back off and leave Caio alone.  Then I had this conversation with the three of them, OE, Tux, and Caio.  I don’t have to spell out exactly the conversation. You can easily imagine it, and you would know that the tears came spilling down my cheeks as I introduced Caio to OE’s spirit, and as I told Caio that OE and Tux had been friends, and as I reminded Tux that all dogs aren’t to be hated, that perhaps Caio too could be a friend.

Caio sat and listened, head cocked to one side, her big ears standing straight up, her glance moving back and forth alertly between me and Tux.  Tux listened too, reluctantly, untrusting, but willing to listen.

And I talked to myself too, I guess, telling OE and myself that it would be alright for me love again, to allow this new being into my heart, even though I know that, once again, it can mean an eventual grief and loss, but here she is, this young Caio, trembling with eagerness to please, smart, alert, a good working partner who has already given notice to the raccoons and rabbits and wild pigs that they are no longer free to cause havoc in the garden or to take advantage of the fact that I sleep at night because Caio is awake, barking, chasing, protecting.  (Christina knows me.  She knew I wouldn’t resist forever, that my reluctance would turn back to loving, as it always does. She knew the lesson of the old pecan tree, and of the young peach tree come from a cut off branch, and of Mama’s irises still blooming so long after Mama is gone, and all the rest of it, Christina knew that these would eventually remind me of what I know, what I teach, what is essential.)

So we four, Caio, OE, Tux, and I had this little talk.  I said some more prayers. Then Tux and Caio and I walked back toward the house.  I noticed a difference, and I didn’t imagine it.  Caio and Tux walked along, not at so great a distance as before, no hostility or fear apparent.

Until, that is, we got close to the house, and then Caio saw Milly sitting on the wooden top crossbar of the high garden fence near the little well house.  There she was, in plain view, sitting on the narrow wooden cedar board, eight feet in the air.

Caio went nuts.  (I guess it’s hard to be discerning about who is natural enemy and who has the elevated status of family or friend.  Caio must have thought, “Tux, maybe. We’ll see.  But this black female cat who runs and hides and I can’t get at, no chance!”

As I said, Caio went nuts.  She barked twice and then shot off toward the fence, and, astonishingly, then she leaped, straight up, onto the top of the well house right next to the fence, a higher jump than I would have thought her capable!  As I began yelling “No! No!” at her, Caio was straining to leap even further, trying even to climb the wire of the fence, to get up onto the narrow wooden beam, where Milly now clung, terrified, hissing and trembling, back arched, fur on end.

My shouting and demanding did eventually bring Caio down from the well house to the ground, where, then, Tux, of course, had reverted to his previous opinion of Caio, and now attacked her full force.  Much was the yelping and running and commotion, Tux in full pursuit, fiercely defending Milly and making the point that, “OE aside, you just can’t trust a dog!”  Caio got away, and, finally, I spoke firmly to everyone concerned, calming them down, repeating over and over to Caio that Milly too is our friend, pointing to Milly and speaking to Milly in my “Milly voice” over and over.

I almost despaired.  I was weary of so much world-wide dissention and such deeply ingrained negativity and conflict, such age-old attitudes of warfare, so many set-backs after such hope, and so little ever to come of peace making.

I went inside and got some cat food and set it out in the garden for Milly.  She didn’t want to come down off the balance beam of the garden fence.  In fact, she had to walk ever so carefully, up there in the air, with Caio only a few feet away.  But Milly was hungry, being off her regular schedule because of having to be fed in the garden instead of at the house door, as usual.  So, with Tux standing guard, ready to pounce on Caio, and with my encouraging her, Milly slowly, so slowly, came forward.  Caio kept her distance, twitching, a big distance, what with Tux growling his warning.  Milly came slowly across the rail and then slid down the gate, dropping the last few feet safely into the garden area.  She stood a moment, looking through the fence at Caio.  Then she slowly walked over to her dish and proceeded to eat.

I went into the house, ready to be done with the whole thing.

But soon after, I remembered I had to go to the Lodge to get this laptop computer, where it had been left after the last retreat.  “So, here we go again, I thought,” Caio racing ahead, Tux underfoot.  Sighing deeply, I entered the Lodge, and as always, stopped to breathe in the residual blessedness of the place, where so many prayers have been said and sung and danced and painted and so on.  Then I picked up the computer, came outside into the fragrance of roses, and we three started again back to the house.  Caio raced ahead, Tux followed her more slowly.

Then, there was the moment, the precious moment.  Caio was in the sandy driveway, near the cottage, close to the dogwood tree in bloom.  I got ready for another encounter, but, surprisingly, Caio did not run away as Tux got nearer.  She just sat there, watching, as Tux walked, deliberately, slowly now, step by step, toward Caio.

Despite the earlier drama, nonetheless, something in me told me to stop, stand still, just watch, don’t interfere, see what happens.  I did.

Caio sat perfectly still, as Tux walked toward her. Then, when Tux was about six feet away from Caio, Tux just sat down, watching Caio.

A few moments later, Caio got up, carefully, eyes on Tux, and walked, ever so slowly, toward Tux, who, in turn, sat perfectly still, eyes locked on Caio’s eyes.  Until they were, literally, nose to nose.  Silently.  Caio stood there, Tux sat there.  Each, it seemed, frozen in perfect stillness. For minutes, maybe for centuries.

Then Caio turned and moved easily away, into the grassy area nearby, where she lay down with her bone between her front paws and looked at Tux.  Tux watched her go, turned around to look for me, and then followed me toward the house, not hostile, not fearful, not growling, not even tripping me underfoot.

So, now, what?  Will Milly, will Caio, will Tux, will I, in the future, behave well, be friends, get along, be peaceful, forget our differences, our past history, our automatic reflexes?  Will the world?  Sometimes, perhaps, yes, sometimes no.

But, oh, the moments, be they ever so small, when we step courageously into new possibilities of peace and inter-connection, even after the inevitable setbacks, these, these precious daring moments of hope and reconciliation are to be savored, shared.

So here it is, for you, this moment from my day.  May all the world’s faiths, all the world’s religions, all the world’s ethnic groups, all the world’s nations, all the political parties and regional divergences, may all be absorbed in that moment this morning, even after such recent conflict, of acknowledgment by two little creatures, facing fear and possible real harm, stepping carefully so close to each other, risking it all, joined in a moment of some sort of agreement, however temporary, yet real.

May we, though weary of failure, never abandon efforts to achieve peace.   May we take as holy the achievement of each small step toward the future we are able to envision, a thing to be celebrated, and not dismissed as “not enough, not everything.”

May we each and all, ever, ever be open to new possibility and opportunity, to new love and new life, without discounting or discarding the best of the old.  May the continuity of life and love, of beauty and abundance, so evident every spring, as it is this year and always, enfold us in hope, in willingness, once again, however elder or jaded or tired, to live, to accept life openly and fully, embracing the wonders of the new day, the new dog, the new responsibilities, the new joys, and the new moments of wonder and astonishing grace.

It was a grand moment, that moment between Tux and Caio, there at the end, in the sandy roadway, that moment of acknowledgement, of almost touching noses, that moment of truce, perhaps, that moment full of promise for a peaceful future.

OE would be proud.  Happy would be exuberant.  Christina will smile, knowingly.

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