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Travels With Maggie: The Dog Days of Summer Awareness

The dawn rising of the Sirius, the Dog Star, signaling the hot stretch, the home stretch, tongues lagging, sweat dripping, shade the quest, a cold slurp from the hose the reward, an August walk, just a man and his dog, heat shimmering on the blacktop, buttercups and clover fading, wilting, succumbing.

It’s a hot one today. I strongly suggest you bring a water bottle with you if you plan on joining us. On days like today, Maggie girl does not share her water. Mind you, our heat, around ninety, may not seem hot to you, but this is our walk, in our neighborhood, so it’s the only heat worth talking about in this missive.

Won’t you join us?

Maggie Girl before the walk

Maggie Girl before the walk

Feed Us in the Shade, Please

Chickens are like that . . . they do not like hot weather. They will eat if I toss their food in the shade; they will go on a hunger strike if I toss it in the sunshine. Can’t say I blame them any. We are all very aware of the shade location on this day, we make short work of the feeding process, dive right into the watering, the blessed, cool, watering, the filling of bowls, Maggie girl right there drinking out of the hose, her muzzle dripping, absolutely joyous in the activity. Even the horses saunter over at the sound of flowing water, the pinto who bit me two weeks ago now my best friend as I hose him down, fickle in his friendship, not unlike some humans I’ve known over the years.

I look at Maggie and ask her if she’s ready for our walk. I would not describe her reaction as excited, but she likes the daily ritual, my Maggie girl, so she wags her tail and sets out down the path as the sun relentlessly establishes authority over the pastoral scene.

The Sights and Sounds

It is quiet on this day. Birds are still. Messages are neither sent nor received. There is no rustling in the wooded lots, no dogs barking in the distance, no hammering or sawing or bantering of one nature or another, just the sounds of my shoes scraping pavement and Maggie panting as she shadows my steps. We stay to the south side of the road as much as possible, happy in the occasional blanketing of shade, happy for the occasional murmur of a breeze.

At just the right angle, at just the right moment, if you look carefully you can see tiny particles of matter floating in the air, suspended for a time, horizontal for a time, eventually succumbing to the laws of physics and alighting on the ground. It’s amazing, really, surrounded by life we are unaware of, above us, around us, below us, oblivious most of the time to the universal truth: we are just a part of the answer, one cog in a very large piece of machinery, integral, disruptive, and at times beneficial, but one cog nonetheless. I have come and I will go, a blip on the screen of time, nothing more, nothing less, and I think it’s important to remember that. I can be helpful to Life, or I can be destructive, my choice, but ultimately I will simply be a brief memory.

Maggie seems to understand that truth. I have never seen her destroy. I have never seen her attack. She lives in harmony with her surroundings, adjusting when necessary, riding the wave and never struggling against it, and I believe, as much as it is possible, my dog is happy.

A man and his dog, just walking down a country road, and there is no doubt who the teacher is among them.


A Flurry of Excitement

Shot out of a cannon, she is, just like that, one moment walking by my side, another moment thirty feet ahead, then fifty, seventy-five, growling and barking, eyes never leaving the woods, something is in there for sure, some perceived danger, and I have no clue. Not a sound was heard by my ears; not a movement noticed by my eyes; but Maggie is on it, big time, perhaps by smell, perhaps sensing an alteration in the molecular structure of that immediate environment, I do not know, but I believe in my dog. If she says there is something warranting concern then she has my attention.

This goes on for a good five minutes and then it ends as quickly as it began, silence once again resting upon us. I take a detour along a path which leads into the woods, curiosity winning out over common sense, and sure enough, twenty feet into the woods, fresh scat is found. To my untrained eye it appears to be canine in nature, meaning coyote. Maggie sniffs it, growls low, guttural, raises her head, sniffs, and that is that, the danger is gone, and all is well.

The woods are alive, big and small, all integral cogs in a very large piece of machinery. I am now aware of that; in earlier years I believed I was the hub around which all things revolved. Silly notion! As I walk I am aware that I am watched, by the birds, the hawks, the coyotes and deer and weasels, I am watched by the beetles and ants and field mice, all my traveling companions, all watching me watch them, in harmony if we choose, and on that day, in my right frame of mind, we so choose. Maggie and I turn for home.


Awareness Is the Key

Or so it seems to me! I can learn from Maggie if I am willing. I can learn to be more aware of life around me, not only in the woods, not only during my walks, but each and every day, be more aware, and to use that awareness to become a contributing member of this world.

I’m fascinated by the Butterfly Effect Theory, that every action, no matter its size, has an effect. Every single thing I do . . . every single thing I say . . . has a long-ranging effect on life around me, and I am responsible for that effect . . . for those consequences. Lao Tzu perhaps said it best:

“The key to growth is the introduction of higher dimensions of consciousness into our awareness.”

Something to think about as I move through this life . . . I am not alone. I am not isolated. I am part of a bigger picture of existence. Amazingly my dog seems to grasp this fact better than I, leaving me to wonder which of us is the higher life form. My thought processes are clouded and obscured by millions of memories, experiences, classes, words, actions, and reactions, and the same is true for all of us. Perhaps, in order to see the truth of life, we need to discard some of it, or at least I do, seek a measure of simplicity, and simply be. Perhaps we need a deep-cleaning of sorts, a scouring, a scrubbing.

I am willing, and I suspect that is the first step.

Maggie hops in the truck and happily accepts the treat I offer. She seems satisfied with the lessons of the day. I have no doubt she will go back home and teach those lessons to her brother Tobias, and I find comfort in that.

Thank you for joining us today. Hopefully you can make it next time. Just remember to bring a treat for my girl. She does love her creature comforts.

© 2019 Bill Holland

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