Travels with Maggie: An Appreciation of the Commonplace
It’s been awhile since I shared one of our walks with you. Summers are like that, making hay while there is hay to make, whatever the hell that means.
Maggie and I have been walking daily, and we love it when you join us, so what do you say? Put on your walking shoes and let’s go for a short walkabout. Just remember to bring some dog treats for my girl.
A Bad Rap
Dandelions are grossly under-appreciated if you ask me and Maggie. We are big fans of those delicate yellow flowers. Show me a field of dandelions and I’ll show you a Monet in the waiting, as lovely as any sea of bluebells for sure . . . and Maggie loves to roll in them, grasp them in her mouth, by the stem, and fling them into the sky, chasing them as they fall back to earth.
Loveliness and a dog toy, all rolled up in one flower, a flower some people consider a common weed, pulling them out by the roots or attacking with deadly herbicides, all to preserve the pristine illusion of their green lawn, shame on you and you and you and you and …
Anyway, me and Maggie, we love them!
Remember when we were children, holding a dandelion under our chin, looking for the yellow cast upon our skin? That was a particularly enjoyable way to kill time back then. Now we are all grown up and we have declared dandelions to be Enemies of the Lawn State, all nonsense if you ask me, which you did not.
As we pass that lovely yellow sea, I am reminded of how lucky I am. I should have died back in 2006, a result of my twenty year slow-fall into the depths of alcoholism, but somehow I survived and by God, ain’t life great? I hope you feel the same about this gift we’ve all been given.
Speaking of Raps
The horses graze right next to Chicken Town at the farm. Each day I walk along, tossing out handfuls of grain to the chickens, and I am always greeted by the horses, which lean over the fence hoping for a handout. Yesterday I didn’t pay close enough attention and the pinto bit me on the breast. I had forgotten how much a horse bite hurts but man oh man, THAT HURT! Now I’ve got this huge bruise on my left breast as a reminder to take nothing for granted . . . a painful reminder to be sure, but one I will not need again.
Dogs learn lessons like that much quicker than humans, or so it seems to me. Maggie was attacked by a rooster once, maybe a year ago. It only had to happen once for my girl to learn to keep a good five feet distance from that cantankerous bird. Me, it seems to take seemingly forever to learn lessons about things which are harmful to me.
I wonder why that is?
One new house almost completed while the foundation for another was being poured yesterday. There are now only two empty lots remaining on our country lane and yes, that saddens me, which I know is illogical, my little slice of heaven is mine and mine alone, nonsense of course but still, it saddens me, large cement mixers, cranes, bulldozers, I think bulldozers sadden me the most, large killing machines with no conscience, destruction their only goal, tear down, clear away, push asunder, all for what, progress?
But there’s no stopping it, eh? The first pilgrims began pushing east, and more followed, across the Appalachians, across the Mighty Miss, across the Great Plains and the Majestic Rockies, always pushing westward, always digging out a new toehold, always claiming new territories, and always leaving pavement in the rearview mirror . . . so snap out of it, Billy Boy, and enjoy the precious walk with your precious dog.
Listening to the Birds
I’m not a bird guy, per se. By that I mean I can’t recognize one from another just by the singing. I know a few by sight but no, I am not a bird expert by any stretch of the imagination.
But I do love laying down in a field and just listening to their songs, and laying down in a field of dandelions to accomplish that task is, well, the stuff of Victorian poets. While I practice the Art of Nothingness, Maggie walks around, nose to the ground, sniffing for what I do not know but content in the act of doing. We both are in a blissful state, one of those rare moments in the modern world when doing nothing is a most rewarding activity. It’s during these moments when I allow my mind to simply stop, to absorb all, to question nothing, and to be the instrument of inner calm. Rare they are, for my mind is almost always seeking turmoil, a cauldron of molten dis-ease, seemingly incapable of solace . . . but not on that day, not in that field, not for a few blessed moments.
I suspect others know of which I speak. I hope so. We all want to believe we are not bizarrely unique, don’t we? We want to believe our thoughts are normal, our agitation simply a symptom of our humanness, don’t we? I can’t speak for others, but I have expended a great amount of time trying to appear normal, trying to fit the mold of normalcy, trying to slide my foot into a one-size-fits-all loafer, and all I had to show for it was a painful foot.
Maggie? She doesn’t give a hoot about normalcy. She simply is. Her mind causes no unrest. She sniffs the ground, accepts a pat on the head, and finally lays down next to me, her great quest ended, greatly comforted by the love of her owner.
You tell me which is the smarter of the two animals.
The End of Perfection
It is signaled by a shift in the wind, the clouds quickening their pace, the sunlight now filtered by fast-approaching clouds, that rare glimpse of serenity as ethereal as any specter in a dream, but I am thankful for that glimpse. The birds cease their song, listen to nature, and from one maple dozens erupt into flight. Maggie and I rise and begin the slow walk back to the farm, past the bulldozers, past the cranes and cement mixers and chain saws, stepping back into reality.
I’m reminded of the words of Matthew Arnold in his poem “In Harmony with Nature:”
“What more could please the soul than to walk free and know no superior?”
I can’t think of a damned thing!
The truck fires up, built Ford tough, Maggie puts her head in my lap, and I steer us for home, a man and his dog, another day torn from the calendar of life, not to be replicated but for certain to be cherished. It’s a good life for sure. I can’t speak for others facing dire circumstances, facing insurmountable odds, hoping against hope for a cure or relief or a stoppage of pain, but for this old man, on that perfect day, it’s a good life, a life which has always been waiting for me . . . waiting for my permission . . . waiting for my acceptance.