Travels With Maggie: Slowing Down Time
Just a man and his dog, walking down a country road.
Life moves slower on a farm.
For sure a farmer is busier than hell but still, the mental pace is slower, more peaceful, than city life. I don’t really know how else to explain it. It’s one of those things you have to experience to fully grasp.
I call on my musical muse, the spirit of Dan Fogelberg, to best explain these walks:
Cursing the quest
Measureless nights forebode
Moments of rest
Glimpses of laughter
Are treasured along the road.
Along the road
Your steps may stumble
Your thoughts may start to stray
But through it all a heart held humble
Levels and lights your way.
Shall we start down the path?
A Time of Reflection
These walks, with my dog, are important times of reflection for me. They are my time to weigh decisions, to kick rocks and think of the past, to toss sticks and think of the future. They are my “step out of the present” time, a mental and spiritual reboot so dearly needed. I sense the same is true for Maggie. In the city, Maggie must be on a leash. In the country she is free to run wild, as she was meant to do, and it seems to me she is noticeably happier.
To run wild, with no restraints . . .
I have been restless my entire life. Dissatisfaction has always followed me, like shadows on a winter’s day. I’ve worked for over fifty years but rarely at one place for a long time. I don’t know how some people do it, working a warehouse job for thirty years. That is totally foreign to me. I don’t know how some people take on one cause and continue with that cause for decades.
There is always a voice calling me, from around the bend, beckoning to me, the siren song of the unknown, and although I can say, without hesitation, that life has never been boring for me, a little bit of stability, from time to time, might also be nice.
That’s what these walks mean to me, stability and calmness, a chance to turn my typhoon mind into a gentle breeze for thirty minutes.
“Cursing the quest, courting disaster” . . . I understand those five words so well.
That partially, at least, explains why these times with Maggie are so important for me. They are, in a very real sense, a chance to grab hold of sanity and embrace it as we embrace old friends we have not seen for years.
No Reflection for Maggie . . . Just Fun!
It’s enjoyable just watching Maggie on these walks, always sniffing, always observing, fascination with a butterfly, mesmerized by the wind rustling the leaves, pawing at the dirt, jumping in puddles, chasing a drifting seed pod, scanning the area for more to learn, more to experience . . . but once the walk ends Maggie rests, and rests hard, whereas for me, the end of the walk means the return to “measureless nights forebode.”
Truth be told, I’m jealous of Maggie. Life just “is” for Maggie. It’s always been an internal struggle for me. I suspect that has something to do with adoption. I’ve always felt broken, like an intricate piece of electronic equipment which is missing one key component, that’s me in a nutshell. But not my Maggie girl. Life just is! She has no concept of “broken.” She does not brood over missing pieces. She simply wags her tail and begins anew the search for adventure, and man alive ain’t that refreshing?
Soaring With the Thermals
It’s all aerodynamics, they tell me, but I think there are times when scientific explanations diminish the true wonder of watching a hawk ride the warm pockets of air three-hundred feet above. Lift off from a fir tree, powerful flapping of wings to gain elevation, and finally finding that “sweet spot” in the sky where gravity is suspended and the wonders of nature do their thing. That hawk does not worry. That hawk does not complicate matters with diatribes about inherent weaknesses and frailties. He just soars above it all, an ancient drone embracing his natural gifts.
We were that way once. Long ago, each of us, eager to spread our wings and fly, the absence of fear and apprehension liberating . . . but slowly the shackles were applied . . . slowly restraints held us to terra firma . . . slowly we became prisoners and our universe shrunk. I suspect the hawk knows the ultimate truth, as does Maggie, but they are both too polite to tell me what should be obvious.
Maggie likes to take her time on these walks. It’s fine with me. I’ve had my time in the competitor spotlight, always seeking personal bests, always shaving time off the clock of competition, so now, these walks, they are all about slowing time rather than seeing how fast I can do something. Truth be told, in our family, it’s my wife Bev who is always hurrying. I’m the laidback one, an odd statement for sure but true nonetheless. It’s a matter of necessity for me, really a matter of survival. Back in my drinking days, self-destruction run amuck ruled each day, stress and worry and angst and guilt all fueling an almost manic need to “do.” Today I want to live, but that desire necessitated change . . . and so I simplified.
Funny what I remember on these walks, but I’m thinking back to an old Bill Murray movie, “Meatballs,” Murray as a camp counselor in charge of a ragtag group of misfits. One scene had his wards facing a basketball competition against another camp of very good athletes, and Murray led his kids in a cheer that went “IT JUST DOESN’T MATTER!” That’s how I face life today. All the silly little problems in life just don’t matter. I had to boil down existence to one simple word . . . LOVE! The only thing important in my life today is that I love my wife, I love my son, and I treat everyone I meet in a loving matter. All the rest of “that stuff” just doesn’t matter in the grand picture of life.
And Maggie understands this! If Maggie could talk she would tell you that her favorite moment of each day is that moment she can curl up on the couch with Bev and I and have her stomach rubbed. That, to Maggie, is Shangrila, sharing private moments with the two people she adores, and nothing else matters to my girl.
A Long Walk Ends
A couple Guinea hens are at the top of the driveway as we return. Maggie automatically goes into herding mode, low crouch, total attention on the task, gently guiding them back down the driveway, back to the safety of the farm. She’s just doing what comes naturally, and I wonder, as I watch her, why humans have this almost maniacal need to ignore what comes naturally. We were born, or so I believe, to love. We were born to, in the words of a long-dead poet, walk free and know no superior, and yet we continually struggle against our instincts and nature.
It’s all rather mysterious to me but, at that time, in that place, I am in harmony with Nature, and in harmony with my nature, and that brings a smile to my face.
Thanks for joining us! Maggie and I appreciate the company more than you can know. And thank you to Matthew Arnold for the inspiration.
2019 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)