Wet black trunks, lizard-scaled and north-side mossed. Fallen pine-needle clumps, some green, the brown ones likely leftovers from the spring ice-storm, once snagged in treetops and now loosened by summer storms.
I notice these things in detail because I’m walking Bo* without treats and that means a lot of stopping and sniffing. I’ve decided these are our Zen walks; he sniffs, and I let my head fall back, my neck crane to take in the trees. Or I scan for deer poop. Because he finds it as delectable as I find it disgusting.
The deer around here are dropping fawns like pinecones. There are twins and triplets and singletons, spotted and spare and skittish. A couple of days ago I brought Bo out for his morning whizz and he saw the deer before I got his leash on and he was gone. Across the yard and through the meadow and out to the road. Fail. I hadn’t planned on an early morning sprint, but there we went. Thank goodness it was first thing in the morning and he had to stop for said whizz as he got to the road. But he was beautiful in his barking and ears-back bolting.
This is an oddly heatless summer … oh, every now and then it gets up into the 90s, but it’s been quite Portlandish, wet and cool. (August 1st, rainy, 64 degrees.) In terms of summer heat it’s a fail, I suppose, but I’m not complaining. Our trees and yards and pastures are obscenely lush and green. And the fall will likely be a riot of color … maybe summer is reinventing itself.
Another reinvention this summer: me as a writer. Writing and dogs are an interesting combination. I am okay with writing in intervals of a couple of hours here, a couple of hours there, interspersed with the hysterical and dear time-suck that is Bo*, but sermonizing … well, I need a deep-sea-dive stretch of time. My sweetheart has this fantasy of me sitting at the computer writing with Bo* stretched out near me, or in my lap. Are you laughing? If he’s not asleep, he’s not still, and if he’s near me, he’s not asleep, which means, “That’s a cute fantasy, but no.” Bo* and I do not write together. Fail. But I am getting up from the computer like I am supposed to, ergonomically. And my subconscious does get noodle-time on those Walks, so there’s that.
I am thinking about the story of Peter and the disciples in a storm-tossed boat, freaking out because Jesus comes walking over the water to them. Peter gets a big idea to ask Jesus to ask Peter to come for a wet walk in the waves. He gets a few paces in before panicking. Fail? Was it? Or was it a necessary thing? I know I’ve jumped from some boats I should have stayed in, and stayed in some I should’ve bailed out of. Looking at it from the perspective of my favorite book of the last year, Christian Wiman’s My Bright Abyss, here’s the money line:
The same impulse that leads me to sing of God
leads me to sing of godlessness ….
Sometimes God calls a person to unbelief
in order that faith may take new forms.
The list of things I don’t believe grows longer by the year … probably because for the most part that unbelief feels more like freedom than insecurity. But there are still signs and apparitions all around: cardinals darting everywhere, Carolina blue swallowtails hovering, hummingbirds thrumming, that damn puppy running, my lover’s voice on the line, a breath of wind stirring the pines and then a blow that lifts leaves and branches, lifting and stirring the threads of love wrapped round my heart.
It’s Friday evening … usually my sweetheart comes home on Thursday, so we are missing each other more fiercely than words can describe. Friday night is our favorite night of the week, so this seems a rather painful fail. But we are doing what we need to do: she is in Philadelphia working her brains out, tired to the bone. I am in North Carolina, holding down the homefront, holding on and hustling in the job search, and doing my best not to let frustrated and lonely get in the way of the very real beauty and joy all around me.
The wind in the trees has been the whisper of Spirit since I was a child. Every time I hear and feel that blow, it feels like the breath of a universe-filling love that is looking for me. That’s really all I know. I do not know what is happening in my life right now. Meaning and clarity come in the looking back. All I know right now is this is the one life I have, and I don’t want to miss a moment, just because it might be a hard one, or feel like a failure. Because if I shut down to the hard moment, the fail, I am going to miss the grace right on its heels … like a puppy chasing deer.
I shared these words with friends this week. They found them meaningful, as I do. Perhaps you will, as well:
We thrive, in part, when we have purpose, when we still have more to do. The deliberate incomplete has long been a central part of creation myths themselves. In Navajo culture, some craftsmen and women sought imperfection, giving their textiles and ceramics an intended flaw called a “spirit line” so that there is a forward thrust, a reason to continue making work. Nearly a quarter of twentieth century Navajo rugs have these contrasting-color threads that run out from the inner pattern to just beyond the border that contains it; Navajo baskets and often pottery have an equivalent line called a “heart line” or a “spirit break.” The undone pattern is meant to give the weaver’s spirit a way out, to prevent it from getting trapped and reaching what we sense is an unnatural end. — Sara Lewis, The Rise: Creativity, the Gift of Failure, and the Search for Mastery
This makes some sense of the restless fault line running through my life. I am not done with this life yet … and it is not done with me. May our spirits find the way out, by fault line or failure, grace or gumption.
*Aka Bo-jangles, Bo-bolicious, Bo-cephus, Bo-didley, Bo-monster … it depends. He weighs a few pounds, and is both cuter and smarter than any dog needs to be.