I have a dog named Ernie. I've probably written of him before--he's also called 'the little orange dog'. Right now, as I write this, he's stirring up commotion in the woods that run down to the shoreline of the lake. All the little chipmunks and squirrels think he's a threat, one giant squirrel perhaps, and they want him gone. They shriek their dissent. Ernie, he's deaf as a doornail. He's placid in his exploration. He doesn't hear the ruckus he's created.
Two nights ago thunder cracked the sky above this lakeside home; split it clean open and then wept--rain on lake water--for an hour or more. We all woke in our beds throughout the house, startled into consciousness; all of us listening; one of us wondering if the automatic sprinkler in the orchard ought to be turned off; one huddling in the bathroom with the old big dog who fears the thunder the most. Ernie sprawled belly-up at the foot of our bed as if the night were silent as a tomb; the next morning we joked that he slept the best of us all.
Dog-deafness to deeper meaning, I'm heading there (I promise), but it's been awhile since I've been here and the muscle that's needed for this is a bit shaky, forgetful of capacity. Here's what I want to say: I haven't written in a few months because I've been frightened to write. Things have been changing--have changed--in some very large and elemental ways, and at the risk of jinxing what I fear every day will be jinxed, I'll just say it: I am deeply content. 'Happy' is too bubbly a word, perhaps, too prescriptive. Too expectant. I won't say that. But I'll say this: This new contentment, this sense of having arrived at some place in myself and in the world that feels centered and long-wanted and good has got me wishing I were a bit blind, a bit deaf, a bit dumb.
I wish I were blind to the things I stand to lose.
I wish I couldn't hear the voices, inside and out, that tell me I might be making a mistake.
I wish I were a fool, content to bask in beauty--as heartbreaking as it can be--wherever I can find it.
My little orange dog, he's happy--blissful--as long as he's got a bowl of clean drinking water. As long as he's fed some scraps morning and night. As long as he's got a few feet of bed to curl up on. As long as I scratch his soft, deaf ears. As long as I am happy to see him. My little orange dog, he's got no idea that his kidneys are failing him, that his heart is growing weak, that he can't hear the sound of my voice calling him. There is no fear of what may come, there is just this moment, and it's enough.
I want to be like Ernie, like my little orange dog. I don't want to be afraid to tell you that I have made some choices that have taken me to a new place and that in that new place I feel like I am finally home. I don't want to be afraid to love as big and silly and openly as I can. I don't want to be afraid to take my work seriously. I don't want to be afraid to be happy. I just want to work to be worthy of my life, and of these good things. It might not work out. I might lose a hell of a lot. I might be just a fool.
So be it.
Ernie doesn't care. Stop writing, he says. Come with me down the stone steps to the lake. Give me the rest of that piece of toast; it was good. He's done stirring up the squirrels. He's at my feet. He'll follow wherever I go, and love me right on through it.
Smart dog. Good dog.
Thanks for reading.