By Myself but not Alone

PJ’s warm head rests on my lap, as I idly scritch her scruffy chest. Petra lies at my feet, always alert, but quiet for now. Milo is curled into a compact ball on a soft bed, and Rowan sprawls on the smooth floor. Wyatt sleeps in a corner.

The only sounds are the rhythmic ticking of the kitchen clock and PJ’s soft breathing.

Even the noise in my head has quieted after a day by myself. This morning I was like a Jack-in-the-box, hopping up every minute or two to attend to a dog, make tea, get a snack, look for something in my room, clean the counter. The more I tried to sit still, the more I thought of things that “needed” doing.

Now, though, I am content to sit with my hand on PJ, simply savoring this moment with the dogs and myself for company. My mind feels awake and yet calm, able to follow a train of thought from beginning to end without getting waylaid by static. Surrounded by quiet, with no demands on my time, I’ve been able to quiet my frenetic inner activity. The animals’ gentle presence draws me toward connection rather than production, softening my heart and tuning my ears to my own soul and to God.



A small question nibbles at the edge of my mind. I turn my back on it and refocus on the book I’m reading. It pushes forward and gnaws more persistently. I swat at it and again force my attention to return to my book.

Suddenly my throat constricts, my breath feels tight and unsatisfying, my insides churn. The question has become a statement, bold and condemning, arising so quickly I didn’t have a chance to do battle. The attack comes in wave after wave, each higher, wider, and darker than its predecessor, and I shrink, confused and overwhelmed.

Then, a small, soft paw lands on my left shoulder. It is closely followed by three other paws and a loud purring aimed right into my ear. Silver—she has taken up her favorite perch, and I adjust my position to accommodate her moderate weight. Her relentless purring drives off the confusion and her velvet touch on my cheek causes me to smile and relaxes much of my muscle tension.

As I feel a soft nose nuzzling my ear, I realize it is March 2009. Those waves are in the past, and my life is now filled with love—from my pets, from the wonderful people in my life, and from God who has brought me to today.

Pussywillows and Snowdrops

Yesterday morning was drab and drippy. And chilly, as I found out when I stepped outside without my jacket. Hugging my chamois shirt closer, I looked around the yard and across the stream. Sounds and colors alike were muted by dampness, and everything was grey… everything except for a cluster of small, pink-tinted white dots on the edge of the woods.

Pussywillows!!!! Their fuzzy shapes were just emerging from the rusty buds, and they stood out bright and fresh against the colorless backdrop.

The funny thing is, today, with the sun shining, I can barely distinguish the pussywillows from the sunlit woods behind them. Perhaps they are a special gift to brighten dull days.
Today, warmed by sunshine, the snowdrops have finally lengthened their white blossoms to greet the new year of growth. They’re not wide open yet and there are no bright colors– we have to wait for the crocuses for color– but the small, white and green flowers are the first bulbs to herald the arrival of warmer weather. Snowdrops look delicate, but given that they push their way through barely thawed earth and brave bitter nights, they must be made of sterner stuff than the larger bulbs that bloom later, when the weather is more reliable. Simple beauty, quiet strength, harbingers of hope– I like snowdrops.

Early Spring

The light rain patters peacefully outside my open window. It’s chilly (43 degrees), but I have the window by my desk open so I can hear the gentle thrumming of the rain. A Crow caws in the distance, a Cardinal calls somewhere across the trickling stream, a Titmouse sings nearby, and there’s some sharp chirping in the shrubs that I can’t identify. Spring sounds, erasing the cold of winter and sparking the hope of warm days and abundant life to come.

Right outside my window the curved branches of the Horse Chestnut boast sienna-colored buds—they won’t bloom for two months, but they’re already swelling with the first sweet surge of spring. As I watch, a Titmouse pops into one of the holes in the trunk, rustles around, then flies out—I’m hoping she’ll nest there, then bring her fledglings to the feeder.
I wanted more snow, so I could get out on snowshoes again, but now that The Great Melt is happening, I’m looking ahead to shirt sleeves, warm earth, and spring flowers. I’ve moved from Cabin Fever to Spring Fever, and it’s time to get outside.

An Essential Ingredient

Petra crouches, bunched muscles showing through her breeze-rippled fur. Milo bounces impatiently, unable to contain his excitement for even a moment, though he does land in a sitting position each time he hits the ground. Rowan leans forward, front feet dancing in place, glances at me, then fixes his gaze forward, through the gate. Each is awaiting the magic moment when he or she is released to rocket forward.

Petra first, with Milo baying behind her, shoots out the gate and up the hill. Rowan tears after them, short staccato barks bursting from his throat.

But then… silence….

Petra stops, looks back at the house, then jogs back to lie outside the gate, Jolly Ball in her mouth, staring at the door. Milo trots back and forth looking at the door, then wanders off to clean up deer leavings from the grass. Rowan stops mid-flight with one front paw up, staring at the door for a long minute, then sits by the gate and stares at the door. Neither Petra nor Rowan moves or even glances away.

Then, I open the door. Their heads ratchet up and their stares increase in intensity.

I step out, and suddenly they burst into motion, Petra streaking up the hill, Milo instantly abandoning deer droppings to fall in behind her, blazing her trail with happy baying, Rowan again taking up the rear, punctuating the air with his sharp barks.
This time I walk in the yard, and the dogs swoop up and down, around shrubs and trees, circling the house, always keeping me in sight, playing tirelessly for much of my walk.

I don’t understand why, but somehow I am an essential ingredient for their play, their joy, though only a spectator. As I walk I ponder, and I wonder if there are other areas of life in which I might be essential for someone’s joy, even if not directly involved.