The past several months have been stressful, busy, and sometimes chaotic. August began with my dad having cancerous tumors removed from his bladder, then discovering that the cancer had spread aggressively. He died on October 3. Between traveling back and forth to his home in Tennessee prior to his death, the decisions that had to be made prior to and after his death and working through all the details that come when you are an only child and have lost your last surviving parent, autumn has been a blur for me. I went into “survival mode,” which for me means filling every waking moment with something to do. I went into this same mode when I went to graduate school, commuting 2 hours each way two or three days a week for eighteen months while teaching full time with a toddler and kindergartener at home. My husband says it took me years to come out of that mode, but I knew I was defaulting back into it as I moved through the past four months.
At least this time I knew what was happening to me, and I’ve been trying to ratchet back the pace to return back to some semblance of balance and rhythm. This week, my reclamation project has been aided by a furry buddy, Annie. We are dog sitting for friends and Annie is a puppy. Since our dog died a year ago, we’ve resisted getting another one because our traveling schedule right now would make dog ownership complicated. But Jim & I were both looking forward to “borrowing” Annie for the week.
Because Annie is not quite housebroken, we have to be attentive about taking her outside. That has gotten me out of the house and into our backyard, where I’ve been able to enjoy the fall colors and the crisp air. Being outside is therapeutic for me, but I’ve been hunkered down inside for most of the fall, observing the changing season only through windows, either the ones in our house, at Dad’s house or in the car as we’ve traveled back and forth to Tennessee. I am grateful that Annie is luring me outside this week (and it helps that the weather has been nice).
If I sit down to read or write, she stays close by, either sleeping or chewing her bone. Yesterday evening, when I got home from work, I sat down on the sofa for a moment and she fell asleep on the floor beside me. Instead of getting up to go do something in the house, I simply sat there and did absolutely nothing. I enjoyed Annie’s nap as much as she did. Adjusting my rhythm to hers is helping me slow down and savor the present moment.
I did not expect my reclamation project to be encouraged by a little black dog, but I am experiencing healing through her being here this week. God is using her to help me reclaim the pace of life at which I thrive. And even when she greets me at the back door soaking wet from dunking herself in our frog pond, necessitating a bath before 7:00 a.m., I can shrug and laugh and adjust. It is all just part of the journey, a reminder that God is present in every moment and in every creature and that each can be savored and appreciated for what it brings to the tapestry of life.