“We’re in the middle of fall, Aussie, and just look at how the leaves change colors.”
“I don’t see anything.”
“You see, Auss, as it gets colder, they get less and less chlorophyl, so other colors which they’ve always had are revealed. Suddenly, instead of green you see yellows and reds and orange and—”
“I don’t see anything.”
“That’s because you’re a dog, Aussie, and dogs see a narrower range of colors than humans. We used to think that all you dogs see are various shades of gray, but now I read that you could see more color than that.”
“I still don’t see anything.”
“We have different sensibilities, Aussie. You can’t see the colors that I can see, but I can’t hear or sniff what you can. That’s why I always find it so interesting when you say you can’t see anything.”
“You like it that I’m color-blind?”
“You’re probably not color blind for a dog. It’s just that when I see what you’re missing, I ask myself what am I missing. Not smelling and hearing as well as you are just the tip of the iceberg; they point to the fact that we all have different systems, brains, and minds, very different awarenesses. Remember when the tsunami hit Thailand and all the animals began running inland way before the humans knew what was happening?”
“I always tell you we’re smarter than you are.”
“You’re missing the point, Aussie. There’s an awareness, a composite of all the different intelligences in the universe, that’s so much vaster than yours and mine, Aussie, it beggars understanding. I think of that every time I see a leaf fall from a tree in fall.”
“What’s so intelligent about dying, Boss?”
What a good question. What’s so intelligent about dying? It reminds me of sitting at a fancy dinner over 20 years ago in Santa Barbara, California, next to a member of the city council who was also a professional veterinarian. I don’t remember how the question of God came up, only that he told me that he didn’t believe in God.
“Why?” I asked.
“Because I can’t believe in anything that requires things to die for others to live,” was his answer.
This same man quit the city council in disgust the following year, returned to his veterinary work, became our dogs’ veterinarian, and stewarded my golden Woody’s final illness and death in the kindest way imaginable.
And yet, putting aside the question of God, I sense an intelligence in the greens, yellows, and oranges outside, in Bernie’s death from sepsis, in the tiny wrinkles under my eyes and the pain in my left knee. Bernie rested in that intelligence, which he called not-knowing, with no fear and nothing but gratitude.
A student emailed me a phone number of a woman managing a large warehouse some 20 minutes away from my home selling high-end food in bulk very cheaply, mostly to restaurants and food stores. I called her and we made an appointment for this morning.
I drove over in the rain with Aussie and found her in the back of an industrial area surrounded by vans and trucks. It’s called Steals & Deals, selling nonperishable food that’s close to expiration. But as manager Ivy Garcia explained, those in the food industry are well aware that nonperishable food lasts a lot longer than the stamped expiration date, so numerous food outlets buy from them at these low prices.
“We did only wholesale till the coronavirus hit, we were affected like everyone else,” she said to me. “At that point we opened up to private customers ready to buy in bulk, but only by appointment.”
She showed me large trays of canned food, cartons of pasta, bottled water, coconut milk, drinks, many brand items you find in high-end stores like Whole Foods, all at very low prices. Their stock depends on what comes in and goes out. “Some things I can give you for free for the immigrant families,” she told me. “Bring your car to the back.”
Aussie took the opportunity to leap out through the open door and dance in the rain while Ivy’s son, Angel, loaded box after box of whole wheat tortillas, 10 in a bag, 10 bags in a box. My car trunk, filled up to the rafters till last evening when I brought all the Amazon school supplies to Jimena, filled up once again with boxes of tortillas and expensive chips for kids—all for free.
When I wanted to leave Aussie wouldn’t go in. “You filled up the car again, I’m not jumping in.”
“You have half the back seat, Aussie.”
“I used to have the whole back seat! Then Harry came and I got half, then Harry left and I got it all, and now boxes are moving in all the time. We look like we’re homeless!”
“Aussie, there’s always more room. Inside and outside, there’s always more room.”
I opened up a box at home and examined the tortillas. Perfection. Cooked a couple. Perfection. I thought again of how much food we have in this country, how much we throw away, and how many families don’t have enough to eat on a regular basis.
“So what’s the point?” Aussie asks me with a big yawn. She decided to walk home rather than share her back seat with boxes of tortillas.
“I’m not sure, Aussie. Bernie used to say, you want to do something, ask the universe for help. Don’t keep it a secret. I ask the universe for help and I get it in all kinds of surprising ways, including the visit this morning to Steals and Deals. Maybe it’s the intelligence I was talking about earlier.”
“And what would have happened of Ivy Garcia gave you nothing?”
“Then there would have been nothing, Aussie.”
“Nothing is intelligent, too, Boss.”
“You’re right, Aussie. I’m proud of you for pointing that out.”
“That way I have the back seat all to myself.”
Steals & Deals are at 10 Greenfield St. in South Deerfield.