I believe I mentioned this in a blog years ago, but it just came up again.
Bernie used to travel quite a bit before his stroke, and for a long time the only dog who was allowed on the bed was our pit bull, Bubale. Allowed isn’t quite the correct word, she simply outlasted us in perverse will and determination. You could order her off hundreds of times, and she’d jump back up hundreds of times plus one. She’d camp out by our legs, occupying as much space as possible.
Our other dog, Stanley, after years of living here, finally also jumped on our bed and, as soon as I said anything, jumped off. He was no Bubale. But whenever Bernie was gone, I’d find Stanley on the bed, too, as though he was now the man of the house.
Not just that. I’d find him not at my feet, alongside Bubale, but stretched from head to toe exactly where Bernie always lay, his head on Bernie’s pillow.
And not just that. Bernie’s habit was to move the pillow from its regular horizontal position 90 degrees and make it vertical, so that in addition to his head being on it, his left arm would be on the pillow as well. Whenever he was gone and I’d wake up in the morning to find Stanley in his place, the pillow would be in a vertical position, too.
During the day the pillow would be like mine, horizontal, like normal pillows on normal beds. When Bernie or Stanley slept there, I’d find the pillow vertical in the morning. The very first time I saw that I did a double-take, then looked eerily around. Maybe it’s a coincidence, I thought, something that happened accidentally when the dog circled and circled till he found a comfortable spot and posture, but this happened day after day.
I’m not sure why this memory comes up now. Maybe becauseI talked to a friend of mine about thin places, where past and present seem to come together.
There are national places like that. I still remember vividly going with the Zen Peacemakers to Little Bighorn where Lakota, Cheyenne and Arapaho warriors battled the US Cavalry. It’s one of the most gorgeous places in this country. I don’t know what it was about the air that day or the smell of wild sage, only that I felt as if that battle had happened just yesterday, that I could hear cries, war whoops, and the thunder of horses with every inch of my body. We’ve been to various sites in the Black Hills and on reservations, and I never felt anything like what I felt in Little Bighorn in southern Montana.
Similarly when I once visited Chaco Canyon in New Mexico. I was there just one day in 1998 and there was something I absorbed there, a particular vibration or energy, that hasn’t left me.
When I walk the dogs in the woods above the Montague Farm, I always feel called towards a particular small rock perched on a short slope that descends to small pools of water, that themselves go down in waterfalls to the adjoining creek. It’s there many years ago that once, sitting on the rock, I raised my eyes and saw on the other side of the pools what looked like a white wolf in the distance. My brain exerted itself endlessly to remind me that white wolves are way up north, not here, and certainly not here now, in America’s northeast, yet I was convinced that that’s what I was looking at.
I respect these feelings of deeply knowing or sensing something that has nothing to do with logic or fact, an intersection of things across thin places and thin times.
At the same time, I’m more and more aware of how captive I am to my lifestyle, education, the place I live and the people I hang out with. No matter how many articles or books I read about other people’s lives, I still feel as though I’m living in some dome that is far, far removed from the pulse of other lives.
Jimena and Byron will be here shortly, and I will write her a check for three weeks of camp for 9 immigrant children. Thank you all for your generous donations. I think there will be enough money there to send some of those children to camp for an additional 3 weeks in late July; we will look into that situation a little later.
Over coffee, we will talk about their lives and mine. So many differences in our early lives, in our sense of family, of marriage and partnership, our sense of purpose. Even as I keep trying to dig deeper into day-to-day experience to unearth the essence of things and give it expression, I often feel that if I just stopped, shut up, and listened to others—humans and non—for the remainder of my life, these last years would be well spent.