Aug 24

The Summer of Puppies

mother love

Dear Friends,
At the beginning of this summer, I took in a pregnant foster dog, Becky. She was little more than a puppy herself: nine months old, a stray, with a golden coat and the brindled markings of a shepherd mix. She had an open, friendly face, eyes alert for whatever will happen next.

As soon as she arrived, the house took on an aspect of waiting. I found myself watching her belly, placing my hand there to feel the puppies moving inside, while Becky and I gazed at one another: a vast, reverberant silence between us. This waiting—it felt like a kind of worship.

A week later, she gave birth to eight puppies. While I was in my office, looking up signs of imminent labor on the Internet, Becky jumped up on my lounge chair and started delivering the first puppy. I rushed out to find the first pup still emerging, nestled in the amniotic sac, and Becky gazing at it with puzzled focus. Then her instinct kicked in, and she began lapping with deep moist strokes to free the baby from its watery sac and chew off its umbilical cord.

The puppy—wet and slick and free of her mother—began to chirp, and Becky curled her front paw and pulled the baby deep into the cave she made of her abdomen. Only then did she look at me again, panting, and again some wordless communion passed between us. I’ve got this, she seemed to say. Trust me.

For the next four hours I sat by her side as more pups arrived, each puppy a surprise, the coloring apparent through the amniotic sac. Each one stretched its small limbs and chirped once free of the sac and under the care of its mother’s tongue. People came to help, and left. The mailman brought the mail. My cell phone beeped. The workaday world carried on around me, but Becky and I had entered a space both separate from and connected to that world.

 

becky smile

As Robert Vivian said in his book The Dignity of Crumbs: “The strings tying us to each other are everywhere.” This sentiment becomes more obvious when in the presence of birth or death, when all the portals are open.

I spent the next eight weeks in the presence of puppies. For the first two weeks, they were still embryonic, with eyes shut tight and little wax nubbins for ears. But soon enough they grew into full-fledged, rambunctious kids, taking over my home, a little like a swarm of piranhas. I felt a strong responsibility and love for them all, but also felt a deep relief when they were all gone and safely adopted into their new homes.

 

10593009_10203492332503224_4826831124899776780_nSo, for me, this summer will always be known as the “summer of puppies.” What name would your summer have, if you could name it? What has marked the season? Have you been able to take a real break from your “ordinary life?”

In this article from the NY Times, author Daniel Levitin writes about the importance of hitting the “reset button” in our brains, in whatever ways that might manifest. It doesn’t have to be as dramatic as a herd of puppies yapping for your attention. It can be as simple as absorbing yourself even for just a few minutes a day in something you love—a book, a craft, a special picnic breakfast outside.

Write for 15 minutes starting with the title “My Summer of _______. ” Capture on paper whatever has been capturing you.

Yours in the aftermath of puppy love,
Brenda

 

Aug 15

Raspberry Picking Meditation

red-raspberries-636Dear friends,

For the last few weeks, I’ve started each morning with watering, then raspberry picking meditation. In the winter, I want to go to my cushion, ease into the day as the heat from the wood stove warms the house. But in the summer, the sooner I can get outside, the better I feel. We’ve been blessed by a string of sunny days here in the Pacific Northwest—with temperatures edging up to the 80s—and so the garden needs regular watering.   When I headed out the door this morning, fog still hung in the cedars. But by the time I finished watering, it was lifting, and the sun shone warm on my arms as I stripped off one layer, then another.

I must confess we have a laisse faire attitude toward our raspberries—we water them erratically and don’t weed much—but that doesn’t stop them from producing a steady crop of thimble-sized berries each morning. I move down the rows, tugging gently to see which are ripe, amazed at how many come off their stems, filling the bowl even though I’d picked just the day before.

As I do, I remind myself to be in the moment with each plump, juicy raspberry. As soon as my mind starts to wander, I pull too hard, picking one that’s not quite ready.   I try not to dwell on the berries that shriveled while I was in Alaska, despite our invitation to the house-sitters to pick them. As soon as I begin to rush, I don’t see the berries hiding below the leaves. It’s only when I slow down, crouch down, that I see more scarlet berries hanging, ripe and juicy, ready for eating.

This reminds me of a story my husband tells of picking raspberries with his niece Isolde when she was just 4 or 5. Of course, he was standing up to pick the berries, had just concluded that they’d picked them all, when she reached up to hand him her own small bowl, full to the brim.  From her much lower vantage point, she was able to see all the berries he’d missed.

When I stop finding berries, I crouch down to see if I might see a few more—and there they are. Sometimes this slight shift in perspective is all it takes for our writing, too. When you stop seeing the words on the page—try approaching them from a different point of view. Sometimes a new perspective is all that’s needed.

Consider how you might make such a shift, either in the way you view your life or in your writing.   Write about it, recreating the scene both before and after the shift, showing us the hidden berries you discover.  May the fruit of our lives ripen into an abundant harvest in the days ahead and may we learn to shift our perspective when needed so we can see each berry…

Yours, crouching in the raspberries,

Holly