Living in Gratitude

Lessons from my dogs,




            I walk out to the fig tree, grateful for the soft earth under my bare feet, and pick four ripe figs, grateful for the bounty of this tree I planted, now taller than I. The dogwoods are turning their dusty red, wearing bright berries in between leaves like scattered jewels. Dried leaves drift across the grass, and when the breeze blows, I watch a shower of gold fall from the honey locusts and walnuts.

            When I walk back inside, I stand still witnessing the passing of time as I look at the white faces of Sasha and Isabelle. I kneel to be with them and stroke them and feel the gratitude for the lives we've shared (long in Sasha's case, less long for Isabelle, who I adopted as a senior) and the life still left to live. Outside, running through fields, I hear Sparkle open and speak on the scent of some wild critter, and I'm grateful that long ago I let go of fear—overprotective fear that kept Lauren on a leash. I'm grateful I can trust Sparkle, this beautiful little dog who gives me so much.

            The night before, I'd returned home from a memorial service in New Jersey when I opened a package from a friend, Jackie Meyers, to find her book, Loving an Older Dog. This morning I reach for it, and since I've been reflecting on the aging process of humans and my two senior dogs, I find I can't put this poignant book down.

            But Sparkle runs inside, and I get up and begin cooking their breakfast. How am I so fortunate to have such an amazing and good little dog? And yet I know one day, if I'm lucky, her face too will fade from rich brown to white—and for that I'll be grateful. I place their bowls down and watch them eat. Their joy is so simple. Living with them comes down to one thing: keep focusing on love.

            And now the season I love most is upon us and, although still warm, a peace envelops our home, golden like the fields of Jerusalem Artichoke and yellow flowers that dance in the breeze. Dragonflies still zip and dart above across the sky, while below the grasshoppers hop past scorched stalks of corn. Butterflies flutter and alight on Mexican marigolds; they speak to me of late-summer, but when I turn I see three orange pumpkins in the patch and, with anticipation and joy, I feel the chill nights approaching. I look to the white faces of my two seniors and sense the beginning of their winter, too. But I am not sad, I do not fear the passage of time. How can I be anything but grateful? I look into Sparkle's young eyes and see the quiet continuation and regeneration of all things through love.

            Sasha, Sparkle, and Isabelle in sunlit peace.