I’m appreciating my ordinary life as I ride the emotional ups and downs of this long season of change. Maybe you are, too. My dog, Moon, died May 31st and I’ve entered a new phase. He was the bridge between my history and the present. My days feel strange without him, triggering mood swings and melancholy. For a couple weeks I was dysfunctional. My treadmills slipped off track and collided. Daily chores, homemaking and domestic partnering stumbled into my ritual of writing and released a torrent of resentment. I know from past experience that this is grief. I had a slow quiet meltdown. Now I’m in transition and I’m ok, bearing witness to the ordinariness of it all here in my first post since May 12th. Thanks for reading.
In our house the new normal is to think about the worst that could happen and make ready for it. We’re not pessimists, we’re realists. Realists who just want to have fun. The puppy was something we had talked about for months. After Moon was gone, when the right dog popped up in the classified listings, we jumped. He is a standard poodle, just 11 weeks old, part Lamb Chop, part Satan. His name is Pete. Mr. Pete, Pistol Pete, Petey Pie, Sweetie Petey, Pedro, Pierre, or in moments of human indignation, Peter Joseph! the puppy from hell. If there’s a kernel of wisdom in the puppy experience it is that happiness is both essential and irrational. You don’t have to wait for conditions to be perfect to be happy. A puppy is genuinely happy, in divine delirium, for no good reason every day.
Gardening with a puppy is tricky. His inclination to dig and chew isn’t always useful. And writing with a puppy is nearly impossible, putting my patience to the test as the evil creature beneath my desk pulls on my shoelaces. I have holes in my clothes and scars from the puncture wounds of those mini canines. Occasionally I release a barrage of foul language. Fortunately, Pete will not pick up the F-word and embarrass me by repeating it. You might think it crazy for two people in the latter half of their 60s to get a puppy, but I would say Pete is a lot like a Peloton. He’s a fuzzy exercise machine that keeps us social and goal oriented and connects us with community. Right now the goal is to keep him from snacking on dead things buried in the grass.
When Gandhi said, Be the change you seek, I’m pretty sure he was talking about getting a puppy. Pete necessitates living simply, a focus on the basics, and mastery of the ordinary. Food. Shelter. Ecosystem. Local people and places. Our parenting skills are in full bloom, and I’m channeling Donna Reed (minus the pearls and petticoats). Yes, this is the life I fought hard not to have in my 30s and 40s when I considered homemaking a failure to achieve anything. Now my goal is to make our home a sanctuary. I know. “Home” is a thing right now. I’m right on trend with pandemic nesting and climate change cocooning. For all of us, the future — as early as tomorrow — has become wildly unpredictable, and the threats are many: biological safety, weather, fire, drought, rising prices, supply chain disruptions, social unrest, public health. It’s a lot to cope with. Maybe that’s why this little dog is such a burst of joy. His puppy love manifests divine happiness for no good reason every day. When the students are ready, the teacher arrives.