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Tue November 11, 2003
May the Wag Be With You
Earth Mass and the Blessing of the Animals.
By Catherine McCall
Wilmington NC – [Click the LISTEN button to hear Catherine's commentary.]
More than once in my life a dog has led me out of my maze. When I?ve been lost and wandering in a field overgrown with pity and self-doubt, when I?ve looked out the window at an ashen sky then turned away again, it has been a dog who has rescued me. Their giant brown eyes house hope and expectation, an incessant readiness?not to be let outdoors to sniff the unchanged contours of the backyard?but to be collared and clipped and accompanied somewhere. A stroll through the neighborhood, to the park or the woods?where we go matters far less than that we are going, outside, together, somewhere, into the wagging world of now, of right now.
Yawning whines and thumping tails reveal the growing excitement, the impatience, the crossing over of a point from which there is no return.
More than once I?ve groaned and complained as I rallied my preoccupied self out of my chair, away from my desk, or away from a listlessness I should be happy to shed. A mood like that grabs me now and then like a cold wind, especially on gray, achy days, but before I can feel too bereft or indulgently stuck in my puddle of muddy complacency, I feel hot, panting breath on my cheek. I open my eyes. Hattie is staring at me with a determined willfulness. She is an ancient African Queen returned. I close my eyes, wanting to languish in the luxury of my laziness a bit longer.
Large, soft paws land on my chest and my face is covered with a wet lick. She has recruited her brother, Mason, for the campaign.
?Okay, okay, we?ll go,? I say, as if they need an explanation. Words make no difference, only sound and tones and most of all?at this time in the afternoon--movement.
So we walk, as we often do, around the same neighborhood curves. And every time?morning, evening, and in between?each bush and blade of grass is met with a curiosity, with an explorer?s energy and a lover?s regard. The smells, the sights are always enough different to warrant closer olfactory inspection.
When outdoors I find it harder to stay lost in the wasteland of my inner stasis. I am, literally, led out of the darkness and into the light. Not by an aha-insight but by the wagging, four-pawed guides who repeatedly pull me out of myself and into the wide open wonder of nature and of being alive.
For Mason and Hattie--and Alysheba before them--it?s not just about being outside, it?s about being together. How else can I explain the slow clomp up the steps when we?ve returned, the flop onto the floor of my office, the full-lunged sighs that lead them into sleep. Now I can return to my writing, my reading, my gazing. The lazy complacency though is gone, vanished as quickly as morning mist. I am open again and found. That inner wind has softened to a summer breeze--warm, light, pulsing. It plays a song, that breeze, and thanks to my pups?who are somehow always in tune with the energy melody of life in the moment--I hear it once again.
[An archive of transcripts of Catherine McCall's commentaries can be found at whqr.org/catherine%20mccall/archive.htm.]
Catherine McCall is a psychiatrist who lives and works in Wilmington.