With these few words I bring to a close the short series of sketches I have called “Nuggets I picked up from my dog.” My obtuse thinking about the mysteries of life while shadowing the late Coffee J. Dogg over the years, triggered sights I otherwise would never have seen from the window in my basement office.
There are things both useful and flimsy that we can learn about the mystery of life by reading books, or talking to smart friends (dullards will do in a pinch) or watching the Discovery channel. But if you really want to tune into your own mystery theater the rule is that you have to slow down, clear some junk from the oblongata and reflect on the who, what, where, when and why of your reign so far.
Such reflection is like staring into a cracked mirror and seeing multiple images of yourself. Or it’s like catching a glimpse of both the real and the wavering you in a lakeside swell on a sunny day. The picture that flutters back is never precise. Usually what you see is obscure, perplexing, contradictory. Mysterious.
Especially if you’re looking into the eyes of your dog.
In my daily ramblings with Coffee, I would often look into his large brown eyes and see myself. That is to say, I saw a reflection of the author as a solitary little boy filled with faith, hope and fear. Faith that his mother would never leave him; hope that his mother would never leave him; fear that his mother was on her way out the door and wasn’t coming back.
Other than a weird-looking guy with thinning hair and glasses, I do believe the hound saw something very similar about himself reflected in my green eyes. And thus were we bonded, a man and his dog on equal footing. (True, the dog had two extra feet, but, not wanting to embarrass him, I graciously thought of them as his hands.)
In the meantime, I’ve been wandering the neighborhood alone these days, mystified that I still feel so pained a full 3 years after Coffee’s outbound flight to the stars. I have only begun to sense the wisp of an idea, but it may very well be The Hairful One’s ultimate nugget.
Dare I say it? The mystery of life is really the mystery of love. Not that it makes it any easier to decipher. If there is a four-letter word in this life that is shrouded in mystery and misunderstanding it is the L word—a word that for me, as for many of us, is so difficult to utter, let alone assert.
Often confused with the F word (Food, to a dog) it actually exists in an alphabet of its own. It is further complicated in that professing one’s love is not the same as demonstrating that love. Somewhere in the Rulebook of Life it is written “Actions speak louder than words.” This is quite important to a dog, whose vocabulary is so very limited.
In every image of him stored in my attic I see in our noble and simple hound a hunka hunka burning and unconditional love. His was the best kind of love: given for free with no hidden agenda, no sales tax, no fine print.
Easy enough for a dog, you may say, but how can humans possibly do that (especially the free part) and still have time to race around the fast lane, whack every mole and sweat bullets over the portfolio?
Maybe, as in watching a video of how to play the banjo like Earl Scruggs, one starts mimicking the moves of the master. Eventually, after much tripping and stumbling through discordant notes, with everything sounding dreadfully bad, one begins to feel the rhythm, to hear the melody. Before you know it, you’re pickin’ and grinnin’.
Maybe. Who knows? In the end, love is a mystery that comes natural to dogs but which mere humans can fathom only by living it. If we do not, we may as well be back in the cave with Plato and his campfire, staring at the mysterious shadows on the wall with our mouths hanging open and not a marshmallow in sight.
Anyway, old buddy, I leave you now to enjoy the stars. And thanks mucho for all the nuggets.
Essays in this space will revert next week to the usual zanythink that also appears here each Tuesday.
For a complete listing of the 22 essays in the series “Nuggets I picked up from my dog,” click on “Nuggets” in the Category list to the right of this post.
©Patrick A. McGuire and A Hint of Light 2014, all rights reserved