As I sat reading this morning with my coffee, immersed in the moment, enjoying what I thought was solitude, I suddenly felt like I was being watched. Without moving my head, suspecting the dog, I use my peripheral vision to glance to my left. Indeed, there was the dog standing silently outside, less than a metre away with only a pane of glass between us, staring intently at me through the window.
Usually when he wants in, he barks. He has this annoying bark he uses only for that purpose. We call it his 'pushy puppy' bark. It has a hint of whine. It's demanding and needy. Lately though he's taken to this psychic communication. It's as though he's not only read Rupert Sheldrake's book Dogs that Know when their Owners are Coming Home but also his work on The Sense of Being Stared At and decided to combine them both and see how far he can get with them.
It is mildly unnerving to realize the dog has been staring at me for God knows how long, waiting patiently and for some reason known only to himself choosing not to bark. Once I turn my head and stare at him directly, he doesn't move his body, but his tail wags slightly while he continues to look keenly into my eyes. It's like he's reeling in a fish. Like he's a duck toller and I'm the duck:
"That's right Master. I'm looking at you. Now get up. Walk to the door and let me in."
When I do just that and greet him at the door, he's freezing. He's only been outside about 15 minutes but it's a cold morning. There's frost. "So why not bark if you're cold?" I ask him this out loud.
His response is to lean into me while I rub all his favourite spots and silently will me to never stop. My reward is this moment, realizing again just who the Master is in this relationship.
I don't want to be too graphic. This is a family-rated blog after all. But the dog has taken an unholy interest in my undergarments. Let's just say he knows where the laundry hamper is and leave it at that.
I figure he's either trying to tell me he really loves me or he's very angry that I'm not spending as much time with him as I used to. Either way, he's got my attention.
The dog getting my attention is a good thing. In general he forces me to walk more, spend more time outside, rub his belly. This is good for both of us. Like Mary Oliver says in Little Dog's Rhapsody in the Night: (Percy Three):
... his four paws
in the air
and his eyes dark and fervent.
Tell me you love me, he says.
Tell me again.
Could there be a sweeter arrangement? Over and over
he gets to ask it.
I get to tell.
Much has been written about animals and spirituality. How they are unburdened by ego like we are and are simply in the moment. This could be true. But much has also been written about what animals are up to when their people are away from home. If our pets are a marker of what an egoless life could be we should take note, but a guarded note. There's little spiritual purity in the domesticated life. Take the wild away completely and, ego or not, there's some unhealthy behaviour going on.
I'm off to work now, but before I go, I will do a thorough check to make sure all my clothing is safely tucked away. Thanks to my dog, it's my new spiritual practice.
I started thinking about this blog on Halloween. I started writing it on November 1st, (Day of the Dead). Then I stopped. Then it was Remembrance Day. More death. Then the bombings in Beirut and Paris. Let's face it, November is never a barrel of laughs and this one in particular has been dark. Even the silly James Bond movie I saw on Friday opened with a Day of the Dead scene in Mexico City.
It's not as though I was looking for a way to be funny about November or write lightly about death, that's not my intention at all, but I was looking for an angle. A way in. A way to think about it, with a little space around it.
This is what I came up with: None of us are getting out of this alive.
Not really funny or meant to be, but this sentence helps me to not cling too tightly to the less important impermanent things of the world. Things like mortgages and mean, crazy people. It helps me to better focus on the living, breathing (also impermanent) beings that I do love. The people, dogs, critters, trees, oceans, rivers and forests that I share the world with.
When I started to write this blog, I immediately started writing about my maternal grandmother, Grandmere. Grandmere comes to my mind in November quite often. Not because she died in November or because she was all sweetness and light. She certainly was not, but because she loved ghost stories.
I wanted to include a picture in this post of the my copy of Bluenose Ghosts by Nova Scotia folklorist Helen Creighton, but I can't find the book. I will admit that when I couldn't find it, I had a fleeting thought that Grandmere had taken it. I thought this even though Grandmere has been dead for quite some time.
It's not a stretch for me to have a thought (although fleeting) about a ghost taking a book. Grandmere, loved telling ghost stories and I loved hearing them. It's probably why she gave me the book (which I will find).
Wiccans consider this time of year, specifically October 31st (Samhain) the holiest time of the year because they believe the veils between the two worlds are the thinnest at this time. When I first heard this 'thinning of the veils' and two worlds idea, I did not think this was strange at all since I had a grandmother who regularly spoke of spirits and ghosts and The Other Side.
In fact, the last thing Grandmere said to me on my visit to Nova Scotia before she died was, "See you on the Other Side." Grandmere had a wicked sense of humour but I knew she didn't mean the kitchen.
If she had meant the kitchen, she would have meant The Big Kitchen in the Sky, which I just made up. The Big Kitchen in the Sky could be an imagined heaven for Catholic raised French Canadian women like Grandmere. who go on to make endless batches of divine chocolate fudge for their also deceased friends and family while telling riveting ghost stories about the lives they left behind.
This is not such a stretch for me to imagine either. I inherited Grandmere's imagination, her fudge making and storytelling abilities. Not a bad legacy and a good enough reason to spend a November afternoon in my own kitchen, stirring fudge over the stove and telling stories to whoever will listen.
I spent way too much time in a mall yesterday with my daughter.
I need to preface this whole entry by saying, we ended up at a mall after trying valiantly to find what she needed at smaller businesses outside of the mall. I try to buy local when possible but this was not to be. Even if there is someone in my city who ethically produces running shoes with good arch support, I'm sure they would blow my budget. I should also say, I don't enjoy shopping in general and I don't like malls.
So there we were on a busy, rainy Saturday two hours before closing. The place was packed. We were so far into the debauchery I agreed to take us to the Food Fair for fortification. We indulged in Food Fair poutine. (I'm serious. It was delicious.) Then we shopped.
We managed after two hours to find what we needed. As we were making our way to the exit, both of us tired, for a moment we pretended we were zombies (as you do). With our arms outstretched we lurched mechanically towards the door. Then the twelve year old says: "I think it's the fluorescent lights that make me so tired in a mall."
Now, she's probably heard me say this before. I'm one of those people that feel drained by fluorescent lights. Sure, I could be making it up or it could be the recycled air that causes me to lose energy inside a mall, whatever it is, I have been heard to blame the lights.
This comment about the lights Dear Reader took me right back to the days when I did not hate malls. That's right. I used to love the mall. I mean what's not to love? You've got all your favourite stores, there's a fountain in the middle, there's Orange Julius and you don't get rained on. C'mon!
Because I grew up in the suburbs, the mall was our city centre. There was no where else to go. When I ended up getting a job at a mall as a teenager, it was the best. In hindsight, it was the best because it cured me of my love for malls for life. By the time I was 20 I started looking adamantly for other shopping options. It's the lights or the air, I don't know, but I feel my life-force draining from me the moment I step foot in one. (Disclaimer: If you like malls, I'm not judging you, just don't ask me to come with you.)
I also don't like the sameness, how malls all look the same on the inside wherever you are in North America (except West Edmonton Mall, duh). I don't like how the stores are all the same. You could be anywhere inside of a mall. It's disorienting. You could spill your Orange Julius, hit your head on the fountain, wake up and think you were Halifax when you were really in Langley. It's not right.
The good thing about working at a mall in my formative years was that all that sameness that gets thrown at us constantly from media and advertising anyway, was launched at me with even more force while I was immersed in mall culture. Sure there's something oddly comforting about being able to get a Purdy's almond dipped ice cream at the mall now, that tastes the same as the ones I ate weekly as a teenager, (half the size, twice the price), but that doesn't mean it's good for me. In fact, I'd likely be able to retire ten years earlier if I'd cut out the daily Purdy's and put that money in a savings account.
This blog has not been about what I intended it to be about. I realize that by writing about the mall I have wandered aimlessly through my mall-thoughts as though I was in an actual mall, wandering aimlessly. It's frightening. It's where the zombie apocalypse will likely occur. Mark my words.