We all have our comfort zones. Mine used to be in the woods of our farm, where all the paths were known and peopled with stories and songs. This summer, my sister and i walked those woods again, with our daughters. The girls came and found us, actually; they’d headed out to explore, and felt compelled to come tell us they were uneasy about one dark section of woods.
Uneasy on their own, they enthusiastically led us back to the place, and we moved through it together. The living forest has been busy in the thirty years we’ve been gone; it is indeed filled with presence, with the energy of non-human lives of many sorts. Once acknowledged, these energies didn’t seem so intimidating – no less awesome, but no longer reason not to walk the land. This, we were able to assure our girls, is the Great Mystery, all these kinds of life together. Old trails grown over, old stories lying now under new growth, dead trees revealing both the frailty of individuals and the continuity within change.
It was the sort of passage that makes me feel quite grown up.
And then i look at the new pup.
This spring, our next door neighbour, a true community elder, got given a little dog who turned out to be pregnant. We decided early on that one pup would find a home with us; my sister’s girls plain fell in love with another of the litter. Their house, like ours, has been overtaken by an entirely non-eldritch energy since.
Until this happened, i’d never have ticked the box as a lover of small dogs. Farm dogs have to be a certain size to hold their own, and when we came to get a city dog a couple years back, we didn’t even consider any smaller types – a dog is not a toy, so a toy is not a dog.
But here we are, overrun by our sudden dog pack, in all their mismatched glory. The big dog is delighted to have someone to mother, teach and play with. The little dog is just overpoweringly cute. All in, he’s not quite as big as her head, and will thrust his own head into her gaping jaws with cheerful abandon, the way he does most things, full on and gleeful.
He’s not the sort i’d take into the woods, but don’t tell him that. As far as he’s concerned, he’s in the woods every day. Our backyard shrubbery engulfs him. He can hide under a comfrey leaf. The Great Mystery is right there, and he adores it with every ounce of his fuzzy little self. What else is there to do, really?