Firsts

I was jamming to this song (“2080” by Yeasayer) while cutting up some shallots the other night. I’ve always misinterpreted one of the lines to be, “It’s the first spring some have seen.” (These are the real lyrics, if you’re interested.) I prefer my version because it reminds us that spring is special and beautiful, and that some of us are experiencing that wonder at nature’s beauty for the first time.

When my little brother Sam was four or five years old, I was visiting home during that season’s first snow-shower. Sam had his nose and the palms of his hands pressed up against the glass door, staring out at the falling snow in disbelief. It had snowed in years past, but he’d been too young to remember.

“Sam,” I said. “What’s that?” I pointed outside.

“Snow!” he cried.

“What’s it like?” I asked him.

He rolled his eyes at me and, as much as a four-year-old can sound exasperated, said with a sigh, “I don’t know.” As in, how should he know? I’d figured he would answer with something like, “wet,” or “cold” – something he knew about snow without actually having experienced it, but instead he was perfectly honest. He knew snow when he saw it, and that was all he knew about it but, as evidenced by his nose on the glass, he was eager to learn more.

And who wouldn't be eager, with gorgeous snowy trees?

And who wouldn’t be eager, with gorgeous snowy trees?

I think many of us value first experiences to a certain extent, new parents especially: first smile, first steps, first word, first day of school. There are new experiences for us adults to celebrate too: first car, first home, first vacation, first international trip.

While listening to that Yeasayer song, a reading (The Yamas & Niyamas by Deborah Adele, chapter 6) I’d been assigned as part of my yoga teacher training occurred to me, and a particular passage of that reading, about letting go, or non-attachment, which is also an important tenant in Buddhism (I’ve found that Christians tend to refer to this concept with the terms “idols” and “idolatry”). The idea is this: if you’re spending time, energy, and effort regretting a past action or experience; holding onto some false conception of your identity; or even something that makes you sad – a poorly ended friendship or missed opportunity – what you’re really doing is taking space away from any  new opportunities, experiences, or adventures that may come your way. If I continue to beat myself up about a bad breakup, I’m keeping myself from fully enjoying all the other relationships in my life. More concretely, if I hold onto every single pair of shoes I acquire, pretty soon my closet won’t have any more room for even lovelier heels and flats and boots and sandals that may come my way.

Children are able to have so many new experiences so easily because they are spacious and eager to fill their shelves but, as we grow older, we must learn to make space and part with our pasts.

[Don’t worry, I still keep all my prettiest shoes.]

Love to all!

You Know You Have a Dog When…

Adopting a dog was something I’ve long wanted to do, even as a poor college student. I grew up with dogs around the house and learned quickly to love their furry companionship, as well as their ability to eat all the weird green and mushroom-y foods I occasionally slipped to them under the table when my parents weren’t looking.

After I graduated and started working as a full-time, degree-holding adult, I began regularly perusing local animal shelter and dog rescue websites for candidates. I couldn’t handle the time commitment and training required by a puppy, and I knew I wanted a big dog. A really big dog who would let me cuddle with him.

So one rainy Saturday morning Matt and I, armed with a printed list of dogs to meet, headed to the local county animal shelter. Most of the dogs, only let out once per day, had urinated or were sitting in their own feces in their little cages. There were several senior black labs who looked excruciatingly depressed. They watched you listlessly as you walked by, no acknowledgement. One puppy was so young he still had the roly-poly stomach of all baby mammals and kept falling over onto himself as a result. He had attracted a group of children who were cooing from the outside of his cage.

Matt and I sat with several dogs. The shelter allows you to go into any of the cages, but you have to stay inside to interact with the dog, and between each visit you are required to change your latex gloves and paper gown. Then, we came upon Abraham.

Abe is a 75-80 lb. lab/hound/German shepherd/mystery mix with a ginormous head and strangely dainty paws. He has a VERY loud bark. Abe was standing on just his hind legs, his front claws grasping at the wire of the cage door, making him almost my height, barking desperately, showing each passerby his long, sparkly, very sharp teeth. Naturally, I made Matt go in first.

With a human cage companion, Abe immediately relaxed. I asked him to sit. He did. I asked him to shake. He placed a little dainty paw in my hand. The shelter’s description said he was “independent” and already house-trained.

Matt and I headed to the front desk and I told the receptionist I’d be back in a day or so for Abraham. “Oh,” she said, “someone just called this morning about coming by today to adopt him. If you really want him, you should adopt him now.”

And so, owning zilch in the way of dog supplies (you know, like food, a leash, a crate…), I signed some papers and walked out of the shelter with a dog named Abe.

Me and Abe, shortly after adoption and a much-needed trip to PetSmart

Me and Abe, shortly after adoption and a necessary trip to PetSmart

Since that day, Abe and I have been on many adventures. He’s been to the beaches of North Carolina, the mountains of Kentucky and West Virginia, and, of course, on our crazy cross-country trip out to Wyoming.

Abe, me, and a yummy-looking ice cream cone

Abe, me, and a yummy-looking ice cream cone

And so, without further adoption ado, I bring you:

You Know You Have a Dog When…

  1. Your dryer’s lint trap is 55% fur, 45% lint.
    Backyard Abe with a giant tennis ball
  2. You forget your friend is allergic to dogs until you’re driving them home and they become increasingly unable to breathe unless the windows are rolled down (sorry, Ross).
  3. Your mom asks to Skype with you and the first thing she says is, “Where’s the puppy?”
  4. You’ve learned to put away food/things that smell like food after use, and quickly.

    Snowy Abe

    Snowy Abe

  5. Dog booties research becomes a serious, hours-long endeavor. No? Just me?
  6. You’re more in-tune with your dog’s bodily functions than your own. “Oh, he probably  has to pee now. Wait, when was the last time I ate something?”
  7. “I can’t – I have to walk my dog,” becomes a legitimate way to get out of things, like happy hour, and real exercise.
  8. Your morning routine is mostly your dog’s morning routine. (Breakfast!!!)
  9. If you see a dog in an indoor establishment, you have immediate love and respect for the manager. Kudos, good people!
  10. You just really, really love all dogs. And the people who take care of them.

Who wouldn't love this sweet face?!

Love to all!