In the morning, before I swing my feet from beneath the sheets and onto the hardwood floor, I check my phone. The dog stretches in the corner of the room and then the back half of her body begins its gleeful back-and-forth to greet the day. We always say she’s the type of dog who would betray us if the right person scratched her under her chin. “Come on in!” she’d say with a wag of her tail. “They’re sleeping right back here, and here is where they keep the loot.” We don’t have any loot, but she’d make them think we did, just so that they’d scratch her under her chin again.
I’m sitting on the edge of the bed, the screen in my hand glowing that weird cell phone glow, and I can see five ways to do such-and-such, seven reasons I should do this and that, three new products I should try right now. Last night, while I was sleeping, my email inbox filled up with lists. It all makes me tired before I even begin, and the dog needs to go out, so I make may way out to the hallway and towards the kitchen and the back door, only I can’t find my shoes. Again.
In our back yard, a giant oak tree spreads its ancient branches over the grass. In the spring, when the leaves unfurl, the oak becomes a canopy and it is always ten degrees cooler there. But it’s an oak tree. With acorns. If I go out there barefoot, I’ll be sorry. So I turn back towards the bedroom and begin again.
I find my shoes in the closet. Imagine that.
And now it’s back down the hall and through the kitchen and I wonder if the dog is trying to trip me up on purpose as I open the back door and she bursts past me. Burst is the right word. She doesn’t just bound or push or run or skip. She bursts into the day, the same way soda bursts from a can that’s been turned upside down and the carbonated liquid expands until the can just can’t contain it anymore. The dog probably feels a lot like that can of soda.
I follow the dog down the driveway, over acorn riddled cement, around the bike I left outside and finally to the blades of grass beneath a canopy of green. I always feel the need to avert my eyes when the dog is doing her thing. I don’t know why. She’s out there in full view of all the squirrels and the cardinals and the fly that buzzes by my ear, but I feel as if the least I can do is give her some privacy. So I avert my eyes.
It’s a good thing, too. Because I don’t just look away. I look up.
The sun is at the perfect angle for me to see the light it casts in the form of golden circles through the canopy of green above my head. Standing there, looking up, I am suddenly aware that there is moisture in the air and that the temperature is just right and that the clouds might drop a bit of rain today.
On Sunday, H told us all when the list of things to do becomes too much for us to bear, all we really need to do is to abide. “Breathe in. Breathe out. Abide,” he’d said. And then, he’d said it again. “Breathe in,” and he took a deep breath. “Breathe out,” he exhaled. “Abide,” and he stood still and quiet. When he repeated it again, I found myself breathing along with him. “Breathe in,” I took a deep breath, and all around me, I saw others do it, too. “Breathe out,” and I could hear the exhales, along with my own. “Abide,” he said. And you could hear a pin drop. Underneath a canopy of green, with sunlight dancing on the grass at my feet, I remembered that one thing. Abide. Stay close.
I took a deep breath in, my chest rising to greet the day. I exhaled and the dog strolled over in hopes that I’d scratch her beneath her chin. We stood still under the tree and listened to the way the morning sounds, and I smiled because it sounded just like joy.
With Michelle’s Graceful Summer