Sunday, November 6, 2011

It All Comes Down to This

The world is a staggeringly vast place, and each of us is so tiny and insignificant.

Canyon above school
The rains have come again to Monterey, and with them, late fall weather.  Our glorious October days in the high 70s and low 80s ended overnight last week.  The high 50s are the best we can hope for in November.  I realize that this is nothing to moan about, and I’m really not complaining.  It’s just the reason that Cleo and I were out walking in the middle of the school day this past week.  A pause in the rain was just the excuse we needed for a two mile leg stretch. 

Cleo has recently crossed over into the realm of ├╝ber-athlete.  A two-mile walk for me is more like a three-mile walk for her, what with all the running back and forth, zig-zagging and retracing of steps for a more thorough sniff.  Such an excursion used to tire her out for an hour or two.  Now, it just gets her warmed up.  A couple of months ago, a long walk at Garland Ranch left her in such a state of exhaustion that she didn’t get up from the couch all afternoon.  After that same walk yesterday, she came home to play a game with her kibble, racing up to her plate, grabbing a piece, tearing around the house with it in her mouth, stopping in the living room to wolf it down, then racing back into the kitchen to repeat the process.

The school's new land overlooks Monterey Bay
Anyway, last week we headed out along an unused road for a tour of one edge of the hundred acre plot of land which the school has recently acquired.  During the first Clinton administration, an Army base in our area was closed down and repurposed.  Large chunks of the property went to the surrounding cities, one massive piece was used to build a university, and other, smaller, plots were dedicated to other uses.  One of these went to us.  Over twenty years of bureaucracy later, the school finally received permission to take possession of the land last month.  The Army cut fire roads along the far edge of the land, so our champion cross country team finally has a home course.  The interior of the land has been designated an outdoor lab.  Students and invited guests will conduct observations and experiments on the native animals and plants that cover these one hundred seven acres.  In spots where non-native vegetation has taken root, they will explore the most practical ways of eradicating it and restoring the natives.

As I stood at the crest of a hill looking out over the new land toward Monterey Bay, clouds massing on the horizon, the sheer immensity of the world pressed in on me.  Cleo, sniffing along the fence line, looked so tiny.  She who starts at the rattling of Pampas Grass in the wind, yet who, in the moment I took my eye off her, sneaked under the razor wire fencing into rattlesnake heaven, how could I ever protect her from everything that might do her harm?  She seemed so small and fragile.  Life itself is so small and fragile.  I wanted to scoop her up and hold her tight so that nothing could ever frighten or harm her.  Of course, if I did, she would just kick and squirm and struggle until I put her down.  As far as she is concerned, there’s a wide world out there to explore, full of friends yet to meet.

TIny girl in a big world
I realize that some of this sense of tenuousness is coming from the fact that my nineteen-year-old stepson moved out of the house last week.  Granted, he moved out because we told him it was time for him to make his own way in the world, but we can’t help worrying for his welfare, even knowing that living on his own will be the best thing for his growth and development as a human being. He’s talking about joining the Coast Guard or the Navy.  There’s something unquestionably noble about serving one’s country, but I can’t imagine what seeing war first hand would do to him.  I guess the same things it has done to millions of young men, and now women, throughout history.

As Cleo and I walked down the hill and the horizon pulled in to the playing fields on our right and the tree lined campus on our left, a sense of perspective returned.  In the main office, several colleagues greeted us.

“Oh, you’re back from your walk.  Did you have fun, Cleo?”

“Hi, honey!  Ooo, you’re getting so sweet!  You’re not even mouthing me at all.”

Exploring is more fun with company
Everyone had to touch her and fuss over her, fondle her ears and smile into her eyes.  Small she may be.  Insignificant she is not.  She is loved and she is connected to others.  There are seven billion humans on the planet now.  One in seven billion seems barely worthy of notice.  The more we love, the more we connect with others, the less we are one in seven billion and the more we are a member of a community in which we are cared for as we care for those around us.

In Jonathan Safran Foer’s novel Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, the protagonist Oskar worries about his insignificance.  His father responds, “Well, what would happen if a plane dropped you in the middle of the Sahara Desert and you picked up a single grain of sand with tweezers and moved it one millimeter?...the Sahara is a vast desert. And it has existed for millions of years.  And you changed it!”

Since beginning to write this blog, I have heard from the moms and dads of Bedlington Terriers all over the world.  They reach out to connect in mutual love and admiration of the four-legged fuzzballs.   Wherever we go, school, beach, park, trail or neighborhood, we meet people who want to touch Cleo, exclaim over her, and love her.  Everything pauses and pulls into a point of contact.

The world is such a tiny spot, and each of us, in our connections with each other, is so precious.  Especially those four-leggeds.

Cleo on Halloween: The Leaping Fairy Dog
(photo by Cammy T.)

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