Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Paying Attention

This morning my dog Scout and I had a little excitement on our walk.  It wasn't a big excitement; we don't lead really interesting lives, but I credit what excitement we glean from Scout, at least in part.

It was a beautiful, cool morning out, perfect dog-walking weather.  We walked down to the end of the block, as we always do, the dead end which leads to the nature center where there are No Dogs Allowed.  There is also not an entrance to the nature center from our block, but there is some nature there.

Just as we were rounding the corner, I happened to see just the tail end of a deer, disappearing behind the fence line.  I think Scout probably noticed something before I did.  Truthfully, that dog is always looking around, and sniffing around, and walking around as if there is much more going on in the neighborhood than I can see.  She makes me pay attention, because, when I am walking with her, I'm always aware that I might be missing something.

So we saw this little white tail disappearing, and since Scout was with me, we decided to explore a little bit, to walk down into the dead end and see if we could see more.  I could tell that Scout thought that this was a good idea as well.

When we got up to the fence line we could hear and see the deer: a gangly young thing with fuzzy antlers that looked from a distance as if they were slightly different heights.  The deer took a long moment to stare at us, woman and dog, before galloping, no, leaping off along the fence line.

We took our moment of grace for what it was, and gave thanks.  Then we continued on our walk, back up the road toward home.

When we got near the end of the road, my dog-tuned ears recognized that something was not quite right.  But it wasn't until we were just one house from the end of the block that we noticed the deer again.  He had run all the way down the fence line, and was now running (no, leaping is the correct word, again) at the other end of our block.

He stopped between two houses, and we got close enough to stare back at him again.  He had seemed so large at first, but now I could tell that he was all legs and slight.  Scout and I looked at him for another long moment.  I knew he needed to get back to the nature center, the one where there are No Dogs Allowed.  But we stood there for a moment, wishing we had cameras (or at least I did.)  Then we took that one step that would cause the deer to leap off, back in the direction of home.

Before Scout, I don't remember moments like this.  Maybe it's just the walks, but I don't think so.  I think that it's the walks, and it's something else, too.  I am getting a little better at paying attention, to listening and seeing, even if it's just the tail end of a deer, or a rustling in the wind.  It might not be anything, but it might be something, you never know.

Before Scout, I'll bet I wouldn't have discovered two nests of baby rabbits in my back yard.  It was Scout who discovered them, and, even though I admit that her intentions toward them were not pure, her excitement was the thing that tuned my eyes and ears.

Before Scout, I would not have been aware of the imminence of a thunderstorm, just before it erupts.  She has senses to which we do not pay attention, telling her what is most important.

Scout is always discovering something that I didn't even know existed:  a piece of garbage, a turtle, a rock, a weed, a stick.  Her ears (well, one of them, anyway) prick up and I feel as if she is hearing pieces of the universe's orchestra that are too fine for my ears.

Paying Attention:  it is a fine art, and I have not mastered it.  Knowing What is Most Important:  this too I have not mastered, even though Jesus keeps reminding me, giving me little pieces of bread in my hand, a sip of wine, a few well-placed words, the line of a hymn.   While I worry, there is a white-tailed deer disappearing into the woods, and I might miss him again.

Or this time, maybe I'll see.

Maybe I'll see, and maybe I'll hear just a little fragment of the song of the universe, the trees clapping their hands, the counterpoint of the streams, one graceful beat of the deer leaping away.

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