This posting, and those that follow under the heading “Sanctuary,” was written over the course of two weeks, beginning shortly after the panic attack. As I have mentioned before, when I am battling depression, I typically find myself unable to write or to accept what I do manage to write, so I wrote in fits and spurts until what follows was finally completed. The darkness of the past two weeks (and last week in particular) has been unusually bleak, even for me, though I can’t completely account for why. The darkness comes and goes right now—I feel passably normal as I write this paragraph.
And so it goes…thoughts on Sanctuary…cue The Cult, please….
I was reading (at Rev. Dean’s suggestion, and, as it turns out, this book is a favorite of just about every person I know) Anne Lamott’s Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith on Friday during lunch. In the particular chapter I was weaving my way through, Lamott examines ways in which we can examine the world through new eyes–by witnessing all of the mercies we encounter, even if they don’t look like mercies at the time (her example of the convertible is brilliant). She defines traveling mercies as “Love the journey. God is with you, come home safe and sound” (106). The examples she uses, though, deal with the journey of life and all of its brokenness. She recounts an exchange between a man who worked for the Dalai Lama and Carolyn Myss, when Myss was complaining about difficulties; he told her “they believe that when a lot of things start going wrong all at once, it is to protect something big and lovely that is trying to get itself born—and that this something needs for you to be distracted so that it can be born as perfectly as possible” (107).
The notion of paying attention to the journey and not just the destination is a significant one, as you might imagine, in long distance running. I mean, the end is only a blip of a moment; the journey is loooooong and far more interesting. And that notion has been popping up in other places, rather like road sign posts in a poorly-planned city (you know, the ones that if you fail to pay attention to them you end up nowhere near where you need to be? Yeah, those. I was about to end up in Patterson, NJ instead of Paramus.*) that I’ve been attempting to ignore. A friend of mine has been posting “Enjoy the Journey” as a reminder on her Tweets…it’s just everywhere right now.
On Saturday, I was granted the opportunity to live those mercies and disruptions, when an adorable beagle followed me home.
No, he really did.
When I first ran across him during my run, I was at about mile four, and when he joined me for a spell, I assumed he would be like the other local canines who have graced me with their presence, and he would give up on me in short order. He did not. He followed me for much of the next nine miles, save for the places I carried him, fearing that he would be hit by a car (he almost did, twice, before I began carrying him on really bad sections) on the busy roads we traveled, but knowing by that point that he wasn’t giving up on me. Dog was just there to begin with, a pleasant distraction; then he was a nuisance, forcing me to pay more attention to him than to the good run I was having; finally, he grew on me (carrying a 20lb dog for 2 miles tends to do that). In the midst of the run/walk/carry, I recalled Lamott’s chapter. Was this dog one of those mercies?
Sure, he distracted me from what had been good training, but he also woke me up to the road and world around me, causing me to rethink each step, to notice more than I usually do, since I was in loco parentis of this particular dog. I got to see TG holding Dog, as Dog fell asleep in his lap, the perfect image of boy and dog. TG and I walked with Dog around the area I had found him, only to discover that no one knew him and that the particular area is notorious as a dog dump. I could not provide the sanctuary of a home on Saturday, but I could provide him with food, love, and, eventually, a place to stay until his owner could be located or a new family found. I hope he finds a good family (new or old).
I’m not sure what lessons I am meant to draw from his encounter (or what might be trying to be born, given the multitude of misdirections in my life right now), but he left my eyes open, far enough that when I was driving home on the highway Tuesday night, I spotted a kitten in the middle of the lane. I pulled to the side and realized there were two, one in front of me and one behind; fortunately, a gentleman in a white truck stopped in front of the first kitten (thank you, thank you, thank you), stopping traffic behind him so that he could grab her and hand her to me; he then drove up to the second and did the same. The second kitty had already been hit and was in great distress, sadly. I drove both kitties, wrapped in my jacket (must put towel back in car. And a leash.) to my vet’s office; boy kitty had to be euthanized, as his injuries were extensive.** Miss Thing, on the other hand, was in good shape, only a cut on the lip and lots of fleas. So, I took her home last night. She’s hanging out in the bathroom, getting acquainted with this new-fangled contraption called a litter box.
So, Mr. Beagle opens my eyes, and Miss Thing gets a home. Traveling mercies, indeed.
We are all gifted with various sanctuaries, whether someone scoops us up and takes us home or we find a space that has meaning and comfort for us. Home may be sanctuary; work may be; a religiously-affiliated building is often referred to as such. We may find sanctuary in the mountains or at the ocean, and we may locate sanctuary in the midst of the most unlikely of places–a concert, a thunderstorm, a race, but each of us need a sanctuary of some sort. And what I am realizing is that one of the ones I had come to value most in sobriety is no longer a safe place for me.
*I think only one person on earth is destined to understand why those two cities are mentioned, and she doesn’t read this blog, so I think I am safe. Suffice to say that I’ve driven through WAY too much of NJ in the middle of the night.
**It seems worth noting that one of the reasons I go to this vet is that he has a standing agreement with the local police to bring injured cats to him; he euthanizes ones he cannot save and operates/treats to save the others. My cat, Mo, is one of those cats. He was probably a frat cat, got away, was hit by a car and left to die. The police brought Mo to the vet, who diagnosed a dislocated hip. He treated Mo and placed him up for adoption, which is how we ended up with our nutty furbaby. And Miss Thing has been named: she’s Agnes now, because she looks like a pre-Vatican II nun. She is learning what a litter box is for and how to aggravate the grown cats very quickly. Dog, yet to be named due to some consternation in the family, comes home today. If you care to vote for a dog name, please feel free to post suggestions below.