Anxiety attacks. It steeps slowly, permeating into sinew, joint, bone, soul. Its acidity gnaws away at dignity, self-worth, encoding the DNA with a residue of terror. I know this trembling Picasso misfit. In fact, I am this tidal wave in freeze-frame ready to crash in a thunderous roar, hurling chards of ridicule and intimidation onto myself. My latest analyst, however, wears dog tags and his prescription is so simple it’s profound. His pharmacy is right outside our house. We’re headed there now. “Stick with me, Baby,” he says without speaking then grabs one end of my woolen neck scarf hoping to play tug-of-war. I yank the other end of our hot-pink umbilical and he quickly releases. Toying with me is part of the therapy.
It is our last walk before bedtime. I grab two old hooded sweatshirts from the closet, my hat, coat and gloves, and our “winter-walk” ritual begins. Duke waits so patiently, staring up at me with those deep, dark pug eyes. He’s rooted in smugness, crouched there with his extra folds of fur draped casually around him. He can always be ready in a second’s notice. It must bewilder him to witness layer after layer being wrapped ceremoniously around his client. He yawns and his soft pink tongue stretches out in an upward spiral, touching his nostrils with a few wet swipes before returning to his mouth. Sniffing the air a few times nonchalantly, black whiskers twitching, he calmly glances my way again with a fierce grace both stoic and firm.
We are determined to challenge the cold jolt of Nordic air that awaits us just beyond the foyer. I stuff my biodegradable doggie bag into my coat pocket, push open the front door with a body-slam and we’re off! Our pace quickens rapidly, and my attention is drawn to Duke’s cute little butt, swaying rhythmically like some muscular metronome. As he struts exuberantly from pole to post to hydrant, I fall in behind him, still chuckling as we stray from the glow of a near-by streetlamp and surrender ourselves completely to the Night.
That’s when it happens! That’s when it always happens. The apothecary potion kicks in, and while Duke immerses himself into the sweet canine scents calling out beneath him, I become overwhelmed by a totally different crescendo of cravings. As always on these nights, I gaze upward, and am amazed to find myself breaking free from the chains of linear time. Conventional perception shifts and the truth that beckons below the surface of things slips through, exposing itself as a holy benediction within the One True Cathedral. I am amazed at the stark contrasts offered up by Night who seems perfectly content to allow the stars to take top billing. Those primordial flames glisten and gladden in their familiar, dependable patterns, floating peacefully on the still, black ocean. My entire body smiles as though I, too, am floating on this ethereal canvas, reaching far beyond the cosmos toward the eternal present, the cradle of birth and death. These flickering beacons have performed their ancestral display since time immemorial (and yet we sit inside and watch a flickering, insular tube that throbs its insults and numbs us to the bones).
If it weren’t for Duke, I’d probably be inside too and so I sing now in my off-keyed voice and my racing heart naturally slows. Our walking becomes a millennial dance. A few more steps and we’re utterly lost within the universe, where nothing’s ever lost. Do the weeping, emaciated Children of War see these stars too? Do the generals? We’re all here together on this orbital trajectory, so small yet so immense. I breathe in the crisp, clean air, hoping a child across the sea in a poisonous place will breathe with me.
As my pug and I continue around the block we pass under some tall pines that seem to be conversing with a galaxy far, far away. I sense a bit of laughter and teasing banter, yet am deaf to any spoken word. Some near-by arching maples nod in understanding. And though they must be chilled to the bone, their leafless limbs lace the panorama with delicate black tatting, adding a multidimensional essence to the dialogue. Why is their subliminal trust felt so deeply? I dissolve into the calm, reassuring sea with its flotilla of lanterns and ornamental braiding, hoping that someday, my light, too, may shine.
I feel a healing gratitude wash over me, and this time when I inhale, my lungs and heart both open to this pulsing performance. It is as though from this unified field of vision, thoughts and emotions emerge and then become the molecules of my body and only then am I able to perceive. Can my intentions affect the world? Can they somehow change the course of human events?
Abruptly, my brawny bundle of “fur on a leash” (my professor of unconditional Love) lurches toward a rabbit and growls at a garbage can, forcing my attention to the ground on which we stand. No minor chord requiem for us! We are part of that “something mysterious”, something far greater than ego, and our walk has taught me this: life isn’t meant to be perfect. Life is meant to be cherished. The Universe doesn’t judge nor does it condemn. It doesn’t seek vengeance and is never angry. It celebrates! I laugh at that thought in the late night cold, and allow the mystery to lead us home.
(Prescription: Revel in the dark night at least once before bedtime. No expiration. Signed with a paw print)