Sunday, July 05, 2009

What Have We Done Today to Ease the World's Sorrow

My housemate brought home a dog from the shelter this afternoon. A beagle mutt, Oscar had been relegated, by his previous owners, to a cage for twenty hours a day. Understandably, this new cage free world is enormous and frightening for him. There are people everywhere. There are trees that reach higher than a dog can imagine. There is the litter of yesterday’s community fireworks extravaganza; piles of cardboard with angry scorched rims.

We walk past the elementary school. The moon, wreathed in a cloud, is full as all of June.

This is too much, too much Oscar says.
Otis nudges him with his shoulder. Ah, don’t think that, brother.
But what is this? What is this? Oscar points.
A shadow.
And this? Ive never seen this.
A chicken bone. Better leave that for me.
Are you sure this is ok? This is as it should be?
Yes, brother. It’s ok.

They walk a little further, turning onto the main avenue. Across the street the campus, emptied by summer and lit up by spotlights, glows like a kind of heaven.

Can I follow you? Asks Oscar
Of course, says Otis.
I mean, walk right next to you.
Sure. I know what you mean.
And what is that?
That – Otis turns is head -- is a child on a bike, with his father by his side.
A father?
The new dog’s face feels strange.
And what is this? What is this I feel? He asks.
That’s happiness, brother.
Happiness? Should I be worried about that? Happiness?
No. It's ok.

I spent three weeks last month in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, a high plains town bowled by mountains so beautiful they’re named after female body parts. Every afternoon, these mountains collected clouds around them like school children after recess, gathering round for naptime. Evenings the children awoke and spilled forth their dreams. I wrote as much as I could, but found the words drifting in strange directions.

And then an inspiring and committed young man from the town, with his whole life in front of him, unfurling in colors so richly beautiful they don’t yet have names -- a future Olympian, a future congressman, a future father walking his dog in the dusk -- was hit by a car. He flew over the hood and landed in a field of roses.

The sun had just set. His girlfriend stood stunned next to the space where he had just been. One by one, the stars came out.

And you think: why? And you think: oh world, I know there is no rhyme or reason, and the love that holds you in your place in the galaxy asks only that we be there for every experience that manifests. But you think: the pain.

Where does it end? Can it end? What does it feel like when its over?

The two dogs round another corner and start heading home.
Are we friends? asks Oscar.
Sure, says Otis.
Oh, I've never had a friend! Is it nice?
It is, says Otis.
Oh yeah, says Oscar. I think you're right. I think it is.
Stick close to me, brother, says Otis, I’m going to show you how to piss a gate.