Tuesday, June 23, 2020

The Highest Use of This Moment


Our dog Stella has been having her best possible life during these days of quarantine. What more could she want? Our small pack is together all day long. We have little else to do other than take multiple walks a day, including regular visits to the neighborhood off-leash area. In fact, for these many months, the off-leash area has comprised the entirety of our family's social life. I can't remember the last time she was left home alone. Any nervous ticks or anxiousness she might have once had have disappeared as this already well-loved dog has found herself in a canine paradise, perpetually surrounded by loved ones, the smells of home cooking, and miles and miles of exercise in the springtime sun.

Friends with dogs are reporting the same thing. Our dogs can't understand why or how, but right now, all of the sudden, their dreams have come true. Those are happy, happy pets that we're playing with at the dog park. And I would assert that the people with whom we shout-speak across physically distanced space are the happiest of people. Our pets, in their happiness, are not just making this time tolerable, they are making it a time in which contentment is lying so close that we can feel its breath on our skin. It is a precious gift.

I can't imagine this time without Stella and the easy, sunny joy of her contentment. Back in March as we confronted the reality of no income for the foreseeable future, she was there to wedge her nose under my clenched hand, gently licking between my fingers the way she does, forcing me to relax, reminding me that we had lost nothing as long as we had this love. When I found myself grinding teeth over this restriction or that policy, she brought her toys to me one at a time, bouncing them off my shins, as if to remind me to count my blessings. Amidst the long, gray, sighing stretches of prone-on-the-sofa boredom she kiss-attacked my beard and nose until I giggled my dullness into submission. And on those sleepless nights of worry about our daughter living on the other side of the country or loved ones getting sick or whatever else haunted those wee hours, she was there, curled against my legs, snoring her soft message that these were the best of times.

Distraction has been hard to find. There are no sports, the movie theaters, restaurants, and music venues are closed. I've watched everything on Netflix. Outside is like life amongst bandits who have covered their faces to avoid being identified. Every conversation winds up on the same topic. And our screens bring nothing but reminders of a world turned upside down. Stella is the island, the one place the pandemic cannot go. It is in her that I find, each day, that the whole universe is this moment, the highest use of which is to turn toward whoever is at your side and to love them.

I planned to sit down this morning and write an ode to Stella, to fully express my gratitude, but looking back at these words here, I see that as flowery as they are, they come far short of what is in my heart. Right now, she's enjoying a final hour of sleep, having moved into my usual spot in the bed beside my wife Jennifer for a few extra cozy moments before she'll hop down, stretch her legs, then come out to sit sleepily beside me, offering her body to me for petting. She won't insist, she'll just sit there in case I need it. And I will need it. Then I'll scratch her jaw right where she likes it, feeling all the things for which my words are inadequate.

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I'm excited to announce that Teacher Tom's Second Book is now available in the UK, Iceland, and Europe thanks to my friends at Fafunia! It's also available in the US and Canada. We're working to find our distributor for Australia and New Zealand. If you want to go directly to the Fafunia page click here.  And if you missed it, Teacher Tom's First Book is back in print as well.

And finally, this is uncomfortable for me, but I earn most of my income by speaking at education conferences and running in-person workshops. I've had 95 percent of my income wiped out for the next 9 months due to everything being cancelled. I'm hustling to become a new and improved Teacher Tom. I know I'm not the only one living with economic insecurity, but if you like what you read here, please consider hitting the yellow donate button below. 

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