(From 2002)

 

Emmie is a dog of remarkable character by any measure. She has but one blind spot and that is her tennis ball. It borders on the obsessive. When not chasing or catching it, she is often, on a night filled with network sitcoms or Home & Garden make-overs, sitting on the floor chewing it at a steady and unremitting pace. A glazed look forms in her eyes and any canine anxiety she may have at this enforced stillness is methodically chewed away.

Although very hard of hearing, she has learned to read my lips and when they form b-a-l-l, she knows instantly that a walk is in store. On our afternoon excursions, we typically go to a far end of the field that has a boggy bottom, high hill and further creek and pond. On these treks, Emmie has discovered a four foot depression measuring about two feet deep that is in this rainy spring filled with water.

As soon as we are in the area, Emmie heads to this watering hole with a bounce in her step for she knows that soon her paws will be delightfully squishing in mud and her legs and belly cooled. She glides in, drops the tennis ball which then floats placidly beside her, and laps up some of this tasteful water. After a few minutes she emerges refreshed and muddy.

The other afternoon when we reached Emmie’s pool, she got in, dropped the ball and splashed around. Unfortunately, this was the same tennis ball that she had chewed so assiduously the night before and before you could say 15-love, said ball sank like a rock. When her dip was over, she looked for her ball, at first curiously, and then frantically. It was nowhere to be seen.

A few moments later, a downcast and ball-less Emmie and I walked along the path home. Soon she was chewing on some spring grass, smelling some delightful canine odors along the creek bank and looking for some mischief to get into. It occurred to me then how much freer she was to enjoy our walk once she left the baggage of the ball behind. There was nothing to carry in her mouth and nothing to chase. In losing her ball, she found freedom.

I considered how many tennis balls we carry, all the things we won’t leave home without – the watch or Day Timer, the cigarettes or coffee, the cell phone or briefcase, the agenda of what the day should be or the rules by which our lives should be lived.

Possessions while at times enjoyable also need to be taken care of, protected, maintained, serviced, stored. The homes, cars, boats, bikes, knick knacks, books, dishes and clothes can become weights not only for our bodies but on our spirits.

If we had to live in one room, what would be the most important to have? If we had to take whatever we needed in our car, what would be left behind? If we had to carry on our back what we loved or needed, what would it be? What is it we will take when we leave this life?

The holy and the beautiful and the good is always characterized by simplicity. Wonder if all we carried was ourselves? What would we have the time to do? Where are the places we would go? What are the lives we would live? What freedom could we discover once we left the perishable behind?

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