The Day I Hit A Dog

I ran over a squirrel yesterday.

My usual reflexes failed me and the squirrel’s timing was such that the result was inevitable. Not an hour later when I went back past the scene, two vultures were already answering nature’s call. I was unexpectedly comforted by the efficiency of this road kill removal. It almost seemed like nothing had happened.

Though it seemed inconsequential — I could easily justify the “accident” by rationalizing that squirrels are varmints and they make my dogs crazy — I had still inadvertently taken another life. Involuntary squirrel slaughter. I will admit that my better angels are not quite as vigilant when an inch long cockroach crawls across my kitchen in the middle of the night, but I still feel a twinge of regret when I peel the unfortunate interloper from the tread of my flip-flop.

ImageMaybe that twinge can be traced back to an incident that I have yet to fully recover from. One day, many years ago when I owned my first car, I was driving along a back road in New Hampshire and as another car was approaching from the other direction, a big dog, a German Shepherd, leapt into my path from the tall grass at the side of the road. Even if I’d had time to swerve, doing so would have put me head-on in the path of the approaching vehicle. Instinct left me with only one option.

I pulled over at the next driveway and looked back. I didn’t see the dog. The impact may have knocked it back into the tall grass or it could have gone somewhere else, injured. What haunts me to this day is that I couldn’t go back and look. I was trembling and could hardly breathe as I tried to figure out what to do.

I walked up to the house where I’d stopped and knocked on the door. A woman answered and I told her what happened and asked if that was her dog. She said no, it belonged to a neighbor and that it was always out chasing cars. She said she wasn’t surprised that someone had finally hit it. I left her my name and number and asked her to tell the owner to contact me if there was anything I could do. I never heard from anyone.

As I continued on my way, still shaking so hard I could barely grip the steering wheel, my emotions crashed around in my head. Damn that dog! Why had it run in front of MY car? And, oh my god, I just killed a dog. And, I can’t believe I’m just driving away…..

That day changed my life. Something in me knew that I was going to have to spend the rest of my life making up for what I had done. Not for hitting the dog — that couldn’t have been avoided without me, and possibly another person, not being here to write about this right now. Natural selection and 2,000 pounds of metal decided in my favor that day.

A few weeks ago, as if to offer me some sort of redemption, I was graced with the gift of ownership of a sweet, wonderful, humble dog who was the victim of a vehicular hit-and-run that left her with a permanently disfigured leg. This dog is allowing me to imagine that the one I hit didn’t die, that someone more emotionally capable at the time found that Shepherd and took it to be repaired. But most of all, she gives me the chance to say I’m sorry and to offer forgiveness to the driver that hit her, who, perhaps like me, had been unable to muster the courage to face her. When she plays with the German Shepherd puppy across the street, I feel my heart begin to heal in the place that was ripped open so many years ago.

Our hearts always know what is right, though our minds will try all sorts of tricks to convince it otherwise. To the young woman who hit and killed four children while driving through a dark neighborhood a few years ago, whose trauma caused her to shut down and try to hide it, I offer an inkling of understanding of what it is to have the reality of right and wrong shatter right before your eyes and to know you were incapable of acting on what you knew to be right.

That squirrel may have been “just a squirrel”, but to me it was a beautiful dog, or for someone else, a group of happy children, invisible on a dimly lit street until it was too late. In whatever way we take the life of another being, a part of us dies, but if we will allow it to come through, a part of our own life is animated that would never have emerged otherwise.

We can’t always avoid the circumstances that strip us of our illusions, nor, maybe, should we. But we can learn from them and build an even stronger place in our hearts that will help us to be able to stop and do the right thing should such an event ever happen again.

I am strangely grateful for another squirrel who greeted me when I arrived home after crushing his friend, that sat up on its tree branch and spewed an unholy earful at me. Maybe it was there to give me a chance to take responsibility in the present instead of years later. Indeed, out loud I said to that little squirrel, “I’m sorry”…. and that put to rest his pain…. and mine.

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An Apple for Gerald

GeraldThe other day I took a “gratitude walk” through the grocery store, trying to be mindful of everything around me and its connection to everything else. I walked around the story, randomly picking out items as they presented themselves to me and when I got to the cash register, it turned out the amount I owed was within a dollar of what I had. As I recounted the story to my partner, she said, “What in the world did you buy for that much money??”

I looked at the receipt and one of the items that jumped out at me was the price for three organic honey crisp apples. I won’t tell you how much they cost but I will say that I could have bought half a bushel of conventionally grown macs for about the same price.

Tempted though I was to feel guilty, I decided instead to see them as special. As I prepared to ride my bike through my happy place, I took one of those apples and tried a little Reiki on it, imbuing it with grace and abundance. Then I hopped on my bike and ate the apple as I rode, allowing each bite to share with me the blessing I’d just bestowed on it, and as I traveled I asked to be shown the perfect place to lay the core.

Just as I swallowed the final bite, I came upon a shabby wooden marker on the side of the road, leaning and forgotten, that must have been placed in remembrance of a loved one who had perished near that spot. I got off my bike and approached the marker and saw that the name “Gerald” had been crudely painted on it in gray.

I knelt down in the leaves with the apple core in my hand and spoke to the marker.

“Gerald, I don’t know who you were, whether you were a good person or a bad person, whether your life was long or short, painful or happy. All I know is that you were brought into my awareness today as I was looking for somewhere to share a blessing with the world, a seed of healing energy. Some other creature may come along and take the seed elsewhere, but that will be okay because the seed is needed everywhere. Wherever it finds fertile soil, it will grow.”

I brushed away some leaves and gave Gerald the special apple core, covering it up with some sticks placed in the shape of the Reiki symbol Hon, the representation of source or origin, and left him with the thought that whatever his life had been, it was now a place of beginning for something beautiful.

“Your life, and death, are part of everything now, Gerald….. be at peace.”

Marriage Equality is a Farce

Stick a fork in me — I’m done.

Why does it seem that the things of life that are supposed to represent such great spiritual significance are so often reduced to the bitter slingings of toxic mud at the ones we’re supposed to love the most?

As the fight for/against marriage “equality” heats up and the grunts on either side rev up their cannons to do the bidding of unseen forces, be they “God’s traditional definition of marriage” or the faceless front of the gay “community”, I’ve come to the conclusion that this is stupid. Petty, disgusting, and just plain idiotic.

I lived in Vermont when the first discussions of Marriage Equality began back in the ’80s and had the experience of hearing for the first time people expressing their disgust about homosexuals. Up until then, I really hadn’t thought about marriage. I had never been interested in the idea but the fact that people wanted to deny it to me suddenly made it attractive. Ironically, when Civil Unions eventually became possible there, I actually ended a 13 year relationship. The prospect of having to commit to another person sent me packing.

If you ask a roomful of people what marriage means, no two of them will agree on a definition other than to mostly make snarky remarks about what torture it is. If you ask them what marriage means legally, they have absolutely no idea that a $75.00 contract affords them over 1100 hidden goodies provided by the government. With a divorce rate equally high in both the straight and gay populations (in states where same-sex marriage is legal), the only thing that is truly guaranteed about marriage is that some lawyer is going to get rich untangling that $75.00 mess when you decide you’ve had enough.

In my case, to make this issue about rights of inheritance is moot. I’ve made so little money in my life (mostly by choice) that I really have nothing to leave to someone else, so for me to be fighting for rights to ownership/inheritance, etc., makes me exactly what my significant mother-in-law called me: a gold-digger.

So, why on earth would I be fighting for marriage equality now? My bliss these days comes from the fact that I am not legally tied to anything, not even a house. I have freedom most people would kill for. What difference would it make for me to bind myself to my partner when it would really not change how our life operates now?

I have wasted ridiculous amounts of time and experienced incredible disruption to my sense of inner peace fighting over this issue with people I don’t even know. Marriage does nothing to guarantee that the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness will work out in the end. Do I really want to spend my time trying to shame others into granting me this opportunity to, as they say, “be as miserable as the rest of us”?

I have absolutely no reason to vilify Christianity, yet this issue almost exclusively has caused people who call themselves Christian to rip the clothes off Jesus again and throw him back up there on that cross all because their own sense of “what God wants” is being violated by a tiny group of people whose only stated wish is to join in helping stabilize society.

Marriage to me is supposed to be a sacred agreement between two individuals who together are willing to try to make each other’s lives and the world around them better, not a reason to work to ensure that the “righteousness” of everyone’s marriage is brought into question.

When the time comes in my own life that I will fear losing it, I already know, without signed federal contract or legal entanglements, that someone will be there for me. The basic paperwork that allows her to decide whether to turn off the machine is in place. I came into this life with nothing, and I will gladly leave the same way.

So I’m done. If the fight for marriage equality means nothing more than a bunch of angry people taking their bitterness out on each other then I want nothing to do with it. My life and what I have to offer with it is worth more than that.