Some days, after working in my office all morning and eating a quick lunch at my desk, my body grows heavy and slow and my thoughts turn to molasses. With just an hour left before the first child arrives back home, before I leave to work an evening shift at the library, I close my laptop, grab my phone and head for my office door. My dog, Coco, half-sleeping in her corner chair, lifts her head, then jumps down and follows me outside across the blacktop soaked with sunlight, up the back steps, and into the big house.
Inside, I pause while we each get a drink of water – her at her metal bowl and me at the vintage water fountain near our kitchen door. Then, I grab a blanket or beach towel – whichever is warm enough and near at hand – and head into the winter room where the wood stove sits heavy in the corner, squat and round, a cast iron Buddha. Coco follows at my heels and watches patiently as I hunt one room, then another, in search of our sole throw pillow.
Pillow in hand, I lay down in the same position, always. Pressing the pillow into one end of our old, leather love seat, I lay down on my right side, curling my long legs to fit on the too-short sofa. Coco watches with patience and focus as I spread the blanket or towel over myself, then stick my legs out straight off of the couch, offering a pathway to the pocket of empty space at the far end.
I pat the leather with my hand, twice. Coco pauses, very still, and looks me in the eye, double-checking her permission. “Come on, Coco,” I say and up she jumps, then turns and settles in the corner. I bend my legs again and tuck in around her, careful to keep from bumping her muzzle with my feet. The warmth of her soft, sweet body adds to my own and we sleep, tucked together, her head resting on my ankles.
Her presence, as I rest, is pure gift. The gift of quiet, undemanding companionship; the gift of with-ness that cannot be measured save for the way it softens and steadies the human heart.
She wakes, when I wake and shift. Or, sometimes, too warm and close for comfort, she hops down before the nap gets under way. Some days, if I'm lucky, our handsome black cat notices our napping nest and jumps down from his solitary leather chair and comes purring along into my arms. On those days, the cat settles opposite the dog, in the space in front of my chest. Together, we form a sort of yin-yang arrangement of fur and flesh, the cat in front of me, the dog behind.
I experience a profound goodness during these naps, which may seem a small thing amidst all the world’s evils and sorrows, not to mention my own small entanglements. But I am wondering whether tragedy really demands the trivializing of such moments of beauty, wonder, and grace – moments when the human soul stretches and softens, relaxed and at ease?
Perhaps tragedy and sorrow, worry and fear, require instead, that we linger and luxuriate in these moments. Maybe Love itself invites us to spread them out wide for the world to see or to tuck them in somewhere safe, like a golden leaf in fall noticed, gathered, and pressed between the pages of a book where it can be rediscovered time and again in the long winter months ahead.
I love these moments with the dog, the cat; they are precious to me and I cannot pass them off as something less than mercy and grace. Evil is never defeat by casting what is precious aside. Evil is defeated when we gently welcome, gather and share what is good and holy and true. In this way light and life and love are born and borne and multiplied in our midst.
The world is a heavy and troubled place. It is also riddled through with mercy, grace and love. In these days of naming darkness, let us remember also to gather and spread the Light we're given, casting it high and wide, like a million stars lighting up the night.
Coco and I sharing a little pre-nap love.
Where are you finding Mercy, Grace and Love these days??