|Gromit from his crate - waiting to search|
About a month ago, on a Thursday evening, I was out, it was one of the most beautiful kind of Minnesota evenings. 70 ish, sunny, a cloud or two to contrast the blue sky and an easy breeze lilting through every now and then.
I found myself at dusk with Gromit who had played nose work with me for three hours. We were in downtown Hopkins, though a suburb of Minneapolis, it still has remnants of a small town from days gone by. A cute single main street reminded me of an up north small Minnesotan town.
We were at a mock NW2 trial for the evening. It was held at the office of an architectal firm - a large room in an old drug store building that had been converted into an open space, with short cube walls, desks lined perfectly all facing the large window in the front toward the west. Blue prints everywhere, hanging from racks, sitting on desks, and rolled up in tubes. Two meeting rooms set angled towards the front of the building. The larger one with an industrial size rolling door the side of the one whole wall. The sun going slowly down in the west, gleaming through the front and west windows, gave the space a serene calm glow. It had warm wooden walls, earthy green, brown, and gold paint tones mixed with a little brightness, no ceiling tile just the exposed roof rafters. Uncovered duct work was shiny and silver and all the computer cables were neatly held by a thin wired shelf. All attached to the rafters like something from the Real Simple magazine.
Gromit had searched all evening for me - containers, vehicles, interiors and exteriors. Since he had recently been groomed, his fur was extra soft and short. It was almost silky to touch. And because he had so little hair, when I patted him on his side or his back end there was hollow thump sound. Like a soft drum.
As the evening came to a close, I moved him from his crate to the back seat of the van. He could lay with his slender long legs all the way out in front of him in the back seat. And so, he did stretch out his massive body, plumed tail curled around his back end leaning on the door, front legs almost touching the door across the other side of the van. He craned his neck forward like a yogi doodle. He let his head sink down resting on top of his giant white paws.
I looked at Gromit laying in the back seat, tired and yet somehow good with life. I reached into his space with my right hand, he lifted his head and gave me a soft look. The look where his big brown eyes open round and watch me without making eye contact. I slid my fingers under his ear and gave a scratch to his favorite spot. His spot is just under the ear where the cartilage and his skull connect, just under the ear flap. Gromit leaned into my palm and lay his whole head in my hand, gradually closing his eyes. He inhaled slowly and then sighed with his whole body. He dropped all the weight of his head onto my hand. It caught my breath, this confidence in me - I wanted to stop time - forever to hold the weight of this head, this dear silly head, and busy brain. This head, this giant white head, now after so many years able to let go and relax. Inhale, exhale - I breathed in with him and exhaled silently listening for his breath. I wanted to count his long curly eye lashes and watch his nostrils move ever so slightly with each breath. And those soft pursed black lips of his - just to be able to see how they outline his mouth as if a not so skilled make up artist in training had carefully applied black lipstick for an upcoming portrait- my heart could not be any bigger for him - I wanted to stay here with him.
I wanted to pick up all the pieces of things gone by, training that I can't undo, misunderstandings that I can't explain to him - how if it wasn't for his health I would give Gromit all the treats he wanted - pup cups forever. I would tell him if I had more money I would buy him his own personal acreage to run and run and run just because he looks so beautiful running and because he loves it so. I wanted us to stay forever in this graceful second.
I left his head sink to the seat and gently pulled my fingers out from under him. Slowly I ran my fingers from the front of his forehead to the back of his ears over his crown. And then a car pulled up next to us and doors were opening and shutting and people were talking. We both lost the moment and looked at the car. It was fine - but it was gone. The moment was gone. It was a public parking lot in a downtown with bars and restaurants during happy hour after all.
I will be forever grateful to whoever taught me the value of a moment. How many more moments are full of blessings than lacking of them. And when the torrent of difficult moments come I know I will never regret having stayed too long in a good moment. This was one of those moments to stay in.
I have been thinking about the shooting at Pulse in Orlando. In my life I have had moments of being scared that people thought it was okay to call me names, yell at me, throw things at me, tell me I was going to hell all because I was gay. But eventually I came to realize that it was their fear in the end that caused people to do these things. It was important for me to remember that I was every bit as human and worthy as anyone because of my diverse presence. As I thought about it I remembered an event that now seems a life time ago and then again way too recent. It was an event in Dubuque, IA. I traveled to the city to show solidarity of a persecuted group that I could not separate myself from just because of distance. Dubuque was going to have a gay Pride parade and the year before it had been difficult for the LGBT members so they put a call out for LGBT people to help by showing up and increasing their numbers.
I am one of the LGBT community and I went even though honestly I was a little afraid. But I was more afraid not to go. I went because there were more people lining the streets to give us the finger, cuss at us and throw eggs at us than there were people marching in the parade. I went to help balance the scale. I doubt I will ever forget looking up at the stumpy 5-6 storied downtown buildings of Dubuque, as people were screaming at us. Whole families loaded in the back of pick up trucks sitting in their lawn chairs, physically higher than us, parked along the parade route and they came down just to see and yell at us and show us to their kids.
I remember seeing police a top the buildings at every corner of each building from both sides of the street video taping us at all angles. I was stunned coming from the liberal Minneapolis town I thrived in up here in the north. And yet we did not stop, we moved on. At the end there was a concert by a long time musician of the LGBT community - a sort of star in her own right. And I think the LGBT community of Dubuque, IA was running on adrenalin with the ability to finish their celebration in less fear and so successfully. For myself, I have never taken another PRIDE parade, in any town - Minneapolis, San Francisco - anywhere for granted.
If you had told me that day that we would hear the President of the United States speak about the rights of gay people to marry in my lifetime I would have thought you were nuts. If you would have told me that Iowa would beat Minnesota to the punch on gay marriage I would have told you it would only happen on the same day pigs really do fly. Those days were so powerful, and so much more strongly etched in my brain.
Through all the things I have watched with gay rights, all the things I have lived through in this gay rights movement, watching the way things really do move up and on and eventually the majority of people did swing towards choosing to value life and diversity by voting to include gay people in having the ability to marry - this has given me so much hope. Those unexpected moments when I was amazed at how much people were willing to go out of their comfort zone because they loved someone who was different than them - be it a child, a niece, a parent, an uncle, a friend, a minister, maybe even a coworker - those moments were so much more powerful than the blurry impressionistic picture of people yelling at us, that comes up in my head as I try to remember that day in Dubuque.
I can only say that for me in my small world, I can count so many more times, so many more people and so much more impact from the moments a community of people come together. Even two people and then three - people coming together are an amazing thing. So many people killed in Orlando, so many people came together to be connected after Orlando. So many moments of people stopping me to ask me about how I was doing. A message from multiple leaders at work giving condolences and acknowledging the impact of this shooting. I can't forget Orlando or Dubuque. I can choose which moments are going to help move things forward. Maybe in some way all the moments get us moving - I don't know -
Paul and I recently hosted a salon of sorts. A friend accepted a request to facilitate. It turned into dinner party and with semi structured discussion in a group of 8. It was fulfilling and touching at the same time. For some it was truly out of their comfort zone. To be able to hear ideas not in sound bites or texts or tweets but hear the full context of the person expressing an idea is truly a gift. To have my brain opened when new ideas were spoken was huge. To be sitting together with words that are not always comfortable and yet moments of truth and sincerity - conversation with integrity and safety - gave me a sense of connection.
And so sometimes is the gift of spending an entire evening focused on Gromit or Chewie. Dogs live in the moment I am told. Gromit and I lived in the same moment after spending three hours together. To get that moment, to get a chance to listen to Gromit when he is communicating to me and with me -- it is such a different experience than training him to follow me or listen to me or see me as the leader. This nose work stuff is kinda different. And Gromit and I are kinda a different team. I feel like I can't get enough of Gromit talking to me and our trying to refine my ability to translate the language of Gromit and what he is saying to me - very fun.
To hold his big white head in my hands while he fell deeply asleep. To be really connected with Gromit, to know that he was so comfortable he would fall asleep in a parking lot, with his head in my palm - that kind of trust, that kind of letting go by a Gromit - that is the best kind of moment. I want to remember it and keep holding the moment.