James Thurber wrote “A dog wags its tail with its heart.” I used to hang out with Dickens, Thurber, Tolstoy and Gerald Durrel, curled in front of the fire or lying in the garden with the last light glancing in for a look. I hang out with the neighbour’s dogs. The neighbour’s dogs were dashhounds, small irrepressible bundles of joy and curiosity, they would find me in the garden and then we were off on some adventure. I reckon that James Thurber drew from a dogs perspective with his insights into human nature and relationships.
I started thinking of James Thurber when I was looking at relationships. It started of in a round about way, writing about my grandfather and time. I was exploring how we perceive time and how this impacts the relationship with what we do. When I was twelve my grandfather taught me how to bake bread. He taught me in the tradition of his grandmother. There was no measure of time mentioned unless I asked him and every answer was always the same ‘oh about an hour.’ It was what you observed that made it time to do the next stage of the bread.
The connection to the bread became intimate. The yeast and the sugar was placed in warm water and only when it was bubbling that you added it to your flour and your water. In kneading the dough you would knead it until when you poked your finger into it it bounced back, that was a signal that it was ready to be left to rise. The dough was put in the big crockery bowl. You put a tea towel over the dough and then your old jersey. If it was a particularly cold day you put it in your bed to rise. I assume that my great great grandmother would be up early and the bed would have likely been the warmest place.
I remember the colour of granddads jersey, it was a faun colour and soft and it smelt slightly of tobacco as he wrapped it around the bowl to keep it warm.
When it was risen, you pushed it down, put it in buttered pans and then you left it to rise again before putting it in the oven. It was ready when it was brown and that when you knocked on it, it sounded hollow. I have never figured out that hollow sound.
I was thinking whilst I wrote this how much I loved my grandfather, I felt the regret in my heart as if I had not been present with him. I felt selfish around the opportunities I had missed as I grew away from him. With the selfishness lay guilt as if I I had somehow deliberately held back from simply loving him. That’s when I thought about dogs and the simple devoted love and joy you get from hanging around a dog. It’s like instead of being in a relationship I had been in reaction to the relationship. Instead of love being simple it had a cocktail of guilt, feelings that one owes a person something, or that you have to be something for that person, followed by not being enough for that person.
I just didn’t have that moment of simplicity, there seemed all kinds of contact points of fear, frustration and being lost. My sensitivity to the weave of energies within the relationship between myself and my grandfather was complicated by generation, culture and family. Then there was the mirror like a teacher showing up all the unknown pockets of myself, perhaps distorted like the tent of mirrors at the A.M.P. show. Challenging relationships are about waking us up to old patterns and difficulties. I think it might have been Carlos Castaneda who wrote that if we didn’t have a petty tyrant in our lives that we should go and find one.
These reactions within relationships can come from an unconscious presentation of expectation from both sides. It’s about being good, that you have to be trained, that your innate being is not good, nor can it be trusted. So the innate being is not up to standard, that’s a state of forever not being enough, forever suppressing oneself.
If we took an approach that our work was to allow the innate being to shine through, the core difference would be that we trust that inner light. That is equal to our power. Instead of covering over who we are we allow the world and our experiences within it to temper our personality.
Through the innate being is a connection to the nothingness, the all being-ness. We are distinct and yet all connected. Our energy systems have reflexes of reaction to each other and sometimes there is a jolting through our electrical system that is in fact a righting of the body in response to another. We are potent in this ability to impact each other simply through our intent.
I give thanks to my granddad, may I remember that it is freeing to be true and present in my relationships and I give thanks to the dog family and a particular dog called Pearl who loved in a way that was boundless.
I leave the last words to James Thurber. “There are two kinds of light – the glow that illuminates, and the glare that obscures.”