It’s like the entire world right now is a confrontation, for which within varying degrees of connection we’re all coming to see one another’s deepest vulnerabilities and sadness. And I’m trying to get ahead of it for my kids’ sake. Because I’ve worked hard to process my personal grief into the productivity of seeing the purity of love it (can) hold and I know from our life together that I can’t shield my children from this sadness. Shared with Livy about Wyatt—the Oregon boy who died by fire huddled with his dog—(then immediately doubted myself!) for it is too much; it IS too sad but grief is deceptive like that, and therein resides the fallibility of the human condition.

And yesterday I’d met Mercy the therapy dog (see pic) in anticipation of watching her in October. Before COVID, her jobs were within psychiatric units of VA hospitals and the Women and Children’s homeless shelter. She’s like what you’d imagine a therapy dog would be—quiet, watchful, observant, soothing—so when she gave two little barks while her human and I were in conversation, and stood up in protective mode—body facing her driveway—immediately looking short glances at me as she did so, I knew she was assessing me to figure out if I could really see and listen. And as I rose—apologizing/explaining why to the owner—and joined Mercy at the head of the path near the driveway, it came up inside me that this moment of talking without words is as pure as it gets. This dog who transforms the grief of humanity is communicating with me and to step outside human-typicality to invest in that is the moment it all comes together. To be able to say, I can see and listen, Mercy; thank you for helping me. I’m trying to be real. I truly am.

So last night in the dark of I 15 going north (taking her to her dad’s in Layton) my youngest and I hit upon the subject of “the world” in its current state. Replete with pregnant pauses when neither of us could use words to clarify and tidy it all.

“Whatever happens, the planet will survive. She’ll be okay. It’s just hard to know what it will look like.”

“Yeah, like maybe the trees will…… Actually, I wonder if there’ll even be trees….”

Two communicators under the forever of the universe ingesting the complexity and uncertainty. Livy taking time from history essays and her new French bob to respect herself enough to accept the limitations of what any human can truly know right now. Veering at one point into the recent discovery of life “on” Venus, and how comical it is that phosphine in the Venetian clouds was probably there all along but Earth-centric humans were instead looking for water. Looking for themselves, over and over. Carl Sagan suggesting 50 years ago there might be life in the clouds but the idea was too fringy. But there it was the whole time.

And visiting with Mercy’s owner, I told her about working in the elementary schools, with kids who are hungry (but don’t complain about it) from families who’ve endured/are enduring severe loss, and she speaks about how Mercy goes into her interactions understanding the person from the clarity of unusual sight.

” I don’t know how she knows but she can sense what their story is.”

“And does so from the dignity of non-judgment.”

“Yes, exactly. Without evaluation. As if Mercy is offering them the chance to understand what they are from a completely different vantage.”

“Mirroring unconditional love. Letting the person see themselves inside it perhaps for the first time.”

“Yes. It’s been hard on her not to be working.”

Then Mercy—near her feet—looks up at the tree canopy overhead as if it is her first moment seeing the sun parade through the leaves. And of course it is, for Animals, like the clouds of Venus, are miraculous life forms continually hiding something which humans can’t yet see. It’s been a fascinating journey for me to grow into this understanding.. I’m so grateful to know that teachers are here for us, everywhere. Designed into this planet with feet, and fur, and short little barks.

And fast-forward, later, when I’m southbound on I-15–French bob dropped off—Rocket Man comes on and I start to sing. For in reflecting it seems like the great mysteries are timeless once they’re revealed, and—unrolling my window—I marvel at being part of this excruciating event known as earth, and from the cooling air, am comforted to better feel myself as part of it.

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