In the early spring as we scattered and raked Bodhi’s ashes into the soil surrounding the Buddha where hostas and hydrangeas promised to grow in the “soul garden” Sheila had created twenty years before, beneath the hemlocks that survived the great hurricanes of the early fifties and the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid blight during the past five years, we knew a new pup was already awaiting us in a litter to be born a few weeks after.
Our enthusiasm for the newest member of our family, Kai, was not deterred by the comments of some who thought our undertaking of the task of raising a new puppy was ill advised. Especially when the burden of care would fall primarily upon Sheila who in addition to her roles as active mother, Nana, therapist, cook, and gardener is the wife and caregiver of a physically disabled husband with a serious chronic illness.
Many of the same objections were raised by others when rather than “downsizing” as we aged, we expanded our home, adding a full apartment to include our son and daughter in law and their children to be full participants in our individual and joint lives.
Similar questions and doubts were voiced when we married forty eight years ago before our senior year in college and when I rejected a four year fellowship to Cornell graduate school to live as apprentices at a newly foundedl “East Coast Esalen” or upon Sheila’s decision at fifty years old to enter and graduate from a Master’s program requiring monthly attendance in Santa Barbara or when…
Many of these more recent choices and changes were questioned by friends and peers whose own lives seemed focused understandably on more leisure and travel. Why were we making our lives more complicated or difficult when others were”simplifying” or cutting down?
For me several possible answers come to mind. Why would an author stop writing, an artist stop painting, or a marriage stop growing? It is who we are and what we do. From meeting and living through the unknown challenges of love and commitment toward family, dog, work, and each other we must of necessity be alive, alove, curious, and astonished amid what we encounter.
If “things” become difficult or we become ill, our circumstances change, or we are dissatisfied with hotel or itinerary, we cannot simply delay a trip or cancel a reservation. We consciously create new ties that bind because we have faith that with effort, patience, and kindness what seem ropes and knots of constriction loosen to become arteries and streams buoying us along to open seas of peace, love, and understanding.
This is the means by which we find ourselves along a path. Not the one laid down by others, but one we ourselves make by not going where others go. We all live, we all die. We prefer to be strangers in the new lands we discover in our own backyard. Remember the length of a shore line varies with the attention and pace with which we walk it. A highway by the coast covers a much shorter distance than a coastal amble. But there is probably far less to see.