Sit. Good girl!
My dog talks.
Not really, of course. But for a creature without words, she manages to say a lot while saying nothing at all.
Esther reserves barking for two activities: warning off intruders and playing “chase me while I dodge your futile attempts to catch me.” But whining is her very special talent, and over the years I’ve developed a brief taxonomy of her whines.
There’s the “I hear the crinkle of cellophane, can I have cheese please?” whine. There’s the potty break whine, accompanied by an unsettling—and often unblinking—stare. And then there’s a whine that has nothing to do with food and the digestion thereof. It happens to be the whine hardest for me to hear and respond to. This whine means that she wants me to stop whatever I’m doing and sit down with her on the couch. I think of it as her snuggle whine.
A year ago, I took a silent directed retreat at a beautiful, wooded retreat center in eastern Iowa. Every day I met with my spiritual director for an hour or two. We decided beforehand to read a book together. I don’t remember who suggested Seven Sacred Pauses: Living Mindfully Through the Hours of the Day, but it was a good one. The author explores what it might mean for people like you and me to take the monastic practice of praying the hours into our daily lives. She lifts up seven sacred pauses throughout the day as opportunities to live our lives with more intention, reflection and prayer. I’ll admit: I loved the book. I loved discussing it with my spiritual director. And then I put it down. And finally, away.
There is a season for everything, right? And I’m in the middle of a busy season of life right now. There’s change coming at me from all directions. It’s all I can do to resist the current of overwhelm. So even though I’m tempted by ambitious ideas of a new spiritual practice, I think I should cool it for now. And pause. If I listen well, I can hear it.
My dog whining.