Saturday adventures with Lisa, Heidi, and Carol also known as getting the dogs out.
We pack the cross-country skis in the back of Heidi’s truck along with the Shepherd and the Basset Hound. The three of us load into the cab with the Yellow Lab. We leave the cold inversion of the Bitterroot Valley and climb Lost Trail Pass where the sun is shining and the temperature is warmer. We park in the parking lot of the Gibbons Pass road, a groomed multiple use road where you will find classic skiers, skate skiers, snowmobiles and dog sleds. The sun is shining on the snow-covered mountains making the snow sparkle as if we were in a forest covered in diamonds. It’s quiet and peaceful and a brisk eighteen degrees.
Then, Ollie, the German Sheperd decides it’s too quiet and peaceful and starts his uncharacteristic high pitched bark. Kevin, the Basset Hound is like “oh cool, barking time” and starts his hound dog bay which doesn’t fit his long bodied short legged personality either. Zoe, the well mannered yellow lab, disassociates herself with the entire dog species hanging close to her mom and keeping her distance from the two barking morons who are barking for no apparent reason.
As we ski the two dogs enjoy their ability to bark at nothing. Short legged Kevin quickly gets winded and decides to conserve his energy for the walk as triple latte Ollie keeps up the barking.
I start thinking, “SHUT UP Fuck Shit.” over and over. I know that fuck shit is not an actual thing but sometimes my head just puts two words together that works for me and fuck shit seemed appropriate. We ski, Ollie barks, I think fuck shit.
Then it occurs to me that I was on day nine of my thirty-one day well-wishing challenge and that this very morning I had just read a delightful article describing the benefits of sending well wishes, The What and Why of Loving Kindness Meditation.
I look at Ollie and think, “May you be happy. May you have peace.” Over and over. He stops barking. OK, maybe he was going to stop barking anyway, but you can look at this in two ways.
One, I had removed the negative “fuck shit” thoughts out of my head and replaced them with a more compassionate “may you be happy”. This already changed my mood. Dogs are sensitive to that (people are too, they just don’t acknowledge it). Two, the dog knew. The dog knew, just like children know, that I had changed my mindset. When I was calling the dog “fuck shit” in my head, he was that. When I wished him happiness he became that as well.
I always tell a story about the lunch ladies in my kid’s school. When the lunch ladies saw the junior high students coming down the hall, heading towards the lunchroom, the lunch ladies would say “here come the little shits”, as the lunch ladies didn’t like the junior high aged students. And you know what? The junior high kids gave those lunch ladies exactly what they expected to get. If the lunch ladies had had a little empathy for the painful transition from childhood to adulthood that all junior high students face, if they had made those students a special cookie or changed their mantra from “here come the little shits” to “may these students transition peacefully into adulthood as we have all been there before and understand what it’s like”, I truly believe that the students would have behaved better in the lunchroom. Being yelled at and treated without respect is a ticket to poorly behaved humans no matter how old they are.
Which brings us to our book selection. “Tattoos on the Heart, The Power of Boundless Compassion” by Gregory Boyle.
This is not your typical Wild About Books book. The author, a Jesuit Priest, (I had to look that one up, but I still don’t get it, just like I don’t get “evangelical Christian”) in the poorest Catholic church in the county, located in L.A., surrounded by gangs. This priest doesn’t just bring love and compassion to the gang members, he creates businesses and gives them jobs and job training. A gateway from jail to living productive lives. He doesn’t label them as hopelessly lost souls with no way out of their vicious poverty cycle. He gives them hope and a door to a future without crime and drugs. This book has way more God and Jesus in it than I like. I don’t believe in God, but I do believe in Greg Boyle. He doesn’t just talk the talk. He’s a doer. He believes in human beings. He treats them all with respect and dignity. He gives them all well wishes. He’s a beautiful man. If you don’t get a chance to read the book you should check out his TED talk on compassion and kinship. It’s a condensed version of his book.
As we skied back towards the parking lot we were passed by two snowmobiles. We could have been angry at sharing the road with loud, stinky snowmobiles, but we are not. We smile and wave enthusiastically as they pass us. Happy that there are other people out enjoying this beautiful, sunshiny, December day.
So, while you are out on your proverbial multiple use road of life, smile, and wave enthusiastically as you pass others, as it is this bonding kinship that is the positive trajectory we all need to happily survive together.
May you be happy.
Check out the Wild About Books website for more great book ideas and other outdoor adventures.