The possibilities of red rubber boots.

I’m not sure why, but people seem to want to come up and talk to me when I’m wearing my red rubber boots.  With or without the dog.  Any time of day.  Downtown or in the woods or at a store or anywhere in between.  

It may be simply the color of my boots that draws people to me when I wear them.  They are a bright, true red.  Like Superman’s boots.  Or Dorothy’s ruby slippers (without the sparkle and glam).  There are wonderful associations to be made with either – like saving the world, or returning to the safety of home.  Iconic fashion designer, Bill Blass, even believed that “red is the ultimate cure for sadness.” 

Then again, it may be the clunky thick rubber design of my boots that makes people want to stop and talk, to share a hug or pet the dog, and walk along beside us for a bit.  The boots are rather ageless looking as if they were molded around memories, hefty and bold and just a tad too big.  Very Christopher Robin. With glimpses of childhood clumping out loud with every step, stepping into every puddle, smacking over sidewalks, squishing down dirt roads.   

Yet more than either their color or style, I have begun to suspect there may be a deeper, less obvious attraction about my red rubber boots.  I suspect it may be the implied invitation to “play” that seems to be inherent with them. 

We all need to keep connected with our ability to play, I think.  Even when it has been neatly packed up and tucked away behind our hearts and in the corners of our being for a very long time – yet never completely out of reach.  We can still touch it and hold it near, in flashes of thought and remembrance, often without our permission, but always with a smile.  Writer Joseph Brodsky captured such an image as this: “I remember myself, age five, sitting on a porch overlooking a very muddy road.  The day was rainy.  I was wearing rubber boots, yellow – no, not yellow, green – and for all I know, I’m still there.”  And for all we know, we are all still there.

This sense and memory of play intertwines our past with our present, and seems to be what calls us to engage with all sorts of games and hobbies and sports.  It compels us to throw a ball, and skip a rock.  To toss a frisbee for the dog, or dangle a string for the cat.  It coaxes us to swing on a tree branch or walk along the top of a fallen log in the woods.  It’s that invisible yet undeniable connection to being a child – when the opportunity to play woke up with us every morning and made us laugh in our sleep at night.  When the world was meant to be discovered and adventurous, thrilled over and shared.

I remember learning a long time ago about the ancient Hindu version of creation, and how it speaks not of the “work of God,” but of the “play of God.”  And that the whole existence of the universe is meant for play, for sport, to be experienced like a dance.

And now there is a relatively recent virtual reality circulating throughout the cyber world that is known only as “Oaqui.”  Whether Oaqui is a person or persons, young or old, male or female, or simply a concept, no one is telling.  But it is all about fun – “deep fun.”  And one Oaqui message to which I am particularly intrigued is this:  “When fun gets deep enough, it can heal the world.”

Perhaps authentic play and fun can, in the end, solve and resolve any number of problems; perhaps it can answer hard questions and piece together puzzles, fix and invent, cure and care for the universe and each of us who lives here and those of us yet to come.  

I suspect the world could at least be a better place if we all just played together more – with our child hearts – without goals or sides or keeping score; but with abandon and humor, with imagination and inclusiveness, taking turns and holding hands.

Perhaps play is hope wearing its red rubber boots.

Quincy barks YES.

Quincy is a very literal sort of dog.  And he takes things personally.  He’s more agreeable than well trained, although he’s rather opinionated.  He tries very hard, but is shy.  Loyal to a fault.  Vulnerable and naive and not terribly brave, but compellingly sincere.

Quincy is the kind of dog who barks first and asks questions later.  Particularly when anyone comes to my house.  No matter how often they may visit, how well he may know them, male or female, young or old or anywhere in between, he announces their arrival well and loudly.  He announces it to me, to them, to himself, to most of the neighbors:  “They’re here!”  He barks it at the top of his voice.   more “Quincy barks YES.”

Frodo: from racehorse to war horse to home.

It was nearly half a decade ago. Yet I remember – I will forever remember – the day I met a horse named Frodo.  

It was on the grounds of the Aiken Equine Rescue, and Frodo was a participant in the remarkable Saratoga WarHorse program conducted there – an equine-based, peer-to-peer, veterans program that addresses the unseen wounds of military posttraumatic stress and off-the-track Thoroughbreds. I wrote about Frodo then, as I will write about him now. more “Frodo: from racehorse to war horse to home.”

Getting used to the pain.

“Go ahead.  Underestimate me.  That’ll be fun.”

I read that on a tea towel somewhere and related to it whole heartedly.  Now, however, I want to rewrite it slightly to say:  “Go ahead.  Tell me I’m getting old.  That’ll be fun.”  Especially when you’re trying to convince me that the pain I have been experiencing lately is due to aging.  And that it just has to be accepted as such.

I think not. more “Getting used to the pain.”

Stones of the heart.

They’re called worry stones.  Soothing stones … palm stones … thumb stones.  

Smoothed and shaped by moving water, the Greeks chose such stones from the sea.  In Tibet, they were claimed from melting snows and high mountain river beds.  In Ireland they were most often picked up from the edges of ancient lakes.  Native Americans selected them not only for themselves, but to hand down from one generation to the next – creating a sense of sacred connectedness, of unbroken peace and symbolism to be forever cherished.  

The most prized of these stones have always been quartz. more “Stones of the heart.”

Be the gift.

“Be a gift to everyone who enters your life, and to everyone whose life you enter.  Be careful not to enter another’s life if you cannot be a gift.”

These lines were written by Neale Donald Walsch in “Conversations With God:  An Uncommon Dialogue.”  They spoke to my heart, my memories, my imagination.  They are the kind of words I clip out and file away and think about from time-to-time when contemplation is good company.  The kind of words that come back to me sometimes at the oddest moments.

Such was the case a few days ago when Quincy the dog stepped in my eye.  All 72 pounds of him.   more “Be the gift.”

Remnants of a life at the side of the road.

I saw the thin black ties of the apron first.  They were draped rather languidly along the edge of the road.  The apron itself was nearly hidden in a grassy dip in the ground off to the side, leading into the mouth of a drain pipe.  The all-black color of the apron helped to disguise it.  Even the dog had not noticed it as we walked the small neighborhood street. 

With a closer look, the apron was easily recognized as a restaurant-style server’s apron – smallish, oblong, with pockets sewn all across its lap for holding pens and order slips, notes about specials, and tips paid in cash.  Picking it up, I discovered the apron pockets were still filled with pens – at least a dozen of them.  

And then, just a few steps farther on, there lay a black plastic restaurant check folder.  Within the folder was a nearly full pad of order forms; two of which still contained orders.   more “Remnants of a life at the side of the road.”

Scraps of peace, hope, and possibilities.

It began in the mid-1800s – when Christmas trees were capturing imaginations and holiday spirits throughout all of England, and catching hold with equal enthusiasm in America.  

All manner of pine trees were being harvested from their native woods and carried homeward – hauled behind horses or by hand, dragged up front steps, and stuffed through the doorways of castles and cottages alike.  They were being joyfully thrust into the very heart and hearth of family traditions.  And, once inside, they were placed just so – to delight and be decorated and danced around.  They transported the beauty of the natural world into a sort of happy collision with civilized interiors. more “Scraps of peace, hope, and possibilities.”

One hundred and five Christmases.

Once upon a time, Christmas sparkled.  It glittered like new snow and winter stars.  It whispered with secrets, and sang out with joy to the world, and smelled of pinecones and wood fires.  It was as brilliant as red ribbons curling around unopened paper-wrapped packages.  And it was filled with grace and truth, vulnerability and hope. more “One hundred and five Christmases.”

Wipe your feet and look for hearts.

The woman stopped and wiped her feet on the tufted mat at the door.  Then she hesitated another moment longer before entering the church.  She was older, dressed in plain dark clothing, wearing her Sunday shoes.  It was a fair day.  So the wiping of her feet seemed less necessary than it was symbolic.  

She was attending a funeral.  And I began to suspect that, more than any dirt or dust from the soles of her shoes, she was somehow also wiping off any bits of worldliness clinging to the underside of her thoughts and heart – leaving it outside, shuffling it off at the door.  So that she would be open to the experience at hand.  It seemed an incredibly respectful gesture.  Terribly mindful and meaningful and tender. more “Wipe your feet and look for hearts.”