We were walking as we often do in the early morning sun and shadows, down narrow roads that wind. We were physically separate from each other. I was carrying the leash, and dog Liam was walking close by but pausing occasionally for a deeper sniff, a longer view, a more nuanced listening into the quiet.
But then, rather suddenly, we came to a corner where a lawn was being mowed and manicured, edged and trimmed, loudly blown free of left behinds. And, just as abruptly, on the opposite side of the road, a car engine was started and the vehicle was backing out into the road, into our space. And further down the way ahead of us there was a dog, barking. Behind us, two runners appeared, and they were coming nearer.
Liam stopped. More accurately, he froze – not sure which way to turn, if turning was even an option. He leaned into me and I slipped his waiting leash around him; and everything felt safe and sure again, and we could walk down the very center of the road with confidence. All because of the leash … the tether … the tie … the touch … that sense of connectedness that always makes us brave and knows the way and watches our back. Like holding hands in dangerous situations.
I’m told it’s all about the energy. Our life energies can be felt through touch it seems, even down dog leashes and horse reins, across ropes and through thick protective gloves. I suspect it’s why we hold hands with children when they’re frightened in the night, or when we cross a busy street, or walk on unsure ground. Perhaps it’s what we feel holding hands with seat-mates on a bumpy plane ride, even when we’re strangers. And with nurses in hospitals. And firefighters on ladders. Touching hands is how we greet new friends for the first time. A baby grabs our finger at its birth. It’s the way we say our last goodbyes to someone who has loved us very much.
We touch, we connect, we share each other’s energies, we feel that unseen strand that weaves throughout all of life and being, and we’re stronger and braver and better because of it.
I envision it rather like the silky threads of spider webs – stronger than any manmade material, and incapable of human reproduction. Some of it can stretch as far as a mile, and keep its maker held fast to its home regardless of the winds and storms it rides along and through – with absolute vulnerability, yet absolute trust.
I suspect it’s when we lose that sense of connectedness between each other and all living things that we get into trouble. Those thin, invisible, indivisible, threads bind us – not only to other humans, but to tree roots and bee pollen, to mushrooms and the heartbeats of animals, to thunder and the undertow of oceans. And when we lose our sense of these threads of connection, we feel such a frightening, floating aloneness that it terrifies us. And the terror flows down from each one of us to the next, until it affects us all. And we embarrass ourselves with our behavior.
“We cannot live only for ourselves,” Herman Melville wrote. “A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men; and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects.”
I believe the connections are always there, always present. The threads remain forever. But it is up to us to be ever mindful of them, in every aspect of our lives, on every walk of our lives – ever mindful of sharing them with all creation, acting on their power and effects. Perhaps in so doing, we might be braver and surer and walk down the middle of life together – regardless of the noise and shadows surrounding us, knowing our vulnerabilities and trusting anyway, always appreciating the thousand fibers that connect us, the sympathetic threads that run through each of us – like early morning sunshine, and walking down roads with dogs.