Quincy the dog is an avid puddle walker. He’ll purposely cross a street or double back down a road just to take advantage of every puddle possibility. He values all sizes and depths, in all seasons and weather, regardless of time of day or temperature. He splashes and slooshes and glides his feet along their bottoms. And then he holds his ears straight out from his head and grins up at me for the pure joy of it. It fills my own heart with a sense of joy just to watch him.
Not long ago, heavy rains had left behind great pools of fresh invitations for him. But the spring pollen had thickened the compelling puddles, clouding their surfaces like heavy cream in cold coffee. And yet Quincy never hesitated to slide through them all the same – perhaps with extra care and lingering. And with his slow, deliberate steps, the pollen broke apart and altered its sluggish, clinging nature and released its hold on the water. I watched, with fascination, his subtle yet undeniable impact on the puddle – and it stirred within me random thoughts and suppositions, just as it stirred the pollen within the water.
It reminded me of something a friend had told me ages ago. She was a dental hygienist, and she said that to loosen the plaque on our teeth when we brush them, we don’t have to actually remove it, we simply have to “disturb” it. It intrigued me at the time, and it came swirling up to me again as I watched the dog “disturb” the pollen in the puddles, swirling it all around his ankles. He didn’t remove the pollen from the water, yet he changed its effect entirely.
I have always been fascinated by magic – which is based on the principle of disturbance – the disruption of attention, the suggestion of a different reality. And I thought, too, of rodeo clowns that disturb the threat of bulls with distracting laughter. A simple wooden spoon placed across the top of a pan of water can keep it from boiling over by disturbing the surface tension of the water (a few, small drops of oil can do the same). Dominoes that stand in long, rigid lines are toppled with nothing more than a breath of air to disturb them. One thin, gentle earthworm can disturb and change the entire ecosystem in which it lives. One true book can disturb a lifetime of ignorance.
And so I stood and watched the pollen in the puddle as it broke apart and changed its character beneath Quincy’s feet, and I contemplated even more outrageous possibilities: What if hate was disturbed by friendship? What if entire wars were disturbed by individual acts of kindness? Suppose prejudice could be disturbed by empathy? Fear disturbed by forgiveness? Cruelty disturbed by compassion? What if we didn’t need to strive to completely eradicate injustice as much as we need to continuously disturb it?
Perhaps in quiet ways and gentle steps, sliding through the middle and along the hidden depths of it all, we could disturb evil with morality, apathy with hope, the status quo with patience and peace and generosity … and thereby change the world. Like pollen in a puddle.