This fall, Sounds True is publishing a box set of teaching conversations based on the poems in my book Reduced to Joy. The poems are the teachers and unfold the journey from our head to our heart. For the next two months, I’m happy to be previewing poems and reflections from the box set.
This poem speaks to the closeness I had with my first dog, many years ago. I can still feel the details of this scene.
So Much is Carried
When just a pup, I took her into winter.
While Paul photographed the heavy snow,
she, having never run free, circled wildly,
her little nose caked with white.
She slipped and broke the ice. I can still
see her puppy face underwater, looking
for a way out, her tiny paws swatting
at the thick clear deep.
With no thought, I was waist high and
wet, sweeping her into the air. She flew
a good twelve feet and landed with a thud.
She shook and started to shiver. We rubbed
her down for two hours, blowing her with
an old hair dryer. I held her in my shirt,
near my heart, the whole way home.
I’m fourteen years and seven states away
and she has died. My first dog. I close
my eyes and there she is, grown,
sniffing the air in an open field,
smelling things I couldn’t even sense.
How many times I’ve played that day
in the pond: her struggle underwater,
her drying on my chest.
How much that day has shaped my art:
always jumping in and sweeping what
has been baptized in the deep back
into the world, always holding it
near my heart. As if my life
depends on it.
A Question to Walk With: How do you experience the human sense of baptism, the unexpected ways that life immerses us into places and relationships more deeply than we imagined or are willing. Tell the story of one such unexpected immersion and how it has changed you.