My dog Daphne schooled me yesterday. Her lesson came at a time when I wasn’t expecting it. It was my first full day back from an out-of-town conference I attended, a weekend the word “busy” doesn’t come close to describing. It was three days away from home, full of stress, learning, and inspiration. Because it was Monday, we had our two youngest grandkids over while their mom taught school. It’s our regular thing during the school year. The baby was sleeping and two and a half year old Claire was moving about the house being her usual busy self under her grandma’s watchful eye. Daphne stood by the back door.
She stood at the back door on this chilly but sunny morning, and that frustrated me a bit. She had already been out to take care of business at least two times, and I didn’t think that she really needed to go out again. I didn’t want to keep letting her in and out, as I always either go out with her or keep an eye on her from in the house when she is outside, even though we have a fenced yard. I could have ignored her, but I didn’t want to discourage her from letting me know what she wants, as she was clearly taking the time to communicate with me the only way she knew I could understand.
It was with this attitude of frustration that I opened the back door and let her go out, watching to see what she would do. She stepped out onto the deck, slowly wandered over to a spot that she deemed suitable, and proceeded to lie down in the sun. “You just want to lie on the deck?” I asked. It was a question that she had already answered, so she offered no further reply. “Okay, I’ll sit with you for a few minutes.” I told her as I stepped outside, closing the door behind me and for some reason steering clear of the available chair to sit down on the deck itself with my back against the door.
It was fifty-eight degrees and sunny, one of the warmest days we have had on the heels of the particularly brutal Chicago winter we had just endured. Seeing that she now had company, and that she had my full attention, she eased over on her side and stretched out into a more fully relaxed position. When I saw her do that, I decided to follow her lead. I slid forward, away from the door, and stretched out on my back in the sunshine. The gentle heat of the sun-warmed wood beneath me gave a welcome hug to my winter-weary body. “This is quite comfortable,” I thought to myself as I stretched my arms out from my sides, palms up and feeling the sun’s energy. I never knew the wooden deck could feel so good.
At that moment, I became one with the deck boards, and like they had been before, I was now being sun-warmed. I must have been a sight, lying there on the deck in my blue plaid flannel pajama pants, grey sweatshirt, and blue running shoes. “This is why she likes it out here.” I silently thought, now completely relaxed in this cool morning’s sunshine. Daphne saw that I was a good student, and as if to reinforce today’s lesson, she moved closer to me and stretched out on her side again, this time resting her head in the palm of my right hand. I kicked off my shoes and remained there, looking up at the blue sky and the occasional passing jet or bird when my eyes strayed back open now and then. I wished neither one of us ever had to get up.
Since that time, in addition to the extended period of affection I share with her each morning when we get out of bed, I now attend the relaxation sessions that she hosts on dry days. Class is held out on the deck where she leads the session by example, watching over her yard and appreciating her surroundings, followed by a feeling of contentment and a brief nap. You will find me, her humble student, out there with her. I won’t be on a chair, but sitting or lying on the deck itself, holding a cup of tea or coffee, and usually touching or petting her. If you should happen to walk up the driveway and peek around the corner of the house, it won’t look like I am doing anything important. I assure you that I am. I am appreciating all of my surroundings and pondering all that I am so blessed and lucky to have, and profusely thanking Daphne for helping me get to this place.