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  • Writer's pictureDan FitzPatrick

Up With Pup

I haven’t been sleeping well lately.

It’s not because I’ve been eating spicy foods, have bad dreams or a guilty conscience.

We have a new puppy.

He is cute. In fact, he is adorable. And he is bringing great happiness into our household. While our older dog’s nose is a bit “out of joint” at the competition for familial affection, that too will pass. We’ve seen this movie many times before -- it always turns out well and offers great enjoyment for many years. We just need to get past the chewing and housebreaking phases.

I mention this because I’ve rediscovered the joy of seeing the world through the eyes of a newborn. Child or puppy, each new life begins in a state of complete innocence and must discover their new environment individually, using all their senses. It is fascinating – and wondrous – to watch. Grass. Leaves. Rain. Pools of water. Low hanging branches. Sticks on the lawn. Rustling weeds (with burrs) along the fence. Fingers, toes, laundry baskets, slippers, shoes (definitely shoes) – all ripe for the tasting and chewing. Birds, planes, lawn mowers, cars, wind (not yet thunder) – perking up ears and tilting the head. Eating (a lot), sleeping (a lot) and the other stuff (a lot). Imagine seeing, smelling, tasting, hearing and feeling all things anew.

I found this to be a tonic for my soul. We live in a wonderful town, in a wonderful country, in a wonderful world. We are surrounded by extraordinary beauty and inspiration, though it is hard to experience as we rush through our lives anxious to be “some where” or to accomplish “some thing.” We all need to take time to “stop and smell the roses” (you know I had to include that phrase).

I call this the “wallpaper effect.” Years ago, I had an office in downtown Manhattan with a terrific view of the Statue of Liberty. I got so used to it that I hardly even noticed it; it was like a picture on my wall that I really only appreciated when a visitor to my office would remark on it.

Similarly, I had the great good fortune to grow up on Lake Champlain in Upstate New York, with a daily view of the lake and both the Adirondack and Green Mountain ranges outside my window. At the time, I did not fully appreciate the spectacular beauty around me. How do I know that? Because now every time I revisit, I stand quietly at the shore and drink it all in in one long, slow, delightful breath – and I am recharged to an extent that would make Elon Musk green with envy.

Most readers will be familiar with Max Ehrmann’s 1927 poem entitled “Desiderata,” the opening line of which reads: “Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.” Silence is underrated these days. In fact, our 24/7 all-news-all-the-time culture seems purpose-built to kill it. Which is too bad. For in silence there is wisdom.

Ever notice how difficult it is to listen, truly listen to someone else when you yourself are talking? If we do not listen to each other, we cannot learn from each other. We cannot know each other. We cannot learn to respect and trust each other. We cannot work together. We cannot solve problems together. We remain strangers, and strangers do not build and sustain communities.

Permit me a longish quote from Nicholas Sparks’ 1996 novel “The Notebook” –

We sit silently and watch the world around us. This has taken a lifetime to learn. It seems only the old are able to sit next to one another and not say anything and still feel content. The young, brash and impatient, must always break the silence. It is a waste, for silence is pure. Silence is holy. It draws people together because only those who are comfortable with each other can sit without speaking. This is the great paradox.

To be comfortable in silence; that may be one of the biggest challenges of the modern era.

I have found that comfort recently, in the (very) early morning hours when I take our puppy out for a “constitutional.” There is an almost magical aspect to that time of day before the rest of the world awakes and one is truly alone with nature. I walk or sit with my dogs – the old and the young – in silence, enjoying their presence and the chance to reflect on the miracle of existence. And I am much better prepared to deal with the maelstrom of noise to come in the day.

This is why I am very glad a puppy came into my life, even at the expense of some sleep.

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