There are memories right on the surface, so close sometimes I swear I could reach out, take a step and be there again. Over the last little while I’ve come to compare two phases of life—elderly and newborn—not something I was planning on doing, of course. But I’m an author—that is who I am down to the bone, more than it is my occupation. We who are authors do three things, mostly.
First we observe life around us, then we think about what it is we’re seeing, and then we write about it.
Have you ever spent any time simply watching a newborn baby? I’ve heard all sorts of things about these wee beings. There are assertions that they really can’t see anything, in the way that you and I see things, not in the first few days or even weeks; that’s why their eyes move so often, why it appears their gazes just roam. And when they stare at something? Why, it must be because something particularly bright has caught their attention. Oh, and no, that’s not really a smile, not at all and not yet. Of course it isn’t. It’s only gas.
But I wonder.
Have you ever spent any time simply watching someone who’s elderly? Someone who seems to be not one hundred percent in this world, mentally? They sit quietly, their gazes roam, not seeming to fix on anything. But every once in a while, they stare. There are assertions that granny is just getting old. She’s not really with us all the time, you understand. If she were, she would certainly be responding the way we are, hip deep in the conversation, as it were, living in the moment. She’s likely off in her own little world, thinking about the past. Maybe she’s recalling her wedding day, or perhaps some other important event in her life. Don’t mind her. In fact, let’s just pretend she’s not really here.
But I wonder.
Have you ever spent any time simply watching an older pet? Have you ever wondered what they’re thinking? Their eyes seem to look all over, except once in a while, when they stare, and you wonder what they’re looking at. And what do they dream about, anyway? I know a lot of people assert that when a dog is twitching in his sleep, he’s dreaming about “chasing a rabbit”. I would argue that a lot of dogs who’ve only ever been urban dwellers likely don’t even know what the heck a rabbit is.
But I wonder.
I wonder, because in those eyes—the eyes of the newborn, the eyes of the elderly and the eyes of an older pet I see something more than nothing. Is there a connection between this life, and the next? Is there a portal between times? Could there be a level of existence and thought and communication that we’re not even aware of?
Maybe babies really do see fairies and ghosts, because no one has told them yet that they can’t. Maybe the elderly really are able to visit the past in a more literal sense than we mean when we say they’re back there. And maybe, our pets bond with us on a level we don’t even know exists. Maybe there’s a point in life, near the beginning and near the end, when communication with our four footed friends is completely normal, natural and yes, psychic.
Can you imagine a park bench of ethereal proportions? The newborn, the elderly woman or man, and the pet, all sitting side-by-side-by-side, watching the world that is in progress around them—separate from it and yet a part of it—as they share thoughts and words of wisdom.
What would that conversation be like? If we could manage to break through that barrier that separates the spiritual from the physical, what words could they offer us as encouragement, words we could hang onto that would serve us for all the days of our lives?
The baby might express a sense of infinite wonder. He might tell us how vast the beauty and the hope and the possibilities really are, and how enormous and miraculous life realized truly is. The baby might urge us to always keep a sense of that wonder close to our hearts, for times when life becomes difficult.
The elderly might caution us to not be in so much of a hurry, because at the end of the day, everything happened in but an instant—here, and then gone so, so fast. Slow down, they might say. Slow down and cherish every single moment, of every single day, and never lose sight that it’s the little things that make a life worth living.
And the dog? Well, the dog might tell us that no matter how busy we are, or how important all the stuff in our lives may seem, it’s crucial that we don’t ever forget one thing: we should never forget the importance of play.