Kai-the-dog loves nothing more than to find, and subsequently carry, a very large branch on our walks. He keeps an eye out for one the way we humans are always on the lookout for a good sale or cake (I love cake!) One can see my dog’s eyes darting around looking for the prize stick as we walk the trails around the farm here in New Mexico. We can walk for miles and never see another human being. And we do. When he sees the great stick, his tail wags long before he has grabbed his prize – it wags in sheer anticipation. He carries it along, perfectly balanced so that neither one side nor the other are too heavy and so dragging. If one side drags then if he needs to run, the dragging side of the branch will cause his body to veer off to that side and arc off the road the way a pencil arcs on a compass. So he keeps the stick balanced like the bar of an acrobat hundreds of feet off the circus floor, dancing along on those big, black round paws on the warm New Mexican sand. Black and tan.
Balance is so hard to maintain when one is carrying too much weight. Much bigger, and this stick would have a dragging effect. But he chose one just heavy enough to feel he has a great prize and just light enough to be able to run when need be.
The nice thing about movers is that they charge one for a move, at least in part, by weight. They pack and then weigh the truck. Then they make calculations of distance and time and come up with a fee. When I left the farm in New Hampshire I was moving 10,000 pounds of possessions (almost entirely inherited from people who inherited from people who inherited from people…etc.) When I moved from my work at the Cathedral in Denver to this work raising money for those experiencing homelessness in New Mexico, I had moved three times in four years due to exploding rent costs in Denver and so had trimmed down each time with great care. And so, when I moved to New Mexico, the movers reported moving 5,000 pounds of possessions. I had reduced my library (a main culprit) by 80% and had sorted and re-sorted kitchen-ware, drawer contents, and clothing. Three times in three years I touched every possession I owned – every piece of paper in every file, every book, every knife snd fork and spoon and gadget. Every single sock-set, every thing in every drawer full of accumulated stuff was touched and the question was NOT “Should I throw or give this away?” but rather “Does this give me joy?” – a question suggested by a now famous Japanese writer on de-cluttering.
Like Kai, I cannot run with too much in my possession or it causes me to run in circles – and now, as I begin to get older and slow down, it is time to become aware of my mortality on this, the other side of “the hill” of life.
Letting go of things which are too heavy is hard work. Possessions, friendships, board seats, responsibilities, hobbies, and sometimes even a marriage needs to be let go of in order to be able to really dance life. Our culture says “collect, amass, protect” and so this is difficult and fairly advanced spiritual work. To do few things better seems every bit as spiritual as saying the right prayers in church. More so if you ask me. Which is why this walk, with the stick, was on a Sunday morning.