Susan and Woodle
— By Susan Eirich, Ph.D. —
I had a beautiful dream in the early morning hours, though it didn’t start that way. I was at the vet with my malamute, Woodle. She was on the operating table and she was dead (she passed away a year and a half ago). But then she made a little movement and she was somehow maybe alive. The vet did something to her and she made a huge and sudden evacuation of gas, stirred, and sat up! It was very disorienting—how could she be alive after being dead? Dare I believe it? But there she was. She lay down on the table, leaning against me. I was in shock—she was there! I could touch her! I had my Woodle back! Was it real? Not possible! How could it be possible? But there she was and we cuddled and cuddled and she was so beautiful and it was so good to stroke her fur and feel her being, her essence, to be with her again…
The dream continued with her behaving just as she would when she was alive: she slipped the leash and ran away, terrifying me. It was a strange place; she would get lost or hurt. I looked and looked for her, spotting glimpses of her in the distance, trying to get her to come. She would approach me but slip away just as I reached for her collar. But… those few moments of her coming alive—and the vividness of our being together and my stroking her and her loving it and me loving it…! So precious! So ephemeral…
I tried to hold on to the dream when I awoke, of course, and of course it began to recede into the distance as I began my day. But still, something mysterious happened, some ineffable connection.
Where did this dream come from? Did she actually visit me? Was it a wishful hunger in me for her beloved companionship that caused a dream? But for a moment, it was so very, very vivid and real.
When Penelope Smith came to visit and saw my lovely German Shepherd Shota, she spontaneously commented that he was also Woodle. Not exactly, and not a reincarnation, but that Woodle and I were so close that she slipped in and out of his body or shared it for moments to be with me. Penelope could see the energy of Woodle hovering just outside of Shota and also somehow part of him. Shota is really not like Woodle at all in looks or energy or temperament (he comes when I call!), but sometimes I find myself calling him Woodle or spontaneously singing him the Woodle song instead of his song as I pet him…
Sunrise, 2 February 2020
I had my eyes closed this morning, meditating, trying to get into the right feeling to work on my book. With all the pressures of life—inner and outer—it is often a struggle to free the pathways and go deep enough inside to really express what is important and beautiful. What resonates as truth. I opened my eyes for a moment and drew in a sudden, startled breath—the eastern sky was ablaze with brilliant orange and pink clouds as the sun rose over the mountains. I got up from the chair and went to the window, watching as the beauty unfolded, changing every second, intensifying and intensifying in a crescendo of color and then slowly fading as the sky paled into daylight. Filmy, luminescent orange clouds drifted gently, high above the mountains—slow, graceful, soothing—as my own pace slowed to match theirs. In the slowness, I felt a calm inside myself; a little closer to something eternal.
I wondered if that is why we were put on this Earth- or arrived, or whatever the process is – to witness, appreciate, and enjoy the beauty. As John Donahue writes in The Invisible Embrace of Beauty, “How can we ever know the difference we make to the soul of the Earth? Perhaps each day our lives undertake unknown tasks on behalf of the silent mind and vast soul of nature. During the millions of years of presence perhaps it was also waiting for us, for our eyes… Some mornings it seems the dawn cannot wait to break for the light to come out and play with the stillness of the landscape… almost without sensing it, the mind is gradually relieved of its inner pressing. The senses become soothed and the clay part of the heart is stirred by ancient beauty.”
That momentary connection with the ephemeral clouds is now part of my memory, the wiring of my brain physically changed in the storing of it. Somewhere in my brain is the imprint of gentle orange beauty. Are we somehow connected to that moment forever, the fleeting configuration of water vapor, sunrise and my conscious presence? Is that how Life works? We connect with what we truly see and then have it as part of us for Life? If so, it is in our interest to make a point of connecting with many beautiful things despite any ugliness around us. To add as much beauty as we can to share with others. To encourage our cultural institutions to focus more on beauty and hope—which are very real things, often discounted or minimized when actually they are of primary importance.
Dr. Susan Eirich is the Founder and Executive Director of Earthfire Institute Wildlife Sanctuary and Retreat Center. A licensed psychologist, biologist and educator, her goal is to widen the circle of conversation about conservation to include the voices of all living beings.