As I was going to St. Ives, I met a man with seven wives.
I was reminded of that clever nursery rhyme as I was walking in the woods where I met a man with two dogs. They saw me before I saw them. The man stepped to the side of the trail and commanded his dogs, “Sit!”
As I approached them, I shifted my walking stick to my left, away from them. The man and I smiled and nodded at each other. To my untrained eye, the older dog appeared to be a mix – perhaps Collie and Irish Setter – and she sat calmly, obediently, even though unrestrained by a leash. The man held firmly, however, to the collar of the German Shepherd. The dog panted, straining at being detained, rebelling at the restriction of his freedom and desire to run helter-skelter chasing squirrels. Or strangers.
“Good morning,” I said.
“Good morning,” the man replied.
“Your dogs are well behaved,” I offered, appreciating that, unlike other dog owners I had encountered, he didn’t let them run at me or jump on me, while proclaiming they were friendly and wouldn’t bite.
“Well,” the man hesitated, “this one…” His voice trailed off and we both laughed.
“Is eager to get moving?” I suggested.
“Yes,” he said, “that’s it exactly.”
Throughout our short chat, I had continued walking, strolling past them and turning my head to maintain eye contact. At his last words, I gave one final smile of farewell and a short nod, then returned my attention to the trail in front of me, effectively ending our brief encounter and our conversation. Or so I thought.
“Thanks,” he shouted to my retreating back.
Thanks? I thought. Thanks for what? What a strange thing to say. Was he thankful for a smile and a friendly face? Thankful I hadn’t yelled at him to keep his dogs on a leash? Had he seen me move my walking stick in an effort to be less threatening to the dogs? Was he thankful that I understood the eagerness of his youngest dog? Then, out of the ether, I heard, Thanks for the opportunity to allow my dog to practice learning his new behaviors.
The man hadn’t spoken the words out loud, but I heard it as plainly as if he had. (It wasn’t until later that I would be struck by this. How did I come by this knowing? Episodes of knowingness occur regularly since Reconnective Healing, sometimes with words, sometimes with a feeling in the gut. I continue awe and delight at this.)
I pondered that message of gratitude. How often are we restrained from doing what we want to do, how often do we have adversity in our lives, and rage against it? What if such events are merely opportunities to practice learning? Whoa! That was so profound, I slowed my pace.
Adversity is merely an opportunity to practice learning.
With new understanding, I shouted back to the man (in my mind).
Thank you for sharing your wisdom.
Thanks for sharing your dogs.
Thanks for training your dogs.
Thanks for smiling, for chatting, for our connection in a world of disconnect.
Thank you for your thank you!
And in gratitude, I continue my journey towards home.