Bruno came to stay a while back. Such a handsome dog he was, with long caramel fur and gleaming teeth. He had been rescued, or rescued himself, depending on how you look at it. For his entire life (three years) he’d been tethered to a chain under a granary. Not a great start. But sometimes you can see a soul is determined to create a better life for themselves. They are smart, likeable, and eager to learn. There is a certain willpower. They go for it. When the local animal rescue folks found Bruno a foster home with my friend Lonneke, he went for it.
Bruno needed a proper home, though. It wasn’t the right time, and I knew it. Even so, I could see the effort he was making, and how snugably gorgeous he was. Soon enough the Atlantic coast of Spain squirmed out of lockdown, and into yet another strange reality imvolving plenty of face masks and hand sanitiser. My land squirmed with it, over the border of spring and into summer. It was a glutinous time. Slugs and snails marched duly out from the underside of many things in Hitchcockian pestilence. My saucepans filled with them every night. Even cheese-graters weren’t exempt. On one of those slimy days, I bundled Bruno into my car and decided to give him a try.
Sometimes when destiny calls, there is a certain click. A cosmic cog turns, and the right thing falls in the right place at the right time. This wasn’t one of those times.
The week Bruno turned up, my land, mysterious being that she is, pulled her usual guest-welcoming stunt. The sky disintegrated, the temperature collapsed, and suddenly our world was blended into an unappetising gazpacho of fog-rain. She often does this when a newcomer turns up, refusing to reveal her better side until she’s seen a bit of commitment.
I opened the boot of my car and lifted Bruno out. His face fell as soon as his paws hit the dirt. His thoughts were as clear as the thickening mud. “She has brought me to hell. This is the place bad dogs go. I’m not a bad dog.” He stayed the night, refusing to approach the cushion I’d bought him, ticks crawling out of him and onto my floor. I scratched a lot. He sighed a lot. Neither of us slept. The next day, the only time Bruno smiled was when he saw my chickens. Yeees.
I could see I needed stronger fences, gates, and a kennel for him to shelter in. The weight of it all sapped my enthusiasm. My infrastructure wasn’t up to it. My energy wasn’t up to it. I simply didn’t want to. And that’s the fact of the matter.
“Oh you can’t take a dog from obligation, it never works. We need to live with lovers,” said a friend of mine when I explained my dilemma. How true this is. If there is love, then it’s easy. If not, it’s just a burden.
So I said no to Bruno. Not the right dog. Not the right time. And as soon as he left I could feel how ‘right’ that decision was. He jumped for joy when he arrived back at Lonneke’s house. The relief and release of a tepid deal for both of us was palpable. It formed a magic cloud of higher expectation that expanded in the air. Somewhere in the Otherworld above, below, and beyond this one, our intentions met another one. A new reality was conceived. Within a week someone else adopted Bruno. I knew they were going to. Because Bruno was going for it.
Time rolled on. Summer strode in without even knocking, the skies solidifying into a hot belt of azure. I hit the beach. I ate ice cream. June appeared, and along with it came Alice.
It was an overcast afternoon when I first heard a galumph and the unmistakable pat-pat-pat of a tail banging the ground. Peering outside my kitchen hut, I groaned. There inside my gate was a dog. A big, too skinny, not particularly pretty mastiff. She was covered in army camouflage stripes too, which didn’t help her cause. I closed my eyes. No, not now. I don’t want a damn dog! I did my best to shoo her off, and pushed her outside the gate. She just nuzzled me affectionately and hid in the undergrowth, holding out for a change of mood.
By twilight, I felt so sorry for her, I fed her, noticing her lack of dog-appetite. Perhaps she was ill. I called her Alice. The name wandered in from the wonderland of the hazel woods she appeared from, and it settled onto her like a garland.
The moon was a grapefruit that night, and as I tossed and turned in my mud-clad bedroom, I could hear Alice patrolling the hills, woofing and chasing. She was made for these highlands, and unlike Bruno, wasn’t afraid of them in the slightest.
The next day Alice ate at my heart like the smartest of her kind. She didn’t bother the chickens, nor wreck my garden, and learned to sit. She was easy. Again my land, mysterious being that she is, pulled over a veil of mist. The rain sank in, and we were pinned to the inside. Alice took one look at the cushion I’d bought for Bruno, and curled up happily on it. I sighed. This was the right dog, but the wrong time.
Timing is everything, and waiting for the right moment is more valuable than people think. Try to yank a chick out of an egg before it’s developed and it will die. Pluck your seedlings before they have matured and you wreck your future harvest. Gaia’s time-space continuum is dotted with conception points and flowering points. Stretching between these two reality banks is a temporal bridge, a crucible where ideas, energy, and matter merge and fuse and melt into something utterly new. There’s no hurrying it.
It was the wrong time. But I had fallen in love with Alice, which was in itself a mystery. Why fall for this big stripy mastiff, yet not for cutesy Bruno? I couldn’t work it out. But love is love. So I ignored the timing, bought her a lead, food, and wood for a kennel. She’d been with me for three days when her owner turned up and took her away, in a van conspicuously stuffed with dog food. Apparently Alice was supposed to be tending cows on the hilltops yonder and had run away. As I helped lift her into her “owner’s” van, this time I didn’t feel relieved at all. I felt bereft.
Now I suspect as always with dogs and children and everything else, there could be a mountain of judgement. I shouldn’t have given her back. Or I shouldn’t care about the time, the dog is suffering. I should hate the owner because he’s “guilty” and “bad” and Alice is “innocent” and “good”. I should tell him off, wage a war against him, etc. But we all live in our own moral realities, and I’ve long stepped away from any perceived high ground. Finger-wagging and righteousness are an outdated human game. Very Old Testament, to be honest. As a lifelong educator, I know just how ineffective blame and shame are at transforming anything or anyone (take a look at the world if you’re in doubt about that). Hard as it is, I do my best to avoid basing my actions on the energy of “right” versus “wrong”.
Alice left because it wasn’t the right time. If it had been, she’d still be here. There are three viewpoints involved. Three souls: mine, Alice’s, and the owner’s. Three intentions. Three energies. And they are still fusing in the collision, being boiled down or up into the potion that makes magic happen. The alchemy is in process, but there’s no certainty what will emerge or when. That’s creativity for you.
As Alice and her “owner” trundled up the hill, I trudged heavy-hearted up to my old tree to watch the gloaming. The clouds turned the colour of ash, while the sky became an orange fire that burned the peaks cinder black. I felt the stalwart power of the tree, holding her ground as the day disappeared from the face of the Earth and into the pit of night.
From way up there or here, I saw the world jumping off its own crumbling embankment too, a billion viewpoints thrown in the cauldron of the now. A meltdown. Everyone pitting themselves against everyone else, thrashing and kicking and blaming, as pieces of the old order start sinking. And as darkness stole the last remnants of day, it became clear that to try and pull anything out of that molten hole now is pointless. It’s not the right time. The potion is bubbling, distilling down into something new, and will be for some time to come.
The birds had stopped twittering, and I could barely see the mountain ridges when my ash tree spoke. “Know well my Gaian friend, we are all contributing something to the broth. You and me. But what we add is of essence, not form, for no form will survive.” The words rumbled into me and out, along with the whole gamut of human expression: Sorrow, trust, love, kindness, anger, hatred, fear, conspiracy and distrust, pride, righteous judgement, blame, beauty, inspiration, support, empowerment, joy, peace, unity, honesty, inspiration, and grace.
Yes. I suppose the only thing to ask is, what’s the nature of our contribution? Whether we’re sheltering a dog, blabbing online, or out on the streets, which essential oils are we hurling in the pot? Because rest assured, none of them is lost or omitted. And our futures are being forged out of them.
I walked out of the laundrette to my car. A white van passed close by, almost clipping me. It slowed, and in it I saw a thin chap grinning from ear to ear. I smiled when I recognised the driver and threw in as much love as I could. The man was Alice’s owner. And in that second I saw him as Gaia did, free of the human veil of morality, and our old old system of good versus evil - the very keystone of the whole broken edifice. I sensed there and then the power in the moment, the see-sawing of possibility, that anyone can become anything at any time. At some point Alices' “owner” might cave. May be she'll fight to come back. Who knows? There are no certainties. If there were it wouldn't be creation. But for now the energies are all in the cauldron. Being distilled. Being brewed. Until it’s time.
* Bruno ended up in a place far better than mine. Against all odds, within days of me returning him to Lonneke, a young woman saw a video of him online, and fell in love with him. She drove two hours to collect him. He now lives in a proper house with a garden and other human friends. He goes for walks each day, and plays with his dog friends. Yeees, realities aren't created the way people think they are. But hey, you know that:)
** Also many thanks to Yvonne for connecting me with the link below, which inspired the crucible image for this post. https://www.leadtolife.org/
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Atulya K Bingham
Author, Lone Off-Gridder, and Natural Builder.
"Reality meets fantasy, myth, dirt and poetry. I'm hooked!" Jodie Harburt, Multitude of Ones.