It’s been snowing here in Portland. Supposedly the biggest snow storm in 40 years. Because of that, most of us have been holed up in our homes. We can take walks here and there, but driving doesn’t work so well. I couldn’t even get my truck away from the curb. So I’ve been holed up in the house, cleaning and looking after my new puppy, Lucy. The exciting news is that Lucy is about half housetrained. Right now she is convinced that if she poops outside, and goes to the side door, she will get a treat. But if she is in the back bedroom, the carpet feels too much like lawn and she goes there. She’s only ten days into training, so I am sure she will figure it out soon enough.
The penned up energy of being in the house is being channeled toward finishing the new book. It’s due mid January. I’m enjoying the process, but in the pressure to get the book completed, I’ve been thinking about what it means to be human, to need to work, to want to accomplish and succeed, and what plays in those motives. I was sharing with a couple friends who were visiting from out of town the other night, both of them in their mid-thirties, that I miss those twenty-something days where you were more motivated to do good work for other reasons than just good work can provide. Without knowing it, we more or less agreed the motivation to get married and get a job and find your identity fueled much of our motivation in the early days. They say most genius’ complete their greatest works before the age of 26. (I think they are obviously wrong, but it’s remarkable how many great thinkers complete their theories in that span. John Calvin and Albert Einstein come to mind). But when much of the mating and identity ritual is accomplished, the motivation becomes harder, because by necessity it must become purer. The work (in my case) is really about the literature. And I wish that were always enough. It isn’t, at least for me (and I am convinced people who say it is really have some sort of ulterior motive, such as the need for validation or affirmation)…
There is a reason older, wiser people just look at those of us who are younger as though we will get it “some day.” They do not have words to explain that the things we think matter, do not. And perhaps they do not know exactly what matters, either.
Perhaps because we’ve been snowed in, and because I’ve had little to do but clean the house and write and think, I’ve been watching Lucy (the aforementioned dog) and wondered why God made her. A pet. Just a dog (chocolate lab puppy) that runs and jumps and chews things and, even though we’ve only known each other for a couple weeks, wants nothing more than to please me. She puts on no airs, which is one of the things I think we find so comforting about pets and children. There is no false motive, only the desire to eat, reproduce and play.
I think of that scripture that tells us to not think more of ourselves than we should, and not less of ourselves either. I think if Lucy could understand a hearing of that passage, she’d probably tilt her head and say “what is an I?”….all she knows is her red ball and her weasel chew toy and the fact she can dig her nose into snow to make a tunnel.
Life is not all good for Lucy, for sure. She got a shot from the vet the other day and cried pretty loud about it. If I leave the house for an hour (something I’ve managed to do twice since I got her) she is convinced the world has ended, and needs about ten minutes of being held while she cries once I return. I suppose she will get past that.
I wonder what it was like for humans before the fall of man, to not think too much or too little of themselves, to enjoy play, to enjoy work, to enjoy God. I think the difference between them and us would be startling. If they could come here today and have a conversation with us, my guess is they would sniff out all our motives and wonder why it is we care about so many things that don’t matter at all.
This isn’t much of a Christmas post. You can get about a million of those on other blogs. But this winter, holed up in the house because we are snowed in, these are the things I’ve been thinking about. I’ve been thinking it would be great to be a little more like Lucy. To not know about critics or dangling participles, but just to burry my nose into the words and trench through them for the sheer joy of writing. I think that might get me closer to being human. Or canine.
I have to go. Lucy is at my feet whimpering because it’s been more than half an hour since I got down on the floor and let her bite my ears. Have a great day, everybody.
P.S. Before you leave this post thinking you should be more like Lucy, I should disclose Lucy often stares into blank space and barks as though she is looking at a ghost (I call it her Hamlet monologue, often saying back to her “is that a dagger you see before you?”) and she also eats her own poo. Purity comes at a price.