The Day That I Understood “How Falling In Love is Like Owning a Dog”

It was a Wednesday. The air was hot and thick in Fairbanks that summer, and the sun did set but we were never awake to see it.

We had planned to meet at the Fairbanks Animal Shelter that evening. Derek and I had made two other trips there without feeling any certainty about a pet beyond being certainly overwhelmed.

I got there early, and Derek was held up at work. I anxiously sat on a bench chewing my fingernails, watching the clock tick. The shelter closed at 6, and it was 5:15. Finally I couldn’t stand sitting anymore, so I paced around the lobby and then told myself I’d go look at the dogs they had available.

I walked out back to the outdoor cages. As I stepped outside a little black dog in his cage ran to the side nearest where I was and looked right at me. He was the only one who did that. All the other dogs kept barking or running in circles or lying down, but he kept looking at me, his head cocked and ears flopping. I walked over to his cage. Craig. I’d seen him on the website before, but was hesitant because of his husky lineage. He kept looking at me with those big brown eyes, his little tail wagging.

I went back to the lobby and Derek rushed in.

“We have to visit Craig,” I urged him.

I ran to the receptionist and asked if we could do a visit with him. “I’m so sorry. We close at 6, but the visiting hours ended just now at 5:30.” I started to walk away, and then another employee ran up to us.

“Let them visit him!” She said. “She was waiting so patiently for her husband!”

We were ushered into the visiting room where Craig was brought in to meet us. He walked in and promptly placed his chin on my knee, looking right at me again. My heart sunk into a puddle, one that has only been mildly less puddly since then for brief periods of time due to incidents of obstinance.

I looked over at Derek who just nodded. We knew. We also immediately changed his name to Mac, a nod to Macbeth, a favorite Shakespeare play of ours.

I was never really a dog person growing up, and even in college I was afraid of dogs for a while. But once we got married and I realized how much Derek would be gone for Army things I really wanted a companion. Mac is wonderful. He’s not perfect, but he doesn’t need to be.

One of my favorite poets, Taylor Mali, has a poem called “How Falling In Love is Like Owning A Dog.” Here is the full text. This quote finally made sense to me after I made eye contact with the little black dog in the outdoor pen.

Sometimes love just wants to go out for a nice long walk.
Because love loves exercise. It will run you around the block
and leave you panting, breathless. Pull you in different directions
at once, or wind itself around and around you
until you’re all wound up and you cannot move.

Throw things away and love will bring them back,
again, and again, and again.
But most of all, love needs love, lots of it.
And in return, love loves you and never stops.

It has been one year of Mac Minkus, of love loving and never stopping.

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Photo credit: Bailey Crowe.

 

Fireweed

The first weekend I lived in Alaska, two weeks freshly wed, Derek and I drove up the Steese Highway in Fairbanks. It’s an incredibly scenic drive and we lost phone service almost immediately, a perfect recipe for quality time.

As we drove I noticed a pink flower on the side of the highway, and I remarked at how beautiful I thought it was.

“That’s fireweed,” he told me, his eyes fixed on the winding road ahead. “They call it that because it’s the first thing to bloom after a forest fire.”

I never knew until moving here that Alaska had a forest fire issue, but lightning strikes, hot summer air, and abundant wilderness make for quite a few forest fires in the summer.

I looked at the fireweed, a stark contrast with the overwhelming green on the Steese, and it struck me what a grace it is that God made something so beautiful to be the first thing to come from a fire. The fireweed was a little phoenix rising from the ashes.Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

This morning, two years after that drive up the Steese, I was talking with some friends about God’s faithfulness, and how refining trials can be. I think difficult and painful seasons of life always bring with them their own fireweed. They bring lessons, truth, wisdom, and grace. The caveat is we have to be attentive–and patient. Maybe sometimes that fireweed isn’t visible for years, or even until eternity. (This is not to say trials or pain are easy, either. They are difficult and hard, and I don’t want to be dismissive of that. Sometimes answers are few and tears are many. But I am a person who tends to dwell on the negative, and I want to be more focused on the graces and lessons of trials, and fireweed helps me to do that.)

Whenever I see the fireweed, and it is everywhere in Alaska in the summer, I try to remember that grace. The grace that something beautiful and bright comes from ashes of a forest fire, and in the same way God is in the business of bringing truths that are beautiful and bright to our lives in the midst of trial and pain.

Eyes Up

    My school year ended almost three weeks ago, and since school has concluded I have had much more time to run instead of squeezing in a short run while feeling exhausted from a full day of work. I was sad to see the school year end, but I am very much enjoying having a bit more time to myself.

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   With more running time comes more thinking time. I have the tendency to get words or phrases stuck in my head, particularly on runs. (Usually it’s a line from poetry, because I am me.) One thought that keeps coming back to me is something my high school coach would tell us during cross country season.

    “Keep your eyes on the shoulders of the girl in front of you, not on her feet. If you look at her feet you’ll start running whatever pace she’s running, and you’ll never pass her. If you look at her shoulders, you’ll pass her.”

    I am not sure why this phrase keeps rolling around in my head, in part because most of my runs these days are alone on an Army base with no one to pass in sight. But when I find my eyes dropping and scanning the pavement in front of me, counting cracks and divets, I remember what he used to say.

    Lately I have found it really easy to look at the metaphorical feet of other people and started trying to run whatever race they’re on. It’s so easy to wish ______ for myself, and usually it boils down to something someone else has (whether it be a talent, skill, or even tangible thing) that I want. It’s hard to admit that reality.

    Alaska is not a terribly hot place in the summer, at least not compared to other places in the Lower 48. But it feels really hot because the sun is smack in the middle of the sky for so much of the day. Today as I write sunrise was at 3:11 AM, and sunset will be at 12:24. It feels like the earth is baking in sunlight, and it makes running outside unpleasant at times. Yesterday as the sun beat down on my arms I kept hearing my coach’s old words in my head — eyes up, eyes up — as my eyes drifted down to the pavement the more fatigued I got.

    The race of the person in front of me is their own, just as mine is mine. If I keep looking at their feet I minimize my own efforts. It’s not so much about passing people as it is about running my own race that’s set out for me by God as fully mine, intended for me, at my pace. I think that’s part of why I love Hebrews 12 so much – “the race set before us.” It’s a metaphor I find relatable. Let us run it with endurance, and eyes up.