It turned out to be the howling of a dog

In these bright blue November days, a few things are turning my mind to the swift passage of time and my own frustrated desire to hold it at bay.

First, our sweet boy turned one-year-old this week:

Happy birthday, Lincoln!

Happy birthday, Lincoln!

I simply cannot believe Lincoln is a full year-old. I know it's cliched, but I'll ask it anyway, where has the time gone? I've probably got some company in saying that this past year has seemed surreal. A year ago plus a few days, our social fabric was torn asunder by the unexpected result of a national election. The year since has seemed a daily exercise in pulling back our cultural curtains on our divisions and polarization, on the feet of clay of our leaders, on the rancid rot of abusive, cancerous selfishness, or conversely, damage from that abusive, cancerous selfishness, so long hidden from polite company, now exposed and naked to light and air and, dare we hope, the very beginning of a difficult healing process. And yet, Lincoln entered into this world around the same time last year, just two days after the national/cosmic thunderclap that heralded this past year's storm of change. I have a crystal-clear memory of being at work, with Heather, and pulling my phone from my pocket to see that his breeder had posted the very first pics of Lincoln's litter. It was a revelation. I got choked up seeing their beautiful mom, Ruby, and the squirmy collection of perfect pups (11 of the little suckers!).

Now, here we are a year later and I am suddenly feeling shock that the puppy part of his life is over and the clock is ticking on the rest. That's the case for all earthbound life, of course, but in the  stretch of a long and healthy human life, it seems much easier to pretend that each day isn’t of great importance than it does in the comparatively short life of a deeply beloved dog. His first October has come and gone and we have, what, 12, 13, 14 or 15 Octobers left? - and that's if we're extraordinarily lucky...

To quote St. George:

"The perfection of life with a gun dog, like the perfection of an Autumn, is disturbing because you know, even as it begins, that it must end. Time bestows the gift and steals it in the process." - George Bird Evans, An Affair with Grouse

As I grieve around his first birthday of something I have not yet but someday most certainly will lose, I am again reminded that there is something about this magical creature that's bringing me in touch with longings and parts of myself I'm not sure I even knew were there. Maybe it's having a being so independent and engaged with the world to simultaneously feel totally responsible for safe-keeping. We don't have kids - life did not offer us that option - so maybe raising Lincoln through his puppyhood is ushering us into some of all that in the absence of human pups.

But it feels as if there is something more primal at work, plucking strands of my DNA in ways only the ancient echoes of the evolved human and canine inter-dependency can. Indeed, I'm a Buddhist-leaning, life-long animal lover suddenly pulled hard into the cosmic drama of the hunt, of blood and adrenaline and feather and tooth and claw and the deep, heart-pounding, quiet clatter of the field and forest under foot, brushing toward the hidden quarry, found in the intricate choreography of an inter-species partnership that is made most beautifully manifest in the bonds of pure joy and singular focus that the pursuit evokes in both creatures.

It is that latter, unrealized thought that came through when I heard a song on Lincoln's exact birthday, getting ready to take him up to a mountain cabin we visit every year for our anniversary. I'm certain I've heard it before we got Lincoln, but it never resonated for me in the way it did that day, thinking about these things. The chronology doesn't exactly map on to my life, but elements of my own experience flowed back to me in the music and lyrics: the finding of the sort of human love that feels deeply salvific and the discovery of the sort of love for the canine within and the dog without that is completely different but utterly transformative in its own way. Happy birthday, Lincoln. In this my forty-fifth year walking around in this land of light and shadow, you are the agent of change, the cosmic thunderclap of metamorphisis within. This birthday song of yours helped me put a finger on what it was, this primal thing at work within me, called into being by you, that has been bending and shaping me with powerful force this past year, in ways I'm still struggling to articulate in wooden prose but has me locked into an awe and wonder befitting the miraculous heart-rending mystery that is this life. It turned out to be the howling of a dog: