Little Dog's Rhapsody in the Night
by; Mary Oliver
He puts his cheek against mine
and makes small, expressive sounds.
And when I'm awake, or awake enough
he turns upside down, his four paws
in the air
and his eyes dark and fervent.
Tell me you love me, he says.
Tell me again.
Could there be a sweeter arrangement? Over and over
he gets to ask it.
I get to tell.
This post is going to be a simple one to write. Oliver's poem is all about love. Over and over, her dog asks for love, and, over and over, Oliver provides it. Because there can never be too much love in the world.
Day six of COVID quarantine for me. Tested positive again this morning. So, I taught my class via Zoom today, and I worked for the library online. Picked up my son from school. Had leftovers from China King for dinner. Watched a livestreamed concert from the library. (I scheduled the band and was supposed to be there to do the introduction. That didn't happen.) And, finally, planned for my day tomorrow, which is complicated since I have to prepare for two possibilities: first, that I test COVID-positive tomorrow morning, and second, that I test COVID-negative tomorrow morning.
Here is what I have learned (re-learned?) over this past week of quarantine and sickness--I have a lot of people in my life who love me a great deal. That doesn't come as a surprise. However, in my normal day-to-day existence, I don't really focus very much on all the love in my life. Instead, I focus on the meeting I have in the morning, report I have to submit by 11 a.m., class I need to teach, son I have to pick up from school at 2:30 p.m., and . . . You get the idea. The details of my hectic schedule sort of overwhelm all that love I receive on a daily basis.
And that is what Oliver is getting at with this poem. The sweet arrangement of love--both receiving and giving. There's nothing better than getting an unexpected expression of love, whatever form it takes. A text message. Email. Phone call. For Oliver's dog, it's a scratch behind the ears or a belly rub. During this last week, so many of my friends and family members have reached out to check on me. Some offered to get groceries. Last night, a good friend offered to drop off a fifth of gin. Other people just wanted me to know that they were thinking of me, sending me healing thoughts and prayers.
At the library where I work, everyone has stepped up to help me out. Hosting programs. Taking messages. Putting out all the small fires that erupt during the course of my workdays. I have coworkers who truly care about me and would do anything to help me out. That is love, as well.
Me? I can't do much right now. I'm sort of like Percy in Oliver's poem, turning upside down, paws in the air, accepting all the kindness and love the universe is throwing my way. There really is no way to repay all the kindnesses or say "thank you" enough.
Of course, that's not really the point of love, though. Love isn't about balance--making sure the scales are even. Love is unbalanced, even a little feral. I picture love like a garden that you plant but just can't control. The carrots and zinnias and cucumbers and watermelon and sunflowers all crowding each other in chimerical chaos. Unchecked and untamed. No scorecard needed.
Saint Marty gives thanks tonight for the wild, organic love in his life this week.
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