A Dog’s Contemplative Wisdom


It is morning in Indiana, dawning a new day of liberating nothingness, where we’ll gauge the day’s success through a holiday filter: by euchre records, by loners won, by chocolate wrappers, by bottles in the recycling bin, by laughter, by joyful tears. I trust no preacher, no zealot’s shaming of gluttony if they have not experienced Christmas in Indiana. I trust no one who shames heaven, for that’s what devils do, jealous of all the joyful saints around the table at the banquet.


The pandemic has only freed us to be more lazy, more gluttonous, to refrain from making plans and simply remain at home with immediate family. As we crowd around the island to do what we did yesterday—to eat, to drink, to play boardgames and cards—my twenty-five pound shepherd-beagle, Bailee Mae, has already assumed her quiet perch, there in her favorite spot in the entire world, on a rug in front of the sliding-glass door of my parents’ ranch house.


She sits perfectly still, looking out at the backyard and the acres of plowed soybean fields behind the barn, stretching out like the desert. I watch her with intrigue. She sat there yesterday and the day before that, perfectly content, noticing every detail in creation’s natural unfolding. The wind blows; her head tilts. A bird glides by; her eyes shift. Thin clouds disperse; she glances up. She sees it all, just as it is.


Bailee Mae is a city pup, but not by choice. If she could have things her way, she’d live right here, with my parents, smack-dab in the country, surrounded by the quiet peace of Hoosier farmland. If she could have things her way, she’d be a country pup. I live in the city because I like the lifestyle, I suppose. I like to walk or take the train wherever I want, to be surrounded by people and by culture, to always have something new to experience—something to do—but Bailee Mae is not as captivated by the city sights and sounds. She just sleeps all day back home. Here she binge-watches the cosmos through a window.


She is the ultimate contemplative, I think to myself. Content to be who she is, where she is, present to the unfolding mystery on the other side of the glass. She has not overcomplicated life with distractions and demands, with projections or performance, with going somewhere or climbing something or obsessing about the future. She is here, present at the window. It is enough.