In her collection of poems, “Overland to the Islands,” poet Denise Levertov reflects on the “intently haphazard” way of the dog.
Let’s go—much as that dog goes,
intently haphazard. The
Mexican light on a day that
‘smells like autumn in Connecticut’
makes iris ripples on his
black gleaming fur—and that too
is as one would desire—a radiance
consorting with the dance.
Under his feet
rocks and mud, his imagination, sniffing,
engaged in its perceptions—dancing
edgeways, there’s nothing
the dog disdains on his way,
keeps moving, changing
pace and approach but
not direction—’every step an arrival.’
I see in this wandering dog what we might call a whimsical model of “canine spirituality” for us humans. This dog is intently engaged with his local environment—rocks and mud under his feet. “The dog disdains nothing on his way,” enthusiastically receiving each bit of sensory input on his circuitous journey. At the same time, “he keeps moving,” refusing to inertly stagnate in one spot. The final line,“every step an arrival,” reminds me of the enthusiasm of dogs as they sniff, explore, and probe all that is around them.
Some questions for us as we reflect on canine spirituality. How do we imaginatively engage with our local context? Are we empathetically aware of the “rocks and mud” of the local struggles of our neighbors? Are we open to serendipity along life’s way, to the simple perks of divine grace that meet us in unexpected places—refusing to disdain any such gift? Do we keep seeking and moving, not because of restless ingratitude, but because curiosity and wonder drive us onward and humility reminds us we have more to learn and discover? Are the eyes of our heart open in such a way that can make “every step an arrival,” each moment a potential sacrament revealing to us God’s holy presence, God’s majestic creation, God’s gifts strewn upon our way like sands upon the great seashore?
While Denise Levertov’s poem is not the only word on Christian spirituality, I can’t help but think, “We could learn a lot from a dog!” May God bless you this week as you dance edgeways, curiously stalking unknown scents in search of the God who loves you in Jesus Christ the Savior.