Loving one another softly

Another bright blue day, the red-barked ironwood tree swaying gently in the breeze.  My neighbor is pruning a vine with something that sounds like a large bumble bee but I suppose is some kind of electric clippers.  It’s not loud, just a gentle rumble in the background.  The rumble of the bumble.

Managed to walk all the way around the hill this morning.  There must’ve been close to a hundred dogs up there, all shapes and sizes and levels of energy.  I walked past a big Monterey pine that grows straight out of a rocky slope, and there were six dogs standing like statues, staring fixedly up the slope where their dogwalker was trying to clamber onto a limb.  People stopped to look and we exchanged theories about what he was doing.  “Maybe one of his dogs tried to climb it and got trapped,” I offered.  A man looked at me pityingly.  “No dog in his right mind would try that,” he said, no doubt noting I was dogless.  Yet there was a dog, trying to follow the climber onto the tree.  Eventually I lost interest and walked on.

He looked kind of like this. Photo: Isabelle Matheson

Around the curve I encountered a large frolicking bundle of canine friendliness and enthusiasm–dark brown with tan blotches, silky-haired, long ears flopping and tongue panting as he tried to persuade every passer-by to play with him.  There’s almost nothing more engaging than a floppy-eared dog dying to play.

 A woman came up the hill pushing side-by-side twin babies in a stroller.  The dog greeted her ecstatically, and soon she was surrounded by him and six or eight of his BFFs.  Undismayed, she gave each of them a treat from her pocket and let them sniff the babies.  Some of them she called by name.  Maybe she walks babies on Monday-Wednesday-Friday and dogs on Tuesday-Thursday?

Continued on to sweeping views of the city, bay, and two bridges, on past the community garden and an elderly RV with a chalkboard attached to its side.  Today’s message was “we must learn to love one another softly.” Not sure what that means, but it sounds good.  Definitely better than killing me softly, much as I like Roberta Flack doing it.

Back home, I made a cup of coffee and picked up the paper.  On the front page of the NY Times is a stark picture of a young woman dressed in black and wearing a head scarf, standing in what used to be a window or door, pieces of metal that perhaps had once been part of a balcony rail, and shredded fabric that might have been window drapes are hanging about randomly. The woman’s arms are crossed across her body as though she’s hugging herself, and she is staring into the distance with an expression of…worry? resignation? fear?  It’s hard to interpret.  The place is Aleppo in Syria, and clearly her life has been touched more than softly by war, as have so many in this war-weary world.  A brutal contrast with my life of friendly dogs.


They speak of the art of war,
but the arts
draw their light from the soul’s well,
and warfare
dries up the soul and draws its power
from a dark and burning wasteland.
When Leonardo
set his genius to devising
machines of destruction he was not
acting in the service of art,
he was suspending
the life of art
over an abyss,
as if one were to hold
a living child out of an airplane window
at thirty thousand feet.         

Denise Levertov

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2 Responses to Loving one another softly

  1. Congrats on making it all the way around the hill! What a treat that must have been seeing so many dogs playing and frolicking. I smiled just thinking about it. The photo you posted looks like a Bernese Mountain Dog; I’ve always wanted a big dog like that, maybe a Newfoundland Retreiver, but the opportunity has not come up yet. I have two rescue dogs (German Shorthair Pointer mixes, both sisters from the same abandoned litter) and while I would have one hundred dogs if I could, my husband prefers a smaller zoo. I like the thought of walking dogs one day, children the next. Very cute! And yes, what a contrast to the photo you saw on the paper. The poem fits very well, not only with the news photo, but also with the silly man climbing out on a limb (like a child out of airplane window). I do not know Levertov’s work, but may look her up now, thank-you!

  2. Thank you for the poem. Only a few lines but so much intensity….an image of a child being held out of an airplane window at 30 K feet…that one line put me up there in the plane watching the man with the child and for a split second i held my breath.
    Dogs…i love them. what a gift.
    enjoy your day

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