I walk the dog around 7 am. Typically I use this as thinking time, also prayer time, though who’s to say it isn’t all prayer time since God hears everything anyway—my thoughts and mumblings as well as my petitions—the good, bad, and in between. It’s all a good reason to have a dog. I let Bernie off leash so we can each be undistracted in our thoughts, which means I’ve probably missed picking up one or two of his do dos.
As I pass over the cracks in the sidewalk, I tick off the things I have to do for the day and what I can put off so I can do what I’d like to do instead. I think about the kids and how they’re feeling, how they’re doing in school, whether I’m giving them enough of my time, whether they should get off their iPads and read more. I think about a person I’ve been avoiding making amends with. I pray Diane’s knee holds up for another day of work at the Cancer Agency. I worry about the financial sustainability of my family and about the sustainability of the planet, detecting the sepia glow in the sky brought on by smoke from another forest fire. I pray for responsible human behavior, my own included.
It’s usually quiet with few others out and about this early. Then I hear Bernie barking furiously at the base of a tree, looking up with his front paws on the trunk.
A squirrel has scurried about sixty feet up into the seventh heaven into the interlacing branches. It whisks along the network of highways from tree to tree, chasing another traveler of his clan along the way. Then a third one picks up the game, a fascinating convoy. They could nearly circle the entire park on their leafy thoroughfare.
Until this moment, I’ve been walking with my head down, gazing in thought at the pavement and have missed what was going on in another world high above me. I carry on, trying to take in what else is happening way up there. I see bird pairs, large nests, a balloon snagged in the labyrinth of a thousand bridges and interchanges. What a contrast to the world below with its carefully bordered parcels of land, evenly clipped lawns, and straight pathways. The complexity and randomness above are astonishingly beautiful!
This seemingly insignificant change in the orientation of vision changes everything. Looking down at the pavement, I’m focused anxiously on the issues I have to tend to. Looking up, I’m lost in a world that eases my mind. My perspective suddenly broadens. The things I’m concerned about haven’t gone away, but they’ve lost the weight of their urgency and importance. They feel more manageable.
Seeing a couple of crows in the higher branches, I think of what Jesus says about worry and trust. “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.” Through the trees and beyond, I catch a glimpse of the mountains to the north. Snow is still on the peaks—vibrant, fresh, clean, like grace itself. I think immediately of how the Psalms poet says, “I lift my eyes to the mountains. Where does my help come from? From the Maker of heaven and earth.”
I thank Bernie for getting my attention. I’ll be lifting my eyes more often on my dog walks. The prayer I need might be right up there in the trees.