What has been your all-time perfect day? The one that wasn’t a special occasion, and wasn’t contrived – it just seemed perfect all on its own? I’m not very sentimental, so I don’t spend much time on exercises like that, but for some reason, I was prompted to think about this recently. And one day came readily to mind.
Our two mastiffs were about a year old – physically grown, but full of puppy fun. They were camping with my family (husband, four young kids, and I) in a meadow surrounded by aspens in Colorado’s high country, and we were almost ready to go. My husband was hooking up our fold-up camper to the Suburban, and I was in charge of the dogs, trying to get them in the car for the trip home. The dogs looked at me, looked at each other, and quick as lightening you could see the plan. In unison, they turned and took off. They galloped off to the creek that was downhill from the meadow. Instead of getting mad, my husband laughed it off and said we still had a little time. I took off after them.
They were just pups, and not as disciplined as we would have liked. They jumped into the creek and played in the water. I chased after them – okay, I strolled – and stood at the water’s edge and watched. I have seldom seen such joy and excitement – they explored new smells, interesting sounds, and the cool water. There was such a joy in living that I couldn’t cut short. We already knew that one mastiff had sub-aortic stenosis, was on a significant medical regimen, and would not live a long life. I don’t know if she knew it, but I did. Watching her play and wade in the water was tonic for me. She may not have a long life, I vowed, but I’d try to make it a good one. No regrets. After a while, my husband and kids joined us at the creek and we had another hour of just good fun together.
There was no agenda, no plan. With the dogs leading the way, a few of us took off our shoes, rolled up our pants, and waded into the stream with them. They always stayed a few steps ahead of us, knowing that if we couldn’t catch them, playtime would continue. It was an unexpected, unplanned, afternoon enjoying each other, the skin we were in, and a glorious day in the Rockies! When the dogs finally got tired, and we finally headed home, there was a special camaraderie that was hard to duplicate. The canines had taken the lead in a marvelous way, showing us what living was all about. It didn’t involve a to-do list, expensive toys, or electricity. It was simply a lightness of heart and a willingness to invite joy into our lives.
There have been many wonderful days before and since then. But that afternoon had an unexpected quality of perfect joy. The dogs have long since passed, the youngest child is almost grown, and we don’t get to camp very often anymore. I’d like to think that we haven’t outgrown such spontaneity, but there are many days in which it feels very out-of-reach. I think we need to change that.