Every morning I start the day with an herbal tea or an occasional cup of coffee, and the comics in the paper. Monday morning I came across the following from “Pooch Cafe“, in which two dogs were watching a third chase a butterfly in the park:
“Why is that dog so happy?”
“He’s not happy, he is appreciating. He’s at the end of the world’s largest retractable leash, and the handle slipped out of his master’s hand and is hurtling toward him. He’s now appreciating all the little things in life he took for granted. It’s actually a valuable lesson. In a way, we’re all at the end of retractable leashes that have slipped out of our masters’ hand.”
This is a striking metaphor, and particularly pertinent to me as over the weekend, my only aunt, “Sis,” was pulled back home by the “master’s leash.” Sis was my father’s sister, hence the nickname. Anne, as she was known to everyone else, was an artist who lived in Greenwich Village in NYC during the heyday of the early 60’s. In addition to being a masterful painter of modern art, she was a fabulous photographer. Her work can be found in the pages of old Book of Knowledge encyclopedias; she is listed as the Art Editor on the cover pages of most volumes.
In the last five years of her life, Sis found great peace and serenity while living in a spiritual community with like-minded others. She thrived there in the natural landscape of rural North Carolina, where all of the community members worked together to tend the grounds, prepare organic meals with the locally grown produce, and share in the stillness of daily meditations. Although her health and peace of mind improved dramatically in her time there, she could not reverse congestive heart failure, and she passed away lovingly surrounded by members of her community.
I celebrate her life and will cherish the memories I hold of times we shared. Her passing and the subtly profound comic strip remind me that we are only here until the leash retracts, and none of us knows how long it is. Just like the dog in the strip and my aunt in her later years, we should remember to appreciate our lives.
A meditation on appreciation:
Stop whatever you are doing in this moment, close you eyes and take a breath. Appreciate that breath, the way it feels and the life it brings into your body. Appreciate the health that you have. Open your eyes and look at your surroundings. Be grateful for what you can see and appreciate where you are. Think of your family and friends and appreciate them for who they are and what they bring into your life. Now come back to your breath, and appreciate who you are, and the expression of life that you bring into the world.
–in appreciation of my daughter Nicole Relyea (@nicolerelyea) for her ongoing support of my work and her wonderful editing of my writings. – Dee