Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

I Can See The Birds March 4, 2015

They’re back. The winged beauties that fill the branches of trees throughout my backyard paradise during the spring, summer and fall months have arrived. I heard their chirps echo through the air this morning as I basked in a balmy 23-degree sunlight for a few minutes while I was outside. Pausing to smell the snowflakes

Perspective is a funny thing when it comes to weather around here. Though most people would consider 23-degrees far from balmy (and even Wisconsinites have been known to reach for the winter coats, hats and mittens when it first happens in October or November), it feels warm after another frigid winter like the one we’ve had. (Forget the winter coats, because it feels like spring!)

So my first thought when I heard the familiar banter between the sparrows and and finches was that it seems too early for them to be back. It may have been 23 degrees today, but it’s supposed to be mighty chilly again tomorrow. Not to mention the lingering inches of snow that still cover the ground.

But the second the those thoughts crossed my mind, I pushed them aside. Because in spite of my concern for their safety and well being, they are a sight for sore eyes. They are one of the first signs that spring is coming. Relief and renewal and rejuvenation are on their way. Soon the air will be warmer again, and dear baby Carter and I will resume our playtime silliness in the green grass of the backyard.

Only I know this year will be different. This year, spring means we are getting even closer to the arrival of little person no. 2, who is set to arrive in early June.

I’m not sure how that will change things for my outdoor plans, but I’m hopeful the bit of extra time mom will have at home with the new baby will mean a bit of extra time for all of us to enjoy the sunshine together.

“Spring is when you feel like whistling even with a shoe full of slush,” suggested Wisconsin columnist Doug Larson. I don’t know much about wearing shoes. And I can’t whistle.

But I can see the birds. And I think that’s a pretty good sign of things to come.

 

The Tree of Life August 14, 2014

It’s everywhere you look. In different sizes, shapes and forms. And you can’t avoid it no matter how hard you try. Aging. From the ground up, it is a part of life. In itself it is almost as constant a thing as the breath that makes life a reality. It happens to everyone in different ways and different times.

Today was another beautiful late summer day in Wisconsin. The blue sky harbored a gentle breeze that kept the 70-degree weather in an absolutely perfect balance of comfort. In my backyard paradise birds chirped, the wind chimes jingled, and the sun shone brightly. In more ways than one. Mom and Carter were glowing today as they played together in the grass. Pure unadulterated joy has a way of doing that to people, I’ve noticed. So there we were enjoying the perfection of the afternoon when I noticed something that made my heart skip a beat. Tom and I

I’m not sure how I’ve missed it this long. It’s probably glaringly obvious to visitors to my forever home, but since I see it every day it was lost on me. Until today. Today I noticed that my dear Tom seems to be dying. Tom is a good friend of mine otherwise known as my favorite tree in the backyard. He was there for me when I was new here. He stood by when I got into my barking arguments with Demon Dog. He provides shade for moments like today when mom and Carter play in the grass. And he is dying.

I don’t know how I missed that about three quarters of his branches have gone bristle dry at some point. There are some branches with leaves on it still, but they are few and far between. I hate to think of what is going to happen to him when those branches go dry too.

As I reflected on this in the gorgeous afternoon sun today I found my heart turning to dear baby Carter. He is still so young, and yet seems to be growing up so fast. And mom, who has blossomed from a young adult into a woman before my eyes in the last few years. And me, as I approach canine middle age.

Aging. From the ground up, it is everywhere you look. It happens to everything and everyone at different times in different ways. But as true and beautiful as Tom’s remaining branches are, I know in my heart this part of life is another chapter just as valuable as all the chapters before it. And, like most things, the tree of life is only as beautiful as we believe it to be.

So you might call me a tree hugger, but I’m okay with that. Because to me life is a pretty beautiful thing.

 

Shadow of Joy December 15, 2013

It startled me at first. There I was in my snowy backyard paradise when I saw the strangest yet most beautiful thing. It was so big it made me feel small, which was somewhat intimidating in a space I consider my own. But tonight the yard was not mine. It was the tree’s.

My favorite tree was casting the most dignified shadow across the majority of the yard. Once I got over my initial inner battle with something else ruling my space, I paused to appreciate the image before me. A clear sky shed it’s full moonlight on the yard, resulting in this statement of majesty that somehow remained mysterious.

It certainly put me in my place. And it got me to thinking about the shadows we cast in life. It starts with the light necessary to create such a thing. My light comes from the joy I find in people, places and things around me. It also comes from my heart. The combination of these internal and external stimuli create a unique balance of the light necessary for my shadow to appear.
My Shadow Self
Unfortunately that is where things can get complicated if we let them. By nature a shadow is larger than the object it reflects. While it is indeed magnificent, the tree in my backyard certainly isn’t actually as big as the entirety of the yard. But its shadow is.

And it can be startling at first. It can seem both strange and beautiful at the same time. But it makes a statement. I realized as I stood there basking in the glow of this shadow that I want to make a statement like this in my life.

“Everything we see is a shadow cast by that which we do not see,” as Martin Luther King Jr. suggested.

I think I figured it out. I’ve been going about things all wrong. I don’t need to be so concerned with finding joy in the people, places and things around me. That will take care of itself. Instead I should focus on the shadow that joy of mine casts on the world around me.

It doesn’t matter that I weigh 20 pounds. Size doesn’t matter when it comes to shadows. Because our shadows can be as big as we want them to be.

 

The Love Tree October 13, 2013

Normally I don’t care much for those things they call Smartphones. They draw attention away from where it belongs (i.e. the company we keep, namely me). They distract people on car rides. And I don’t think they are really all that smart.

But today I witnessed firsthand what I suppose would be the one silver lining within these things called Smartphones. Randomness. This may come as a surprise given my open belief that everything happens for a reason, but it is a concept I can appreciate (and even find some humor in) within the right context. Today, for example, the context made for a pretty special moment of randomness even I could appreciate.Who do you love?

“I love you.” That was it. That’s all the text message contained. And (to be honest) that’s all it needed to say. Mom received that message from her little sister Morgan this afternoon and I’m pretty sure it made her day. Which made my day. Which got me to thinking (of course) about this people theory of randomness.

As I basked in the warmth of another unusually warm fall day, I took note of the tree (my favorite in my backyard paradise) above me. I looked up at the branches, each reaching out to the next. Connecting.

It reminded me of the random bit of love mom received from Morgan. Morgan shared love with mom, who shared it with me, and now I’m sharing it with you. Random? I’m not so sure. But love needs no explanation. And each bit of random love is like a branch, reaching to the next. Connecting.

“Life without love is like a tree without blossoms or fruit,” Lebanese thinker Khalil Gibran suggested. Well then (I thought to myself as I drifted away into the fabulous dreamland of my second afternoon nap) we must do all we can to share random moments of love with those around us. Heaven forbid anyone experience a life without love.

Morgan shared it with mom, mom shared it with me, and now I share it with you. Please consider reaching out to someone sometime soon. Connecting. Whether in person, on the phone or (gasp) even in a text on one of those Smartphones. Tell them they are loved. Because as ancient Greek theologian Saint Basil proposed, “a tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.”

 

Money Can’t Buy Happiness January 12, 2013

Its just moneyThey say money doesn’t grow on trees. Seems pretty obvious to me.

If there is one thing I’ve heard a lot of people argue about its this money thing. There never seems to be enough of it. Then there’s this whole fiscal cliff thing that was going to happen, then didn’t happen, but people aren’t sure whether it still might happen or how it will affect them whether or not it happens. It all sounds like a bunch of hooey to me. My perception on the matter is that regardless of what happens, it ultimately will not affect the underlying problem that money does not buy happiness.

I think a very insightful lesson can be learned from a dog’s perspective on money. As one who has always been at the complete mercy of people with or without money to spend on me, I know I can’t fullyWhat would I spend this on? understand what this whole money debacle is all about. I’ve gone from scavenging for food on the streets, to eating the donated food at the shelter, to eating some pretty darned yummy stuff in my forever home. I know food isn’t free. I get lots of neat toys and chews and even bones that clean my teeth. Today my parents came home from the store with these surprisingly yummy things they kept calling joint vitamins shaped like little bones. I ate mine up as soon as I could. I know toys, chews and vitamins aren’t free. Everything costs something.

While nice to have, none of these things define happiness for me. The things are just things. Sure, the resulting smiles of mom and dad when we play with Mrs. Prickles or Flea are pretty great. Yes, its nice to have people like me just a little bit more because I don’t have the typical “dog breath” (which I’ve heard can be quite stinky). And (of course) its nice not to have to scavenge the streets for yummy food. But the thing is we could be playing with a blanket or a piece of cardboard and have just as good a time. I’d still get along well with people if I had stinky breath. And I could (probably) survive on most normal doggie diets sans joint vitamins.

Simple Abundance got me to thinking about this today, which is ironic since I noticed mom was counting some money on the bed (which I instantly viewed as a comfy new place to lay down), and I could tell by the look on her face that this money is pretty special. It is what she calls “adventure” money, hidden away in dad’s watch box. From what I can tell, this adventure money is used by mom and dad to go to exciting places with (or without) me like camping or this spa place mom likes called Sundara. But its still not this adventure money that buys happiness. Its the moments. Its the memories from the moments. Moments and memories that create “happy places” for mom and dad to reflect on when things seem otherwise gloomy.

It seems ironic to me that money – this thing that is supposed to provide all these amazing things in life – can be rightfully referred to by Breathnach as a “dark, menacing shadow” for people.

Man, have I got it good. Perhaps a dog’s way is one of the best ways to look at money…as a special (above the ordinary) gift…even if it doesn’t grow on trees. While I’ve never quite made sense of the money on trees concept, there is one frame of mind I firmly believe can be derived from life. Money can’t buy happiness. Simple as that.Doesn't Buy Happiness