Gigi and I were walking in the wooded park by Dean Lake. The park has a dune in the middle that spittles sand onto the various paths and in between the red pines. There are white pines, too, and maples and oaks. Oak trees mean squirrels. Felled trees mean places where rodents can hide, and our walks are often slow—because Gigi is always sniffing.
On this morning she was just as happy as she’d ever been. I’d intentionally left my phone at the apartment, feeling like why do I need it?
Gigi and I climbed the dune on our last loop through the woods. She stopped about three-quarters up. She stood on her toes, poised, legs pinioned behind her. When she stands like this I think of her like a show dog, worthy of photographs.
At the top of the dune we stopped again, and again she poised herself. She’d heard something. I tugged a little on her leash, anxious to get back to the car—because I had to go to work yet that morning. But I had time, didn’t I? Yes. So I crouched and looked at her. Gigi stood absolutely still. There was a squirrel around. One could almost be sure of it. But neither of us could see it.
From the corner of my eye I saw someone walking on a separate path that led to the dune. I saw the person stop, lift a phone, snap a photo. He stared at his phone as he walked gradually toward us. I was still crouched, watching Gigi and him. Then Gigi saw him approach too. Her attention shifted, and she sat. Her tail flickered. She wanted to say hi.
The person averted, moving further away to give us our space. I knew we must have looked funny, just the two of us remaining still in the middle of a path, listening. But I was proud of it; and I was angry at the person for what he represented—the addiction we all have to phones, to distraction, to displaying what we see for everyone else to see and to comment on.
I felt ashamed, too. I was ashamed of myself—because I knew that I so often stared at my phone, too, instead of stopping with Gigi and staring at the world in front of me. I knew—I know—that the better way is to slow down, be still, to listen and see and touch and feel what is around us. It’s a quieting. It takes effort.
But, in the effort, in the stillness, there is peace. In the peace, there is love.
What if writing is a form of expressing that love?