Rabia is sulking, maybe even depressed.
My wife and I went on vacation and placed Rabia in “Dog Camp.” By all accounts it is a very nice place to be if you are a dog or cat. She was well fed, exercised, got to play with other dogs, and was given special human attention on a scheduled basis (for which we paid extra).
Anyway, it was a good, safe camp and she was a happy camper while there. But now she is home, and Rabia is letting us know that she was hurt and offended we would leave her behind. We came home adorned with scents both familiar and new, and she all but said: “And where did you go anyway?”
We went down memory lane. Have you ever been there?
We went to Northern Michigan, to an area where I spent time every summer for more than fifty years. While I love Seneca Lake and living where we do, the shores of Lake Michigan hold a special magic for me. I would even describe it as healing.
Most people I know have that kind of a place — where personal history and beauty intersect and open us to a kind of sacred presence. The people I know who grew up by the ocean have a similar emotional bond to salty surf and sand. But Lake Michigan’s fresh water shades of cyan and aqua, and further out, deep royal and azure blues, speak to my heart. In one place its crystal water reveals a pure sandy floor extending far into the lake, and in another a vast expanse of smooth stones carpet the beach and lake bottom, occasionally spitting up a rare and beautiful “Petoskey” stone.
Three times the size of Lake Ontario, Lake Michigan engulfs a huge dent in the Earth: 307 miles long, 118 miles wide, 923 feet deep at its deepest. Whether whispering with gentle waves lapping the shore or roaring through swells ten feet high, her size, power, and history has a way of making you feel small — both in the moment and across time.
It had been many years since I last visited that place that forms a sacred presence for me, and in doing so I was reminded of how important it is to have such places. Many people have sacred buildings, sanctuaries and altars imbued with family history and generations of prayers. They were often or completely inaccessible in this past year of pandemic. Others have a special place in nature, like one of the abundant waterfalls of the Finger Lakes. Many such places have been swamped with visitors during the year of pandemic because so many had the need to escape. The deluge may have made it difficult or even impossible to access the sacredness of such places.
This is just a reminder that our lives have been interrupted in more ways than we often recognize, and long absences from our sacred places (or having them be diminished by too many people), is worth recognizing. For Rabia and her kind, the whole Earth is sacred, maybe even Dog Camp. But for humans, we consecrate particular places where we have important connections. There is no substitute for going there and being in its presence.