Working Dog Diary is a series of essays which reflect on the stockdog journey of Kay Spencer, the owner of Working Aussie Source. Previous chapters are located at the bottom of this page:
For a long time now, I have been wondering where the spaciousness in my life went. I can remember when I lived in San Francisco and nominally attended art school, sitting in a caffe in North Beach, nursing my double cappuccino — back when Americans by and large didn't know what those were — and writing slowly in my journal, watching people go by. I didn't have to be anywhere.
I used to often take day hikes, accompanied by a dog, carrying a sweater, a bottle of water, and a peanut butter and jam sandwich. I'd leave in the morning and come back perhaps at dusk, footsore and hungry, sometimes wet, always dirty. On occasion I had a map but I never had a plan.
I also passed some years where I did very little besides hole up in my tiny writing studio and write stories and novels. I'd come out, blinking in the sun, wondering what time of day it was.
All that open-endedness has utterly vanished, replaced with endless responsibilities, each acceptably sized and innocent, even joyous, of itself. But slowly they have bred, produced offspring, set up sprawling complicated households in me, until now they approach the quality of nightmare. The kind of nightmare which seems so ordinary at first, then slowly the color and tempo change, darken and tighten inexorably until . . . well, until you wake up.
It has taken many years to entangle myself so thoroughly in these habits and burdens. Most days I stumble exhaustedly through a triaged endlessly revised list of what can't wait any more. I periodically have tried to "fix things". But I always fail, because I have looked at it all with the same vision that got me here to begin with, peering only through the If Only Lens. If only I had a mudroom, or a sheep pasture, or a stockdog which lacked the faults of the dogs I have now. If only I could refinish the floor, replace the rotting deck, fix the latch on the gate, rescue that garden bed. Then I'd have time to walk the dogs on the beach, write letters on cream laid paper with my vintage fountain pen. Travel. What a delusion.
Somehow, I have come to a stopping place. The big empty. I see with a degree of finality that there is no end to If Only. I see that there is no path back to spaciousness, not on this road. I have to step off the road. And stand there for a while. Without starting again.
It took me a couple decades to get here, it's not going to be simple or quick to get out. And, if once I get out, what am I going to do? Ah!
Nothing. Spaciousness, remember? I am going to wait upon God. There is a deep resonant stillness in the heart of things which only is available when the mind's busy officious chatter is allowed to drift into inconsequence, when there is nowhere that must be gone. This stillness is extraordinarily elusive, it cannot be put on a to-do list or budgeted for. It has to be wooed and waited for, in an empty place.
Today I had a stockdog lesson with George. I was a little chagrined to realize that Hope and I have already developed similar issues to Bonnie and I, and Ty and I. Wonder why that is? Could it be that I have training handling habits that are going to have to somehow change? That I can't do the same things over and over and not get the same results?
Driving home, I thought of something that Ron Green (a man I have never met, but who seems to have the right attitude about stockdogging) recently said in an online discussion group: "Remember that when you step out into a field with your dog, you are walking on holy ground."
That's where I want to walk: on holy ground. I won't be able to find it unless I stop looking for it, that is the mystery and challenge. When I am aware of walking on holy ground, I can honor everything appropriately. I can let the universe show me its goodness. I even know what that feels like in a field, with my dog, and some sheep. It feels timeless. It feels sufficient.