At least, the past few days have convinced us that the family pet definitely shouldn’t be renamed Thor, a.k.a. the Viking thunder god. Notwithstanding Serena’s proud half German-Shepherd bloodline (the other half being Labrador, though her Lab DNA must be missing all retriever instincts, given how much time and energy I spend retrieving tennis balls), we’ve learned that she is a total dog-wuss in the presence of thunder and lightning.
Here in the Camp Sherman environs of central Oregon, we’ve had some impressive thunderstorms the past few days. (A few trees reportedly caught fire on Black Butte last night, but were quickly put out by smokejumpers.)
Serena has spent several hours curled up, and trembling, in whatever areas of the cabin most look like a lair to her at any given thundering moment. First, she headed for her portable kennel, but that apparently was too close to some windows. Then, we found her lying on my meditation pillows, in a bedroom closet that I’ve appropriated for my deep spiritual practice, which some might casually dismiss as sleeping while sitting cross-legged if they weren’t aware of the subtle transformative mystic energies being contacted in my seemingly somnolent state.
Perhaps this is why Serena felt so safe perched on my pillows and Indian shawl, which we quickly replaced with her faux sheepskin dog pad. I shut the closet door halfway, to enhance the cavelike feel, and Serena made it through the thunderstorm in fairly good dog-spirits. This afternoon, more rain and thunder drove Serena under the small desk on which my laptop computer sits, to nestle, trembling again, against my legs as I tried to write some emails.
Dogs are good for lots of things, including licking up spills on the floor that you otherwise would have to take a sponge to, and also reminding us of the Magical Side of Nature. If we didn’t know what thunder and lightning was (and I barely do, I have to admit), we humans too would either be curled up in some womblike place of shelter, or rendering sacrifices to Thor. Sometimes it seems that knowing too much leads to knowing too little. Maybe Serena’s reaction is the proper one—fear and trembling in the face of natural powers we can’t control, and barely understand.
Laurel and I went for a mountain bike ride yesterday afternoon, just as the storm was gathering strength. We rode along the beautiful single-track trail behind Metolius Meadows while thunder boomed and nickel-sized raindrops fell on us. We felt very small. Two little people in a great big quasi-wilderness, watching the wildness of a thunderstorm flash and crash overhead. It was great. It was real. It wasn’t bullshit make-believe like so much of human life is. It reminded us that whatever we think we humans are, we aren’t much, compared to the Forces of Nature than could wipe out each and every Homo sapiens in a heartbeat. Serena instinctively knows this. In this way, our dog is smarter than we are, and we have much to learn from her.
[Note: I do not have any inside information from the Forces of Nature that they are preparing to wipe out each and every Homo sapiens in a heartbeat. However, general justification for this statement is contained in this paragraph from a book I’m reading, “The Universe Story,” by Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry:
When we examine the nature of the universe we find galaxies with a violence so intense that we cannot account for it scientifically: great spikes of energy blasting across hundreds of millions of miles from the center of our galaxy out through its member systems. Speculation points to black holes of monstrous dimensions generating such extremes of energy from the center of our galaxy. Our own Milky Way galaxy might be capable of generating such a death spike. If such an energy blast does erupt, we will not learn of it much before it reaches us. Even now, a wall of plasma could be rifling towards us at millions of miles a minute; with such stupendous power it would not even notice the Sun and Earth as it scattered us into elementary particles in its inexorable flight of destruction through the stellar systems.