Art by Tom Swanson

God and the Sound of a Barking Dog

June 5th 10:10am.  The plane is still rising sharply out of pdx and they haven’t said the use of laptops is approved but it seems safe and I want to do a little writing; you’ve gotta strike the hammer while the iron is hot.  The Colombia River was visible for a second out the window on the other side of the aisle; the river is wide here at Portland, maybe 60 miles from where it meets the sea.  It has grown along it’s roughly 1200 miles (2000 km) from the headwaters in British Columbia, collecting water from a drainage of about 260,000 sq miles. Maybe somewhere in this vast watershed rain is falling but there’s no rain around here today. It’s the epitome of a gorgeous Summer day in Oregon. If there’s a place with a more perfect weather then I’d like to know where it is.  In the last few days I’ve been to spots that I simply didn’t want to leave.



4 hours ago, I was pulling out of the parking lot at Breitenbush.  I’d rented a tent for few days – something I’ve never done before.  On Wednesday I took the retreat center and picked up my best friend Mango dog.  He was as happy to see me and the feeling was mutual.  He spun and howled for a long while, lunging at me and nipping to try to incite me to play, eventually bringing a stick for me to throw and howling through his teeth.  You won’t forget it once you’ve heard it.  Pure joy.  This dog would follow me to the end of the earth or fetch a ball until he didn’t have the strength to crawl to it.  This isn’t a generic statement about dogs that I was applying to Mango: I knew it to be true. Some years ago I’d watched him run around on rocks until the pads of his feet were gone.  After the vet encased all 4 paws in bandages he stayed on the couch during the day while he healed.  For the next 10 days I carried his 70lbs outside and gingerly set him down whenever he needed to go to the bathroom.  And there were other times he proved his mad dedication – like when we’d mountain biked and his muscles had gotten so filled with acid that he’d slid off the trail.   He’d gone down hill 40’ where he lay quietly in a bush and waited for Ayla dog and I to come back and find him.  From there, Mango rested quietly over my shoulder as I carried him off the mountain. He was 11 when we travelled through Mexico and people often thought he was 3 because he behaves like a youngster.  And now, on June 3rd, his age and his illness had to contend with his incredible will; we went to play in the mountains.  Age and illness lost the battle and he ran like he does, like a crazed beast.  He crashed through anything in his way.  It reminded me of when he’d chased a racoon that was going over my backyard fence and Mango went straight through the fence board head first.  

It’s easy to tell when Mango’s happy and for some reason it’s always given me incredible joy to watch him play.  Life force : this dog exudes it.  I know he’s ill though and I want him to go out as strong he can.  At 12.5 years old things are harder on him, so it makes sense to me that now is the time.  When he was very, very tired from playing I took him in my lap and put him to sleep quietly.  Then I dug the hole and laid him in.  Everything was Shanti and I returned to Breitenbush in relatively good spirits, content that he’d lived a charmed, full, and happy life.  He’d had been rescued from a pound in Hawaii and travelled with me as far as Guatemala.  Mango had friends from many nations and was with me through many phases of my life.  I don’t know what to say; there are many stories and adventures we shared. Breitenbush is a holy place on this earth and I couldn’t think of a better place to be after letting him go.


IMG_1427Someone extracted a promise from me to give up speeding.  They asked me how my mother would feel about it and said I should imagine her in the passenger seat.  Ok, no more speeding. It’s stressful anyway, so good riddance. But I do enjoy it and think part of me will miss it.  Whether this promise will ultimately be good for me I can’t truly say.

“Be careful, lest in casting out your devils you cast out what’s best in you”.  

The rental car reached 100mph on my way to Eugene the other day but I never imagined the distance from Breitenbush to Eugene could be covered in 1.5 hours.  Speeding isn’t something to do with others around unless it’s a straight highway – it’s an opportunistic thing.  If I fuck up I only harm myself.  Driving fast is something I’ve taken up only in recent years but it’s become a habit i.e. if I’m in a car and the opportunity to speed is available, I hit 100.  That’s my mark – 100 at least.  Even briefly.  Goodbye, speeding, it’s been fun.  It’s hard to get me to promise out of me like the speeding one…  This person caught me at  just the right moment.



Where is the Door to the Tavern?

Where is the door to God?

In the sound of a barking dog,

In the ring of a hammer,

In a drop of rain, 

In the face of


I see

– Hafiz


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