I tend to be a worrier. I admit that I can stress out over little things. I can ponder small details late into the night as I struggle to slip off to sleep. Over the past couple of weeks, my biggest worry has been the winter weather. The winter season always puts me in a state of apprehension. Even though I know there is nothing I can do about it, I dread hearing forecasts of upcoming bad weather.
Even though I grew up in Kansas, I still am uncomfortable with the freezing temperatures and snow or ice storms that usually begin in late October and last through March and, sometimes, into early April. Though I have been back in Kansas now for two and a half years, I still don’t do well, physically or emotionally, in winter. I’m at the age now when my knees begin to ache to different degrees as the temperatures begin to fall. I don’t like driving on freezing roads and I continue to worry about my family as they travel to and from work. I can become depressed when the days are shorter and colder. So for three days last week, I was in a constant state of apprehension as snow, rain, sleet, and freezing rain drizzled down over the Midwest from Tuesday until Thursday. Many people were not able to get into their cars due to the ice that covered the doors and sealed the vehicles tightly shut. The streets and parking lots were turned into mock ice rinks as people who made it into their cars now tried to maneuver on pure sheets of ice. Even the grass was crunchy with ice particles that crackled and shattered underfoot.
But eventually, as with all storms, the skies began to clear, and by the following week, all traces of winter had disappeared. On Monday, February 26, the skies were bright with sunshine, and the temperature had warmed up to a balmy 61 degrees.
I should have been happy with the change in the weather. I should have left the house and gone to the lake or the park and enjoyed the gorgeous blue skies and the comfortable temperatures. But instead, I stayed inside and tried to complete a few mundane tasks. I needed to clean my bedroom and do the laundry. I wanted to complete the short story I had been working on for a few weeks and finish up some paperwork. I needed to prepare for upcoming classes and workshops that were scheduled for next month. I had so much to do today before I returned to work tomorrow…and, of course, I began to stress over completing all the task I had set for myself this afternoon. I choose to concentrate on minor concerns and ignored the glowing sunshine that lit up this singularly beautiful day.
But I didn’t let the dogs miss out on enjoying the good weather. While I stayed inside the house, I put all four dogs out in the backyard. I didn’t think they would stay out long. Usually, they have a hard time making up their minds if they want to be inside or out. I think they just like making me get up and continually open the door for them as they run back and forth. I was having none of that nonsense today, though. I had too much to do and too little time. So, early in the afternoon, I put the dogs in the back yard and went back to my room to work. I completely lost track of the time and suddenly realized that I had left the dogs outside for over two hours. I was only reminded of the situation when I heard loud barking and rough scratching against the back door. When I swung open the French style doors, three of the dogs ran around my legs and quickly into the house. Only three? Uh-oh, one of the dogs was missing. I looked at Greg, Friskie, and Cowboy as I realized Starburst wasn’t with them. I sighed deeply and opened the back door again. I glanced around the backyard until I finally spotted little Starburst, our furry shih tzu.
“Starburst?” I called out to her. But she didn’t move. “Starburst, come in.”
But she was completely undisturbed by my shouts. She just laid there in the grass like an Egyptian sphinx. Her back legs were tucked under her body and her front legs were stretched directly out in front of her. Her head was held up regally as if she was descended from a long line of royalty.
“Starburst,” I called to her again, and once more she ignored me.
Then the dog slowly raised her head up higher and tilted her face directly up to the sun. “Oh my gosh,” I thought as I watched her, “our little shih tzu had become a sun goddess.” Starburst continued to sunbathe in the warm glow of the afternoon as she appeared to enjoy the feel of the gentle breeze in her long white and brown fur. As I watched her, a revelation suddenly occurred to me. Starburst was in the yard enjoying the wonderful weather while I had locked myself inside the house and stayed surrounded with worry and useless busyness. All that mattered to Starburst in that moment was just to be at one with nature and at peace with herself. The contented expression on her face left no doubt that she was happy within her own spirit. No other thought seemed to occur to her. She was just joyfully in the moment.
Suddenly, I didn’t feel so overwhelmed with all of the things I imagined I needed to accomplish this afternoon. I sat down on the back porch and stared at the white puffy clouds that drifted across the blue sky. And I realized then that Starburst had it right. All that mattered was to be mindful in this moment of bright sunshine and warm temperatures.
Starburst turned her head then to look at me and I swear that dog smiled. Knowing that I, too, was at peace now, she turned her head straight again, took a long deep breath, and relaxed into the moment.
And so did I.
It didn’t matter if I needed to clean my room, do my laundry, or finish writing my story. The dog and I sat outside just enjoying the unusual afternoon…
…and I knew then that everything was just right in the world today.