Good Scents

Milo loves the park.

Milo and I go for a walk every night at sunset. Milo can tell when the time is nearing. He starts to whimper and whine. When I put on my shoes, he starts to dance. When he sees me go for my jacket, the dancing turns into leaps in the air, often accompanied by barking. He becomes so jubilant that it’s hard to get his leash on. But I do, and we head out the door in time to see the mountains turn an embarrassing shade of pink every night. We walk down the residential streets, past dogs we have gotten to know quite well. They bark at Milo from their backyards. Milo keeps walking. He can’t be bothered with these behind-the-fence dogs; he is headed to the park.

When we get to the park, instead of leading Milo, I follow for a while. His head to the ground, there is so much information to gather that he loses himself in sensory overload. It all looks the same to me. But apparently great changes occur each and every day that are, judging by his body language, very exciting and extremely important. He sniffs the ground in a frenzy as he follows new scents that wander off the right and then to the left and then, abruptly, seem to end.

Finally, satisfied that he is up-to-date, we head home. Sometimes I stop in my tracks to look at the clouds filled with the reflected light of the setting sun. Milo glances around, obviously bored. He has as little interest in sunsets as I do in the smells at the park, but we wait for each other, both a bit mystified as to what the other could possibly find so important.

I was thinking of Milo this week when Daniel and I had a misunderstanding.

It is surprisingly easy to have a misunderstanding when you are fourteen hundred miles apart and working long days. The funny thing about a misunderstanding is that they almost always begin with the conviction that I understand everything. I understand everything that is going on in Daniel’s heart and mind— and I don’t like it. It doesn’t become a misunderstanding until I gain enough understanding to realize that I don’t understand a darned thing.

And that’s what got me thinking of Milo.

Because as I was impatiently dismissing all the things that I didn’t understand about Daniel (knowing perfectly well that I understood everything and he was clearly off-base) I was taking Milo for a walk and patiently accepting that there are things Milo knows and understands that I will never know or appreciate.

Yes, I can do this for my dog, but not my boyfriend.

I guess I figure, given the gift of speech, everything that is in Daniel’s heart and mind (fourteen hundred miles away) should be immediately apparent, and any failure on my part to understand is clearly his fault. Verbal communication is great but it often fails us, especially when we’re tired, especially when we don’t have the benefit of seeing a face or feeling a touch.

Milo and I went out again tonight. The park was less interesting than usual, apparently there was not a lot of news. But I waited anyway. I watched his nose quiver and his nostrils flare and I thought of Daniel and the world of unseen things that I must take on faith are important and real to him.

Sometimes that’s all I need to do. Just stand still long enough to realize there is something I’m missing.

Till next time,


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