Robe and Red Clogs: My Morning Practice
These last ten months, since the day Grizzly came to live with me, part of my morning liturgy is taking him outside. The order of service looks like this:
Get out of bed and put on robe.
Wander to the kitchen to make a cup of coffee.
Speak to Grizzly- who is sitting ears up in his kennel because he heard me before I got there.
Grab the cup of coffee and inhale the delicious smell.
Put on the old red clogs I keep in the pantry for going outside with him.
Open the kennel and let him out.
Open the side door and say, “Let’s go.”
Walk behind him as he bounds across the driveway to the vacant lot next door.
Watch him circle his chosen spot then finds a stick —which he brings to me.
Throw the stick anywhere from 5 to 25 times, depending on the weather, his energy and mine.
Return to the side door where he drops his stick for safekeeping.
Head back inside for another cup of coffee for me - dog food for him!
The only variations in this morning routine are what I wear. Lately I’ve put a coat and even a scarf over my pajamas and robe because it has actually gotten cold in Alabama.
At first this morning ritual was a pain to me. Don’t misunderstand: I loved Grizzly from the moment he came to me. But I’ve never had a big dog I had to get up and go outside with first thing in the morning. I had to go out with him, not because he’d run off, but because he wouldn’t leave my side to go by himself. His service-dog training meant if he was out of his kennel, then his every step would be next to mine.
What our household was accustomed to was Wally, the miniature Schnauzer, who remains quiet - mostly- in his kennel until we let him out into the fenced backyard. He quickly relieves himself without supervision or the need to play fetch, comes right back to the door and scratches or barks to come inside.
I had to adjust to this going outside first thing in the morning. Like any new practice, It was hard at first. I liked to be in my robe with cup of coffee in hand and fluffy slippers on my feet and not moving or talking for at least the first fifteen minutes of my day. Going out with Grizzly, sometimes in the rain or the cold or both, was my obligation. I did it out of duty, not because I enjoyed it, but because it had to be done.
And then a few days ago, as I stood watching him circle and find the perfect spot for his morning constitution, I realized I’d come to love this. Even as I stood there with a fur coat on top of my robe and pj’s, my sock-less feet cold in the old Danskin clogs, I realized I’d come to love this morning liturgy.
I hear the birds waking up and talking to each other, and have come to notice the myriad of sounds they make. I love the sounds of Grizzly’s paws crunching leftover fall leaves and twigs on the ground. I’ve seen the most beautiful lichens and mushrooms because we’ve had one of the rainiest winters I can remember. I hear squirrels racing across limbs above my head. An occasional car drives by or wind rustles the tops of the pine trees. In this early morning , when we think the world is still and quiet. It isn’t. Plenty of things are up singing, skittering, flying, picking, bounding, eating, growing, building, nourishing, giving, crawling, digging, pecking - worshipping - doing what God designed them to do.
“Be still and know that I am GOD” we read in the Psalms. Most of us are terrified of being still, of stopping our busyness and noise, because we are afraid of the void we think we will face. We can’t bear nothingness.
But my morning practice is showing me this: It is only I who needs to be still. And once I am, I see that God who made the squirrels and birds and dogs and clouds and wind is quite busy. His energy is infusing everything around me to do just as He intends. The “stillness that isn’t still” comforts me. I’m not the master of any of that activity. For someone addicted to productivity this is a big exhale.
Out in the early morning stillness, I see that He is not still. He is creative and powerful and fast and beautiful and agile and endless in variety. Flora and fauna grow without any help from me.
Those first few months I was complaining to God about how this outside time every morning was cutting into my devotional time. He told me to trust him, to let my life transform, to let him teach me through this bounding, enormous dog.
It wasn’t instant. I didn’t like this ritual first thing in the morning for several months. But here I am, having practiced this liturgy until it has become a part of me. Imperceptibly, I began to love this practice.
It took a liturgy forced on me, and time to let it do its work as a practice, but here I am, buoyed every morning by all that I see and hear happening in the stillness.