I got out of bed on two strong legs. It might have been otherwise. I ate cereal, sweet milk, ripe, flawless peach. It might have been otherwise. I took the dog uphill to the birch wood. All morning I did the work I love. At noon I lay down with my mate. It might have been otherwise. We ate dinner together at a table with silver candlesticks. It might have been otherwise. I slept in a bed in a room with paintings on the walls, and planned another day just like this day. But one day, I know, it will be otherwise. ~Jane Kenyon “Otherwise” from Otherwise
We become complacent in our routines, confident in the knowledge that tomorrow will be very much like yesterday. The small distinct blessings of an ordinary day become lost in the rush of moving forward to the next experience, the next task, the next responsibility.
The reality is there is nothing ordinary about this day – it could be otherwise and some day it will be otherwise.
Jane Kenyon wrote much of her best poetry in the knowledge she was dying of leukemia. She reminds us that we don’t need a terminal diagnosis to understand the blessings of each ordinary moment.
So I look around longingly at the blessings of my life that I don’t even realize, knowing that one day, it will be otherwise. I dwell richly in the experience of these moments, these peaches and cream of daily life, as they are happening.
How shall I not adore them, snoozing right through the Annunciation? They inhabit the outskirts of every importance, sprawl dead center in each oblivious household.
They’re digging at fleas or snapping at scraps, dozing with noble abandon while a boy bells their tails. Often they present their rumps in the foreground of some martyrdom.
What Christ could lean so unconcernedly against a table leg, the feast above continuing? Could the Virgin in her joy match this grace as a hound sagely ponders an upturned turtle?
No scholar at his huge book will capture my eye so well as the skinny haunches, the frazzled tails and serene optimism of the least of these mutts, curled
in the corners of the world’s dazzlement. ~David Graham “The Dogs in Dutch Paintings” from The Honey of Earth.
They are part of the scenery, always there, close by and near enough to touch, yet taken for granted until they are gone.
What would I do without them during times like these, when I need their steady gaze and happy wag? They look right into my eyes, trying to discern what I’m thinking and what I’ll do or say next, so I am held to a higher standard. These four-footed fluffy fellows are my conscience, reminding me my motives are always scrutinized.
They may be in the background of the old masterpieces, curled in the corners, just part of the furniture, but day in and day out their love and loyalty dazzle me, remaining front and center in my heart.