foxtail. Though you don't want to be forced into that direction, the only way you may go is forward.
The last few weeks have been like that—somehow being impelled forward to an end point I didn't want to face.
Have you ever had to deal with a foxtail? I had never heard of the
nuisance before my husband and I first got together. We have a sort of
blended family: his, hers and ours, when it comes to pets. Into our
marriage, I brought my Sealyham Terrier, whom you have already met. My
husband brought Widget.
Widget was the kind of dog, I was sure, nobody could learn to love.
Despite being a purebred Lhasa Apso, her straggly mop was always
reminiscent of Nobody's Dog. She was alright, I suppose, as dogs go.
Except when she got it into her head to be obstinate.
One disconcerting habit Widget developed was rooting around with her
nose under the fence at the far end of our backyard. This yard, you need
to understand, is the undeveloped back half of an acre lot
at the indistinct edge between Suburbia and the rural nether regions
just outside our city limits.
It comes fully stocked with weeds.
Low-slung Widget seemed naturally constructed to shove her nuzzle just
underneath the fence in such a way as to scoop up those nasty foxtails.
We were forever taking the poor thing to the vet to have foxtails
surgically removed from up her nostrils, no matter how we tried to avoid
it. After all, it is a pretty tall order to completely sanitize the
The key thing about foxtails is that they transform every pathway into
a one way street. They can go in. But they won't come out. Nobody has yet
genetically engineered a reverse gear for the pesky things, and I doubt
that will happen any time soon.
There are other things in life that sometimes cause me to wish there
were a reverse gear at hand—you know, in one of those kits labeled, "In
case of emergency, break glass here." I could sometimes use that
reverse gear. That rewind. That "Get Out of Jail Free" card.
But sometimes, there is no way to make things better.
Sometimes you just have to go through.
They say those are the types of experiences that build character, but
now is not one of those times I am in the market for character. What I'd
really like is a world without fear, a world without serious disease.
Kind of like Amy Grant's holiday favorite where she sings, "This is My Grown-up Christmas List." I wish for all sorts of good that are just not built to
happen, once the foxtail has passed this way.
Sometimes, there is no going back.
When I wrote that thought above, I was stuck on a much-delayed flight to
Columbus, Ohio, back to my second home to be with family.
Understandably, I was in a rather dark mood—how else can it be when we
are stuck going forward to a place we never wished to be? Yesterday was
spent with bereaved family members, sharing the visceral sad moments
that one day in the very distant future, some family history fanatic
will dutifully harvest as dusty, dried fragments of the pain we all are
going through right now. Somehow, on this end of the spectrum, I'm
hardly an enthusiast for "Telling the Story," or preserving it for
As they say about the birth process, it's a messy ordeal. But at least
at the moment a mother has given birth, there is joy. Fast forward to the other end of the spectrum, no matter how far removed from that joyful starting point, it
is still a messy ordeal. From this vantage point, though, our only
respite is to combine the sadness of loss with the hope of promises
about the future.
In those one-way processes of life, birth may produce joy, but the best that death can hope for is faith.
Illustration above, "Alopecurus pratensis," from Dr. Otto Wilhelm Thomé Flora von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz 1885, Gera, Germany; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.