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  • Writer's pictureDr. Vin

Wayward


 




The soft gold sun at dusk lights the silver-green sage as I turn to walk down the dirt path around the still lake. I feel mellow after the exercise of climbing up and then down the steep hill. I pause, pick a sage leaf, rub it in my hands, and sniff the soothing smell. In front of me, I see a 60ish blond woman in blue joggers pushing a dog stroller and walking a small terrier on a leash. As I catch up to her, I see three small dogs, all different breeds, inside her stroller.

 

“Wow. You have four dog friends.”

“Yes. The three in the stroller are mine. This terrier walking is my neighbor’s dog. He never gets out, so I take him with me. I call him “Wayward Dog.”

“Oh, that is nice of you. He looks happy to be out here in nature.”

“We walk ten miles every day, and I have a deal with the dogs that they get to walk, then when tired, they get to take turns being pushed in the stroller.”

 

As a dog lover, I ask about her dogs and enjoy hearing their names, nicknames, and personality traits. The Pomeranian, who looks like a fox, was found abandoned on the road after July 4th. “She was chipped, I called all the numbers, but the owner had died, the dog had been passed down, and nobody wanted her, so I took her in. I named her Lisica, which is Serbian for fox.”

 

We talk like this for five, ten, maybe fifteen minutes - like when you are in the moment and your sense of time isn’t clear because you are so absorbed in what is happening. Then my eyes go from dog gawking to the woman’s face, and I notice the red baseball hat covering her dyed blond hair. It says, “Make America Great Again.” My legs keep walking, but my breath gets caught in my throat as my mind pulls up into an alarm state. It was like a wedge fell from the sky and created a ravine in the middle of our path, with each of us now walking on either side of a deep divide.

 

I steadied my breath and kept walking along beside her. I know I had a choice – to talk politics or not. A tall, young woman passed us, coming the opposite way, and I thought I saw her snicker at the red hat. Maybe not. Maga-Hat was saying her dogs were neither barkers nor biters.

 

“Oh, but once on our walk, a man came up behind me, and Wayward Dog snapped at him and almost bit him.” (I thought to myself - the guy was probably a liberal). I smiled, then had a wave of fear because some biting dogs in this society are getting louder and threatening to get more violent toward those who oppose their political view. I watch the swallows sweep smoothly over the green oval lake, and my chest tightens. Why can’t we live in harmony like these birds, who sing and fly free? And am I supposed to confront this woman right now?


My mind loops into worries about the future of democracy in this country, as so many rights (reproductive, LGBQTI+), protections (like voting), and institutions (like courts) are challenged, disrespected, and actively being dismantled by Christofascist autocracy.

But what am I going to say to her? Why do you believe what you believe? What scares you about the way things are? What keeps being reinforced in what you read and listen to? I look up, and we have almost walked around the entire lake. She says, “I need to walk 10 miles a day because I am bipolar, with depression, and it helps.” I feel compassion at this reveal, my therapist head kicks in, and I say, “Oh, yes, that must help manage your moods, all the endorphins from exercise.” She nods as we come full circle around the lake. I watch her go one way as I go the other. I turn to look at her MAGA hat, have a flash of anger, and imagine yanking it off her head and throwing it into the lake. Like that would stop the Red train. But if the Right prevails, by next year, if I were to throw that red hat into the lake, the brown shirts will blow their whistle and arrest me. I shiver and walk to the car.

 

Today, I read that each of us, within our fields, should work toward whatever peace looks like to us - in small ways. I am a therapist who listened to and was kind to one red-hat lady on the opposite side of the political path surrounding this small lake we call life. And maybe it wasn’t much, but I did not want to fight, I did not want to get drawn into her fears and views, and I didn’t want to share mine. I stayed with what we have in common: a love of dogs, some stewardship toward their fair care, and a belief in the healing powers of long walks in nature.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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