King: Much more to love

Jul 30, 2018 by

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As national flames flare over babies torn from immigrant parents, how public figures are treated in restaurants, naming a new Supreme Court justice, tariffs, taxes, environmental regulations and more, a beloved dog in our extended family dies. He has exuberantly pursued some creature into too small a space.

Michael A. King


Shock and grief for many, young and old, is intense. Such a minor loss compared to the national furies. Is the grief proportionate to the event? Multiple reasons for thinking so flood in.

We humans are built for the local. We connect with the day-to-day realities, relationships built not only of large things but also such small wonders as feet feeling a dog’s body under the blankets; coffee made just right not only for its own sake but as a ritual of love; the infant’s first latching of eyes, then grinning, then vocalizing en route to first words; the monarch flitting around Joan’s flower garden — so little, yet laced with the milkweed on which the monarch lays eggs; fireflies so thick in tree fringes you need no backlit Kindle to read by their light.

We feel the depths of loss through the ripping of ordinary patterns and habits; the absence of the bark which made hens scurry up their run into shelter; the emptiness under the covers; the inability to share with my mom the hot dogs she was still thrilling to in her final weeks.

We feel the loss through remembering that once there was milkweed all over and butterflies in their millions; now herbicides kill the milkweed (and apparently decimate honeybees), and this year only that one monarch, not the clusters once routine, has appeared.

We feel the sorrow as habitat destruction, light pollution and pesticides threaten the fireflies whose lanterns guided many of us through childhoods in predevelopment nights so dark we couldn’t see hands in front of faces until our eyes adjusted to the glimmers from fireflies and the now often-lost Milky Way.

When children are taken from parents, I’m horrified. Yet my path to the horror and the conviction that no country can morally do this starts with those local loves.

My awareness of what a tear we make in the fabric of God’s universe when we separate children from parents, monarchs and fireflies and honeybees from their food and wellbeing, people from sustenance and respect and dignity, comes precisely from this: experiencing how attuned dogs and people are to each other; how beautiful the details of a nature in balance are; how intricate is the dance of eye contact, brain development, sound, touch and layers of being and relating so deep awe and mystery mingle.

If we lose the ability to be tender with dogs, to have their deaths break our hearts, to share coffee and nurture each other from conception to birth through life to the fading years when hot dogs still offer bliss, to feel loss as monarchs dwindle along with the times we can read by the light of endless fireflies or see the Milky Way, then I suspect we’ll truly have entered our culture’s death throes.

So there is much more to love than a dog and much more to grieve than his loss.

But he is one more reminder of why, on finishing creation, God, throbbing with pride and love and delight, saw that it was good. And having death take him fills me with all the more passion to care about the things that matter before death takes us all.

Michael A. King is publisher and president of Cascadia Publishing House and blogs at Kingsview & Co.

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