I had forgotten to call Nora and put her leash back on. I’ve learned that if I don’t do this down by the brook, out of sight and mind of the end of the trail, she will race ahead to neighboring yards and in my mind, to danger beyond. She pushes the limits of the boundary I continually set for keeping the walk under control and safe. Knowing that once she has made up her mind to push past the boundary, no amount of calling will bring her back. And at the same time, she always comes back, if only to play hard to get alongside the path I am walking, only coming when she is ready. It can be exhausting and worrisome. I’m supposed to be in control of my dog.
Note, Yogi wasn’t even with us. I had just come to an agonizingly fought decision to not let him off leash in the woods. There have been too many episodes in the past few months of him taking off and wandering way beyond recall. I have had to get in the car, only to find him alongside our country highway, ready to cross and continue exploring. It has taken me months of angst and self-judgement, “I should have trained him better”, “this is not the right home for him, he needs a farm with a job” etc, etc…with thoughts flowing as insistently as the water now flowing with force through the rivers and brooks. Thoughts that can’t be contained, or ‘bound’ in any way either. It is ironically one of the things I love best about water, how it will flow exactly as it needs to in its free state, unbound by dam, or pipe, or container with a lid.
I have finally accepted that Yogi’s nature will always be to wander, regardless of whatever internal ‘trained’ boundary I have set with him. The irony is that he, unlike Nora, is an easy walking companion on leash. He doesn’t pull at all. I can actually walk through my woods with him tethered, connected and stress free. I have finally come full circle to consider the gift of being able to now explore places I have resisted going in the past year because I was concerned about the dogs being off leash, places I could never go with Nora easily. We don’t have to be together, all three of us, all the time. Within the expanse of meadow, their everyday playground, the two of them have ample time to romp, rest, and contemplate together, boundary trained to the edges protected by an invisible fence.
I am working on a new quilt that explores the limits of a most definitive boundary, the circle. I’ve just finished the quilting lines on one of two celestial bodies I imagine in relation to each other. I am looking for where and how this body of energy can relate to its context, the rest of the quilt. Yet another way to explore the nature of boundaries.
I think about setting boundaries a lot. How do you set a loving boundary with a twenty-seven year old adult child who has moved back indefinitely? Or with elderly parents who need more than you are able to give? With past lovers when there is still love? Yes, setting boundaries with dogs is different. And yet, I wonder at the delicate balance between yielding to the needs and freedom of another while clearly and effectively being in control of our own counsel. Yogi and Nora structure the emotional flow of my day from the moment I wake up until the moment I decide to go to sleep at night. Their gift to me is the reminder that a desire to stay in my bubble of solitude is an illusion that only serves temporarily. Eventually, the bubble always bursts. The essence of a fluid way cannot be contained.