Monday, July 8, 2019

The Writer's Solitary Life and a Dog Named Lily

The following is an excerpt from A Woman Alone: Lessons From the Writing Life. This piece celebrates the 6th anniversary, today, of when Lily came into my life. The book's publication date will be announced in the fall.

There are many lessons to be learned from a dog. If you want to walk, she is ready. When you step out onto the deck to feel the sun on your face, she is right behind you. As you head to your favorite chair to read, she curls up near you. Her patience, her fortitude, her total commitment and unconditional love offer solace and reflection. The past is not on her mind nor concern as to what the future holds. I sometimes watch her dream, legs moving, listen to her little whimpers…where does her imagination take her? In her dog’s dreamland, she sees herself racing through green fields, the wind at her ears.


“You still looking for a Lab puppy?”

My hand tightens its grip on the phone. Marcia tells me her daughter had been driving past cornfields and farmhouses when she saw a sign, “Lab Puppies” with a number to call. Was I still interested? Did I want her to inquire? Over dinner the week before, as Marcia's black Lab Millie slept at our feet, I tell her how much I miss not having a dog. With a bit of self-deprecating humor, I say, “I’ve always wanted my own Old Yeller.” It is true. Loyalty and unconditional love remedy the life of a woman alone.

A little breathlessly, I say, “Tell them I want a girl.”
Not long after, Marcia calls again. Out of a litter of twelve pups, they have four yellows left…three boys and a girl. Without hesitation I hang up with Marcia and dial the number. A woman on the other end who identifies herself as the wife and mother of the Mennonite family which had bred the pups says, “yes”, one girl.

Serendipity is a strange mistress. She heeds your call on a windswept morning, on a dark night. She is fortune come calling on an ordinary July day.

“But,” the woman says, “we really love her. She is so sweet, so laid back. We’re thinking of keeping her.”

I hold my breath. “I just lost my dog, Lucy, a black Lab.” I wait. Confess. “I’ve wanted a yellow Lab all my life.” 

“Can you come by this evening?” she asks.

I call Alex and Daniel. Will they go with me? It is two days shy of my birthday. “She’s my birthday present to myself,” I say as we get in the car and drive through verdant Pennsylvania farm country. We see the sign: Lab puppies...woods frame a long winding driveway. A streak of black, lithe and free, runs through sun-dappled woods. It is Misty, my puppy's mother.

Alex, Daniel and I arrive at the farmhouse on a hillside looking out toward Lancaster County. She is in a pen enclosure with her brothers. I lean down. Touch her. She nuzzles my hand. The little Mennonite girl stands next to her father. She picks up Lily, holds her close...buries her face in the puppy's tawny coat to hide her tears. Then, gently, carefully, she hands Lily to me. Soulful gold eyes with pale yellow lashes look into mine. She sees my sons and a wag of tail presses against my hand. 


Writing grounds me, gives me a sense of fulfillment about my life, makes being alone an asset, not a detriment. I light a candle in my upstairs den. As I write, I take in its vanilla and butterscotch scent. I write that I have done the things many have only dreamt of, traveling the world. I write of Lily, my companion and Zen-muse-of-sorts, and how much we can learn from a dog.

Walking her twice a day is good for body and spirit. In movement there is a new bounce to the step, energy to appreciate the extraordinary in every ordinary day. I love watching Lily―she finds interest and pleasure in the smallest blade of grass, which she smells intently, her tail arched, one pale yellow paw poised like a ballerina’s above the ground. She is a graceful creature, but she can be overly energetic too. This is her personality, a big dog with a docile heart...a dog who leaps with joy on my sons when they come to visit, then settles down with contentment when surrounded by her family. To appreciate life as she sees it—we should all be so lucky .

How about you? Has the love for a special pet inspired your writing? 


kathleen pooler said...

Ahh, yes, Susan. Our special muse is Max, a big, fluffy Golden Retriever who still thinks he is a puppy even though he is almost ten! He loves nothing more than to curl up at our feet. Of course, he loves his treat, too. How wonderful that your next book is so close to publication.It sounds wonderful and I am looking forward to reading it.

Susan G. Weidener said...

Hi Kathy. A dog as big as Max, who takes over the room with his kisses and his wagging and hulking presence is a Zen MASTER! I'm working hard on finishing the book. Since, I'm not traveling until early September, it's a great incentive this summer to focus on my writing. It's been a long time in the making and I'm ready to finish it up.

kathleen pooler said...

HaHa, “Zen Master” sounds about right! Good luck wrapping that book up. I know the feeling. It’s time.

Sherrey Meyer said...

Susan, I have followed you and Lily since she first came to you. I can see in images how much love flows between the two of you. Thanks so much for sharing your story of love, loss, and Lily. Here's to finishing your book before September!

Susan G. Weidener said...

Thank you, Sherrey, for following my journey as a writer. Your support is very much appreciated over these many years. Finishing a book is a challenge. I'm working on chronology and organization of all that I have written over the years that is included in "A Woman Alone." Summer is a great time to write. I hope that your own writing is going well.

Marilyn said...

Hi Susan. I often include my first dog, Britney, in my stories because she was such a big part of my life when I lived alone. I think animals are a great inspiration because they are only aware of “now.” They always operate in the present and therefore remind of us of what is important. I look forward to reading your new book. Good luck.

Susan G. Weidener said...

Thank you, Marilyn. I'm glad the piece from my new book resonated. A beloved animal is a joy. See you next month in the Circle for our workshop on blogging.