Big Dogs and Popsicles

I see her every day on the trails; four-foot nine and in her seventies, walking in an over-sized sun hat and white pleated pants, holding a leash connected to the biggest Huskie dog I have ever seen.  My off-leash mutts charge towards her as a holler for them to ease up and come back.  I call out to the woman to warn her we are passing.  She smiles, waves, and anchors her feet into the dirt.  My dogs run past with no acknowledgment of the woman or her dog.  The huskie yanks and pulls, drooling;  but the woman holds tight, miraculously resisting his strong tug.  I fully expect him to pull her to the ground and drag her to the other end of the forest.  Her strength prevails.  I miss her when I do not see her.

Yesterday, I saw the huskie but not the woman.  He darted into the bushes and I continued on my way assuming the woman was not far behind him.  Moments later, as I turned on to a parallel trail, I heard the sounds of wheels crunchy through the gravel of the log road.  The crunching stopped, a brief slamming of car doors bounced off the trees, followed by the high-pitched hum of a dog whistle.  The plod of a 100 pound dog disrupted the tall dry grass, followed by the gentle voice of a dog lover, more car doors, and the fading crunch of car wheels.

I smiled for a moment.  When I am seventy, I thought, I will own a Great Dane.

I only see him on Tuesdays at the gym;  wheel chair bound and in his seventies, clad in khakis and pressed polo, watching the swimmers from an upstairs window.  I teased him once about the view he enjoyed.  He responded by smiling and asking me about my day. He seemed to actually want to know how my day was.  We chatted about our weekends, the weather, and his wife.  I found him witty, charming, and incredibly sweet.  I make an effort now to walk past that window on Tuesdays in hopes of chatting with him. I miss him when he is not there.

Last week the temperatures reached the high 90’s and instead of parking him by the window, his wife bought him a popsicle and left him to watch tennis in the lobby.  He and I chatted about college football while she finished her workout.  I later told her what a sweet husband she had.  “I know,”  she told me, “he’s got a huge heart . . . . I could come without him, you know  . . .  but why would I.”

I smiled for a moment.  When I am seventy, I thought, I will eat popsicles and talk to strangers.

Solomon lived a life of excess; marked by wealth and women.  He possessed all spiritual wisdom, lived in luxury, built great naval fleets, rubbed elbows with the likes of Cleopatra.  He built a temple for God, expanded the cities of God’s people, and ruled with little opposition.  Yet as his face wrinkled, his body slowed, his life drew near its end:  his words were cynical.  All is vanity, he wrote.  We labor and then we die.  There is nothing new, and nothing satisfied. Work is meaningless, wisdom is meaningless, pleasure is meaningless. His words were almost prophetic as, upon his death, all that he built crumbled under the rebellion of the Northern Kingdom.

David, Solomon’s father, knew poverty and humility.  The runt of the litter, so to speak, in his family.  He had only stones to kill giants.  He experienced scorn, kings sought to take his life, he showed spiritual weakness, lost his integrity, saw the untimely death of his first-born.  He spent much of his life running and repenting.  As his hairs turned grey; he saw God in every sunset, heard his voice in the winds, found the meaning of life in the presence of His Lord.  What Solomon built was the legacy of his father, but it lost its meaning when God was drowned out by the excess.  Better is a poor but wise youth, Solomon wrote, than an old king who has forgotten how to heed a warning.

When I am seventy I will own a big dog and eat popsicles.  I want to take on big things so that God can work miracles until my very last day.  I want to enjoy the little things as opportunities to find connections in the faces around me.  I want to begin now by leaving excess behind and seeking God in the sunsets.  I want to create a legacy to build upon instead of walls to be torn down.