Those of us who have animals in our lives know that they are capable of teaching us many things. Without saying a single word, they nevertheless manage to speak volumes to us, often in the simplest of ways, and sometimes just by being. Such a thing happened to me one day while on an early morning bike ride.
I won't make any pretense of being a dedicated biker. Though my intentions are admirable, my rides are erratic at best these days. If it’s too breezy or too cool, or the roads are wet from one of Florida’s drenching rains, or I've had a late start to my day . . .you get the idea. It’s all too easy to find a reason not to get my legs, and my heart, pumping.
Having made that confession, I have to say that once I’m on my bike and pedaling along the intracoastal waterway that I am privileged to have right at my doorstep, I’m grateful that I forced myself out the door. I try to head out just as the sun is coming up – I’m definitely a “let’s exercise first thing and get this done” type of person – as I am invariably treated to a magnificent sunrise that paints the sky with impressionistic pinks and blues and sends diamonds of light dancing across the surface of the water.
I occasionally take my camera with me, as the early morning is the perfect time for capturing images of this awakening world.
The first half of my ride dead ends at a place where one arm of the waterway takes an abrupt turn inland, creating Rose Bay, a spot as lovely as its name. For those who want to stop and take in the quiet beauty of the bay, the town has created a little park -- if you can call it that, as it’s no bigger than the foundation of a medium-sized house. But it's a restful spot where a walker or biker can pause for a moment and breathe in the peacefulness of the morning.
This particular day I stopped to look out on Rose Bay for a few moments, and there, gliding slowly across the surface of the water, was a woman on a paddle board. This is a common sight along the waterway, of course, but what captivated me was that she was not alone. Sitting quietly in front of her was a chocolate Lab. I watched the woman’s slow, graceful paddling propel them across Rose Bay and marveled at that beautiful dog, serene and content, as if this were the only place in the world he wanted to be.
I will pause for a moment here to say that I am not a native Floridian. Indeed, I would describe myself as a reluctant transplant, a dyed-in-the-wool New Englander who has lived all but the last three years of her life within thirty miles of Boston. Add to that multiple ancestral roots that go back to the earliest settlers, and the idea of leaving New England was simply unthinkable. But to move to Florida where, let’s face it, seasons are just a figment of the imagination and one never wears mittens, for Pete’s sake! Why, that would be a betrayal of my hardy New England roots! I couldn’t imagine any self-respecting New Englander even entertaining such a move.
But, alas, here I am; and I will confess that I have struggled to accept this new chapter in my life -- to leave friends, family, and all that is familiar; to trade maple trees for palm trees and dainty, cheeky chickadees for over-sized pelicans; to start a new life in a place that was never on my Top-Ten-Places-I-Want-to-Live-Someday list in the first place. It was simply too much to ask! For nearly the first two years, I found myself wrestling with this change. I just plain didn’t like it, and I wanted to go home.
Then one day I took a ride to Rose Bay.
I still carry in my mind the image from that morning, an image that speaks so clearly of contentment and trust, of a dog’s simple faith in his master’s love and protection. His master knows where she is going, and that’s good enough for him. No questions, no complaints, no whining, not even a hint of fear. Just the simple enjoyment of sitting at her feet and trusting that all is well.
Was there a lesson here for this "reluctant transplant?" Certainly. We each have our own way of applying these kinds of things to our lives, of course. For me, this became a lesson in trusting God with every detail of my life, even an unexpected move to Florida. It calls me to be content, to sit quietly and peacefully at my Master’s feet and trust that he knows where he's taking me, and that all is well.
It was a much-needed -- and much-appreciated -- message. An unspoken one. From a chocolate Lab on a paddle board.