On the surface, it is a short breath.
But it is so much more. My dog pants to let me know things. He pants in front of the door to let me he has to go outside. He pants with an extra flourish when I pick up the leash. He pants and growls when it’s dinner time and I pick up his food bowl. He pants and whines in the backseat when we pass the park. I know these pants. These particular exhalations each have a meaning, an exhortation, if you will. But he has a new pant. One I don’t understand. It happens after dinner. After an evening walk. As the light is falling out of the sky. He stands in the kitchen, in the dining room, in the space between rooms and pants. In-out. In-out. Over and over and over and over. I pet him. He pants. I take him outside. He pants. He stands and pants. What are you telling me, boy? What are you saying?
He is an old dog. Maybe fourteen. We found him in 2004. He was probably a year then. Maybe two. You do the math. His hearing and eyesight are pretty much gone. He still loves to eat. He poops and pees with gusto. When he is out on a walk, his nose romances each blade of grass. Then he pants his evening pant. In-out. In-out. Over and over and over and over.
Always in the dying light of the day.
As if to say…
The practice is inspired by Naomi Shihab Nye and her notion that words are like oars. Dip them in the water. Explore with them. Feel how they touch and bump up against one another. Let them take us further down the stream.