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Monk in the World Guest Post: Sharon Clymer Landis

I am delighted to share another beautiful submission to our Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for Sharon Clymer Landis’s reflection on the wisdom and love of a foster dog.

I’m fostering a dog named Ladybug. She was caught on a property after her owners abandoned her. The county condemned and burned the house on the property since it was a health hazard. She lived on the land there with another dog, also abandoned, and scavenging for food. As a result, Ladybug was severely under-socialized around humans. I wrote this on day 39 of my fostering journey with her. 

Ladybug unleashed a torrent of writing in me when my desire to write had evaporated. I didn’t think I was blocked; I had no angst over not writing. I just figured I no longer needed to write to process life or as an outlet for creativity. That said, I knew there was a lot of grief in my life last year, plus heaviness on so many fronts: personal, family, extended family, crazy politics, our hopelessly divided country, and the hideous wars. I was experiencing and feeling a lot, just not the desire to write. 

And then came Ladybug and suddenly I’m writing like I always have, joyfully, hopefully, as if making music without instruments or singing without vocal folds. I confess to being slightly bewildered by how the story of Ladybug has taken on a life of its own and by the love and support expressed by her social media followers to meas her foster mom and her storyteller. Maybe it’s because I share my own journey too. Often while out at night with Ladybug, since her feral inner clock was oriented toward night wakefulness, my contemplative leanings drew me towards moon and star gazing. I’d snap photos, spell bound with wonder, and later write about the love that is available to us if only we look, listen, and take it in. And I share those musings on Ladybug’s online updates.

One night after the moon set behind the mountains and Ladybug tired of playing with wild abandon, we went inside I wrote this and a Rumi poem on my blog: “As I say to Ladybug, she says to me, and the Spirit of Love says to all of us…

"When I say to you, 
‘You are lovely’,
you do not believe me,
because of the blemishes
you know so intimately;
but those blemishes are the scars
of your sufferings
and they shine out of your soul,
radiating beauty,
the way the daisies do
in the long summer grasses.
So when I say to you.
‘Even with closed eyes,
I still see how beautiful you are’
it is true.
Believe it.
Believe it.” ~ Rumi

The day, then, was quiet for Ladybug. Yesterday was so full. Ladybug wanted to be on the sofa with Ronan the dachshund and me, but she feared the ramp that helps his legs navigate getting on and off the sofa. She went up without thinking, but coming down, the ramp moved under her weight and triggered panic. It took an hour and a few trails of treats enticing her one foot down as practice and then when I thought I’d have to carry her down, she did it! Only a few hours compared to the days it took for her to go in and out of our back porch door. Everything about doorways frightens her. Perhaps, humans popped out of doors with brooms or guns to shoo her away from their garbage cans or yards. Later, in the afternoon when Tiktok and I came home from doing dog therapy work, she was so excited to see us she jumped on the tension gate across the doorway of her room and crashed it down. I hadn’t tightened it enough. That scared her so much that our wooden floor had claw marks where she scrabbled to get away. 

The best thing for her overwhelmed nervous system is to take a long, quiet break from her stressors. So today, she’s holing up in her den room and taking a breather. She helps me remember to take breaks, turn off the news and social media to walk along the creek, or sit on the swing in the woods for some forest bathing. This is true of my nervous system too! 

I sit and ponder why Ladybug’s story moves me so, along with so many others. Did we need a feel-good story, something, or someone to expand our hearts and souls? A story that takes us from fear to courage, pain to joy, a story of overcoming, unconditional love, patience, and a little lost soul finding her way with collaborative help from so many? Not only do we love happy ‘becoming’ stories, but we also long for stories of love and coming together. The opposite of how we are experiencing the world right now. And that little soul sure received love! This all touches me deeply, how she soaked up all that love, despite her trauma and raging fears, and was willing to take those difficult steps to become braver. Isn’t this another lovely invitation for all of us? May we all soak up love so we can heal and face this difficult world.  

Sharon Clymer Landis is a writer, poet, spiritual director, retreat leader, and a Virginia Master Naturalist in the Headwaters chapter. She is known for her simplicity, gentle wisdom, compassion, love of birds, stars, earth, and nature. Also, an avid reader, learner, seeker of Spirit, Sharon is drawn to contemplative spirituality, expressive arts, nature, children, and dogs. Her certified therapy dog, Tiktok, is usually close by her side. She lives with her partner, Jay, on their beautiful farm, Starry Meadows, where they grow wildflowers in pollinator fields and host retreatants, birders, and writers. 

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