Last week in our backyard, Mac inhaled a foxtail and we spent a rocky day at the vet. For those of you who don’t know what a foxtail looks like, it is the very spiky tip of a weed–one that will work its way upward inside its host if sniffed or stepped on or should it invade an animal’s ear. It is impossible to remove without a surgical assistance, and, if left untreated, can climb into the brain or travel into the intestines. It is deadly. In California, tracking competitions for dogs cease during the spring and summer, when the foxtail population is at its height, and I no longer walk mine along grassy hiking trails.
Three months ago, Cody also connected with a foxtail while browsing through our backyard. Though we weed-eat these plants to the ground each week, they have invaded our entire acre of land and grow back rapaciously. To poison them with a toxic spray isn’t an option, as the dogs might ingest it along with whatever they’ve decided to chew on next. So, we do our best–but live with the fear of a repeat performance.
The threat of those foxtails seems to me a metaphor for the state of the world today, albeit a small one. Terrorists murder the innocent in horrible ways, the economy stalls, the stock market crashes, politics cycles through its unsatisfactory and questionable ups and downs regardless of which candidate you support, the country tears itself apart over race as violently as it did in the 1960’s. This month, the daughter of a friend who lives in Britain lost her job due to Brexit. Only fourteen days ago, ISIS tortured and then executed twenty-two innocents in Bangladesh. We all live in the eye of incomprehensible storms.
What, then, is required of us in order to stay upright amidst the chaos every day life can bring? Facing our fears and remaining rooted in our own reality, as well as simultaneously striving to get beyond ourselves–both of these are ways of dealing with life’s greater moments of pain and injustice. And perhaps staying “centered,” too, as the Buddhists do, can help us to handle our own problems.
Thoreau expressed all this far better and more succinctly than I can, and I have taped his words up above my desk with all the rest of my favorite quotations: “You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.”
Just taking a few deep breaths and moving onto whatever is next helps me to relax, despite the world’s troubles. Brad and I co-exist with the foxtails, always on the lookout but accepting their inevitable presence, and celebrate if another month passes without an emergency trip to the vet. When I watch the reports of the latest horrors perpetrated by ISIS, I try to mourn rather than to catastrophize, so that I can board the plane that will fly us to Maryland for a much-anticipated visit with my sister.
All I can do is to be at my most vigilant and attempt not to worry fruitlessly. I may not be very good at all this, but I work hard to stay within the minute–or even within the second–if that is all I can manage. To ride over the potholes of life with equanimity, and so find some measure of peace.