January 13, 2014

Monday Musings: Words to Love By

This is the point where love, the very beginning of love, shades right out of language's grasp. Some constellation of image and gesture, some quality of soul, something charmed and promised. Maybe we should be glad, finally, that the word can't go where the heart can, not completely. It's freeing, to think there's always an aspect of us outside the grasp of speech, the common stuff of language. Love is common, too, absolutely so - and yet our words for it only point to it; they do not describe it. They are indicators of something immense: the word love is merely a sign that means something like this way to the mountain. 
 ~ Mark Doty, from Dog Years

I talk to Ruby a lot, often in a high-pitched voice that I did not use with my big dogs.  I talk to her about what we're doing, what we're going to do, who is coming over. I tell her about Lasya and Freya and that I wish my mom could have met her.  She listens with an endearing attentiveness, sometimes with a devastatingly adorable head-tilt. With ears like hers, you can't help but believe she takes in every word.  Her seeming comprehension of what I say grows every day. I keep a lengthening list of her understood commands, but that doesn't begin to cover the words and phrases that she seems to recognize, such as "Nina," "cookie," "kitchen," "want to play tug?" "time for bed," and of course "walk." I tell her she is good, she is clever, she is tough, she is amazing, I say 'what a girl!" There is no shortage of conversation and praise; however, I notice that I don't regularly tell her that I love her, and not for lack of truth or meaning behind it.  

One of the greatest qualities I admire in dogs and all animals is nonverbal communication.  I appreciate deeply the way they talk with their bodies in a way that we usually have too many reservations about. They bump against each other as they trot a long side by side, they full-body-wag when they are happy to see us or each-other, they gaze with an unnerving penetration and they kiss unabashedly on the mouth.  They have no words for "I love you" and yet we never doubt it.  In the verbal cacophony of the human world, I think the words are sometimes dispensed too easily, or under obligation or rote.  They are sometimes lost to distraction, a bad connection of technology or emotion.

When love is unspoken, it is at its most pure. Its adoring actions have an unmistakable volume.  I suppose I have always felt with my cats, horses and dogs, that love is a hand on a flank as they sleep, love is a cheek leaned against a soft head, love is a wild game of tug even when I'm tired, and an amused resignation to being licked enthusiastically on the chin. It's in the way I can gaze endlessly at the greenish-gold mosaics of Ruby's eyes, the freckled backs of her ears or the end of her tail that looks like a white-dipped paintbrush. The word is a marker, something I can say to others about my dog, which they may or not understand, but for Ruby, for this dazzling dog that has a terrier's hold and a herder's attention on my heart, love is a whole wilderness that doesn't need signs. 


  1. Awwww, my mind is empty but my heart is full. Lovely.

  2. " In the verbal cacophony of the human world, I think the words are sometimes dispensed too easily, or under obligation or rote"

    Yes! I agree wholeheartedly. I think there are many cues humans could take from dogs and apply to one another. The result would mostly likely be more meaningful relationships.

  3. So happy to meet you, Lara Elizabeth! Thank you so much for the sweet comment you left on my blog. My blog header and social media buttons were designed by Glogirly Design :)

    1. Thank you for visiting! I edited my comment when I saw the Glogirly Design logo on your sidebar - so cute!

  4. A thought provoking post, maybe loving animals is a default position and humans more complicated. I do use the L word- quietly and privately with my animals, but they know already. It's superfluous.


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