"It's as if a great bird lives inside the stone of our days and since no sculptor can free it, it has to wait for the elements to wear us down, till it is free to fly." Mark Nepo

Monday, April 14, 2008


Toby gets excited - a lot. I come home. He sees a cat. Walt comes home. He sees a cat. Someone says, "Do you want to eat?" He wakes up. He wants out. He sees a cat. He meets a new friend - human or canine. 

It doesn't take much. The problem is that he gets so excited that he jumps and twirls and leaps. He snaps and licks and chomps - mostly accidentally. He weighs almost sixty pounds. Sixty pounds of unrestrained Golden Retriever puppy can be painful and scary and more than a little off-putting to his new friends.

So I find myself using the command "Settle!" with him on a regular basis. Sometimes it involves helping him sit and holding him firmly until he can get control of himself. Sometimes it involves turning him loose and letting him run the steam off  and then talking to him. It always involves a calm voice and a deliberate effort on my part to be calm and soothing. Somehow yelling "Settle!" doesn't seem to work.

This time of year, I also use this command regularly with my students. Not quite as commanding as with Toby, but still firm.  "Alright you guys, settle." or "Settle down now so we can get to lunch." or "Come on, settle yourselves."

It's interesting that I find myself using the word so much right now, because I have history with it. This is a word with multiple meanings, but to me it's always meant to accept less than I really want or need. As in -  To settle for second best. To settle for a boring life because I'm too old and tired to find anything else. To settle for what I have because I don't really deserve better.

Lately, however, as I'm working with Toby I'm aware that I'm asking him to settle so he can have more of what he wants - love, fun, attention - not so I can deprive him of anything. It's the same with my kids. I ask them to settle so we can get work done, so they can learn, so we can enjoy each other's company. I'm not trying to take anything away from them. I want them to be able to have everything they need and as much of what they want as they can absorb.

I'm using Stephen Mitchell's tao te ching for a morning meditation right now. This is what I opened to on Saturday:

Close your mouth,
block off your senses,
untie your knots,
soften your glare,
settle your dust.
This is the primal identity.

I am being asked to be still in my life right now. To accept things as they are. I have been  a roaring spring-swollen river, always in a hurry to somewhere else, muddy full of everything I sweep up mindlessly in my path. Now I find myself eddying gently - a pool born in the protection of a sacred cove. My surface is calm, the sediment settles to the bottom, and there is clarity. Sunlight shines through me revealing transparency all the way to the stones and mud of my bedrock.

I can feel the call and pull of the river. I may be her again one day. Or I may find all I need in this calm, clear pool of light and refreshing water. Settled.


Carrie Wilson Link said...

"I'm aware that I'm asking him to settle so he can have more of what he wants - love, fun, attention - not so I can deprive him of anything."

LOVE THIS! LOVE that last paragraph, too, WOW!

I love being witness to your journey!

kario said...

Deb, this is so beautiful! And something that so many of us can relate to. I used to be so proud of my ability to multitask and I found myself thinking so much about that word today - trying to dissect why I am always in such a hurry to get more done more quickly.

As I say the word 'settle' I am imagining a proud mother hen snuggling herself onto her clutch of eggs to wait and protect them. Riches to come, indeed.

Love you!

La La said...

I love you. I just do!

Jerri said...

Toby looks positively noble in this picture.

No message could be more welcome today, Deb. The other day Carrie suggested that we have a mantra. You just provided it: settle.

Nothing good or helpful can happen until I do.

I thank God for you, Deb. I thank God.

Terry Whitaker said...

This is EXACTLY the place I am practicing--and yet find myself continually multi-tasking. I know the first step is just a gentle reminder--like the one I just read.

Thank you.

Kim said...

I first "read" this post the way I often do: standing at my desk, leaning awkwardly over my chair, a sneak attack on my computer for a quick moment in the middle of moving from one task to the next. After reading these grateful comments, I decided I needed another look and realized I had barely read this post at all. I tried again and I still couldn't, standing there awkwardly with my buzzing mind.

So I finally sat down for a minute, took a breath, and really READ it. I read those last two paragraphs several times, and I know I will read them many more.

So beautiful. So true. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Beautiful Deb, so very beautiful and so very true. Thank you for this wisdom, you have no idea how much I needed to read this.

M said...

It is interesting how your perception of "settle" is changing. I pray that you never feel like you have to settle for anything but the very best...because that is what you deserve.

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