I first noticed the dog as I gave Sam a hug goodbye. It was some kind of a miniature Doberman Mastiff cross with what looked like some serious anger issues. It had dark eyes, like it had been keeping guard forever and was ready to take my leg off. Was it real? A dog that small and angry? Certainly looked it, sitting defiant on the dash of the beat up 70’s camper van. A double take later I realised it was a plastic guard dog.
The mentoring day on the moors with staff and the new souls to the Tribe was as beautiful and unique as ever. Time by the river. Time by the fire. Time alone. Sharing lunch and sharing where we were all at in our lives. The weather held, just. Eddy got in the water. Sam’s wet shoe melted as it dried by the fire. Becca gave us a few of her softly electric poems. Amanda tended the fire. And we all helped keep it going. The land, the woods, the river worked their magic on us. We each found a piece of something in this wild place to give us peace. A reconnect to the retreat time we spent on the moors. A recharging of the soul batteries, a chlorophylling up! My pace had slowed, my mind cleared, my heart made tender by the company and the familiar wildness of this part of Dartmoor. The breaking of the spell stopped me in my tracks. The impact of the aggressive, no doubt hurting, man was very real. He emerged from his old van, mimicking the face of the angry dog on the dash, demanding that we move away. That we take our care and kindness elsewhere. My response was, as calm as I could muster, that we were in a public car park and maybe he needed to go further into the wild? The door of the van slammed shut.
At the end of each residential we ask the participants to take care as they had back into the world. To be gentle and kind with their hearts. Mindful of those who haven’t shared the same experience. Who may see something different about them and want a piece of it. Or want to wreck it simply because it does not fit with who and how they are. The reconnect days on the moors are equal in power and connection to the residentials. So it follows that this word of caution and protection, as we had back out into the wider world, needs to be repeated after each day we spend together. Much of the world isn’t ready to connect in this way yet. I have no doubt in their hearts they crave it, but their day to day minds and life will want to reject, crush or shout it down. Perhaps because it’s too painful a reminder of what is missing.
Standing there listening to the angry man demanding we move away from his vehicle and hug somewhere else, was a shock. We try and teach a principle of taking nothing personally. A bold ideal. I’m a sensitive being, and when my heart is open (which is most of the time) and someone is attacking me verbally, it hurts. Part of it is personal and it needs to be stood up to with as much love and calmness as we can find. Our protective, loving shield need to be up or at least ready. Not a blocking of the heart, or a shutting down but a gentle voice offering protection and kindness where and when needed. A gentle steer away from the focus of trouble or confusion to a place of safety.
As I headed home, I was struck by the image of the angry dog on the dash. And what sat behind, lurking and probably hurting, in the dark. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll see the man again, maybe things will be different. For now, I’ll pray for him and continue to take care of my heart on the wilder road.