Following Atticus: Forty-Eight High Peaks, One Little Dog, and an Extraordinary Friendship by Tom Ryan is published by William Morrow. It tells the story of my adventures with Atticus M. Finch, a little dog of some distinction. You can also find our column in the NorthCountry News.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

A Common Thread

The other morning, while I was taking photographs of wildflowers by the edge of Thorne Pond, autumn’s approach could be seen, but more importantly, it could be felt. The brisk air, the stirring breeze, that primal scent even we humans can pick up that tells us to get ready for the next chapter of the year. 

When I stood, I did so cautiously, because I’ve been known to get dizzy, and sometimes even faint, since my extended sickness last spring, and perhaps because of the handful of pills I take each day aimed to ease the workload of my heart. 

When I stretched out to full length, what I saw was better than any prescription given to me by my cardiology team. Samwise was sitting on the top of the bowl that rises above the pond’s eastern edge, as calmly as can be. In front of him was a young great cormorant about twenty yards away in the water. My young friend, now nine-months-old, was sitting contentedly, silently, soaking in the scene. He wasn’t ready to spring. There was no barking. No whining. There was only a growing pup watching nature play out in front of him. 

Samwise A. Passaconaway watching a young great cormorant.
Whenever I see him do this, and he does it often, sometimes looking at ducks, beavers, or otters, I wonder where his poise comes from. Then there are the times when he’s not looking at anything but the scenery. A field of wildflowers, the reflection of a mountain in the pond, a passing river. 

I’ve learned many lessons through my friendships through the years, and that includes friendships with souls with four legs. Our lives grow and evolve because of the friends we make along the way. Like chemicals, we cannot help but be transformed when we’re joined with another. And one of the things I’ve learned through Max and Atticus and Will through the years is that individuals exist in all species, in all breeds. But as I note this, and take inventory of Samwise’s growth as a young dog on his way to finding out who he is, I can’t help but think of Atticus, who used to do the same thing while out in nature. He’d sit and ponder. Flora, fauna, clouds, it didn’t matter. I used to think of my late friend as a philosopher. 

But here is Samwise, young and energetic and full of puppy happiness, displaying the same trait. That, and how he behaves on the trails when we hike together reminds me very much of Atticus, but he doesn’t have too much else in common with him. 

But what a joy that he has this sense of wonder to him. It fills me with joy to know that he and I can sit together for a long while pondering the world in front of us. The philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote: “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” I think he was on to something. Heck, take a smart phone away from a person waiting for anything and more often than not they are lost without the distraction.  

I know part of the metamorphosis from my old hectic life, was that there came a time when I could finally sit still and in peace. But it wasn’t easy at first. 

What I enjoy is watching non-human animals do it. It seems to come easier to them. Atticus, Samwise, heck, in past years I’ve taken photographs of Aragorn, a growing male bear sitting fifteen feet away from us in the backyard. As Atti and I watched the butterflies, woodpeckers, and hummingbirds, so did Aragorn. Wonder permeated whatever separates three species, and we all took communion together. 

That’s what I thought of when I saw Samwise watching this morning, and every other time I witnessed his stillness, wonder captures us all. It doesn’t matter how many legs we have, or if we have wings. In the wild, in these mountains of New Hampshire, there is a common thread that binds us together and its name is Nature. And that gives us all the more reason to protect and preserve this land and see that it remains unspoiled. 

18 comments:

lorijk said...

Beautiful. Thank you.

Honey Bear said...

Wonderful story as usual Tom. I think you and Samwise think alike. So happy you have each other.

Anonymous said...

I LOVE HOW SAMWISE SITS LIKE ATTICUS USED TO!

Cindy Ciocca said...

Here, here.

Lynni OHaver said...

Beautiful words, they always make me sigh with contentment.

Pam & Allison said...

Reading your post has the effect of transporting me to the tranquil laces you describe. Thank you for the reminder to put the smart phone down and drink in the moments.

Ruby Milam said...

I totally get it! I have never felt closer to God than when I'm in the middle of his wonder and to see another species be amazed by it too how awesome! By all means carry on and keep us updated!

Dawn said...

You are a wise man, sir, and I appreciate and admire your willingness, and your ability to share...many benefit. I wrote a monthly column years ago, many, many years ago now for the Weare Register, a very small, long since defunct periodical. I enjoyed sharing stories of my growing up, my family, at times, quite by accident, are an amusing crew. I wrote about them, and about some of the silly things that went on around me. It was great fun to live in a small town, 3500 back then, give or take. And wonderful to have people approach me and share their own stories that reading my column had josseled forward from the recesses of long ago.

You get that joy one thousand fold, because you are willing to share you world with all of us. Your thoughts, your days, your friends, four-legged and other. Thank you for your input, and the josseling my mind gets when I read your pieces. Thank you, sir, thank you.

Kay Distefano said...

Yes, in pictures I sometimes see the same posture Atti exhibited.

Barb said...

Viewing nature the smells,textures,sounds of birds singing or the softness of the water looking at the clouds. Walking, sitting with nature It's so peaceful. Contentment. Thank you Tom for sharing your insightful wisdom

Jean said...

I believe that your 4 legged friends and you share something that is undefinable. A language without words, an energy maybe, that brings about these similarities in how you view nature and life itself. That and the animals in your presence are allowed to be who they are. There is trust and love going back and forth between you. It is a beautiful thing to witness even if only through photos and your poetic words. That is just my thoughts. Thanks for letting us in!

Sharon Stokan said...

What beautiful words. It is add though we are sitting there with you and Samwise! Thank you!

Jane Isaac said...

Sometimes I wonder if our words get in the way of just observing and responding and thinking

Dawn Middlestead said...

It's really something special to see Samwise sitting, focusing...taking it all in...enjoying what nature has to offer. There is peace where you live and I know Atticus and Will felt it...now Samwise does too. Another wonderful Blog. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts, your feelings with us.

C said...

Thank you Tom, for summing up life. We al need our two and three (friend wirh a three-legged dog) and four legged fellow earth sharers to make our life whole. To watch a youngster, like Samwise, experience growing up, with you as his friend and guide, is a total pleasure. Wishi g you both rip-roarimg health and a long, wonder-filled life together. Onwards, by all means!

Chris Pellegrini said...

Wonderful thoughts! Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Loved everything about this post, Tom.
jd

Eileen said...

THE UNITY THAT YOU HAVE WITH SAMWISE, HE HAS WITH YOU, SAMWISE & YOU HAVE WITH NATURE, IS PRECIOUS, THANK YOU FOR SHARING YOUR GIFTS.