August 7th, 1983, Cedarberg, Wisconsin

 Love, patience and bravery, all wrapped in one dynamic old lady.

 I am pulling out of my driveway when I spot a stranger on the opposite sidewalk. This stranger has a cane in one hand and a brown bag in the other. She walks with a slow gait and an indelible, wrinkled smile. She appears to be staring at Godfrey, my neighbor’s oversized pit bull. Godfrey is a bit of a local nuisance. His owners are rarely home, and he barks and lunges at passersby from his patch of shade under a tree.

 This morning, Godfrey has managed to circle around and around the tree so that his chain has secured his head against the trunk. For me, this is no big deal, and I dismiss him and the pickle he is in from my mind. On numerous occasions, Godfrey has let me know to stay out of his space, so I do. But I still pull over to the side of the street for fear the lady will do something foolish. I watch as she surveys the situation, appearing to be respectful of Godfrey’s size and menacing disposition.

 The lady begins to slowly walk counterclockwise around the tree, staying a foot or so out of Godfrey’s reach. She’s softly singing some tune, but I can’t make out what language it’s in. Godfrey snarls at the lady, but she patiently encourages him to retrace his circular steps, which gives him an expanding territory.

 However, at about the fourth loop, she runs out of room. The neighbor’s house is too close to the tree for the lady to safely escort Godfrey around without invading his space. I finally jump out from my car. This lady with the indelible smile and quiet tune is going to put herself in harm’s way, I tell myself.

 But the lady seems to have it all figured out. She acknowledges my presence and points her cane to where she wants me to stand. She pulls out a packet of sliced bologna from her brown bag, opens it up and hands me a slice. Her plan is to use me as a meaty decoy so that she can slip around to the other side of the house, allowing Godfrey to continue to move in the right direction.

 The lady’s plan works. Godfrey is free to roam his space, the lady continues her stroll down the sidewalk with her cane and brown bag and I return to my car with my hand smelling like bologna. I realize that I have just witnessed an act of love, patience and bravery.

 

I’ve been sprucing up this journal entry I uncovered last week, and it got me thinking: how can I be more like this lady? Thirty years later, I’m still unwinding that one, creating more and more space for myself to cultivate those amazing skills as I go.