Circle Dance with Gratitude

What on Earth is a Circle Dance, might you ask? In order to know, of course you need proper training. First and foremost, you have to have a plate full of breakfast, lunch or dinner in front of you. Secondly, put your hands and feet on the floor close to the plate. Now you are ready to begin!

Salivate as if you haven’t eaten for at least a week or two. Then rotate around in circles on all fours at least three times. OK, now you can eat. It’s probably not as easy as you thought it would be, now is it? For that matter, why would you even do this if you were fed two to three meals every day? Could it be an expression of gratitude?

When I think about how rampant starvation has plagued this planet, I’m sure plenty of people would be grateful to Circle Dance for a plate of food put in front of them. That is, if they had the strength to do so. Undoubtedly, some would reach deep inside and conjure up the strength out of sheer determination to live.

Most people in developed countries would scoff at the idea of doing this. They would consider it ridiculously preposterous. Why? Simply put, they take it for granted that there will be food to eat and pure, clean water to drink at least three times a day, if not more, without a second thought.

Gratitude is an action of beautiful significance and often displaced in our conscious and subconscious minds. What are we really grateful for and just how often do we give it serious thought to convey it?

Now picture yourself greeting a loved one on a daily basis. Imagine being so grateful that this loved one still exists and has come home safely. Cry loudly with joy and smother that person with hugs and kisses. Afterwards, you can’t possibly contain your excitement. This excitement causes you to race back and forth through your entire home. Why, you’d even jump on the bed and furniture to further compliment your emphatic enthusiasm.

OK, I realize this sounds a little far-fetched and crazy. Yet, your loved one would certainly feel your happiness radiating from your special gift of love. How could they possibly not? Wouldn’t it bring a smile to your face?

What if you knew that your loved one was to die tomorrow? Would you treat them any different today compared to a normal day? Of course you would! How many times would you say, “I love you,” on that last day?

Why should this day be any different from any other day? Not a single one of us knows when our lives on Earth will pass, with the possible exception of a dying being that is still coherent enough to understand that they will soon be leaving us. Do we say, “I love you,” enough on a regular and daily basis?

I once had a special love in my life that not only circle danced for each meal, but who also showered me with the same gratitude I mentioned before. This occurred each and every time I arrived home safe and sound. Stedman was his name.

When I would introduce him, people would jokingly ask, “Where’s Oprah?” My answer was, “Lord Almighty, if we had Oprah living in our home with Stedman, millions of people would have lined up and banged down the front door to meet or even get a glimpse of her! Wow, we would have had gobs of instantaneous friends from all over the world!”

My dearly beloved Stedman, a golden blonde Cocker Spaniel, was a rescue dog who had been severely abused. At one point in his life he had been found as a stray with a broken foot, terribly matted, long hair, fleas and of course malnutritioned. He was about six years old when we adopted him.

After hearing about his sweet personality, gentle demeanor and his terrible plight, I felt extremely compelled to see him as soon as possible. Instantaneous slurps on my face, powered by deep brown, caring eyes resulted in love at first sight. That night Stedman came home with us.

Needing a name, it seemed only right that our new adopted Cocker Spaniel should have a masculine name in honor of all he had been through and survived. In the middle of the night, half asleep, I decided to name him Stedman after my sixth great-grandfather, William Stedman. William served four terms as a representative of the Continental Congress representing the North District of Worcester, Massachusetts between 1803 and 1810. He was known to be a tall, handsome man. I can vouch for that, whereas I have a lithograph of him and indeed he was handsome. Richard H. Dana, a poet, described him as “having the most polished manners of anyone he ever knew.”

Stedman lived up to his namesake in many ways. Quite strikingly handsome, he bore a neat, little black mustache. Shaved down he looked like a miniature Yellow Lab except for his short stubby tail. As far as manners went, sit, stay, come, heel and down were part of his daily repertoire and readily performed on command.

Besides doing the Circle Dance he also did “The Swim.” The recipe for the Swim is simple; lay down belly flat on the carpet, stretch all four legs to the max and crawl. There you have it! We, as his cheering audience, would happily exclaim, “Swim, swim, swim,” as he would make his way toward us. An important morning ritual, The Swim, was a great way to “strettttttttttttttttcccchhhhhhh,” yet another word well known to Stedman.

“Leg Up” was Stedman’s all time favorite. His right hind leg would shoot straight up into the air immediately every time he lied down. This is downright dog body language, which ultimately means, “Belly rubs please!” For that matter, he’d do Leg Up even if nobody was around, just in case there was a passerby. It was hard not to walk by him without giving him a good belly rub. For crying out loud, more oft than not, he would fall asleep while still doing “Leg Up!” Knowing Stedman, as I did, he was having happy belly rub dreams.

Bird hunting was one of Stedman’s favorite sports. Unfortunately for him and luckily for the birds in his immediate sight, he wasn’t the best hunter or pointer. Starting out slow, he’d soon get impatient and go for the gusto. Too soon, too fast, but oh, what fun! He did manage to catch a fledgling Robin one day, but no harm was done, as he gently mouthed the baby bird.

Stedman was my constant companion. Wherever I was, he was sure to be found. If he wasn’t right next to me, I was always within his sight. About a year after we adopted him, I developed a serious illness, which had led me to be bedridden for at least several hours per day. Stedman was always happy to take naps with me, which gave me comfort, for I soon despised having to lay myself down day after day. While working on my computer, he promptly made his own special fort underneath my great-grandfather’s old wooden desk. He would lay there contentedly even though there was no room for Leg Up.

Sadly Stedman passed away in an unfortunate accident two years after we adopted him. It came so unexpectedly and literally brought me down to my knees with deep, guttural sobs of grief. When I went to see him for the final time at the Vet’s office, I begged for him to blink his eyes or move his stiff little legs. Denial is such a strange emotional part of mourning death, especially when the evidence is right smack in front of your eyes.

I ended up having to take a whole week off from work; as I was experiencing a broken heart, denial, anger, frustration, sadness, etc. It was as if part of me had been painfully ripped out and mired in a deep void. I sat out back in our yard every day crying and praying, while trying to sort through my feelings in order to find some sort of acceptance.

After about two days, a very small yellow bird appeared in the yard. This bird caught my eye, as it made a strange clicking sound, much like a Hummingbird. It quickly hopped and fluttered from tree to bush to the ground over and over again. Not once did I ever see it fly above our six foot fence.

This little golden bird gave me relief and distraction from my grief, as I curiously tried to see where it would end up, each time it jumped or fluttered, at such a fast pace. It was here, there and everywhere. For days on end I’d sit and watch this little bird in utter fascination as it never left our backyard. Pulling my bird book out, I tried to identify it with no luck. It looked similar to a Gold Finch, but didn’t have the right markings.

Finally, after two weeks, my tears were drying up and I was coming to terms with Stedman’s death. Everything happens for a reason, or so I believe. Sunlight shined brightly down upon me. Once again I was able to see the beauty of my garden, which surrounded me, without the burden of tears. During this time the little golden bird disappeared. I didn’t think anything of it at the time, although I did miss watching its strangely odd and fast maneuvers.

Several weeks later, after much more healing, I had a strong revelation. That bird could have been Stedman’s spirit or perhaps God’s way of providing me with a reprieve to comfort me in my time of grief. It’s my belief that souls never die. I felt a strong wave of pleasure overcome me, crying with tears of joy. Finally I could get on with my life. A deliverance of words, which desperately needed to be expressed, flew out of me very quickly in the form of a poem, “Paw Prints in the Sky.”

Animals, such as Stedman, have always been some of my very best lifelong Teachers. Their true zest for life, their unconditional love and their repetitive rituals of gratitude have tremendous profound meaning. All of us can benefit from them, if we choose to do so.

Before taking pleasure in any meal, try saying a prayer of thanks or even exclaim your heart felt gratitude. In the spirit of Stedman’s Circle Dance, try grabbing your loved ones when you see them after they have been gone. Spin them in a circle, while hugging, kissing and giving the gifted words, “I love you.” You just may find that both you and your loved ones will develop a new enthusiasm for life, laughter and most importantly love.

Life is short lived, especially when it comes to animals. Yet, life is also short lived and full of unexpected events for humans as well. Cherish, honor, love and respect that which is irreplaceable, every second, every moment, every hour and every day. True love never withers with time; rather it holds eternal and is the greatest gift one could ever give.

Paw Prints in the Sky

Circle dance with eternal joy; ever so very high.
Flap your golden ears; for now you can truly fly.
Evenings of prayer; I carefully searched endless skies.
Bright stars of wonder are now where your soul abides.

Angel of mercy, gracing beautiful heavens above;
Run, jump, frolic, while shrouded in white love.
Precious, gentle soul you will always embrace me.
Forever you’re caught in my heart as meant to be.

Never will I forget the joy you brought to this Earth.
Now in blissful peace, you’ve become a new birth.
Cloud formations hover enchantingly in vast blue skies.
Could these be your paw prints left behind for my eyes?

When you passed, I cried painfully and felt much denied.
Oddly, a tiny golden bird appeared, much to my surprise.
Hopping, flying, and fluttering from tree to bush to tree,
Bereft in my tears, it was the only thing distracting me.

World so terribly shaken; my heart was vigorously torn apart;
Now I look back as that golden bird deeply touched my heart.
After several weeks passed, this special little bird had left me.
It stayed in my yard till tears had dried and I could finally see.

No prophet, no seer, yet I believe our souls never truly die.
This is why I continuously look for your paw prints in the sky.
I believe you, we, me and golden bird happened; all meant to be.
Always and forever, your unconditional love enfolds within me.

So circle dance sweet puppy and take joy in God’s rest.
Even though I miss you terribly, God’s plan is the best.
Someday we’ll all be together wondering why oh why.
We ever doubted your passing and felt the need to cry.

A final note: As Stevey (another Cocker Spaniel who was rescued and who we came to adopt two months after Stedman’s passing) and I were sitting outside one sunny afternoon, a little yellow bird (yes, the same type of bird as before) flew down and landed on a chair about five feet away from me. Very quickly, it first looked at me and then Stevey, who was sitting close by. Immediately afterwards it flew away. Not surprisingly, I still have yet to identify this little yellow bird. I have searched the Internet and looked through books including The National Geographic, Audubon, Sibley and others. The closest match that I could find is a bird that lives in South America.

Circle Dance with Gratitude

Polly Peacock

Downingtown, United States

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Artist's Description

What on Earth is a Circle Dance, might you ask? In order to know, of course you need proper training. First and foremost, you have to have a plate full of breakfast, lunch or dinner in front of you. Secondly, put your hands and feet on the floor close to the plate. Now you are ready to begin!

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