The two dogs here represent morning and night.
The dog on the left was waiting for attention of a rather intimate nature this morning when I came downstairs. It was Honey Girl, so warm, soft and loving that you felt like lying down on the wood floor beside her for a while, just to feel her warm fur and listen to her breathing.
What a soft launch to the day!
It is not surprising that this day feels so mellow: the students were lively and smart, the conversations were meaningful, and I had chocolate torte for dessert. Perfect, right?
The evening walk with Honey Girl swept us up in cold wind and darkness. The sky had cleared from the rain, and excitingly dynamic white clouds were stretching, morphing and flying across a backlit dark canvas—it was very hugolien and thrilling to the blood.
When we came back in, Honey Girl grabbed one of her (embarrassingly numerous) squeaky toys off the floor—a navy blue and red fuzzy bone–and started making it squeak, then walking all around making a joyful ruckus. She does that when she’s happy. Which is most every day! She does it at our parties too.
Returning home is what I want to capture: a good theme for Thanksgiving!
What I related above is a particularly joyful version of a dog returning home, but the concept is important to human psychology and Taoist philosophy too. Since T’ai chi, Zen, and Taoism are philosophically related, I am keen to understand them better. I really like explanation in The Tao of Painting, and wonder what other people think.* Chinese painter and writer Mai-Mai Sze (1909-1992) explains the symbol of the fan, the benefit of considering the universe as a circle, and of “turning in a circle about oneself.” Sort of like Honey Girl does every night on the couch.
I paste here the cover and illustration from the page in question:
Fan (to turn over), shown here in its modern and old forms, describes the Taoist idea of “returning.” The pictograph represents the right hand turning something over. It indicates that the “other side” or the “returning” is the reverse of one and the same thing or process. The hand is specifically the right one; it appears to emphasize the manifest yang nature of the process.
The course of the Tao is not only circular motion but also, on the one hand, the marking off of a sacred precinct and on the other, fixation and concentration. The enclosing circle prevents “emanations” that, in terms of modern psychology, “protect the unity of consciousness from being split apart by the unconscious.”
“Turning in a circle about oneself” involves all sides of the personality, and has the moral significance of “activating the light and dark forces of human nature and, with them, all the psychological opposites of whatever kind they may be.”**
Wow! Didn’t know dogs were so deep, did you!?
Good night, dear readers, and sweet dreams.
*The Tao of Painting by Mai-Mai Sze, is a huge and impeccably scholarly tome (with its own distinguished box), that contains many beautiful color prints and the entire text of a painting manual from 1600s that is funny, witty, and rings true on many levels. It makes you love Chinese painting—something I never thought I would do. The manual explains things like the playful spirit of goldfish and the stern character of pine trees, the way that mountain ranges should seem to emerge in successive waves of energy, and how emptiness is compelling. I did not know, for example, that hollow trees were revered for the abundant chi that they held after a storm.
**Mai-Mai Sze, The Tao of Painting, 2nd ed. With a translation of the seventeenth-century Chieh Tzŭ Yüan Hua Chuan or Mustard Seed Garden Manual of Painting ( 1679-1701) (New York: Bollingen Foundation, 1963), 16-18.