A Four-Legged Thin Place

Skye the miniature Schnauzer was snuggly on this damp November day. Not usual for her, being only one year old, for such calmness in the morning. But she woke earlier than usual with me, so she needed to rest after a romp in the yard before dawn. She wanted in my lap — a rare joy for me. There, curved into a ball as close as possible, she melted into my legs as my hand stroked her round back and hip, feeling the softness of her gentle fur. Some Schnauzers have wiry hair, others smooth. I’m particularly glad this morning that Skye inhabits the latter category.

In mornings I’m often looking for a thin place — where the divine and the earthly are at their narrowest, where God comes nearest. Usually it’s a mental matter of me reaching out toward the ethereal. Trying to set aside thoughts of past and future, efforting to be very present with the Divine now. Often I find myself imagining that God is out there, and I’m waiting for the One out there to come near. 

Yet this morning the thinness seems thinnest as I stroke Skye. I imagine that God is in the Dog as the Dog is in God. So, as crazy as it might seem, I’m able to imagine that I’m stroking the soft fur of God, as I rub fingers and palm over the pup’s soft back. As if I’m petting God, who is so present as to be melting into my lap. As if I’m holding God from beneath and touching God from above.

Then the image shifts, and I am Skye. And the lap that is holding me is God’s lap, as I melt into God’s upholding legs, like the pillars of the cosmos, but present just to cuddle me. Then I imagine that it’s God’s hand stroking my head, rubbing my fur gently, with no plan or intention of accomplishment. Just present, stroking my hair, resting a divine hand on my shoulder, holding me in a cosmic, yet very present lap. 

Perhaps the divine is most present in the physicality of the present. If God is in all things, then why not in a Schnauzer? Why not in a hand that feels softness, a lap holding a body melting into it? Perhaps God isn’t out there, but very present here.

After all, the difference between the words “God” and “Dog” is in the direction of one’s reading.

Thanks be to God who is beyond and yet as close as paws and tail.*


*An adulteration of Alfred Lord Tenneyson’s magnificent line about God: “Closer is He than breathing, and nearer than hands and feet.”

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