The phrase “dark night of the soul” was coined to describe the enormity of suffering endured by the Christian mystic, St. John of the Cross, who was captured during the Spanish Inquisition and imprisoned in a latrine under some stairs. In this jail cell he was unable to sit down, stand up, or lie down. His suffering was so vast he eventually popped into an ecstasy and mystical bliss which endured for the rest of his life.
Byron Katie says that nothing happens to us, but everything happens for us.
I now know this is true.
I know the universe is benevolent. I know the universe is kind.
But I almost forgot. I almost checked out ten months ago. I almost lost the will to live.
I wrote my story about breaking my hip and mending the break with magnets. That was a miracle. An outright miracle.
No one breaks a hip at my age and heals without surgery. Do they?
Then, suddenly, this rangy, skinny, funny-looking rescue dog came into my life. I fought hard to get her, though. I had to have a greyhound, even though I had never even seen one.
So, I waited five long months for a dog. I was interviewed, visited, asked to read books, And I was finally approved. It was a grueling and arduous process. I did not know why I was doing this. I had no idea. I had no connection to a greyhound. I thought they were ugly.
And then one day I found myself driving to El Cajon, without prior thought. El Cajon is one of the most hideous places on earth. I had the thought that I was crazy, driving so far in a bucket seat while healing a broken hip.
Yet I found myself driving to this border town where devoted volunteers were offering their service to rescue racing greyhounds from the track in Mexico, called Caliente.
I was told they had found “Zoe” for me. She was black, the one color I did not want. But the volunteers carefully profile these dogs and they had found one who was apparently safe around cats. This was important, as these dogs race chasing a lure much like a rabbit or cat.
I was sitting in a chair in 110-degree weather, waiting for Zoe to be brought to me. I was certain I would return home without a dog.
Suddenly, and I mean suddenly, this face appeared before me. Or was it a body? My heart became so joined with that of this dog that I do not remember what happened next, but this Zoe, this 59- pound retired racing greyhound, this black, skinny, ugly, beautiful, dog, was mine. And she has overtaken my heart the same way my daughter did when she was given to me after I gave birth to her. There was simply nothing I would not do for this love. She was mine, and mine forever.
I know today that this doggie who merged with my heart came deliberately to heal the other parts of me that had broken. I re-named Zoe Licorice Noodle, and it soon became crystal clear that her energy was that of a doe, a shy deer. Long ago I had been shown that the deer was my totem; my teacher in the animal kingdom, according to Native American lore. The deer called forth my gentleness, my shyness, my humility. Noodle bows her head when she comes to me for stroking. Her long, elegant neck is laid very carefully over my thigh. She holds perfectly still and then looks up at me from her doe-like eyes. She is my Christmas miracle. Each day I am reminded, as Galway Kinnell says in his beautiful poem “St. Francis and the Sow,” that sometimes we must re-teach a thing its loveliness.
The miracle of God whispered to me about magnets, having me remember what I already knew. I had been suffering with pain for so long; so, God, as Kindness, and appearing in the form of a memory, reminded me to heal myself with these simple and inexpensive objects.
Then my sweet Noodle appeared to remind me of my true self, the self we all share when we carve away the debris of untrue and stressful thought. My bambi-dog reminded me to be gentle, to re-connect with the part of myself which was always kind, gentle, and innocent.
God brings us home in many ways. Many goes “home” for the holidays. But home is truly in the heart, the benevolent, beneficent heart within.
Don’t give up. Don’t quit before the miracle.
Magnets, a dog called Noodle, and what seemed like too much pain to bear, became the very thing which carried me to another realization of my true nature.
This is surely the most profound Christmas miracle.